Ottawa has many historical buildings that give us a glimpse in to the past of our Capital City. We often hear of their histories and successes, but much less of the spooky tales and sometimes unsavory pasts that many of these buildings also hold. In celebration of Halloween this weekend, enjoy learning about 9 historical locations in Ottawa with some very haunted and scary stories to tell! We have added 4 new spooky stories this year! Let us know what haunted places in Ottawa you would like to see next year.
Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel
Did you know that one of the most haunted places in all of Canada is right here in Ottawa’s downtown?
Originally named the Carleton County Goal when it opened its doors (and cells) in 1862, the Hi-Ottawa Jail, now hostel, has a gruesome history complete with a makeshift graveyard, tales of mistreatment and torture of prisoners, and gallows that are still standing.
Although the jail was opened at the height of the prisoner reformation movement, the Carleton County Goal provided almost no amenities to their prisoners, which included men, women, and children. The windows were perpetually open to the elements, the cells were small and extremely unsanitary, and prisoners were provided with very little in the ways of nutrition, personal grooming and hygiene, or health care. Many prisoners died from the elements, starvation, disease, and torture, as well as those who were hung in the gallows for their crimes.
The jail is said to be haunted by many spirits and visitors have reported everything from simply the feeling of not being alone to hearing voices, screaming, and crying, to full body apparitions! Some of the possible famous residents include Patrick J. Whelan, who was imprisoned and later hanged for the murder of politician D’Arcy McGee in 1869, which he adamently denied he had any part of. People have reported seeing his full body apparition writing in his cell, wandering the halls, and walking toward where the entrance to the gallows once was.
Speaking of the gallows, you can still see them when you tour the jail. Historically, hangings were a form of entertainment and a reported 8,000 or more people attended the hanging of Whalen. The majority of those that died at the Ottawa County Goal were buried in the backyard of the jail. When they tore up a small portion of the hostel’s now parking lot to build the Mackenzie King Bridge, the remains of 140 people were found buried, and that was just a corner of the area! It is unknown how many people are buried in the back of the old jail, but it is not hard to understand why this building is considered one of the most haunted in Ottawa.
If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to sleep in a tiny jail cell, this hostel is your chance to experience that, as well as its paranormal residents. If a jail cell doesn't sound like a fun night’s sleep, you can always book one of the private rooms. Enjoy a tour with Haunted Walk Ottawa to hear all of the spooky details! Luckily for you, the resident ghosts are reported to be “quiet” and “don’t bother you much”. How Canadian of them!
Fairmont Château Laurier
In complete contrast to the Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel, the ghostly resident(s) that occupy the Château Laurier are said to be less than friendly.
The main ghost story that has gripped Ottawa residents about this famous hotel is that of American railroad tycoon Charles Melville Hays, who built the Château Laurier for $2 million (in 1909 dollars) as part of his railroad empire expansion plans.
The tale goes that Hays traveled to Europe in 1912 to hand pick the dining room furniture for the Château Laurier and died on his way back when the RMS Titanic sank, along with the furniture. Although this tale’s hard facts have been debunked (check out the Haunted Walk Podcast all about this story HERE), there is still a chance his angry spirit roams the halls of the Château Laurier to this day. Hays is said to be a fan of swinging and slamming doors as well as breaking objects as he roams the halls, mostly reported on the 5th floor.
Although the opening of the Château Laurier was delayed because of his death, it eventually opened to rave reviews and quickly became one of the most sought after hotels in all of Canada.
Hays is not the only spirit said to still reside in the Château Laurier. There have been several deaths in and around the Hotel, including suicides by jumping from the upper floors. Staff and patrons have reported disembodied voices singing in stairwells, taps on the shoulders, full body apparitions, and poltergeist activity like furniture being re-arranged.
The Bytown Museum is situated between the Château Laurier and Parliament Hill at 1 Canal Lane and is said to be haunted by the spirit of Duncan McNab (the Rideau Canal construction supply manager during its initial construction), Lieutenant Colonal John By, as well as other unidentified ghosts, including those of children.
The Bytown Museum began back in June of 1898 when the Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa (WCHSO) was formed with the goal of “encourge(ing) the collection and preservation of Canadian historical records and relics and to foster Canadian loyalty and Patriotism.” This was the foundation of what would become the Bytown Museum.
After moving a few times as their collection of artifacts expanded, the Bytown Museum took up its permanent home in one of Ottawa’s oldest stone buildings on the lower locks of the Rideau Canal. This building was once a British military supply storehouse and treasury built to support the building of the canal.
Duncan McNab was the Rideau Canal construction-era supply manager. Although there is not much information on McNab during his years alive, his activities in the ghostly realm are legendary. Many believe him responsible for making visitors feel queasy and uneasy, reported extreme cold spots and temperature drops, rattling doors, pushing and grabbing people, shouting in a dismembered voice “Get out! Get out!”, and full body apparitions. McNab, however, usually saves his spooky tactics for after hours and predominantly focuses on staff (lucky them).
Lieutenant Colonel John By oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal from the now Bytown Museum. The building of the canal led to the deaths of over a thousand workers who died from construction accidents and disease due to poor working conditions and sanitization. Undeterred by the copious amount of death, By continued to push the construction project and passed away in 1836. His ghost is said to haunt both the waters of the Rideau Canal and the Bytown Museum (he is a fan of typing his name over and over again on the computer screens).
These two historical figures do make for fascinating names to link to the hauntings, however many also believe that these activities may be the acts of the hundreds and hundreds of Irish immigrants and workers who died during the constriction of the canal. Because of their low social status, little ceremony was put into their burials and were referred to as “despised in life and forgotten in death”.
Although these are definitely spooky stories, what is most terrifying about the Bytown Museum is the second floor collection of porcelain dolls. The dolls alone are unnerving, but what possesses them is even more creepy. People have reported seeing the dolls cry, blink and wink their eyes! There have also been reports of children crying in this area. It is believed that these dolls are possessed by the spirits of children who may have owned them in life.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Originally named the Victoria Memorial Museum, this stunning building was built between 1905 and 1911 by architect David Ewort at the request of the Geographical Survey of Canada to safely store decades of research as well as speciminses of flora and fauna. Although heavily influenced by Europen styles, Ewart ensured that Canada was reflected in the decor and design of this building. The Museum of Nature is considered one of the first buildings in Canada to incorporate native animals and plants into its decor!
Although there are many reports of elevators running on their own, doors slamming, dancing shadows, bells tolling for no reason, and feelings of unease, the majority of the hauntings at the Museum of Nature are restricted to the fourth floor west wing, which remains closed to visitors to this day. The fourth floor as a whole is where the majority of paranormal experiences have taken place.
Some of the theories as to who these spirits could be are an aborigional persons whose spirit is attached to one of the artifacts that were taken from their people, Sir Wilfred Laurier, the 8th Prime Minister of Canada who was lain in state in the auditorium of the museum in 1919, and David Ewort himself. Ewort was rumored to have jumped to his death off the top of the building after its completion and haunts the building because of his anger over the original tower being demolished in 1916. The manner of his death, however, has been debunked, as he died of old age in 1927. What is uncertain still remains whether his spirit haunts the museum regardless.
Lisgar Collegiate Institute
Opened in 1873, the Lisgar Collegiate Institute is the most stunning high school in Ottawa, but don’t let its beauty mislead you. Two tragic deaths took place on its grounds and it is reported that their ghosts have haunted the fourth floor ever since.
The first death that occured at Lisgar was that of their Head Girl. She was walking on a winter’s day beneath a steep roof of the fourth floor attic where snow and ice accumulated over the frigid Ottawa winter. As she passed under the window, a chunk of ice fell from the roof, killing her. Passers by claim to see her ghostly figure in the window of the attic on the fourth floor. These days, that portion of the courtyard is cordoned off, especially in the winter months.
The fourth floor of Lisgar is not really a floor at all. The attic is the only “room” up there, the rest are parallel beams and were used by the Lisgar Rifle Club and Lisgar Cadet Corps to practice their shooting. The attic was later utilized by the janitorial staff to store sports equipment.
It is also from the fourth floor that the second death occurred. After the tragic death of the Head Girl, janitorial staff cleaned off the roof during the winter to avoid someone else suffering the same fate. One day, they sent the school’s janitors out onto the roof to do just this via the fourth floor attic door. One of them slipped on the ice and fell to his death 100 feet below.
The hauntings at Lisgar began to increase after his death with janitorial staff reporting temperature drops, uneasy feelings, and the sense of not being alone in the attic. The night shift often heard strange noises from the fourth floor as they cleaned the third. Witnesses have also reported seeing strange lights and movement in that specific fourth floor window on a regular basis (even while on the Haunted Ottawa walk!).
Although this janitor was considered quite a cranky man in life, he may just be a friendly ghost after all! He was not beloved by students due to his grumpy demeanor, but he was a good worker and fixed problems quickly and without hesitation. When the school was being renovated in the 1970’s, inspectors found evidence of electrical fires that had inexplicably been put out. Could it be the spirit of this janitor protecting the school to this day?
Lisgar is still a functioning High School and does not offer any tours indoors, but is included in the Haunted Ottawa tours!
The Courtyard Restaurant
If you have dined in Ottawa’s ByWard Market, you have most likely come across The Courtyard Restaurant. Now celebrating more than 40 years of fine dining, this building and plot of land has a long and interesting history.
The first building to be built on this plot was a log tavern in 1827 that served the working people who built Bytowne (Ottawa’s original name). The “McArthur’s British Hotel” took its place in 1837. A new wing was added in 1865 and the building was leased to the newly minted federal government to house a garrison of 150 men. The building was abandoned from 1871 to 1875 and was refurbished as the “Clarendon House Hotel” for a short time, then became the headquarters of the Geological Survey of Canada, and later a branch of the Mines Department (until the middle of WWII). During the 1911-1912 typhoid epidemic, the building served as the civil emergency centre for Lowertown residents and then sat empty for many years.
In 1980, after sitting vacant for many years and major renovations completed, The Courtyard Restaurant officially opened its doors. Only 5 weeks later, a fire broke out in a neighbouring building, causing an immediate shut-down for repairs. After re-opening, sightings of a ghostly figure began to be reported.
“Mrs. Evans”, the resident ghost of The Courtyard, is said to have died in a fire and appears wearing a long black gown, looking out the second floor windows, possibly waiting to be rescued from the fire that took her life. Both employees and patrons of The Courtyard have reported apparitions, the sound of “tinkling glass” in the dining room, salt shakers mysteriously moving on their own, and the Senior Event Coordinator, Cynthia Verboven (who has had many interactions with Mrs. Evans), calls her a friendly “colleague”. Sounds like the worst thing that may come from an encounter with Mrs. Evans is having to chase your salt shaker around the table.
For a great article and paranormal investigation, check out "I Dined at a Haunted Restraunt to See if Ghosts Were Real" by Carleigh Reynolds.
Watson's Mill - Manotick
Watson’s Mill in Manotick houses one of the Ottawa area’s oldest ghost stories. In 1860, Moss Kent Dickenson and Joseph Currier obtained the water rights to a property on the west channel of the Rideau River. There, they built a mill with the goal of also building a new community.
Decked out with the finest quality equipment, Joseph Currier was excited to show his new bride the prosperous mill. The couple had met a little over half a year before, and fell in love at first sight. They had been married for only 6 weeks and had just returned from their month-long honeymoon when Ann Crosby Currier entered the mill for the first and last time.
As her new husband took her on a tour of the mill, Annie gazed in awe at the machinery. They ascended the steps between the second and third floor and the full skirt of her dress became caught in the spinning works of the mill. She was killed almost instantly.
Traumatized and bereaved, Joseph left the mill and Manotick and never returned. He severed all ties with the mill by 1863 and moved to Ottawa. In 1868, he re-married Hannah Wright (granddaughter of the founder of Hull) and built a new home that is still standing today. You may recognize the address, 24 Sussex Drive.
The first recorded sighting of Anne’s ghostly figure was from that of a fisherman who visited the mill during a storm in 1921. He heard “unearthly screams” and ran as fast as he could from the building. For many decades after and to this very day, people report hearing blood curdling screams, seeing shadow figures, a woman’s silhouette in the second floor window, and a cold touch on their ankles or arms when walking that same section of stairs.
You can visit the still fully-functioning mill and historic centre to this day. Just watch your step when climbing the stairs.
For the full story about the tragic life of Joseph Merrill Currier, read this post by The Haunted Walk!
Moore House - Carleton Place
The Moore House in Carleton was first constructed as a family home for the (as you guessed it) Moore family, one of the first settler families in Carleton Place, in the mid 1800s. The home was occupied by generations of Moore’s until it was eventually turned into a general store. Although the log structure was carefully moved to a different location in the spring of 2007, it is said that the ghost of young Ida Moore made the trip as well and still resides in the house to this day.
Ida was 20 years young and excited to attend music school to become a teacher when she died of tuberculosis (commonly known as “consumption” at the time) in 1900.
Ida is luckily a friendly ghost and likes to play tricks on the inhabitants of the house. People have reported objects moving, windows opening and closing, radios turning on and off, and sometimes giving people just a general feeling of “the creeps”. Every small town has a ghost, and Ida is Carleton Place’s ghostly celebrity.
Today, Moore House houses the Carleton Place Chamber of Commerce, an information centre, and Roy Brown Museum.
Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital
In 1858, Judge John Malloch, a prominent citizen of the new town of Perth, began plans to build an opulent house on Drummond Street. He spared no expense in building his 17-room home and, because of his luxurious taste, often had to order pieces and supplies from abroad. One of these special orders was late to arrive and caused a very expensive delay in the construction of the home. Judge Malloch was so angry that he refused to pay the supplier. After a lengthy and heated argument, the supplier cursed Malloch and his family as long as they lived in the house. Within 15 years of living in “Victoria Hall”, the entire Malloch family would suffer ill health and die, many prematurely, with Judge Malloch passing last.
After the passing of the last Malloch, the home was rarely occupied, except for when distant family members would open the home for the summer season, stay for a short while, and leave. It was during this time that locals began reporting figures walking the halls at night or blankly staring out the windows of the vacant home. Some saw a sickly woman standing at the window while others caught a glimpse of the old Judge walking up and down the halls. The house very quickly became known as “The Haunted House of Perth”.
In 1903, a small-pox epidemic broke out in the town of Smiths Falls. A group of nursing sisters from Kingston were sent to aid in the care of the patients stricken with the disease. After the epidemic ended, the town was so grateful that they asked the Mother General of the House of Providence of Kingston to allow the sisters to remain and open a hospital in their town. It was then that “Elmsley Hall” (the newest name of “Victoria Hall”) was purchased, mostly torn down (after it was determined that there had been too much damage due to a fire), and rebuilt as the new hospital.
Over the years, the hospital has grown, improved, and was amalgamated with another hospital to become the facility it is today. Even though only a small portion of the original building is still standing, patients and hospital workers alike report seeing ghostly figures walking up and down the halls and an apparition of an elderly, sickly woman with white hair to this day. If you would like to read some first-hand accounts, check out arlenestaffordwilson.wordpress.com amazing post about the history of the building and her time working at the hospital. Also read life-long resident (and member of one of the original Perth families) Peter Code’s personal encounter here.
Have a safe and happy Halloween ghosts and ghouls! What haunted places in Ottawa would you like to learn about next year?