Halloween 2018: Ottawa’s oldest buildings are often the most haunted

Chateau Laurier and the East Block seen from the roof of the parliament buildings in 1923. Canadian Press Images

In a city with as much history as Ottawa, there are bound to be some wayward spirits among the buildings waiting to spook those who are brave enough to walk their halls at night.

An old jail that’s now a hostel, a hotel built by a doomed passenger aboard the Titanic and a mill that was the sight of a young woman’s tragic death are just a few examples of some of the more “active” places in the city.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Construction of one of Ottawa’s first luxury hotels began in 1908 and was completed four years later in 1912. A scheduled grand opening affair for April 26, unfortunately, was not meant to be as Charles Melville Hays, the man who commissioned the hotel, was lost at sea aboard the ill-fated Titanic along with several other guests scheduled to be at the opening.

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The Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel on Wellington street in Ottawa, Ont. Fairmont ranked sixth in the Randstad Awards. Mario Beauregard/CP Images

It is believed today that Hays walks the halls of his hotel, enjoying the hotel that he never got to see completed. Staff and guests have reported noises such as rattling and shaking as well as furniture that has been moved after a staff member has left the room.

Ottawa’s Jail Hostel

First built in 1862 as the main detention centre in the city, it closed in 1972 and was quickly converted into a hostel. Today, visitors can stay in either the rooms on the first three floors or, if they’re brave enough, in one of the unaltered cells on the top floor.

Phillip Gort of Switzerland grabs his bag from a small table in his hostel room of what was formerly the Carleton County Jail in downtown Ottawa, Thursday May 22, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

One of the more infamous inmates at the prison was Patrick J. Whelan, who was convicted and sentenced to hang for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Some people to this day believe Whelan was subjected to an unfair trial and hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. Whelan has executed on Feb. 11, 1869, in front of around 5,000 people. The final execution at the jail took place in 1946 and the gallows are still intact and fully functional.

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Staff and guests have reported seeing Whalen standing at the end of their beds, watching them or in his holding cell, destined to walk the halls of the place he believes he was unfairly imprisoned.

Bytown Museum

Nestled along the Rideau Canal between the Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill is another haunted hotbed, the Bytown Museum. First constructed in 1827, the building that houses the museum is the oldest remaining stone building in Ottawa.

Cyclists ride by the Bytown Museum (right) that sits below the Chateau Laurier Hotel in downtown Ottawa, Thursday May 22, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

One of the more prominent reported ghosts in the building is former supply manager Duncan McNab, who worked during the construction of the canal. Staff and visitors have reported doors shaking almost off their hinges, porcelain dolls that cry and footsteps up and down the stairs from the first floor to the second. Some also claim that Colonel John By also haunts the building.

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Watson’s Mill

A tragic death is the source of the haunting of this mill in Manotick. The mill was fully completed in 1861 by founders Joseph Merrill Currier and Moss Kent Dickinson — also the founder of the surrounding town of Manotick — as one of several in the area.

Watson’s mill in Manotick has been reported as one of the most haunted places in the city. Visitors claim that on dreary days, a woman who was tragically killed at the mill can be seen staring out the second-floor windows. Ottawa Tourism

Tragically, shortly after the mill was completed, Currier brought his young wife, Ann Crosby, on a tour of the mill. Partway through the tour, while the couple was on the second floor, Crosby’s dress became tangled in the moving machinery and she was slammed against a support post and killed instantly.

Visitors have reported hearing footsteps coming from the second floor and on dreary days, some say they have seen Crosby staring out the windows, looking at the world she never got to fully experience.


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