From reported encounters with spirits at the Bytown Museum, to the hundreds of bodies of workers which are suspected to be buried beneath the river, most of these tales call back to a piece of factual Canadian history.
In the spirit of the Halloween season, we’ve compiled a list of three reportedly haunted locations for you to check out if you’re looking for more tricks than treats this year.
By Maijia Stevenson
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
A single glance at this castle on the river is enough to convince most ghost-believers that this iconic establishment is haunted. From the grand turrets to the classic interior, this 5-star hotel calls back to times long-since passed—though it seems there may still be a few people from the era that never truly left.
The hotel has gained its haunted reputation over the years due to reports from staff and visitors alike, with one of the most iconic stories involving a deep, clear, baritone voice singing in the stairwell, only for it to be revealed moments later that there was no one there. While there is much speculation as to who the spirit is that haunts the grand halls of the hotel, most locals believe it to be the spirit of Charles Melville Hays, the president of the Grand Trunk Railway, and the one who commissioned the building of the chateau. Unfortunately for Hays, he would never see his hotel in all of its finished glory, as he was traveling aboard the Titanic just days before the grand opening. After Hay’s passing, it’s believed that his spirit may have continued his voyage, coming to the hotel to see his work completed at last.
While the Rideau Canal is a tourist destination for its beauty and recreational assets, it’s also home to a rather dark history. The canal was constructed mainly by poor French-Canadian and Irish-Canadian immigrants, who were subjected to incredibly dangerous work—which would turn out to be fatal for upwards of 1000 of these workers. Between the unsafe working conditions and the spike of Malaria cases which were sweeping the nation at the time, many workers lost their lives during the process.
Since Ottawa was in its infancy, social structures like graveyards were not yet set up, and instead of a traditional burial, most of those who tragically passed on were simply left in the canal to be covered by the elements. With the death rates from this job in the near 1000’s, it’s safe to say that a fair share of spirits may roam the river bed.
The Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel
It may sound hard to believe, but one of Ottawa’s most successful hostels is actually housed in the old jail. The Hi-Ottawa Jail—originally known as the Carleton County Goal—was opened in 1862, and from this time on it was clear that there was corruption within the walls of this historic building. Reports from the time state that prisoners were abused, neglected, starved, and often tortured, with those who died from mistreatment being laid to rest in the makeshift graveyard set up on the property. This site is often regarded as the most haunted location in Ottawa, with some visitors reporting seeing full-body apparitions, along with disembodied voices screaming or crying through the halls.
Many believe that the apparition seen haunting the halls of the jail may be the infamous former inmate Patrick J. Whelan, who was imprisoned and eventually executed for the murder of politician D’arcy McGee. Visitors report seeing him writing in his cell, or walking towards the gallows—which are still up and available to view to this day.