Have you ever experienced something so spooky it’s made the hair on your arms stand up? Maybe you’ve felt an unexplained draft of cold air, or perhaps you’ve felt like you’re being watched.
Ghost stories are a worldwide phenomenon, and Canada is no exception. There has been no shortage of ghastly ghost sightings, strange apparitions and unexplained happenings in cities and towns across the Great White North.
From coast to coast to coast, and in the spirit of Halloween, let’s take a voyage to some of the most notoriously spooky and haunted places across Canada.
Whether you’re a wannabe paranormal investigator or a non-believer, here are the some of the most harrowing tales of hauntings across the nation.
Out of the way in interior British Columbia is the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives, home to an infamous toy doll named Mandy, who looks quite sweet and innocent but has a much more ominous past.
According to the museum, Mandy the Doll came into its possession in 1991, when a resident gifted it the now more than 100-year-old doll because it “gave her a weird feeling”
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Shortly after Mandy arrived, she was taken to a lab to photograph for the museum’s collection. When staff returned the following day they found the lab “in disarray – as though a small child had a temper tantrum.” Later, a stuffed lamb that was placed inside her locked case was found on the floor, somehow escaping its enclosure.
Museum visitors have also claimed unsuccessful attempts to videotape the doll (but were able to tape elsewhere in the museum), some say the doll’s eyes follow them around the room and others report the batteries in their devices have been drained from full while in the doll’s presence.
Mandy is so notorious that in 1999 she travelled to New York City to be featured on The Montel Williams Show, where a medium suggested Mandy emitted a negative energy.
Arguably one of Alberta’s most well-known ghostly haunts is The Fairmont Banff Springs, a luxurious, castle-like hotel nestled in the mountains of Banff National Park.
It’s believed that several ghosts haunt the four-star hotel, one of them being Sam the Bellman – a longtime employee who died in 1975 and always joked that he’d come back as a ghost to haunt his former workplace.
Well, when guests began reporting that they’d been helped by an elderly Scottish man dressed in old-fashioned clothes when no such current employee fit that description, Sam’s threats became a bit more credible. There have also been reports of elevator doors opening and closing on a whim, which staff report as Sam’s favourite silent greeting.
There have also been sightings of a “doomed bride” seen dancing in the hotel’s Cascade Ballroom. Legend has it that, long ago, a bride fell on a flight of marble stairs and died before her wedding banquet, her dress catching fire on one of the open torches that lit the staircase at the time.
The apparition has also reportedly been spotted around the hotel, standing on a staircase before abruptly disappearing, leaving behind only a cold chill. Some also report the sounds of crying coming from the hotel’s otherwise empty bridal suite.
The historic Marr Residence in Saskatoon is the oldest house still standing on its original site in Saskatoon. Built in 1884, it served as a field hospital during the Riel Rebellion and, now, serves as an exhibit dedicated to sharing the story of the province’s early relationship between First Nations people and settlers.
Now, the site is believed to be haunted by not one, but two resident ghosts. One is a cranky old man who lives in the basement and has been reported by staff and visitors to make rude remarks directed at women (Sir, this is 2023!).
Visitors to the site have also reported seeing the ghost of a child standing in the home’s front window, often described as an orb or strange light that holds the face of a kid.
Portage la Prairie, Man.
The Delta Marsh Field Station and Mallard Lodge, located on the shores of Lake Manitoba and at one time a part of the University of Manitoba campus, is sure to send shivers down your spine.
The former research facility is thought to be haunted by a rather friendly ghost named Murray, who is believed to be a former caretaker of the station. Staff and students at the U of M have reported strange phenomena at the hands of Murray, including doors and windows opening and closing without human help, chains rattling and lights going on and off in the building when no when was inside.
It is also rumoured that during the construction of the lodge in 1932, a construction worker fell into the building’s foundation and was accidentally sealed in, leaving his bones forever inside the building’s structure and resulting in the building’s more sinister spirit, which has revealed himself as a hooded skeleton form, terrifying guests over the years.
Nahanni National Park Reserve, N.W.T.
Mother Nature can be wild and cruel, but she might be especially cruel at Nahanni National Park Reserve. Also appropriately called “The Valley of the Headless Men,” this rugged, beautiful park is said to be home to several decapitated ghosts.
Proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Nahanni National Park has long since drawn in adventurous travellers. In 1906, brothers Willie and Frank McLeod explored the area in search of gold. Instead of striking it rich, the brothers’ bodies were found headless two years later, seemingly attacked while sleeping at their camp. Later in 1917, the body of another prospector was discovered also decapitated beside his cabin, which had been burned down. In the years since, several other people have reportedly vanished without a trace in the park.
Today, people are still fascinated by the mysteries inside Nahanni National Park Reserve. Be it allegedly headless ghosts walking riverside or reports of UFO sightings, The Valley of the Headless Men may just be as paranormal as it is breathtaking.
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
At the Rankin Fire Hall in Rankin Inlet, Nvt., firefighters have to be on alert for both flames and spectres.
Several employees at the fire hall have claimed to experience chills and see ghostly apparitions while on site. Two rumoured apparitions are of an older man and a young girl who allegedly haunt the halls. The ghosts have been said to appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. Firefighters have also said they witnessed objects being thrown around or knocked off surfaces in the fire hall without cause.
Some locals believe the male ghost is a former fire chief who apparently died by suicide in recent years, though he did not die at the Rankin Fire Hall. And even though a little girl has never died there, rumours persist that the building is haunted by a child who might have died in an unspecified inferno handled by the station’s firefighters.
Regardless of who they are, some firefighters have claimed the pesky ghosts also have sticky fingers and are known to steal little items, like single gloves.
Dawson City, Yukon
Macaulay House in Dawson City, Yukon is a respite for a cohort of diverse artists, but there may be something paranormal also stroking the creativity of the building’s artists-in-residence. This apparent haunting is more than just a bump in the night. Several of the folks living inside the house have claimed to hear and see ghostly figures inside the building.
Resident artist Jude Griebel in 2007 compiled the ghost stories from previous residents of Macaulay House into a book, Footsteps in The Macaulay House. One artist told Griebel they came face to face with the ghost of a child that approached their bed in the middle of the night.
Another said they’d on several occasions seen disembodied figures pass through mirrors in the house. But the actual house has had a long, transient history before it became an artist residence – and spotty recordkeeping hasn’t made it easy to identify the origins of any potential hauntings. Whether these ghosts are actually inspiring artists, or just making hair stand on end, remains to be seen.
Some people look for cosy comfort in their accommodations. Others hope for a paranormal experience they won’t soon forget. If you fall into the latter group, the Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel should be at the top of your travel agenda.
For the last 45 years, this unique hostel has invited brave thrill seekers to spend the night in one of the many creepy cells in this historic jail-turned-youth hostel. Opened in 1862, the jail used to be a site for public executions. Prisoners who didn’t face the gallows were held in nightmarish conditions and could face frigid temperatures of up to -40 C in their decrepit cells during winter snow storms.
Though the building has since been renovated to include modern-day comforts, some of the jail’s old residents are rumoured to still be lingering around. Many visitors have claimed to see ghostly apparitions in old iron doorways and stone halls.
The hostel even claims that when the onsite parking lot was excavated to build the Mackenzie King Bridge in the 1950s, the remains of 140 bodies were discovered underground.
At Kingston’s “Skeleton Park,” the dead really have risen from their graves. Though McBurney Park may seem picturesque and peaceful today, city officials have had to make great effort to ensure an old cemetery at the location stays underground.
The cemetery opened in 1809 and quickly filled with the bodies of as many as 10,000 people who died due to epidemics of typhus and cholera. The bodies were even occasionally robbed from unmarked graves and sold to Queen’s University medical students in the 1800s.
Scary history to Kingston’s McBurney or Skeleton Park
Eventually, in 1893, the City of Kingston decided to turn the packed cemetery into a park. Instead of removing the dead, officials opted to knock over tombstones and cover the grounds with soil and newly planted grass.
In the last 15 years, parkgoers have reportedly spotted decades-old tombstones and bones poking through the earth. Others say they’ve come across apparitions of the dead on evening walks.
Underneath the Grey Nuns Motherhouse, a current Concordia University student residence, the bodies of more than 200 nuns and other people still lie in a crypt.
Built in Montreal in 1871, the Grey Nuns Building is infamously known for being haunted. Though the historic location was purchased and renovated by Concordia in 2007, the building once housed more than 1,000 nuns. Since many of the nuns died of an infectious disease, their bodies apparently can’t be moved from the old motherhouse.
Some students have said they are unable to sleep in the building and are constantly plagued by gruesome nightmares of disfigured children. Others claimed to see entire apparitions of kids – perhaps from when the building’s top floor was used as an orphanage. Media reports from the time say more than 50 children died in a fire in 1918.
Today, French Fort Cove in Miramichi, N.B., is a beautiful nature park popular for kayaking and canoeing. But in the mid-1700s, the area was overrun by war as the British and French battled over what would eventually become Canada.
As the name would suggest, French Fort Cove was the site of a French settlement of Acadians. Sister Marie Inconnue (‘inconnue’ meaning ‘unknown’ in French) was a nun sent by France to Miramichi to aid the settlers there.
She quickly gained the respect and admiration of the townspeople, so much so that when British soldiers started marching on the settlement, the Acadians begged Sister Marie to take their valuables and bury them somewhere secret to keep them safe. Sister Marie obliged, but her unshakeable loyalty to the settlers would prove to be her downfall.
One night, Sister Marie was ambushed by British soldiers who demanded she reveal the location of the buried treasure. In some versions of the story, the would-be looters were pirates or madmen. But the ending is always the same: Sister Marie refused to give up the location of the treasure and paid for it with her life. The soldiers beheaded the nun and threw her decapitated head into the waters of French Fort Cove.
Her body was eventually shipped back to France, incomplete. Without her head, it’s said that Sister Marie’s soul was never able to find rest and her spirit remains tethered to Miramichi, where she eternally searches in vain to make her body whole again.
Visitors to the area report being approached by the dead nun’s ghost, who pleads with them to help her find her missing head. Others have said they spotted the ghost holding her decapitated head, begging them to help bury it with her body.
King’s County, P.E.I.
An old dirt road is said to connect Valleyfield and Queen’s Road in King’s County, P.E.I. At the spot where the road crosses the Montague River lies Goblin Hollow.
Visitors to the hollow know it tends to be quite foggy there, no matter the time of year. And sometimes, in the mist, people swear they can see the apparition of a woman who was murdered there nearly 200 years ago, still moaning in pain.
In 1859, Ann Beaton was a 41-year-old single mother living with her brother and baby on a farm in Lyndale, also called the Rear Settlement, a once thriving community that has long since disappeared.
One night, as she walked home alone, Beaton was savagely bludgeoned to death, with either a grubbing hoe or an axe. To this day, her murder remains unsolved. This is perhaps because one of the investigation techniques used required all the villagers to line up in a barn to touch Beaton’s deceased body — under the assumption that the body would bleed even more once touched by the murderer.
Since Beaton’s death, there have been reports of eerie happenings in the hollow. At first, people complained of horses getting spooked and throwing their riders. As the years dragged on, those turned into reports of car troubles and engines breaking down. People would recount seeing a woman in distress amid the fog, only for her to disappear if witnesses got too close.
The story of Beaton’s murder has fascinated Islanders for decades. Her tale is immortalized in a chilling ballad.
The first verse reads:
In Lyndale there once lived a maiden,
And fair was the cottage she stayed in.
But light was her way and short was her stay,
She was borne to the graveyard so early away.
She was borne to the graveyard so early.
Quirpon Island, Newfoundland & Labrador
Somewhere in the frigid Atlantic waters between Newfoundland and Labrador is an island inhabited by demons — or, at least, that’s what map makers in the mid-1500s to 1600s believed.
The Isle of Demons is what is known as a phantom island, a purported land mass included in maps, for a time, until later navigators went looking for it only to find no such place existed.
Today, the Isle of Demons is thought to be Quirpon Island, just north of Newfoundland. And if the stories are true, this island played host to a truly horrific story of betrayal.
In 1542, a noblewoman from France, Marguerite de La Rocque, was bound for Canada with her uncle after he was appointed lieutenant-general of New France. Marguerite, a young, unmarried woman, fell in love with a male passenger on the ship during the voyage. The two had an affair and Marguerite became pregnant out of wedlock.
Enraged by the tryst, Marguerite’s uncle settled on an extremely harsh punishment for the forbidden lovers: he abandoned them on the Isle of Demons with some food and guns. Immediately, the couple were beset by demons who appeared in the form of terrible beasts that tried to break down the pair’s meagre shelter. At night, the sounds of inhuman screeches could be heard echoing across the island.
Eventually, Marguerite gave birth on the island. But her baby soon died, as did her lover, in the unforgiving wilderness. Miraculously, Marguerite survived the ordeal, hunting animals (she even claimed to shoot a bear “as white as an egg.”)
After two years on the island, she was rescued by fishermen who spotted her signal fire. She eventually travelled back to France and achieved minor celebrity for her story. Marguerite de Navarre, sister to the King of France, was the first to write of the noblewoman’s ordeal.
Though Marguerite survived, it’s believed that her spirit, and that of her dear beloved, still haunt Quirpon Island to this day.
Long before the 5 Fishermen Restaurant came to inhabit its storied location on Argyle Street in downtown Halifax, the building housed a mortuary. This would normally be nothing of note, but this funeral home operated during a truly tragic time in Halifax’s history.
The previous tenants, the John Snow & Co. Funeral Home, played instrumental roles after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the deadly Halifax Explosion in 1917. Thousands of anguished souls passed through the funeral home’s doors, and, if the stories are to be believed, never left.
Today, staff at the 5 Fishermen are accustomed to odd goings-on in the historic building: glasses flying off shelves, faucets turning on by themselves and cutlery inexplicably falling to the floor. Though the ghosts are mischievous, they are mostly harmless, the restaurant owners say.
One apparition that has been spotted multiple times is that of an older gentleman with long, grey hair, dressed in an old-fashioned overcoat that betrays he is not from our time. According to one story, the spirit was spotted by a staff member after he heard an ashtray smash in the kitchen when no one else was around. Another staff member once tried to seat the man at a table, only for the phantom to vanish.
Typically the ghost sightings happen before the restaurant opens in the afternoon or after closing time. But in one instance, a supernatural encounter happened during the dinner rush.
A hostess was showing a couple to their seats when she felt something hard brush against the side of her face. When she returned to the hostess stand, the maitre d’ was shocked to see a red handprint on her cheek, as if she had been slapped.