Now I’ve never seen a ghost and I suspect that I never will. This is despite the fact that I work in a “haunted” museum and would be totally down to meet one. (Step it up, ghosts!) Even though I have never experienced anything remotely supernatural, a heck of a lot of other people believe they have. So just in time for Halloween, here are five locations that not only have ties to Canadian history, but are allegedly haunted as well.
1. The Plains of Abraham, Quebec City, Quebec
Given the amount of death that occurs on battlefields, most are allegedly haunted. The Plains of Abraham was the site of the historic 1757 showdown between the French and British armies during the Seven Years’ War. Britain was victorious, both here and overall. Close to 200 men died on that September day, including General Wolfe and General Montcalm.
Today it is located within Quebec City’s Battlefield Parks and there have been numerous ghost sightings across the old battlefield. Ghosts of soldiers have often been seen by visitors near the entrance to Tunnel 1 and along the barracks. Reportedly, the sounds of cannon fire and the smell of sulfur accompanies ghost sightings. The spirit of Marie-Josephte Corriveau, better known as La Corriveau in Québécois folklore, has also been reported. In 1763, Marie was found guilty of murdering her abusive husband with a hatchet and was not only sentenced to death, but that her body would be hanged in chains and put on display in a gibbet. She was executed at the gallows on the Buttes-à-Nepveu, near the Plains of Abraham, and her body was hung up at the busy intersection in the city. Naturally, stories like this started to pop up:
François Dubé with “La Corriveau”. Sketch by Henri Julien (1852-1908) for Les Anciens Canadiens by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé.
2. Walker Theatre/Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Walker Theatre, now known as the Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts, was built by Corliss Powers Walker between 1906-1907. This location was the last stop on Walker’s Red River Valley Theatre Circuit. By building the theatres along the railway route, Walker brought Broadway shows to Winnipeg. Aside from being used for performances, labour and women’s suffrage political rallies also took place there. This includes one of Nellie McClung’s mock parliaments and a meeting that eventually led to the Winnipeg General Strike.
Staff have reported hearing the sounds of clapping, whispers, and disembodied voices coming from empty rooms. 200lb steel doors have also been seen moving on their own. These ghostly happenings are attributed to notable English acting couple Laurence Irving and Mabel Hackney. After finishing a well-received tour at the Walker Theatre, Irving and Hackney were supposed to sail back home to England via the RMS Empress of Ireland. Unfortunately, while sailing up the foggy St. Lawrence River, the Storstadt, a Norwegian collier (coal ship) crashed into the Empress. The disaster claimed the lives of 1,012 passengers. Irving and Hackney were last seen holding onto each other and Irving’s body was found still clutching a piece of Hackey’s nightdress in his hand. She was never found. Before leaving Winnipeg, Irving told the Manitoba Free Press that he would return. Apparently he and his wife did!
3. Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resides in the area known as Queen’s Park. When speaking about ghost stories, it is generally the Ontario Legislative Building itself and not the park as a whole that is haunted. Before the Legislature was built, an insane asylum stood there and paranormal investigators attribute the hauntings to the spirits of former patients. Given the prime location it was built on (seriously, this sounds like something out of a bad 1980s horror film), there have been a number of supernatural sightings over the years:
- The ghost of World War I hero Captain Charles Rutherford has allegedly been seen sitting in the sergeant-at-arms chair. In 1918, Rutherford wandered alone into a battalion of 45 Germans. He lied and told them that they were now his prisoners because they were surrounded by Canadian soldiers. Rutherford was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. He served as the sergeant-at-arms from 1934 to 1940.
- A mysterious woman in white has been heard moaning and crying on the third floor. (Perhaps she’s crying over the government’s bright idea to sell off 60% of Hydro One?)
- Screams and calls for help have been reported by tourists.
- Floating spirits have been seen hovering over the grand staircase.
- A woman in tattered clothes and a rope hanging around her neck has been spotted wandering the halls. A female inmate did hang herself in the basement back when the asylum still stood.
4. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta
Just look at that picture. A historic, somewhat isolated hotel surrounded by hills of tall pine trees…I would be more surprised if ghost stories weren’t attached to this location. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888 and was one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Queen Elizabeth II even stayed there during her 1939 Royal Tour of Canada.
Despite the glamour, over the years there have been various ghostly sightings. Guests have reported seeing the spirits of a family that was murdered in room 873. Sam Macauley, a bellhop who died shortly after retiring in 1976, has been spotted in full uniform trying to assist guests. Apparently there is a ghostly bartender who rather than tempting individuals to drink tells customers they have had too much and should go get some sleep. The most popular story is of a young bride who died of a broken neck in 1932. On her wedding day as she descended the marble staircase she tripped on her gown and fell down the stairs. Supposedly she can be spotted dancing alone in her wedding gown in the ballroom only to suddenly burst into flames. Oh and apparently there is also a headless male bagpiper who stays at the hotel. (Not sure how he plays his instrument if he has no mouth…)
5. Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario
For some reason people thought it would be a good idea to turn the Carleton County Gaol into a hostel. (Well, I guess if you’re staying at a hostel you’re not intending to get a good night of sleep anyways). Also known as the Ottawa County Jail it as built in 1862 and used for over 100 years. The gaol was a site of disease, death, and executions. Those who died were burned and buried in a makeshift cemetery behind the jail. Mentally ill and homeless individuals were also locked up here, which was unfortunately common for the time.
The top floor served as the jail’s death row and its most famous resident of was Patrick James Whelan, who was found guilty of murdering Thomas d’Arcy McGee, (one of our Fathers of Confederation). While most agree Whelan was involved in McGee’s assassination, to this day it is unknown whether he pulled the trigger. Regardless, Whelan was hung before a crowd of 5,000 people. Apparently he never left the jail. Guests have reported seeing him at the base of their beds or lurking around his death row cell. Aside from Whelan, reports of crying children and other unknown ghostly images and voices have been reported by guests.
Do you believe in ghosts? Happy Halloween!
Thanks to Lisa Terech for the heads up about the Walker Theatre story!
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