This is a podcast transcript, originally published as part of the Crimes & Witch-Demeanors Podcast.
Hello, hello, hello! Long time no see, you may have thought I became a ghost myself! My name is Joshua Spellman, and I’m your – very much alive – at least on the outside– host of Crimes & Witch-Demeanors. The podcast where we get to the good old fashioned truth behind our favorite ghostly haunts using archival and historic resources.
Maybe you care where I’ve been. Maybe you were even happy to hear me go. Long story short – I was creatively and emotionally burnt out. I was pouring myself into this podcast, my drag, sewing garments, and cultivating my TikTok…and with things going on in my personal life I just crashed. I stopped doing everything. Had some health stuff to worry about but I digress! We’re here. We’re back. I’m going to do my best to stay motivated and on top of things, but this pod is a lot of work!
Today’s podcast episode is something new. And something I’m excited about. I don’t want to give too much away… but we’re going to investigate the satanic underpinnings of a famous worldwide attraction and city, that just so happens to be in my back yard: Niagara Falls. And also, one of my favorite hiking spots at the aptly named Devil’s Hole. But be sure to stick around for the truth, as always it is much more interesting than the myth. So, for lack of a better word: let’s dive right in.
Niagara Falls – one of the seven wonders of the natural world, is a group of three waterfalls (the bridal veil falls, horseshoe falls, and American falls, respectively) that spans the border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the state of New York. Located on the Niagara River, which drains into both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the combined Niagara Falls has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America. More than 168,00 square meters, or six million cubic feet, of water goes over the crest every minute.
So much history surrounds Niagara Falls it is near impossible to dive into: from initial exploration by white folk, exploitation of the falls and indigenous peoples, to the history of hydroelectric power, mortuary science experiments, and daredevils who have ridden down the falls in barrels (only some who have survived) –it seemingly never ends. However, while Niagara Falls is heralded for its natural beauty, booming tourist trade, and rich history — behind its bridal veil lies something sinister, brooding beneath the foam.
At first glance, it seems innocent enough – if you discount historic atrocities to its indigenous inhabitants – but as you peer a little closer a pattern emerges. Perhaps most glaringly, is Devil’s Hole state park. Named as such for…no discernable reason. It is a park that overlooks and descends into the Niagara river gorge, a 6.8 mile long canyon with cliffs as high as 1200 feet, carved by the Niagara River. The hiking in this particular area can become quite hazardous. In fact, the current of the Niagara River in the gorge is one of the most powerful river currents in the world: which, unsurprisingly has taken many lives. Perhaps this is where its hellish name originates.
Perhaps it is partially due to the famed cave halfway down the steep escarpment: the Cave of the Evil Spirit. While not a clever name, it sums up its origin quite well. Long ago, the Great Spirit who created man, sealed away the Evil Spirit within the walls of the Niagara Gorge. However, over time as man turned evil and began waging wars, the walls of the gorge began to split. Eventually, the cave opened and the Evil Spirit was once again free, cursing all those who entered the cave.
Famously, the explorer Robert Cavalier de LaSalle ignored the warnings of his Seneca guide. Upon entering deep into the cave he heard a voice tell him
“Return” said the voice, “to your home in Canada, and wealth, honors, a long life and usefulness will be yours, and when death comes, generations of your descendants shall follow you to your grave, and history shall transmit your name to prosperity as the successful founder of a great empire. Proceed to the West, and although gleams of hope may, at times, shine in your path, in gratitude and disappointment will be sure to meet and follow you, until a treacherous murder shall end your days remote from human habitation, without the shelter of even a wigwam of a friendly red man. The Eagles of the desert shall strip the flesh from your bones, which shall lay bleaching under the tropical sun, unburied and unprotected by the cross you now so devotedly cherish.”
LaSalle foolishly disregarded the warning of the Evil Spirit. LaSalle’s fortune eventually dwindled and he became poor and desolate. In a last-ditch effort to regain his wealth and fame, he decided to go out west to Louisiana to begin a colony – doing exactly what the spirit warned him against. Even LaSalle’s precious crucifix of his Christian god could not save him from the curse of the Evil Spirit. LaSalle was eventually murdered by his own men and left to rot in the woods near the Mississippi river.
But the city’s connection to the crowned prince of hell and malevolent spirits do not end at the mouth of the Niagara Gorge, instead we must look to the Niagara rapids at the top of the falls and turn our attention to five innocuous islands.
Bisecting the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls is an island known as Goat Island. It is the location of the famed Terrapin point observation area and is large enough that it carries not only pedestrian traffic, but car and trackless train traffic as well. Goat Island is largely wooded with many nature trails. The island also provides access to the Cave of the Winds tour, which takes you down the escarpment to the foot of the falls.
Just off the southern shoreline of Goat Island are the Three Sisters Islands. These small islands provide an excellent view of the upper rapids. They are connected by a series of bridges and consist solely of nature trails. Biologically speaking they are fascinating: each sports a variety of microhabitats and possess its own unique floristic character. However as is the nature of…well, nature, it is not all pretty petals.
It is easy to access the raging rapids from these islands, which spell certain death for those unlucky enough to be swept into the current and hurled over the falls…that is if the large boulders hiding in the cataracts or the undertow don’t do you in first.
The Three Sisters islands were home to mysterious rituals before European settlers came to the area. Iroquois shamans would offer sacrifices and gifts to the spirit that dwells inside the mist shrouded cave at the base of the falls. Mediums and psychics who visit these islands in modern times can hear the voices and screams of spirits long gone.
Lastly, there is Luna island. Which, like, Goat island, bisects two of the falls but unlike its larger counterpart it is situated between the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Aside from sacrifices – you may be asking – how are these satanic? Let’s take a closer look at the names. Devil’s hole is quite obvious in its own right. And while innocuous at first glance you may now realize…Goat Island. The goat has long been a symbol of the horned demon Lucifer. Luna island. The moon. Where dark rituals take place beneath. And, the most insidious of these names: Bridal Veil Falls and the Three Sisters. It’s subtle, but for those who know satanic lore, the Devil married Three Sisters.
Niagara Falls has always been a nexus of spiritual and physical power: as evidenced by its hydroelectric powerplants and numerous malevolent hauntings and the spirits that Native tribes worshipped and feared. The city was erected and planned around these power sources, built to exploit them and harness them. Niagara Falls was created in the same fashion as Washington D.C. Both hiding occult symbols in their streets and place names, used to exploit the negative energies they draw forth, and route them to areas of their choosing.
Next time you visit the falls, remember to hold that crucifix tight. Or don’t…it didn’t quite help LaSalle…did it?
Wow, it’s so crazy this isn’t talked about more! All these satanic connections…that…I just made up? Yeah. I made it up. Kind of? All the place names are real but they’re not satanic in origin. With all the crazy conspiracy theories flying around I wanted to illustrate how easy it is to draw lines between seemingly unconnected things and create a new narrative.
To be clear: to my knowledge no one has drawn up these satanic connections before me. I did it while researching something else entirely and was like “wow these names really all have a connection to the devil” until I learned the real origins of these place names. The three sisters, goat island, luna island, the bridal veil falls, and devil’s hole are all very real names. But they don’t have any connections to satanism or the occult. But what they do have are really interesting and unique histories.
Devil’s hole and the Niagara gorge are two of my favorite places in the world. I have spent countless hours alone on those treacherous trails. The trails can be narrow and precarious, made from silty, crumbling rock, overhead you have the risk of huge boulders falling down, and directly below you is one of the most powerful river currents in the world. Of course my favorite time to go is when it’s raining…which is pretty reckless. Probably the only reckless thing I like participating in willingly. But I do love it. I have a deep personal and spiritual connection to the area and learning it’s history has definitely made me appreciate it even more.
Sadly, people do die there. I know one individual personally who has. As with many things in nature it’s to be both revered and feared. Nature has many sides, and sadly nature can also destroy.
That being said let’s talk about the history of Devil’s Hole itself and the state park named after it.
The area surrounding Devil’s Hole has a lengthy indigenous history long before white settlers came into the area. Devil’s Hole received its name from either the story told earlier of the Evil Spirit or from the area’s inhabitation by the Neuter Nation.
When white settlers first appeared in the area the area was mainly inhabited by what the French called the Neuter Nation of Indians. It was used as a hiding place during times of war or conflict, and in order to keep their hiding place secret they would kill anyone who entered the gorge. These people would never return to tell of the location and this is possibly the root of the tale of the Evil Spirit.
However, the same friend/medium that saw the Red Lady at my old house before I ever talked about her, which I still haven’t told this story to y’all, came on a hike with me to Devil’s Hole State Park. He was not from the area at all, not even from the region of the state, but he did mention he sensed a very old, angry spirit in the area. I didn’t think anything of it…but now knowing of the Evil Spirit, I can’t help but wonder…but again, I digress.
What made Devil’s Hole such a great hiding spot was not only that it is set in the cliff face but a rock, known as ambush rock was positioned perfectly above the cave that nothing could be shot down into it. The area is prone to rockslides…or boulder slides really, it’s made of of massive limestone boulders. You would honestly be amazed by how large they are…but I digress. Ambush rock was removed for safety reasons, though a rock fall in the 1990’s left a similar rock, albeit much, much smaller, at the entrance to the cave.
According to an old brochure for the area published in 1890, at the top of the park, before you begin your descent into the gorge there is a large boulder, one of many, known as Council Rock. It was shaped like an arrow, but centuries of weathering slowly changed its shape, and it is now believed to have been removed since the brochure is over 120 years old.
Council rock was a meeting place where yearly councils of Native people would take place. Others claim that it was a “worshipping stone” that was connected with indigenous “religion”. Legend has it that due to the way the Seneca Chiefs would stand on the rock during meetings, with one hand on the rock, that anyone who touches the rock can drive the devil away for a year.
Of course, this narrative comes from white folk.
Also just a great time to remind everyone that indigenous people are still around. They are not bygone people of history! History likes to act like they are ancient, mysterious, and extinct. The Seneca Nation still has a strong presence in the area, so it is possible that stories of council rock still exis within their traditions and oral histories.
There was a massacre known as the Devil’s Hole massacre that occurred on September 14, 1763 during the 7 Year’s War, also known as the French & Indian War. A supply train of 350 British soldiers that were making their way from Fort Niagara to Fort Schlosser stopped to rest for dinner on a large flat rock near Devil’s Hole. While enjoying their supper they were attacked by a group of Senecas. There was a massive loss of life, and those not killed directly by the ambush jumped off the precipice to have a chance at survival. But those that did so, if they survived the steep jump, did not survive much longer as the Senecas sent the wagons, baggage, and horses of the supply chain off the edge, crushing and killing those that remained. There were only two survivors.
Sadly, modern day Devil’s Hole cave bears no resemblance to what it once was. It is covered in graffiti and often littered with trash as it has become a favourite place for wayward teenagers to party.
There is a large cave at the bottom of the gorge that many people think is Devil’s Hole cave…but it’s not. In fact there are many caves in the area, some of which aren’t true caves but just massive boulders that have fallen on top of one another.
To find the real Devil’s Hole cave you have to make your way partially down the gorge precipice and veer off to a path that backtracks partially back up the cliff. The cave is made up of DeCew Dolostone, a fine crystalline dolostone that is dark grey in color. The cave’s entrance is 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. The initial passage of the cave is at a gentle incline, and after making your way about 12 feet into the cave the ceiling is only 4 feet high. However, if you continue onward the ceiling will reach a height of 9 feet. At this point one will find a manmade wall, beyond which there is a drop in floor level of about three feet. Beyond the wall the 6 foot tall passage continues at a very narrow width of 6 inches. It continues for about 10 feet before veering off to the east where you lose sight of its path.
There was once a mineral spring in the cave but it seems to have since dried up, much like the now defunct stream known as Bloody Run.
And that’s the short and long on Devil’s Hole! Not demonic, but definitely a hole. What?
Now, back to the city of Niagara Falls. There are so many actual haunted locations in Niagara Falls which you may have seen on television like the Red Coach Inn that I could cover another time if you’d like – just let me know!
But I do need to set the record straight on Goat and the Three Sisters Islands. Especially with the bridal veil falls my fake conspiracy makes so much sense, but no, the Three Sister Islands did not get their name from the three brides of Satan. Instead, they are named after the daughters of General Parkhurst Whitney: Celinda, Angelina, and Asenath Whitney. Although…that does sound demonic. Asenath Metrione Zinthos? Azarath Metrione Zinthos? No? Okay, I need to bury that one just like the three sisters are in the famous Oakwood Cemetery. Well, maybe infamous as it is the only place in the world where individuals are interred using a unique form of corpse preservation known as cementation. Essentially bodies were encased in cement for years, and the “watery portions” of the body would be absorbed, leaving behind a well preserved body along with a perfect cast of the original corpse.
The story behind this is fascinating and the inventor (and I’m not joking here), Judge Theodore Graves Hulett was quite the kook. But I digress!
Offerings were presented at this island by the Iroquois, that is true. But no sacrifice or anything sinister was involved. More along the lines of gifts and presents.
Goat Island! Not demonic, though a part of H.G. Well’s 1908 novel The War in the Air is set on Goat Island. During the novel the United States is iinvaded by Imperial Germany and the protagonist is left stranded on the island with two German soldiers and must fight for survival. Exciting stuff…but sadly, the origin of its name is much less exciting.
Goat Island is named such because John Stedman, who was an earlier pioneer, kept a heard of goats on the island. SO…yeah…very descriptive, very literal. The island officially obtained the name in 1780 when he returned after a terrible winter to find all but one of his goats dead. And if you know anything about Western New York winters…wow. I…yeah. Niagara Falls can literally freeze in place, that’s how cold it can get.
Other than the fact there is a very cool Nikola Tesla monument on the island gifted by the government of Yugoslavia, it’s rather unremarkable. I do have rather flamboyant picture of myself in Daddy Tesla’s lap, as I call him, from a few years ago when I scaled the statue. Shh. It didn’t happen. I’ll slap it up on the gram for you to see.
And Daddy Tesla is a great place to end this episode. Please rate and review the podcast on your preferred podcast player. And until next time…stay spooky! Bye.