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.