Night at the Museum: The West Wing Ghost

It was a rainy evening last spring when my boyfriend and I, having heard nothing but great things about the exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Nature, decided to go and check it out for ourselves.

By Chester Oakley from Ottawa, Canada (Canadian Museum of Nature  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Chester Oakley from Ottawa, Canada (Canadian Museum of Nature  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian Museum of Nature—formally known as the Victoria Memorial Museum—was built between 1905 and 1911. The original mastermind behind the European-inspired design was architect David Ewort.

Aside from the beautifully arranged exhibits, the elegant staircase—which extends from the first floor to the fourth—caught my attention. Made of marble and encased by the recently constructed glass tower, the staircase merges the castle-like architecture of the original building with a touch of modernity. 

As with any old building of grandeur, it’s not uncommon to experience an eerie aura as you walk throughout. Others have experienced the same gut-sinking feeling as I did when climbing that staircase, nearing the fourth floor of the museum. In fact, both staff and visitors of the museum have documented a number of supernatural occurrences. Incidents of classic poltergeist behaviour such as doors slamming and elevators moving on their own are commonly shared tales among residents here in Ottawa. Ghostly encounters in the west wing on the fourth floor have been so abundant that this portion of the museum remains closed to visitors. 

And so the question begs, who is the entity haunting the exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Nature?

"The Honourable Sir Wilfred Laurier" by William James Topley

"The Honourable Sir Wilfred Laurier" by William James Topley

Not surprisingly, there exist a number of ideas surrounding the identity of this lost soul. One theory is that David Ewort himself leapt from the roof of the building in 1912 upon its completion and is now making his presence heard. It is believed that he is in disarray over the museum’s original tower being demolished due to its instability in 1916. This theory has been deemed unlikely as David Ewort did not in fact plunge from the museum’s roof in 1912, but rather died of old age nine years later. 

Another theory is that of an aboriginal spirit who has latched onto an artifact in one of the museum’s exhibits. Could he be spending his afterlife wandering the upper west wing in shambles, choosing never to rest because a sacred artifact has been put on display rather than returned to its rightful owners?

Interestingly enough, Sir Wilfred Laurier, our eighth Prime Minister, was lain in state in the auditorium of the museum after his death in 1919. This occurred when the museum housed the Canadian Government after the parliament buildings were damaged in the fire of 1916. Could Sir Wilfred Laurier still be present in the capital, by way of his endlessly roaming spirit at the Canadian Museum of Nature?

The Canadian Museum of Nature offered me a first taste of Ottawa’s supernatural history and has since sparked my interest in experiencing all that our capital has to offer from beyond the grave. If you’re sceptical, sign yourself up for one of Ottawa’s Haunted walks to hear more haunting stories from the Canadian Museum of Nature.


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Alexa Scott is a Carleton University Graduate currently in second year of the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. When she's not in class, she can be found watching Law & Order and perfecting her guacamole recipe. She also loves to spend time at the park with her best friend, a mini Goldendoodle named Maple. 

The Woman in the Window: A Brief Look at the Haunting of the Manotick Mill

    Along the Rideau River, in the heart of the community of Manotick, lies Watson’s Mill. Built in 1860, and originally owned by Moss Kent Dickinson and Joseph Currier, this notorious historic building is possibly one of the most haunted sites in the Ottawa area. 

    Shortly after Watson’s Mill’s official opening on Valentine’s Day, 1861, Joseph Currier decided to bring his young bride, Ann Crosby Currier, for a visit. They had just returned from their honeymoon and had only been married six weeks when tragedy struck. 

    Ann was ascending the staircase between the second and third floor when her dress became caught in the spinning works of the mill. With no time to free herself, she was flung against a wooden pillar and killed on impact.

    After her death, Joseph cut all ties with the mill, moved to Ottawa, remarried, and built a house that is now the primary residence of our prime ministers. Although he escaped the misfortune of that awful day, some say his late wife never did, and that her spirit remains where it left her body.

    It’s difficult to say when the signs of the mill's haunting began. One of the first accounts comes from a fisherman who visited the mill during a storm in 1921, claiming he heard unearthly screams and bolted immediately. Over the following decades many people have also reported hearing a woman’s scream and seeing the shadow of a woman in a white dress in the second floor window. Several visitors to the mill have claimed they felt a touch on their ankles or arms while walking on those same second floor stairs.

    The Haunted Ottawa Paranormal Society (HOPS) has investigated the mill several times. They have experienced a number of unexplained sounds such as footsteps, knocking, disembodied voices, as well as strange lights, tugging on clothing, temperature change, and batteries draining without explanation.  In 2010, HOPS founder and operations director Daniel Touchette insists that he was physically pushed by Crosby’s spirit while attempting to contact her. He had been asking the spirit whether she had been courting anyone other than her husband when he received the startling answer. “It was not an attack; it was a warning,” he says of the incident. 

    It is one of the oldest and most-acclaimed ghost stories in Ottawa, older than Canada itself. But why has the young spirit of Ann Crosby Currier stuck around for over 150 years? Perhaps she only wishes to warn us, hoping that no one will end up like her in the dangerous works of the mill. Perhaps she mourns the fact that her husband settled down with another woman so soon after her untimely death. Or perhaps she simply believes she is still alive, still trapped between the second and third floors of Watson’s Mill, where she will remain for eternity.


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Grace Mahaffy is a 19-year-old Professional Writing Student who has lived in Ottawa virtually forever. She enjoys visual art, music, literature,  and spending quality time with her dog. She also has a healthy enthusiasm for exploring unsolved crimes and all things eerie and mysterious.

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Grace Mahaffy

Grace Mahaffy is a 19-year-old Professional Writing Student who has lived in Ottawa virtually forever. She enjoys visual art, music, literature, and spending quality time with her dog. She also has a healthy enthusiasm for exploring unsolved crimes and all things eerie and mysterious.

Loss and Locks: The Dark Side of the Rideau Canal

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The Rideau Canal: the perfect place to have a picnic, take an evening stroll, or see a ghost. When most people think of the world-famous waterway, they conjure up images of Beavertails and ice skates or the leaf-strewn bike paths along the sparkling water. What some may not realize is that the Canal claimed many lives during its construction, making it the perfect place for paranormal activity.

Building of the Rideau Canal began in 1826 under the direction of Colonel John By, leading to the formation of Bytown—now Ottawa. It is estimated that 2,000-4,000 men worked on the Canal per year. Bush, swamp, and rock made construction difficult. The dangerous work and unhygienic living conditions contributed to approximately 1,000 deaths—including workers and their families—between 1826 and the waterway’s opening in 1832. Disease was the biggest cause of death, particularly malaria.  For more detailed information, read “History of the Rideau Canal”.

To accommodate these deaths, cemeteries were built close to the worksites.  Three are still accessible to the public; the rest have disappeared over the years. While it is safe to assume that graves would have been relocated before new construction began, the recent discovery of bodies near Queen Street hints otherwise. How many other bodies unknowingly lie below us? I think about the times that I’ve taken a book and spent blissful afternoons lounging under trees. Perhaps those solitary outings were not as solitary as I thought.

I have spent many hours along this iconic landmark and I have yet to experience anything paranormal but several ghost stories have popped up since its existence.

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An old supply manager, Duncan McNab, and Colonel By himself reportedly haunt the former supply storehouse and treasury—now the Bytown Museum. Both visitors and staff have reported odd occurrences such as the sound of children crying, men’s voices, winking dolls and rattling doors.

Not all Canal-related deaths occurred during its construction. Davy Davidson was murdered after pack peddlers who were travelling along the canal invaded his home on Lake Opinicon—a lake that was formed during the building of the waterway. It was a grizzly murder but it’s rumoured that Davidson’s spirit is friendly. Several people have claimed to see the ghost canoeing across the lake.

The Rideau Canal is a beautiful feat of engineering and should be enjoyed by those who visit it but we should remember the sacrifice that was put into its construction. Next time you're admiring it, keep your eyes open and your senses alert; your peaceful walk might turn into a paranormal experience. 

 


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Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.

Locked in for the Night—Ottawa's oldest jail is the city's hottest haunted hostel

The Carleton County Gaol still steadfastly stands in downtown Ottawa, but instead of inmates, the jail now hosts guests looking to spend a haunted night in the city’s oldest prison. The hostel is on Lonely Planet’s list of world’s spookiest buildings—with good reason.

William James Topley. Library and Archives Canada, PA-012371

William James Topley. Library and Archives Canada, PA-012371

Starting at $72 a night, hostel guests at the Ottawa Jail Hostel are granted the privilege to sleep in cells with bars still intact, with the last working gallows in the country just a short way from where you lay your head (though Canada removed capital punishment in 1976) and a few spectral cellmates to keep you company.

The history of the building is as compelling as it is tragic. Built in 1862, the jail didn’t have glass windows to protect from the elements, and the result was an undocumentable number of inmate deaths. The cells were built to allow the acoustics to bring any whisperings to the guards, which may explain some of the eerie experiences guests have shared.

This, however, doesn’t explain the experience of a group of German tourists. The guests were upset that they hadn’t run into any spectral beings and asked for a refund from the front desk. During their exchange, a drawer from the register behind the counter opened, and a single coin rose slowly until it reached eye level. After briefly hovering, the coin dropped back down. The Germans left without their refund.

Floating coins, disembodied voices, and rattling windows lead to an uneasy night’s sleep, but they’re not the only paranormal phenomena the old county jail has to offer. Perhaps its most famous—and sinister—claim to fame, is the execution of Patrick James Whelan.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a member of Parliament and Father of the Confederation, was assassinated in April 1868. Within 24 hours Whelan was arrested, and though there remains reasonable doubt to whether he was the murderer, McGee’s relationship with Sir John A. Macdonald ensured his sentence was swift and final. Despite two rejected appeals to higher courts, Whelan’s fate was capital punishment—death by hanging.

William James Topley. Topley Studio. Library and Archives Canada, PA-027438

William James Topley. Topley Studio. Library and Archives Canada, PA-027438

After spending ten months in the jail, on February 11th, 1869, Whelan swung. 5,000 people came to watch. As they lowered the hood to cover his head, he said his last words: “I am innocent.”

Whelan requested to be buried in Montreal, but officials decided his remains would occupy an unmarked grave on the jail’s grounds. Guests describe a spectre appearing at the end of their beds holding a bible, and many believe it’s Whelan expressing his displeasure about his final resting place.

Whelan wasn’t the only inmate buried on the grounds. Due to the inhumane conditions the jail offered, countless inmates perished there and their bodies—and possibly their spirits—never left.

At 75 Nicholas Street, the hostel is conveniently within walking distance of several of Ottawa’s most iconic attractions, including Byward Market and the Rideau Canal. The price is affordable—but your stay might cost you a good night’s sleep.


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Emily Beckett is an enthusiastic geek and writer who spent her childhood summer nights poring over Canadian ghost stories with only a flashlight and nylon tent to protect herself. She is fascinated by the chilling events that lend themselves to the birth of alleged spooky encounters—despite her scaredy-cat status.

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Emily Beckett

Emily is an enthusiastic geek and writer who spent her childhood summer nights poring over Canadian ghost stories with only a flashlight and nylon tent to protect herself. She is fascinated by the chilling events that lend themselves to the birth of alleged spooky encounters—despite her scaredy-cat status.

Spectres and Haunts

Photo courtesy of stocksnap.io

Photo courtesy of stocksnap.io

Have you ever felt like you were being watched or witnessed something that you can’t explain? Whether you believe in the possibility of a ghostly afterlife or remain sceptical, Ottawa’s rich history makes it the perfect place to explore the supernatural. In the coming months, we’ll be unearthing the city’s mysteries and featuring them on this blog. In Haunted Landmarks, we’ll look at historical sites and reveal why they are prime places for otherworldly activity, while Ghost Stories will delve into the terrifying tales that plague our region. Paranormal Activities will showcase frightening things to do around town that promise to bring us closer to the afterlife, and document our experiences trying them out. Read this blog with caution; this sleepy government town may end up giving you nightmares.

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Michelle Savage

Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.