The Spir­its Of Ot­tawa

From Caspers to cock­tails, and whiskey to wights, this city will leave you haunted. Go bump in the night at spir­ited restau­rants, mu­se­ums, at­trac­tions and bars

Where Ottawa - - Contents - BY Chris Lack­ner

Ot­tawa will leave you haunted — both by spir­its that say boo, and the ones bet­ter served in a glass over ice. From ghostly restau­rants and mu­se­ums, to spir­ited cock­tails and whisky-soaked wel­comes, we show­case how the cap­i­tal will leave you scream­ing for more tricks and treats.


“When most peo­ple think about Ot­tawa to­day, they think about a safe and beau­ti­ful cap­i­tal city,” ex­plains Jim Dean, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Haunted Walks (p. 45). “How­ever, many are un­aware that By­town, the first name of the city, was once con­sid­ered to be one of the most dan­ger­ous places in North Amer­ica. The gang war­fare be­tween the ri­val English, French, Ir­ish and Scot­tish groups, con­trib­uted to sig­nif­i­cant vi­o­lence, mur­der and ri­ots in the city streets. The con­struc­tion process of the Rideau Canal, to­day a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site, also claimed the lives of close to 1,000 work­ers along its banks. With such a dark and deadly past, Ot­tawa cer­tainly has all the el­e­ments to be one of Canada’s most haunted cities.” On that chilly note…

Ap­pe­tiz­ers & Ap­pari­tions

Beckta (p. 30): This restau­rant serves up a fa­mous ghost, her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture, and a tan­ta­liz­ing menu — mak­ing it the per­fect haunt for the liv­ing and the dead. The pre­vi­ous long­time ten­ant, Fri­day’s Roast Beef House, could have in­serted the word Haunted into its of­fi­cial

name. Dr. James Alexan­der Grant built the three-storey masterpiece in 1875, prac­ticed his craft on­site, and was even ru­moured to main­tain a morgue in his base­ment. To­day, the only surgery be­ing done in the old Grant House is by tal­ented sous chefs. Owner Stephen Beckta dis­cusses his restau­rant’s fa­mous phan­tom:

Q: is Beckta re­ally haunted? A:

Most of the sto­ries come from be­fore Beckta moved in. They in­volved see­ing a fig­ure in the win­dow or staff hear­ing cough­ing (Dr. Grant was both asth­matic and loved to smoke cigars). When we took oc­cu­pancy, I left a glass of cham­pagne on the man­tle in an heir­loom Grant fam­ily glass. It was par­tially gone (the next morn­ing) and we’ve been haunt­ing free ever since, so (Dr. Grant) likes us in his space… One time we had a prob­lem with lights flick­er­ing and we thought it might be the ghost, but it turned out our dim­mer switch was faulty.” Q: What sig­na­ture drink would you serve Dr. Grant? A:

I’d of­fer him a smoky cock­tail, like our Smoked But­ter (brown but­ter bour­bon, ver­mouth, black soo­chong, cin­na­mon, mole).

The Court­yard Restau­rant


30): Lo­cated in the By Ward Mar­ket’s Claren­don Court, a cob­ble­stoned hotspot for ghostly ac­tiv­ity, the build­ing is said to be haunted by Mrs. Evans, a woman that re­port­edly died dur­ing an 1872 fire when the site was an inn.

Cyn­thia Ver­boven, se­nior events co­or­di­na­tor:

“Over the 36 years of The Court­yard’s his­tory, few priv­i­leged staff have had the op­por­tu­nity to en­counter Mrs. Evans, our res­i­dent ghost. One em­ployee, while burn­ing the mid­night oil, re­ported see­ing a ghostly ap­pari­tion stand­ing next to the third win­dow of the Loft Room on the sec­ond floor. Oth­ers have re­ported ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­treme chills and an over­whelm­ing sen­sa­tion to flee the build­ing, or the sound of tin­kling glasses when left alone in the din­ing room. Some have even seen salt­shak­ers move swiftly on their own across the tables!” Tourist (and Oth­er­worldly) Des­ti­na­tions

Château Lau­rier: Rail­way ex­ec­u­tive Charles Melville died on the Ti­tanic en route to the grand open­ing of the land­mark ho­tel, lo­cated ad­ja­cent to Par­lia­ment. He never got to see the French-Gothic style build­ing he com­mis­sioned in ac­tion, and his name has been linked to su­per­nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non — re­ported both by fa­mous guests and staff — ever since. “It would make sense that he be­lieved in this project so much, that he was so pas­sion­ate for it, that he would want to see it through,” ex­plains Creepy Cap­i­tal au­thor Mark Les­lie.

Wil­liam Lyon Macken­zie King:

The specter of the for­mer prime min­is­ter, and avowed spir­i­tu­al­ist, haunts two fa­mous build­ings open to the pub­lic. He in­her­ited

Lau­rier House (p. 43), and is said to have con­ducted séances on­site with ev­ery­one from his mother and dog to fa­mous per­son­al­i­ties like Leonardo da Vinci and Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt. The ghost of Macken­zie King him­self is as­so­ci­ated with his Gatineau Park re­treat, Macken­zie King Es­tate (p. 43), where Les­lie’s book de­scribes sight­ings of a glow­ing, spec­tral fig­ure.

Juan Sanchez, site man­ager of Lau­rier House:

“Ev­ery sum­mer at least one of our em­ploy­ees has some su­per­nat­u­ral ex­pe­ri­ence. The sound of some­one sneez­ing when no one was around, doors open­ing when they were thought to be locked, ob­jects be­ing moved when no one has been in the house. This sum­mer, we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing strange events with our alarm sys­tem. Wil­liam Lyon Macken­zie King was a spir­i­tu­al­ist and owned a crys­tal ball. Of course, this is very valu­able, so it is hooked up to its own alarm sys­tem. For a few weeks in June, the alarm was be­ing trig­gered in the mid­dle of the night. On sev­eral oc­ca­sions, the alarm com­pany was called, the ball was in­spected and noth­ing was de­tected. They would leave en­sur­ing us that the mat­ter had been fixed, the next day the same thing would hap­pen. Per­haps the spir­its were try­ing to get in touch with us!”

Old Ot­tawa Jail (now the Ot­tawa Jail Hos­tel):

“The Jail is rec­og­nized as one of the most haunted build­ings in North Amer­ica and new re­ports con­tinue to come in,” says Haunted Walk’s Jim Dean. “Sev­eral years ago some new­ly­weds joined us on a tour of the old jail and took pho­tos of each other in­side some of the cells. Af­ter tak­ing a photo of the hus­band, they no­ticed the face of an­other man with an old­fash­ioned hair­cut in the photo. The im­age is so clear that if it weren’t shot on a dig­i­tal cam­era you would think it would have to be the re­sult of a dou­ble-ex­po­sure.” mu­se­ums

By­town Mu­seum (p. 45): The mu­seum, lo­cated along­side the Rideau Canal’s ar­rest­ing locks just be­low our po­lit­i­cal hub, is the old­est — and one of the most haunted — build­ings in the city. Eerie ex­pe­ri­ences range from the sound of foot­steps on an empty stair­case to ob­jects seem­ingly mov­ing of their own ac­cord. Les­lie sus­pects “some of the ghosts at the mu­seum came from the spir­its of those that died build­ing the canal.”

Cana­dian Mu­seum of Na­ture

(p. 47): Nor­mal by day, Les­lie says the site’s su­per­nat­u­ral na­ture re­veals it­self at night. Se­cu­rity guards have re­ported un­ex­plained sounds and ac­tiv­ity — from cold spots on the fourth floor

to el­e­va­tors mov­ing and doors open­ing of their own ac­cord. He says one fe­male em­ployee re­ported see­ing the faint out­line of a man form in a mir­ror be­fore pass­ing through her body, and even day­time vis­i­tors have al­legedly had the un­canny feel­ing of be­ing watched. But it’s likely just an­other Casper; Les­lie sug­gests the ghost could be that of orig­i­nal ar­chi­tect David Ewart. But given the an­cient ar­ti­facts and relics that have been housed on­site over the years, who knows what forces may have tagged along with an ex­hibit? The mu­seum’s cas­tle-in­flu­enced de­sign is prac­ti­cally a ghost wel­come mat.

Dan Smythe, head of the mu­seum’s me­dia re­la­tions:

“Per­haps the spirit of Sir Wil­frid Lau­rier graces the mu­seum. When the Par­lia­ment build­ings burned in Fe­bru­ary 1916, Par­lia­ment moved into the mu­seum for four years. Un­der Lau­rier’s lead­er­ship the mu­seum was built; when he died on Fe­bru­ary 17, 1919, his body lay in state in the mu­seum’s au­di­to­rium. An es­ti­mated 50,000 peo­ple passed by to pay their re­spects.”

Spir­its (The hard Stuff)

North of 7 Dis­tillery: The first batch of four-grain, bour­bon-style whisky from the cap­i­tal’s first-and-only dis­tillery won’t be avail­able un­til early 2017 (it needs to be aged for at least three years). Co-owner Greg Lipin prom­ises a flavour with hints of “but­ter­scotch rip­ple or caramel.” For now, vis­i­tors can buy their top-sell­ing gin, vodka, rum and White Dog, a “fancy moon­shine” – ba­si­cally fresh whiskey off the still. Split Tree Cock­tail Co.’s (p. 25) lo­cal cock­tail mix is also sold on­site. Lipin is clear on which spirit he rec­om­mends pour­ing be­fore seek­ing out Ot­tawa’s ghouls and gob­lins: “Our White Dog moon­shine. It will give you liq­uid courage be­fore­hand, and calm your nerves af­ter­wards.”

Tricks and Treats: At­trac­tions

Saun­ders Farm: Haunt­ing Sea­son (day­time, fam­ily-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties open­ing Septem­ber 26) and Fright Fest (night-time ac­tiv­i­ties for adults and chil­dren, open week­ends start­ing Septem­ber 24) re­turn to this farm in nearby Mun­ster, Ont. Get your spook on with labyrinths, a Haunted Hayride, the Ghost Town stage show, the Barn of Ter­ror, Camp Slaugh­ter and a new spooky at­trac­tion open­ing in Oc­to­ber. Af­ter fend­ing off the phan­toms, en­joy some farm fresh food.

Top: Cana­dian Mu­seum of Na­ture Left: Old Ot­tawa Jail (now the Ot­tawa Jail Hos­tel)

Op­po­site: Beckta. Be­low: The Haunted Walk of Ot­tawa Right: Château Lau­rier

Top Mid­dle: Leatherback Rum from North of 7 Dis­tillery Bot­tom left: Pump­kin­ferno at Up­per Canada Vil­lage. Be­low: Saun­ders Farm Haunt­ing Sea­son

ot­tawa cock­tail Guide: With his world-fa­mous looks, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau could prob­a­bly put Tom Cruise to shame serv­ing up the cap­i­tal’s finest cock­tails. Where’s Din­ing sec­tion cel­e­brates some of the best places in Ot­tawa to “channel” earthly...

Pump­kin­ferno: Light up your life at the his­toric Up­per Canada Vil­lage. (p. 44)

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