The Great Amherst Mystery

the great amherst mystery

From 1878 to 1879, a woman named Esther Cox experienced disturbing and unexplainable events in Amherst, Canada. The story became known as The Great Amherst Mystery and, to this day, is still popular among paranormal enthusiasts.


Esther lived with her sister, Olive, and her husband, Daniel Teed, as well as their two kids in a relatively small house. Other family members also resided in the home, including Esther and Olive’s two siblings and Daniel’s brother, John.

the great amherst mystery house in canada
The cottage where The Great Amherst Mystery took place.

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Even though the property wasn’t very large, they were forced to rent out their spare rooms to strangers in order to make ends meet.

Esther was only 18 when one of the male tenants attempted to sexually assault her. This attack reportedly kicked off a series of paranormal events.


Esther’s distress and emotional anguish as a result of the assault is said to have made her vulnerable to malicious entities. She complained to her brothers and sisters about hearing strange knockings and bangings on the walls of her room at night. Esther also began to have violent seizures in which she suffered fevers, chills and body swelling. Items inside the house randomly flew off shelves and counters, oftentimes striking the occupants.

Real Unexplained Mysteries writes:

“One night, Esther and one of her sisters, Jennie, were sharing a bed when they felt strange movements underneath the blanket. They screamed as hard as they could resulting in Olive and Daniel Teed racing up the stairs and bursting into the room.”

“They found the two sisters huddled together, shaking in the corner of the room.”

The next night, both sisters stayed in the same room and, again, screamed for help. When Daniel arrived, he discovered an unusual old box lying beside their bed. After asking Esther and her sister what the box was for, they stated they did not know, but heard strange noises coming from inside of it. Esther, according to Real Unexplained Mysteries, said she “drew on all her courage and reached under the bed to drag out the box – without warning, it suddenly jumped by itself and smashed in the middle of the room.”

the great amherst mystery old wooden box
A box similar to the one Esther opened after hearing sounds coming from within it.

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On the third night, Esther felt quite ill, so she retired to bed early. When Jennie attempted to lay down next to her, Esther jumped out of bed and started to scream and convulse on the floor. She reportedly exclaimed, “Why is this happening to me? I’m dying!” Shortly afterward, loud claps or booms were heard throughout the house, startling everyone inside.

the great amherst mystery esther seizure
Photo of a woman convulsing on the floor.

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Concerned for her health, Esther’s family called on a local physician to come by and examine her. When he arrived, more strange events took place, including scratching noises, bed sheets moving by themselves and the words “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill” appearing on a wall near Esther’s bed.

Additional noises and flying objects continued, even after Esther was administered sedatives. When the doctor took his leave, family members performed a séance and attempted to communicate with the spirit(s). Their questions were answered with a series of taps – presumably once for yes and twice for no.

the great amherst mystery seance
A group performing a séance to communicate with the dead.

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When word spread around town about what was occurring inside the house, many in the vicinity stopped by, including a few clergymen. Some heard and witnessed the knocking, banging and objects flying around, further solidifying their belief that something malevolent dwelled in the domicile.

Others remained skeptical and accused Esther and her family of making up the bizarre stories for attention, or even using tricks to deceive guests.

Elixir of Knowledge reports:

“A popular reverend had visited and witnessed a bucket of cold water [that appeared] to be boiling on the kitchen table. Dr. Edwin Clay, a Baptist clergyman, defended Esther [and came to the conclusion] that she was not causing the displays herself.”

The young woman also claimed she was repeatedly scratched, pricked and slapped by the ghost and was even stabbed with a knife on one occasion. Per Wikipedia:

“Esther spent time in Saint John, New Brunswick, where she was investigated by some local gentlemen with an interest in science. By now, several distinct ‘spirits’ were apparently associated with Esther and communicating with onlookers via knocks and rappings.”

After she returned to the cottage in the summer of 1879, Paranormal Investigator and Author Walter Hubbell turned up to examine the case in person.

“Hubbell spent some weeks with Esther and her family, and reported having personally witnessed moving objects, fires and items appearing from nowhere and claimed that he saw phenomena occur even when Esther herself was in full view and obviously unconnected with them.”

He also saw the woman’s fits and seizures, as well as sharp objects fly through the air and attack her.

Esther later accompanied Hubbell on a speaking tour across the country and told her story to eager audiences. Hubbell wrote a book about the strange events, titled The Haunted House: A True Ghost Story. It sold over 50,000 copies.

After returning to Amherst, she had started working for a man named Arthur Davidson and was later convicted of arson after his barn caught on fire and burned down. She was sentenced to four months in jail, but was release after only one.

Esther eventually got married twice and had two sons. She moved to Brockton, Massachusetts where she retired with her second husband. No further hauntings or disturbances were reported during that time.

Esther died in 1912 at the age of 52.

Main image credit: Elixir of Knowledge

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One thought on “The Great Amherst Mystery”

  1. Jack Johnson says:

    Great article! Never heard of this haunting until reading this…chilling!