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Legends of Cobourg’s Victoria Hall

Legends of Cobourg’s Victoria Hall

If you drive fifty minutes south from Peterborough, Ontario, you’ll come to the lively little town of Cobourg. Despite its relatively small size (or perhaps because of it), this Canadian town on the northern shores of Lake Ontario has an exceptionally vibrant community, the members of which seem to take enormous pride in its heritage. According to resident John Draper, “life in Cobourg is as near ideal as it can be. The town is small enough to be friendly and free of city problems yet large enough to have great entertainment and cultural activities as well as good stores.”

The crowning jewel of this quaint Ontario town is Victoria Hall, an impressive heritage building which dominates King Street, situated as it is two blocks north of Cobourg’s historic harbour. This 19th Century monument is home to a number of intriguing legends, including a rumour of an illicit Royal affair and two chilling ghost stories.


The Story of Victoria Hall

In order to set the stage for the legends of Victoria Hall, a little backstory is required.

The Rise of Cobourg, Ontario

The town of Cobourg, Ontario, in which our legends take place, was first founded in the wake of the American Revolution by United Empire Loyalists– American expatriates loyal to the British Crown. Due to its favourable location on Lake Ontario, Cobourg quickly grew into an important regional milling and manufacturing centre, its population bolstered by an influx of poor but hard-working Irish settlers.

By the mid-1800’s, many Cobourg residents believed that their town was destined to become one of Upper Canada’s most important cities. Their optimism was fuelled by the Grand Trunk Railway’s plan to build its mainline, which would connect Toronto with Montreal, through the town. In order to cement Cobourg’s fate as one of Upper Canada’s most prominent cities, the town’s citizens decided to build their own railway- the Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad- north to the town of Peterborough, transforming Cobourg into a regional transportation hub.

The Cobourg Peterborough Railroad

The Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad was completed on December 29, 1854, at significant cost to many of the townspeople. In an effort to compete with their neighbouring rival, the westerly town of Port Hope, the town council of Cobourg had insisted that the railway be built across Rice Lake- a long, three-mile-wide body of water that stood between Cobourg and Peterborough- rather than around it. To do otherwise would be to concede Port Hope’s geographic superiority, as a railway circumventing the lake would be much longer than a railroad from Port Hope to Peterborough, which would naturally skirt the lake’s western shores. As a result, the railwaymen had constructed a massive, three-mile-long wooden bridge across the lake- one of the most impressive engineering feats in North America at the time, and the largest contemporary trestle bridge in the world.

On New Years’ Day, 1855- three days after the railroad’s grand opening to the public- the bridge across Rice Lake shifted, its wooden supports unable to withstand the force of the expanding lake ice. The structure was quickly straightened, and for the next two years, underwent constant repairs as the train it supported routinely serviced the citizens of Cobourg.

The Construction of Victoria Hall

In 1856, when it seemed fairly certain that the railway was there to stay, Cobourg’s town council hired celebrated Toronto architect Kivas Tully (after he won a design competition they held) to design a grand civic building worthy of Cobourg’s status as Ontario’s next great metropolis.

By the early autumn of 1860, Tully’s creation was complete. On Cobourg’s King Street, not far from the waterfront, stood an enormous architectural masterpiece built of pale yellow brick and elaborately-carved sandstone. This 700,000-square-foot, three-story, E-shaped landmark was built in the Palladian fashion (“Palladian” being a style inspired by the designs of 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, who was, in turn, inspired by Classical Greek and Roman architecture), complete with Corinthian columns, a Greco-Roman roof, and an orator’s balcony, and capped with an impressive clock tower. The ornamental sandstone framing the entrance bore carvings of the Tudor rose, the Scottish thistle, and the Irish shamrock, reflecting Upper Canada’s British heritage.

The splendour of the building’s interior matched that of its elegant exterior. Its courtroom was modelled after London’s historic “Old Bailey”, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales. Its meeting rooms and offices were similarly ornate. Its ballroom was exquisite, constructed in Baroque fashion. And its crowning glory, its 1000-seat Concert Hall, was hand painted in trompe-l’oeil style.

This magnificent building was named “Victoria Hall” in honour of Great Britain’s reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.

Victoria Hall’s Grand Opening

At the time of Victoria Hall’s completion, Queen Victoria’s 19-year-old son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (Great Britain’s future King Edward VII), was undertaking the very first Royal tour of Canada- a tradition which endures to this day. To the townspeople’s delight, it was announced that Prince Edward would visit Cobourg during his tour and take part in the grand opening of the opulent town hall which had been named in honour of his mother.

On September 7, 1860, Prince Edward and his retinue arrived at Cobourg Harbour by steamer. Accompanied by an honour guard of Upper Canada’s Volunteer Militia Rifles, he travelled by carriage to Victoria Hall. After delivering a formal address, the Prince of Wales opened the grand ball, and by 11 o’clock that night, the teenage Prince was dancing with the gleeful ladies of Cobourg.


A Royal Affair

According to legend, one particularly attractive Cobourg lady named Mrs. Parks caught the eye of Prince Edward in Victoria Hall’s ballroom that evening. Whatever happened between the young aristocratic and Canadian lady that night is a matter of pure conjecture. Roughly nine months later, however, Mrs. Parks gave birth to her son, Archie, who is said to have grown up to bear a remarkable resemblance to King George V, the son and successor of King Edward VII. To make this tale even more intriguing, legend has it that Archie would come into the Cobourg bank once a month to deposit sizeable cheques from the British Treasury.

The Prince’s Departure

The day following Victoria Hall’s first grand ball, Prince Edward was invited to travel to Peterborough, the next destination on his tour, via the newly-constructed Cobourg and Peterborough Railway. The Prince accepted the invitation, and in no time the journey was underway.

At about halfway between Cobourg and Peterborough, the train reached Rice Lake and its infamous wooden bridge. At this point, Prince Edward and his retinue exited the train and announced that they were going to travel across the lake via steamboat instead of by rail (a steamer had regularly ferried passengers across the lake since the 1840’s, when a rough plank road connected Cobourg with Rice Lake). Although the Prince’s aides claimed that water travel would afford Prince Edward a better view of the lake’s scenery, the mortified townspeople suspected that the decision was prompted by a lack of confidence in the bridge’s structural integrity.

The Collapse of the Rice Lake Bridge

Whatever the case, history shows that any potential misgivings about the solidity of the bridge over Rice Lake might not have been entirely unfounded.

Shortly before Prince Edward’s visit, the men of the Cobourg Peterborough Railroad were approached by a mysterious businessman who advised that they allow him to lease their railway to the larger Grand Trunk Railroad. Believing this to be a profitable venture, the railwaymen agreed.

Unbeknownst to the men of the Cobourg Peterborough Railroad, this businessman was, in fact, an agent of their arch rival, a burgeoning railway company from Port Hope. Instead of leasing the railroad to the Grand Trunk, the businessman sold it to the Port Hope railwaymen, who subsequently had their employees sabotage it by removing its iron bolts and fittings for use in their own railroad. Shortly thereafter, the middle section of the bridge over Rice Lake collapsed. The structure was never rebuilt, and Cobourg has remained a small Ontario town with an uncharacteristically grandiose town hall ever since.


The Courtroom Ghost

Despite the tragedy surrounding its genesis, the citizens of Cobourg, Ontario, have put Victoria Hall to excellent use. Its celebrated Concert Hall has staged countless plays, shows, speeches, and musical productions over the years. It has seen many a local church fundraiser and political rally. During the Fenian raids of the 1860’s and ‘70’s, it served as an armoury for the first and second Companies of the 40th Northumberland Battalion, and during the first two World Wars, it housed the workshop of the Cobourg Branch of the Red Cross.

In addition to these aberrant functions, Victoria Hall, for many years, served as the town hall it was originally meant to be. It held the municipal and county administrative offices of Cobourg and Northumberland, respectively, as well as several law offices and Masonic lodge rooms. And for many years, its sunken courtroom served as the arena for countless legal disputes and witnessed the trials of Northumberland County’s criminally accused.

According to legend, sometime in the 1870’s, a defendant condemned to some unenviable fate leapt from the prisoner box in the courtroom of Victoria Hall and ran down the aisle to the front doors in a last-ditch escape attempt. To his dismay, he found that the doors were locked. He shook them desperately, with all his might, but could not get them to open.

Legend has it that, on quiet summer nights, those same doors rattle violently, shaken by the shade of that unfortunate prisoner who remains unable to escape the courtroom of Victoria Hall, even in death.

The Restoration of Victoria Hall

In 1970, a hundred and ten years after its grand opening, cracks were discovered in the walls of Victoria Hall. The structure, it seemed, had shifted, much like its 19th Century counterpart, the ill-fated bridge over Rice Lake. The following year, Victoria Hall- a National Historic Site since 1959- was vacated, having been declared structurally unsafe.

As the town was unable to afford repairs, a motion was made for the building’s demolition. The motion was denied by a single opposing vote cast by Cobourg’s Deputy Reeve, a lady named Lenah Field Fisher.

Instead of allowing the magnificent building to fall into decay, Lenah Fisher founded the Society for the Restoration of Victoria Hall. Throughout the 1970’s, she and other Society members carried out a fundraising campaign with the aim of restoring the historic building to its former glory.

The campaign was ultimately successful, and Victoria Hall was officially reopened in 1983. Unfortunately, Lenah Field Fisher was unable to enjoy the fruits of her labour; she passed away in 1980, posthumously donating her money and her estate to the cause.

Some say that the spirit of Lenah Fisher returned to witness Victoria Hall’s grand reopening. During one of the speeches in the opening ceremony, a ball globe light fixture exploded immediately after her name was said. If Lenah Fisher truly paid a visit to Victoria Hall in spirit that day, a number of first-hand accounts reported by performers and staff seem to suggest that she may have never left.


The Green Lady of Victoria Hall

Since the early 1980’s, both regulars and visitors have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wandering the corridors of Victoria Hall, only to vanish before their eyes. Most often, this mysterious spectre is seen wearing a green velvet dress, earning her the nickname the ‘Green Lady’.

Victoria Hall’s Concert Hall is said to be the Green Lady’s favourite haunt. One performer named Jamie Hunt once watched the hem of a woman’s dress disappear through a backstage wall at the exact spot at which the door to the caretaker’s quarters once stood. Hunt’s future wife, Beth, who now works as the Concert Hall facilitator, once observed the taps in the backstage washroom turning on and off by themselves during the middle of a performance. Production and tech crews have opened up the Concert Hall’s control booth to find the lighting and soundboard levels mysteriously tampered with, and performers have reported seeing a mysterious lady in green watching them during rehearsals.

Some suspect that this spectre might be the ghost of Lenah Fisher, returned from the grave to walk the halls of the historic building she fought so hard to preserve.



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Nahanni Valley Expedition- Summer 2019

Nahanni Valley Expedition- Summer 2019

“The Nahanni River drains a vast land of fascinating beauty and splendor. The lure of gold has enticed many men through the canyons to this alluring land. Many have perished in it valley and mountains, some in search of gold. It is possible that most have died violent and unexplained deaths. Conjecture has given rise to all sorts of weird theories as to the cause of these misfortunes.”

– Dick Turner, Nahanni, 1989

For many Canadians today, the word ‘Nahanni’ is a foreign one. In some outdoor adventurers, it might evoke the South Nahanni River, a wild mountain waterway located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories; a subarctic Mecca for white water enthusiasts chock-full of world-class rapids, made famous by Raymond M. Patterson’s 1954 adventure book Dangerous River. Others might know it as a breathtaking National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site through which the South Nahanni runs; a land of astounding geological and biological diversity, complete with dizzying canyons, enormous tufa mounds, and a waterfall nearly twice the height of the Niagara Falls. To a relative few, however, this remote country hugging the junction of the British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories’ borders is a land of myth and mystery, home to legends commemorated in the names of its landmarks, such as Deadmen Valley, Headless Creek, Broken Skull Hot Springs, and the Funeral Range.

If you read our book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, then you already know all about these stories for which Nahanni Country is notorious. You know the tale of Willie and Frank McLeod, the hapless Metis prospectors who lost their heads in the Deadmen Valley, and the legend of their lost gold mine, which has yet to be found. You know about the ghost stories, the Evil Spirit, and the hairy, man-eating giants said to inhabit the caves that pockmark the Nahanni’s canyons. You know the tale of the White Queen, and of the ferocious Nahanni Indians over whom she ruled. You know the story of the Naha tribe- the brutal cavemen who mysteriously vanished long ago, in the dim recesses of the Nahanni’s dark history. And you know the legends of the Nahanni’s prehistoric residents- tales of mammoths, mastodons, and other antediluvian monsters which, some say, still roam the region to this very day.

Secrets of the Nahanni

We’re thrilled to announce that, in the summer of 2019, a company of courageous Canucks intend to explore this vale of mystery and menace and discover for themselves the secrets of what newspapers and magazines have dubbed the “Headless Valley”. They plan to explore the South Nahanni River from its mouth on the Liard River to its mysterious headwaters, nestled deep in the Mackenzie Mountains. And they hope to learn the native lore surrounding the South Nahanni from Dene elders, whose ancestors both feared and revered this ancient river.

The crewmembers intend to document their experience in a film entitled Secrets of the Nahanni. This documentary will be directed by Marc McPherson, a native of Calgary, Alberta. Dax Justin, a Calgary-based explorer, will serve as the expedition’s photographer. The documentary’s soundtrack will be put together by David James Nielsen, a composer based in Orlando, Florida. Chief Gerald Antoine, former Grand Chief of the Dehcho (Slavey) First Nation, will facilitate interviews with Dene elders in the native settlements that skirt Nahanni Country. And canoe guides from the outdoor adventure company Nahanni Wild will lead the crew through the rapids-riddled canyons of the South Nahanni River.

How to Help

In order to accomplish this dangerous venture, the Secrets of the Nahanni crew will require financial backing. If you’d like to learn more about their hopeful expedition, check them out on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And if you’d like to help them achieve their goal (and acquire some goodies in the process), consider purchasing some of their “perks” on their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. These perks include:

  • $2 USD: Double Down Love
    • A personalized “thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
  • $15 USD: Digital Download of Film
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
  • $25 USD + Shipping: Expedition Patch and Film
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch, which you can attach to a hat, jacket, or backpack
  • $40 USD + Shipping: Expedition Patch, Photo, and Film
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • A signed 4×6 production photo with a personal note from the crew
  • $50 USD + Shipping: Behind-The-Scenes Experience
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage, including more in-depth stories, interviews, off-camera moments, and exclusive conversations with the filmmakers
  • $75 USD + Shipping: Nahanni Valley Explorer Pack
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley, with a personal note from the crew
  • $175 USD + Shipping: Film Fan Pack
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley
    • A signed DVD, poster, and 6 clips of Nahanni footage
  • $500 USD + Shipping: Photography / Filmmaking Session
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley
    • A signed DVD, poster, and 6 clips of Nahanni footage
    • An in-depth, 4 to 5-hour photography and filmmaking workshop with the crew, hosted in Banff, Alberta
  • $1,000 USD + Shipping: Associate Producer Pack
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley
    • A signed DVD, poster, and 6 clips of Nahanni footage
    • Photography/filmmaking session in Banff, Alberta
    • Credit as Associate Producer and a large canvas expedition photo
  • $2,500 USD + Shipping: Private Screening & Credit
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley
    • A signed DVD, poster, and 6 clips of Nahanni footage
    • Photography/filmmaking session in Banff, Alberta
    • Credit as Associate Producer and a large canvas expedition photo
    • Invitation to a private outdoor screening of the documentary with cast and crew in the Calgary/Banff area
  • $35,000 USD + Shipping: Deadman’s Valley Experience
    • “Thank you” on Facebook and Twitter
    • Digital download of film
    • An expedition patch
    • An 8×10 crew photo
    • Digital access to behind-the-scenes footage
    • A signed map of the Nahanni Valley
    • A signed DVD, poster, and 6 clips of Nahanni footage
    • Photography/filmmaking session in Banff, Alberta
    • Credit as Executive Producer and a large canvas expedition photo
    • Private screening in Calgary/Banff area
    • Customized expedition jacket, and invite to join the expedition in person

6 Incredible Canadian Tornadoes

6 Incredible Canadian Tornadoes

On August 3, 2018, a monster F-4 tornado- a raging, swirling vortex with 280 km/hour winds- ripped through the rural community of Alonsa, Manitoba, destroying private property and killing 77-year-old retired teacher Jack Furrie.

Tragic as it was, the Alonsa tornado is but the latest in a long line of Canadian twisters that have devastated the Prairies and Central Canada since time immemorial. Here is a list of some of Canada’s most memorable tornadoes.


1. Black Friday: The Edmonton Tornado of 1987

In the last week of July, 1987, an ugly thunderstorm brewed over Central Alberta. On Friday, July 31, this tempest devolved into an F-3 tornado (with 185-253 km/h winds) that swept north through the town of Beaumont, Alberta, destroying granaries and farm equipment, killing livestock, and injuring citizens in the process.

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, the tornado reached Edmonton, Alberta, the provincial capital, and tore through the city’s Millwoods residential area. The twister continued north, swelling into a tremendous F-4 (a tornado of 331-417 km/h winds) with a diameter of 1.3 kilometres. Eventually, it tore into the district of Sherwood Park, destroying oil tanks, levelling buildings, derailing trains, and killing twelve people in the heavy industrial area known as Refinery Row. Within an hour, the tornado travelled northeast through the valley of the North Saskatchewan River, causing severe damage in the residential neighbourhoods of Kernohan, Bannerman, and Fraser in northeast Edmonton. It continued northeast, eventually hitting the Evergreen trailer park on the outskirts of town, where it wiped out 200 mobile homes and killed fifteen people.

Ultimately, the tornado resulted in 27 deaths, 300 injured Edmontonians, and over $300 million in damage, making it one of the most devastating natural disasters in Canadian history.


 2. The Super-Twister of Elie, Manitoba, 2007

The most powerful tornado in Canadian history touched down near the town of Elie, Manitoba, on June 22, 2007. This slender, elegant super-twister was given a rating of F-5- the most powerful class of tornado, with winds ranging between 420 to 512 kilometres per hour, and the only one of its kind ever recorded in the Great White North.

After obliterating a flour mill, this super-twister made a loop around Elie, sweeping away four houses as it progressed. Fortunately, due to the sparsity of the population in that part of the prairies, the tornado did relatively little damage, and mercifully failed to injure or kill single Canuck.


3. The Tornado of Pipestone Manitoba, 2007

On June 23, 2007, a day after the Elie Super-Twister, Manitoba was rocked by another tornado that struck near the more westerly community of Pipestone. This F-3 wedge tornado (‘wedge tornadoes’ being especially squat twisters with widths equaling or exceeding their heights) destroyed trees, wheat fields, and two homes, causing $2 million in damage.

What makes this particular tornado especially remarkable is the width of its base. With a path of destruction that reached a width of 1.8 kilometres, this colossus is Canada’s largest recorded tornado by size.


4. The Barrie Tornado Outbreak of 1985

On May 31, 1985, Mother Nature reared her head and reminded the people of Central Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State of her awesome power by bombarding them with 44 terrible tornadoes, fourteen of which touched down in Canada. It was the largest and most intense tornado outbreak to hit the Great Lakes region, and the second most prolific tornado outbreak in Canadian history (second to the 19-twister Southern Ontario Tornado Outbreak of 2009).

At 3:00 p.m., an F-1 tornado touched down near the village of Rush Cove, Ontario, on the Bruce Peninsula (which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron). During the next three and a half hours, eight different F-2 tornadoes ravaged much of Southern Ontario, touching down near the communities of Hopeness, Hopeville, Lisle, Wagner Lake, Ida, Rice Lake, and Minto. At 4:57, an F-1 touched down near the village of Essa, not far from Barrie, Ontario, and at around 4:15, two F-3 tornadoes hit the communities of Alma and Corbetton, Ontario, respectively.

Around the same time as the F-3s, an enormous F-4 twister formed near the community of Grand Valley, Ontario. The tornado caused major damage in town, ripping out enormous maple trees for which the town was known, before moving northeast for over an hour, passing the towns of Orangeville, Tottenham, Newmarket, and Bradford before finally dying out west of Mount Albert, Ontario. In total, this particular twister travelled a distance of 115 kilometres, making it the furthest-travelling tornado in Canadian history.

During its lifetime, the Grand Valley tornado took out many power lines and hydro transformers, causing the power to go out in all of Barrie, Ontario. As a result, many business owners allowed their employees to return home. In this way, many citizens inadvertently avoided the path of another monstrous F-4 tornado that tore into the city of Barrie at 5:00 p.m. This twister ripped through neighbourhoods and an industrial area known as Molson Park, obliterating houses and sucking citizens out of their cars. After travelling for ten kilometres, the Barrie tornado finally lifted.

In total, the fourteen tornadoes that swept through Southern Ontario that day left 12 people dead (eight in the city of Barrie), hundreds of people injured, 300 buildings destroyed, 800 people homeless, and incurred $100 million in damage. The United States was hit even worse, losing 78 people, a thousand businesses, and $600 million in damage to her own tornadoes (which included a colossal F-5).


5. The 1792 Tornado of Hurricane Road

The oldest recorded tornado in Canadian history hit Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula in 1792, levelling houses and uprooting trees. The calamity proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the twister carved a path through the woods that separated the communities of Fonthill and the easterly Port Robinson. Townspeople constructed a road through this storm-swept corridor, which they appropriately dubbed “Hurricane Road”- a thoroughfare which still exists today.


6. The Regina Cyclone

On June 30, 1912, Canada’s deadliest tornado struck the town of Regina, Saskatchewan. That day, at around 4:50 p.m., green funnel clouds formed south of the city, manifesting as a monstrous F-4 tornado. The twister travelled north and hit Regina at around 5:00. For six long minutes, the twister carved its way through town, obliterating brick buildings and wooden houses. As it passed the Legislative Buildings, it swept away exam papers from all over the province, forcing Saskatchewan teachers to grade their students based on their memories of their performances throughout the school year.

One family took refuge from the storm in their attic. The Regina Cyclone neatly tore the attic off the house and carried it, in one piece, a hundred and fifty feet into a neighbour’s yard. Miraculously, not one member of the family was hurt.

Eerily, one newlywed couple who lost their lives in the storm had just narrowly avoided boarding the Titanic on its disastrous maiden voyage on account of an unexpectedly long wedding party.

By the time the cyclone finally dissipated, it had injured hundreds, left thousands homeless, caused $5 million in damage, and killed 28 Regina residents, making it the deadliest tornado in Canadian history.

Interestingly, two Hollywood stars were visiting Regina at the time of the Cyclone. American actress Henrietta Crossman and her troupe witnessed the devastation and later staged a benefit performance, donating part of the show’s proceeds to victims of the tornado. Also in town at the time was future horror film star Borris Karloff, then a struggling stage actor. Following the Regina Cyclone, the young Englishman worked clearing debris for twenty cents an hour.




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Justin Bourque and the Moncton Shootout

Justin Bourque and the Moncton Shootout

“Awful news coming out of Fredericton. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this morning’s shooting. We’re following the situation closely.”

So tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning in response to news of a shootout that took place in the courtyard of an apartment complex in Fredericton, New Brunswick- an incident which landed a wounded suspect in custody and left four people dead, two of them police officers.

While there is currently little information regarding the motives of the shooter and the circumstances surrounding the shooting, this tragic event evokes another New Brunswick gunfight that occurred in the more easterly city of Moncton four years ago.

The Firefight

On the evening of June 4, 2014, a 24-year-old man named Justin Bourque left the trailer he rented and calmly strolled down Moncton’s Pioneer Avenue. He was dressed in combat fatigues and wore a commando-style sweatband. He carried a .308 semi-automatic rifle in his hand and a 12-gauge shotgun on his back.

Trailer park residents notified the local RCMP of Bourque’s unusual activity, and one by one, twelve lightly-armed Mounties arrived on the scene. By the time the first of the officers showed up, Bourque had disappeared into a wooded area on the side of the road. One of the officers, 45-year-old Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, stood at the edge of the woods, scanning the area for any sign of activity. Suddenly, he spotted some movement in the brush. “Hey!” he shouted.

Bourque answered the Mountie by firing three shots at him in rapid succession. “He’s shooting at me! He’s shooting at me!” Gevaudan shouted into his radio. As he ran for cover, two more shots rang out, and Gevaudan collapsed, dead.

Several minutes later, Bourque emerged from the woods and began walking down Mailhot Avenue. Another Mountie, Constable David Ross, was notified of Bourque’s location and began approaching him from behind in his SUV. As he neared the camo-clad gunman, Ross drew his pistol and stepped on the accelerator, apparently attempting to either run down Bourque with his service vehicle or get within shooting range before the gunman had time to react. Ross fired two shots through his windshield at Bourque, missing him. In response, Bourque whirled around and fired six shots at Ross, killing the Mountie with a shot to the head.

Bourque continued down Mailhot Avenue, passing several fearful residents along the way. To a bystander named Millie Stewart, he said, “Don’t worry, I’m not here to kill civilians; just government officials.”

At the intersection of Mailhot Avenue and Hildegard Drive, Justin Bourque was approached by RCMP Constable Martine Benoit, who had been guided to his location by a civilian. Bourque shot at Benoit’s squad car and disabled it. Before the gunman could inflict further damage, Benoit’s fellow officer, Constable Eric Dubois, leapt to her defence. Dubois exchanged fire with Bourque, taking shots to his left arm and both legs. After this brief shootout, Bourque took a right on Hildegard Drive and continued down the street, allowing the wounded Mountie to flee to a nearby fire station. Benoit, unharmed, remained in her squad car, thinking that she was still in danger.

Shortly thereafter, RCMP Constable Darlene Goguen unwittingly approached Bourque’s location from the front. Goguen was using a different radio frequency than the officers involved in the shootout, and although her sister had called her to inform her that a cop-killing gunman was on the loose (at least, according to a rumour floating around social media), she did not know where the action was taking place. As she neared Bourque’s location, Goguen observed a civilian vehicle in front of her make an illegal U-turn and subsequently turned her own vehicle around, prepared to apprehend the driver. Suddenly, three gunshots rang out, shattering the front and rear windshields of Goguen’s squad car. The Mountie felt hot blood stream down the back of her head. “I’m shot! I’m shot! I’m shot!” she shrieked into her radio. “I’m shot in the head!” Goguen drove on and, with the help of fellow officer Constable Donnie Robertson, managed to escape with her life.

Justin Bourque proceeded to cut across a stretch of grass and arrived back on Mailhot Avenue. There, he was approached by RCMP Constable Douglas Larch, who was on foot and dressed in plainclothes. When Bourque spotted Larch, he initially believed him to be a civilian. When he noticed that he carried a shotgun, however, Bourque hid behind a tree and fired four shots at him. One of Bourque’s bullets hit Larch in the head, killing him instantly.

After assuring himself that Larch no longer posed a threat, Justin Bourque continued down the road and disappeared into a stretch of forest.

The Manhunt

For the next thirty hours, Justin Bourque hid out in the forest, living, in his words, “like a snake”. Photos of him taken by civilians during the shootout began to circulate around social media, and several of his friends and family members identified him to the police. In no time, a 300-man manhunt for Justin Bourque, complete with helicopters and armoured vehicles, was underway.

On the night of June 5, 2014, a Moncton resident spotted Justin Bourque in his backyard. The fugitive had snuck onto his property in order to get a drink from his garden hose. The resident informed the local RCMP, who promptly arrested Bourque without incident.

Motive and Sentencing

In a subsequent interrogation, Bourque unreservedly admitted to the shooting, claiming that he “fought for freedom.” He maintained that the Canadian government was corrupt, authoritarian, and imperialistic, and that a revolution was in order. He hoped that his shootout with the RCMP might spark such an uprising.

On August 8, Justin Bourque plead guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was subsequently given two life sentences, to be served consecutively, without the possibility of parole for 75 years. His sentence is considered by many to be the harshest of its kind since the last Canadian death sentence in 1962.

Justin Bourque is currently serving time at the Atlantic Institution, a federal corrections facility located in the hamlet of Renous, New Brunswick.


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10 Conservative Canadian Political Pundits

10 Conservative Canadian Political Pundits

Ever since the campaign for the 2016 United States presidential election, American politics have completely dominated the public conversation in the West. Back in the 20th Century, this conversation would have been the almost-exclusive domain of the mainstream media. In this digital age, however, the bulk of this exchange naturally takes place on the internet.

For over a decade now, independent citizen journalists have analyzed current events and preached their political principles (many of which deviate wildly from those espoused by the mainstream media) on YouTube and various social media platforms. In doing so, many of them have gained enormous followings, some of which now dwarf the audiences of major mainstream media companies.

Interestingly, a surprising number of the most prominent independent journalists on the conservative side of the political spectrum, despite the fact the bulk of their commentary often revolves around American politics, are actually Canadian citizens. To this author, at least, the process by which so many Canadians came to play such an important role in American alternative media is a bit of a mystery. That the Great White North’s most talented right-leaning political commentators would turn their attention towards the affairs of our country’s southern neighbour is totally understandable, as Canada has no mainstream conservative counterpart to the left-leaning CBC, and American politics are arguably far more interesting than the shenanigans which characterize the House of Commons. What’s more difficult to understand is how these Canadian commentators rose to such ascendency in a field in which their patriotic, red-blooded American counterparts likely outnumber them ten to one. Perhaps, like ice hockey, lacrosse, and comedy, right-wing American alternative media is a scene in which Canucks, through some mysterious process, are somehow predisposed to excel. If you have any ideas on why this is so, please let us know in the Comments below. Whatever the case, here are ten prominent Canadian political pundits who’ve made quite the splash in the alternative media community.


1. Gavin McInnes

Without a doubt, the most outrageous political pundit on our list is Gavin McInnes, the scrappy, scruffy, self-styled “Godfather of Hipsterdom”.

Before he entered the world of citizen journalism in 2015, Gavin McInnes was a well-established media veteran with a wealth of experience under his belt, much of which he detailed in his 2012 memoir How to Piss in Public. Born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1970, he immigrated with his family to Ottawa, Ontario, when he was four years old. In 1994, he co-founded VICE magazine, a Montreal-based publication once famous for its provocative, politically-incorrect pieces. Throughout the 2000’s, he worked stand-up comedy gigs, wrote articles for various conservative magazines, and took on a number of acting roles for Canadian TV programs. And throughout the first half of the 2010’s, he was a regular on Greg Gutfield’s rowdy Fox News show Red Eye.

In April 2015, Gavin McInnes joined The Rebel Media, then a fledgling conservative Canadian alternative media company. He immediately became one of the show’s main stars, entertaining his audience with his unique brand of comedic journalism. In many of his videos, he took on alternate personas, like his belligerent, foul-mouthed, tartan-clad Scottish father ‘Jimmy McInnis’, or his left-leaning, Communistic, Palestinian-keffiyeh-wearing brother ‘Miles McInnis’. He regaled his audience with hilarious, honest vulgarity, constantly venturing into the wild frontier well beyond the boundaries of political correctness, yet always tempering his crudeness with bouts of serious political and social commentary. In his videos, he championed libertarian conservatism, and classified himself as “alt-light” (as opposed to “alt-right”, an ideology with which some of his critics have attempted to connect him), a new Trumpian right-wing political ideology which rejects white nationalism.

In 2016, Gavin McInnes founded the Proud Boys, a right-leaning, pro-Western fraternity. Gavin established four hierarchical degrees within the Proud Boys’ organization. Initiates hoping to attain the First Degree are required to declare “I am a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.” In order to advance to the Second Degree, members must name five breakfast cereals while being ‘jumped in’ by fellow fraternity members. To attain the Third Degree, members must get ‘Proud Boy’ tattoos. And to elevate themselves to the Fourth and final Degree, each member must get into a physical fight with an Antifa militant (Antifa being a radical far-left organization characterized by an opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters). One prominent member of the Proud Boys organization is Kyle Chapman, better known by his nicknames “Based Stickman” and the “Alt-Knight”- a right-wing street fighter famous for wielding a stick and shield during the 2017 anti-Trump protests at Berkeley, California.

In 2017, Gavin McInnes left The Rebel Media to join CRTV, a conservative American media company comprised of media celebrities like Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. Ever since, he has hosted his own show Get Off My Lawn, in which he entertains and informs his audience much as he did at The Rebel Media.


2. Faith Goldy

One of Gavin McGinnis’ co-stars at The Rebel Media was Faith Goldy, a journalist and Toronto native of Ukrainian and Greek extraction.

While working for The Rebel, Faith hosted her own show, On the Hunt with Faith Goldy. On her program, she frequently praised the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms. She extolled Judeo-Christian values, supported Israel’s right to self-determination, and displayed a deep respect for history and tradition.

In addition to being a hardcore conservative, Faith is also a staunch, traditional Roman Catholic. In many of her videos, articles, and social media messages, she has used the motto “Deus vult” (Latin for “God wills it”), a battle cry adopted by Christian knights during the First Crusade.

In early 2017, Faith Goldy became the first journalist to report on the flood of illegal migrants across Canada’s southern border- a story of which certain major mainstream media companies were almost certainly aware, yet inexplicably failed to cover. She and her cameraman recorded historic footage of RCMP officers serving as de facto bellboys for self-proclaimed “refugees” from the United States, carrying their luggage for them across the border into Canada. Since her scoop, other Canadian media companies like CBC and the Toronto Star have picked up the story of Canada’s ongoing border crisis.

In August 2017, Faith Goldy, acting against the advice of her employer, attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in her capacity as a journalist. The rally was organized by alt-right leaders Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer, and was intended as a protest against the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee. During the rally, Faith captured footage of an infamous vehicular attack which left one woman dead and ten people injured.

Following the Charlottesville rally, Faith Goldy appeared for an interview on the Daily Stormer, an alt-right podcast with white nationalist leanings. In the interview, she criticized the Charlottesville police for their poor conduct during the rally, commented upon the police’s apparent leniency towards the far-left Antifa militants who attended it, and acknowledged that the alt-right was a growing force in American politics. Her behavior was apparently too rebellious for The Rebel, as her employer fired her shortly after the incident.

Today, Faith continues her work as an independent journalist on her Twitter and YouTube accounts.


3. Stefan Molyneux

One alternative media channel on which both Gavin McInnes and Faith Goldy have appeared as guests is Freedomain Radio, a philosophy show which prides itself on being “the largest and most popular” of its kind in the world. Freedomain Radio is run by a bald-headed history buff, drama enthusiast, and tech company CEO-turned-philosopher named Stefan Molyneux.

Stefan Molyneux is an Irish-Canadian immigrant of French and Celtic pedigree who grew up in Ontario and Quebec. Although he considers himself a libertarian (i.e. a proponent of limited government involvement in the affairs of its citizens) as opposed to a conservative, he has hosted many guests over the past few years who identify as right-wing. An advocate of free speech and fair debate, he has given a platform to scientists, academics, and intellectuals who propose unsettling theses on subjects considered taboo in polite society. Some of these ideas include the notion that there are general correlations between race and intelligence, the concept that multiculturalism creates division by promoting tribalism, and the idea that the feminist movement resulted in a general decrease in women’s happiness.

In addition to hosting guests on his show, Stefan often performs eloquent analyses of current events, interpreting them through the filters of Aristotelian philosophy, anti-authoritarianism, and a staunch adherence to free market principles. He frequently takes calls from his listeners who appeal to him for advice regarding their careers and relationships. A believer that abusive parenting has a gravely deleterious impact on childhood development, he often attempts to psychoanalyze his callers in an effort to connect their current problems with their upbringing. And every once in a while, he creates lengthy, well-researched presentations which purport to explain “The Truth About” certain historic events of which popular perception is ostensibly skewed.

During the 2016 United States presidential election, Stefan Molyneux was a vocal supporter of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. He believed that the Syrian migrant crisis was in the process of destroying Europe, and feared that the United States- and, by extension, the rest of the Western World- would meet a similar fate if Third World immigration to America (an issue which Trump addressed during his campaign) was not curtailed.


4. Roaming Millennial

One of Stefan Molyneux’s many guests is a young lady who goes by the alias “Roaming Millennial”.

Born in Canada in the 1990’s to a white Canadian mother and a Chinese-Canadian father, Roaming moved to Hong Kong during infancy and lived there for the next ten years. Throughout the 2000’s, she and her family moved all over the world, living briefly in Shanghai, London, and Singapore, before finally settling down on Canada’s West Coast.

After attaining a degree in political science at an American university, Roaming began creating YouTube videos in which she criticized transgenderism, third-wave feminism, Black Lives Matter, and social justice culture in general. She quickly gained a considerable following, and began interviewing prominent conservative, libertarian, and classical liberal pundits like Dennis Prager, Christina Hoff Summers, Dave Rubin, and Milo Yiannopoulos.

In December 2017, Roaming Millennial signed on with CRTV, joining the ranks of Gavin McInnes and Michelle Malkin. Today, she hosts the CRTV show Roaming Millennial: Uncensored.


5. Karen Straughan

Another prominent female Canadian commentator allied with pundits on the right side of the political spectrum is Karen Straughan, an anti-feminist and men’s rights activist from Edmonton, Alberta.

Karen first discovered the world of men’s rights activism while in the middle of a divorce. She realized, to her horror, how easy it would be for her to financially ruin her ex-husband, as divorce laws hugely favour women over men, and decided to do some research to see if there were others like her who similarly took issue with the lopsidedness of divorce courts. She subsequently stumbled upon several men’s rights activism communities online and began to participate in them. Eventually, she began to create YouTube videos of her own, in which she attempted to “red pill” her audience, shedding light on issues affecting men and boys and combatting aspects of the feminist ideology which she deemed destructive. She quickly developed a considerable following, and acquired the nickname “The Honey Badger”.

Along with most of the pundits on this list, Karen supported then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential race.


6. Gad Saad

Another ally of conservative pundits is Dr. Gad Saad, a Jewish Lebanese-Canadian who currently resides in Montreal, Quebec.

In 1975, when he was eleven years old, Gad and his family fled to Canada in order to escape antisemitism and the Lebanese Civil War. Gad subsequently obtained several degrees in science and mathematics from McGill University, as well as a Ph.D in cognitive psychology from Cornell University. He went on to become professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, where he taught courses on marketing psychology. He has since explored the effects of hormones on consumer decision-making, and has written several books on the subject.

Gad Saad’s involvement in the world of alternative media takes place on his YouTube channel, on which he hosts a series entitled The Saad Truth. In this series, he has criticized political correctness, multiculturalism, third-wave feminism, Islam, and social justice culture. Some guests who have appeared on his show include prominent conservative, libertarian, and classical liberal pundits like former Rebel Media contributor Tommy Robinson, neuroscientist Sam Harris, and activist Candace Owens.


7. Ezra Levant

No list of conservative Canadian alternative media personalities would be complete without a nod to Ezra Levant, co-founder of The Rebel Media.

Ezra Levant is a broadcaster, political activist, practicing Jew, and non-practicing lawyer who currently resides in Toronto, Ontario. A native of Calgary, Alberta, Ezra has involved himself in right-wing Canadian politics since his days as an undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, during which he campaigned for the Reform Party of Canada (a former conservative Western Canadian federal political party) and debated alongside Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s current mayor. Several years after attaining his law degree at Edmonton’s University of Alberta, he founded the Western Standard, a right-leaning magazine specializing in Western Canadian issues.

In 2010, Ezra Levant joined Toronto’s Sun News Network as a columnist. When the Network was shut down in 2015, Ezra and his Sun News colleague Brian Lilley founded The Rebel Media, Canada’s first major conservative alternative media company. For two years, Rebel Media commentators and journalists produced videos and articles on politics, culture, and current events. Although Ezra allowed his employees a considerable degree of freedom in the content they created, most Rebel Media videos and articles were pro-Trump, pro-Israel, pro-gun, and pro-life, and were vigorously opposed to social justice culture, radical Islam, and the narrative put forth by left-leaning mainstream media outlets like CBC and CNN.

During the campaign for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, The Rebel Media exploded in popularity, gaining upwards of 600,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel. By August 2017, this number had climbed to 873, 800.

The company experienced a succession of major setbacks later that month, when several of its most prominent journalists, including Faith Goldy, Gavin McInnes, Lauren Southern (who we will detail later on in this article), and co-founder Brian Lilley either left or were fired. To make matters worse, former Rebel Media employee Caolin Robertson published a video in which he claimed that the company (and Ezra in particular) was more concerned with making money than it was with covering the truth. In spite of all of this, The Rebel Media experienced only a minor dip in subscriptions, and has been growing steadily ever since. Today, the company’s YouTube channel, which Ezra Levant continues to spearhead, has more than 970,000 subscribers.


8. Steven Crowder

One of the most famous conservative Canadian political pundits on our list is Steven Crowder, host of the enormously popular YouTube show Louder with Crowder.

Born in Michigan and raised in Greenfield Park, Quebec, Steven Crowder often refers to himself as a “Roman Catholic French Canadian”. In his early years, he worked as a voice actor and a film actor. By the age of 15, he was performing stand-up comedy, and by the age of 21, he began appearing as a regular guest on Fox News. In October 2013, Fox fired Steven for criticizing the performance of Fox News host Shawn Hannity in interviews with filmmaker Michael Moore and disgraced Democratic politician Anthony Weiner.

Ever since his release from Fox News, Steven Crowder has hosted his own YouTube comedy show Louder with Crowder, in which he and his co-host “Not Gay Jared” discuss culture, politics, and current events; present comedic skits on contemporary topics; and interview a variety of guests from different cultural and political backgrounds. Several months ago, Steven Crowder visited various American college campuses and invited students with opposing viewpoints to change his mind on issues like abortion, gun control, socialism, and transgenderism.

Although he has hosted guests from all sides of the political spectrum, Steven Crowder himself espouses an old-fashioned variety of conservatism. Similar to other traditional conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck, and unlike most of the Canadian commentators on this list, he did not support presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 American election, and has remained critical of President Trump throughout the first two years of his presidency.

In 2017, Steven Crowder, like Gavin McInnes and Roaming Millennial, joined CRTV.


9. Jordan Peterson

Another Canadian public figure popular with the right-wing crowd is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Jordan Peterson grew up in the town of Fairview, in the heart of Alberta’s Peace River country. As a teenager, he was introduced to the works of anarchist George Orwell, anti-Communist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and libertarian Ayn Rand by his school librarian, the mother of Alberta’s current Premier Rachel Notley. These readings steered him towards the democratic socialistic side of the political spectrum, and for a time, Jordan Peterson worked for the New Democratic Party (NDP), Alberta’s social democratic political party. By the age of 18, he had become disenchanted with the culture of the NDP and decided to leave the party.

Jordan Peterson acquired degrees in political science and psychology from the University of Alberta, and earned himself a Ph.D in clinical psychology at McGill University. Following a research job in Massachusetts, he became a professor at the University of Toronto and has taught there ever since. In his psychology lectures, he often attempts to extract universal human truths from folktales and sacred scripture.

In 2017, Jordan Peterson publicly criticized Canada’s Bill C-16, a law introduced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government which, among other things, requires professors to address transsexual students by their preferred gender pronouns. His critique, which stemmed from his belief in the importance of free speech, attracted the attention of the mainstream media in both Canada and the United States, and almost overnight, Jordan Peterson became a mainstream media sensation. Ever since, he has publicly criticized feminism, socialism, environmentalism, academic culture, the concept of white privilege, the notion of cultural appropriation, and other ideas and ideologies typically championed by the progressive left.


10. Lauren Southern

Last, but certainly not least on our list of conservative Canadian political pundits is Lauren Southern, a native of Surrey, British Columbia.

In 2015, 20-year-old Lauren Southern joined The Rebel Media and quickly became one of its most prominent journalists. While working for The Rebel, she was assaulted at Vancouver’s 2015 feminist SlutWalk rally, had urine poured over her head by an activist at a 2016 LGBT rally in Vancouver, legally changed her gender to ‘male’ in an effort to reveal the inanity of Ontario’s gender identity laws, covered the violent 2017 Berkeley protests, and reported on the migrant crisis in Europe. Throughout the course of her journalistic work for The Rebel, Lauren displayed extraordinary physical and moral courage, braving violence and reputational danger in an effort to bring to light stories she deemed important.

In December 2016, Lauren Southern published her first book Barbarians: How Baby Boomers, Immigrants, and Islam Screwed my Generation. In this book, she outlines her background, her libertarian conservative political philosophy, and her ideas regarding the origins of various problems facing the Western World today.

In August 2016, Lauren Southern left The Rebel Media to pursue work as an independent journalist. Ever since, she has uploaded her work to her YouTube channel.

In May, 2017, Lauren and a group of French nationalists called Les Identitaires attempted to prevent a ship from bringing North African migrants into Italy, stating “if the politicians don’t stop the boats, we’ll stop the boats.”

In March 2018, Lauren Southern, along with American nationalist pundit Brittany Pettibone and the latter’s boyfriend, were detained at the U.K. border on account of their having distributed fliers saying “Allah is a Gay God” in Luton, England, the month prior (this social experiment was inspired by a VICE article claiming that Jesus Christ was gay). The British border guards treated them as terrorists, denying them their right to an attorney during their interrogations.

Last month, Lauren independently produced a documentary entitled Farmlands, which she uploaded in its entirety to her YouTube channel. Farmlands focuses on the plight of white Afrikaner farmers in South Africa, whom raiders routinely rob and murder with impunity, and who are discriminated against by the South African government on account of their ethnicity.


Did We Miss Anyone?

And that is the end of our list of 10 conservative Canadian political pundits. If you know of other right-wing, libertarian, or classical liberal Canadian commentators who deserve a place on this list, please let us know in the Comments below.


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The Tale of Sasquatch Mountain

The Tale of Sasquatch Mountain

Two weeks ago, we explored the story behind the origin of the word ‘Sasquatch’. Today, we’re going to take a look at the incredible tale behind the naming of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort- a ski hill nestled in the Douglas Mountains north of Chilliwack, British Columbia.

The Sasquatch Mountain Resort

For decades, the ski hill on the slopes of Mount Keenan, situated an hour’s drive from both Chilliwack and Mission, B.C., was known as the Hemlock Resort, ostensibly owing its name to a particular evergreen tree common to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Last year, the Resort announced an ambitious expansion plan which it inaugurated with a rebranding campaign. In addition to adopting a new logo, Hemlock changed its name to the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.

In a press release, the Resort claimed that its new name was an homage to the Chehalis First Nation, on whose traditional territory the ski hill is located:

“The Sasquatch, which is an anglicized pronunciation of [Sasq’ets], is the primary caretaker of the land and an integral aspect of [Chehalis] identity and spiritual beliefs. Historical experiences with [Sasq’ets] have been orally documented and passed down from generation to generation. The Sasquatch ensures that the land remains plentiful and well taken care of.”

Although the Sasquatch Mountain Resort has not indicated an awareness of this in its press releases or on its website, its new name is doubly appropriate for a far more specific reason. Not only is the Sasquatch Mountain Resort located within the traditional territory of the Chehalis First Nation, a tribe closely associated with the legend of the Sasquatch; it is also located on the slopes of Mount Keenan, a landmark formerly known as Mount Morris, home to the most chilling Sasquatch story ever recorded.

The Legend of Mount Morris

Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, magazine and newspaper articles documented a strange legend espoused by members of the Chehalis First Nation. Chehalis elders whispered that, once every four years, the Sasquatch- the hairy wild giants of the coastal rainforests- congregated at the peak of Mount Morris, a mountain located just north of the Chehalis Reserve. Natives often encountered travelling Sasquatch in the woods immediately prior to this quadrennial pilgrimage, and some even observed signal fires flickering atop Mount Morris in the dead of the night- perhaps evidence of some mysterious powwow.

Throughout the 1930’s, a Scottish immigrant named J.W. Burns, who served as both the school teacher and the Indian Agent at the Chehalis Reserve, wrote a number of articles on the Sasquatch legend, some of them set on or near Mount Morris. In the first of these articles, published in the April 1, 1929 issue of Maclean’s magazine, he documented a story told to him by an elderly Chehalis hunter named Charley Victor. Victor claimed that he had encountered a Sasquatch woman in his youth, and that the creature had spoken to him in St’at’imcets, the language of the Douglas First Nation (a more northerly Lillooet tribe).

Burns published another tale of talking Sasquatch- the second of its kind ever recorded- in the January 1940 issue of The Wide World: A Magazine For Men. This story was told to him by an 87-year-old Chehalis woman named Serephine Long, who had lived in the area all her life. Her harrowing tale remains one of the most disturbing Sasquatch stories ever told.

The Tale of Serephine Long

In 1872, 17-year-old Serephine Long stumbled from the woods into the Chehalis village near the foot of Mount Morris. The villagers were astonished, as Serephine had been missing for nearly a year and had long been given up for dead. The girl was in a state of supreme exhaustion and was too weak to talk, and so her inquisitive countrymen withheld their many questions and put her to bed. Later that night, Serephine gave birth to a monstrous-looking child which only survived for a few hours.

When she was able, Serephine Long related her incredible experience to her family and friends. Nearly seventy years later, she told the same story to J.W. Burns at the Chehalis Reserve.

On the day of her disappearance back in 1871, Serephine Long had been foraging for cedar roots at the base of Mount Morris, daydreaming about the brave she was engaged to marry. On her way back to camp, a hairy hand shot out of the bush and clamped over her mouth. Serephine was hoisted into the air and thrown over the shoulder of a hairy giant.

“I was terrified,” the lady told Burns, “fought, and struggled with all my might. In those days, I was strong. But it was no good, the wildman was as powerful as a young bear. Holding me easily under one arm, with his other hand he smeared tree gum over my eyes, sticking them shut so that I could not see where he was taking me. He then lifted me to his shoulder and started to run.”

The Sasquatch took Serephine all the way up what could only be Mount Morris. “Although I was frightened,” Serephine told Burns, “I could not but admire his easy breathing, his great strength and speed on foot.”

The Sasquatch brought Serephine into a large cave near the top of the mountain and removed the tree gum from her eyes. “I sat up,” Serephine said, “and saw that I was in a great big cave. The floor was covered with animal skins, soft to touch and better preserved than we preserve them. A small fire in the middle of the floor gave all the light there was. As my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, I saw that beside the young giant who had brought me to the cave, there were two other wild people- a man and a woman. To me, a young girl, they seemed very, very old, but they were active and friendly and later I learned that they were the parents of the young Sasquatch who had stolen me.”

For nearly a year, the Sasquatches kept Serephine Long as their prisoner, never allowing her an opportunity to escape. The Sasquatches spoke to each other in a language similar to St’at’imcets, the tongue of the Douglas Indians, and in time Serephine learned enough of their speech to communicate with them.

“They fed me well on roots, fish, and meat…” she told Burn. “I asked the young giant how he caught and killed the deer, mountain goats and sheep that he often brought into the cave. He smiled, opening and closing his big hairy hands. I guessed that he just laid in wait and when an animal got close enough, he leaped, caught it and choked it to death. He was certainly big enough, quick enough and strong enough to do so.”

About a year into her imprisonment, Serephine Long became very ill. She begged her young Sasquatch captor to return her to her own people so that she could recover. “At first he got very angry,” she said, “as did his father and mother, but I kept on pleading with them, telling them that I wished to see my own people before I died. I really was ill, and I suppose they could see that for themselves, because one day after I cried for a long time, the young Sasquatch went outside and returned with a leaf full of tree gum. With this he stuck down my eyelids as he had done before. Then he again lifted me to his big shoulder.”

The return journey was a hazy nightmare for Serephine Long, who was too weak to even cling to the Sasquatch as he carried her down the mountain. At last, he laid her down in the forest not too far from her home and gently removed the sap from her eyelids. “When he saw that I could see again,” Serephine said, “he shook his head sadly, pointed to my house and then turned back into the forest.”

The villagers were wildly excited at Serephine’s return. Too weak to reciprocate their enthusiasm, she crawled into bed. That night, she gave birth to a child, which only survived for a few hours.

“I hope that I never again shall see a Sasquatch,” she concluded.

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How the Sasquatch Got Its Name

How the Sasquatch Got Its Name

In British Columbia and the Northwestern United States, the Sasquatch hardly needs an introduction. This elusive, wild, hairy giant, once an obscure character of First Nations’ lore, now serves as an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Eight years ago, it inspired Quatchi, a monstrous mascot for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. For twelve years, it has featured in Messin’ With Sasquatch– a series of hilarious Jack Link’s beef jerky commercials in which it is portrayed as the vengeful enemy of outdoorsy pranksters. And for sixteen years, it has shared its name with a famous Memorial Day music festival in George, Washington.

Another institution to which the Sasquatch lent its name is the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, a ski hill tucked away in the Douglas Mountains an hours’ drive north of Chilliwack, BC. The resort is aptly named, as most of its runs wind down the northeastern slope of Mount Keenan- a formation once known as Mount Morris, and the birthplace of the word “Sasquatch”.

The Origin of the Word “Sasquatch”

On the road from Chilliwack to the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, in the vicinity of the bridge over the Harrison River, lies the Chehalis Indian Reserve, home of the Chehalis First Nation.

The Chehalis people (not to be confused with their cousins from Puget Sound, with whom they share a name) are a Coast Salish people whose traditional territory revolves around the mouth of the Harrison River, a tributary of the Fraser.

Back in 1925, an Irish expat named John Walter Burns (born J.W. Bournes) became both the Indian agent and the schoolteacher at the Chehalis Reserve. Burns quickly earned the respect of the local natives and became fast friends with Frank Dan, a prominent Chehalis medicine man.

In those days, the Chehalis people were typically reluctant to share their stories with white men for fear of ridicule. Since J.W. Burns had demonstrated an open-mindedness towards their myths and legends, however, they eventually opened up to him and made him privy to some of their most carefully guarded secrets. Among the most intriguing of these were tales of wild hairy giants who, the Chehalis maintained, had inhabited the forests surrounding the Reserve since time immemorial. In 1929, Burns compiled some of these stories and published them in an article in the April 1, 1929 issue of the Canadian magazine Maclean’s, under the headline “Introducing B.C.’s Hairy Giants: A collection of strange tales about British Columbia’s wild men as told by those who say they have seen them.”

J.W. Burns’ Article

The tales of hairy wildmen recounted in J.W. Burns’ 1929 article in Maclean’s magazine are some of the most colourful of their kind to date.

The Wildman of Mount Morris

The first of these anecdotes details the experience of a Chehalis Indian man named Peter Williams in May 1909. While walking in the woods along the foot of Mount Morris about a mile from the Reserve, Williams heard a grunt in the bush. When he looked to see where the sound had come from, he found himself staring at what he first took to be a bear crouched atop a boulder about thirty feet away. As he raised his rifle to shoot the animal, it stood up and emitted a piercing scream. “It was a man,” said Williams. “A giant, no less than six and one-half feet in height, and covered in hair.” Enraged, the giant leapt from the boulder and tore after the Indian.

“I never ran so fast before or since,” said Williams, “through brush and undergrown toward the… Chehalis River [a tributary of the Harrison], where my dugout was moored.” Every so often, Williams glanced over his shoulder to check on his pursuer, who was quickly overtaking him. Williams narrowly escaped the monster by leaping into his boat and paddling downriver as fast as he could. “The swift river…” he said “did not in the least daunt the giant, for he began to wade it immediately.”

When he finally reached the safety of his cabin, Williams made sure that his wife and children were safe inside before bolting the door and barricading the entrance. “Then with my rifle ready,” Williams said, “I stood near the door and awaited his coming.”

After about twenty minutes, Williams heard a noise in the distance somewhat akin to the trampling of a horse. The noise became louder and louder. Williams eventually looked through a crack between the logs of the cabin wall and saw that the giant was approaching. “Darkness had not yet set in,” he said, “and I had a good look at him. Except that he was covered with hair and twice the bulk of the average man, there was nothing to distinguish him from the rest of us.”

When the monster reached the cabin, he began pushing the walls so that the structure rocked back and forth. The cabin creaked and groaned, yet by some miracle it managed to maintain its integrity. Clutching his rifle with trembling hands, Williams whispered for his wife to take the children and hide under the bed.

“After prowling and grunting like an animal around the house,” Williams continued, “he went away.” The family spent a restless night in the cabin, and in the morning Williams found the beast’s tracks in the mud outside, which were 22 inches long, “but narrow in proportion to their length.”

Peter Williams’ Second Encounter

The giant so damaged their cabin that the Williams’ family was forced to abandon it the following winter. Sometime later that season, Peter Williams went duck hunting on the north side of the Harrison River about two miles from the Reserve. Once again, he found himself face to face with the same hairy giant he had encountered the previous summer. As before, Williams ran for dear life, and the wildman chased after him. After about four hundred yards, however, the giant broke off and wandered back into the woods.

Interestingly, Peter’s brother, Paul, encountered the same creature later that afternoon. While he was fishing for salmon in a creek near the Reserve, the giant emerged from the forest and began to approach him. Terrified, Paul raced back towards his cabin with the monster hot on his heels. The giant gave up the chase shortly before Paul reached the cabin and walked back into the bush. Exhausted from fear and exertion, Paul collapsed in the snow and had to be carried inside by his mother and other relatives.

The Wild Couple of Harrison River

“The first and second time,” Williams told J.W. Burns, “I was all alone when I met this strange mountain creature. Then, early in the spring of the following year, another man and myself were bear hunting near the place where I found him. On this occasion, we ran into two of these giants.”

Initially, Williams and his companions thought the creatures were tree stumps. Suddenly, when they were about fifty feet away, the wildmen, who had been sitting on the ground, rose to their feet. Burns and his companion stopped dead in their tracks.

“We were close enough to know they were man and woman,” Williams said. “The woman was the smaller of the two, but neither of them as big or fierce-looking as the gent that chased me.” Williams and his friend ran home, and were not pursued.

Peter Williams’ Fourth and Final Sighting

One morning several weeks later, Williams and his wife were fishing in a canoe on the Harrison River not far from the Reserve. Upon paddling around a bend, they saw the same hairy giant that had destroyed their cabin the previous year. Fortunately, the monster took no notice of the Indians, and they made their escape without incident.

The Sasquatch Cave at Yale B.C.

Another wildman encounter Burns included in the article was the story of an elderly Indian named Charley Victor. Unlike Williams, Charley Victor was not a member of the Chehalis First Nation, but rather hailed from the Skwah Nation, a Coast Salish tribe from the Chilliwack area.

“The first time I came to know about these people,” Victor said, “I did not see anybody.” On this particular occasion, Victor was foraging with three other men on a rocky mountain slope about six miles from Yale- a town which lies on the CPR’s main line just north of Hope, BC. He and his companions were picking salmonberries- wild fruits similar to raspberries.

“In our search for berries,” Victor said, “we suddenly stumbled upon a large opening in the side of the mountain. This discovery greatly surprised all of us, for we knew every foot of the mountain, and we never knew nor heard there was a cave in the vicinity.”

Near the cave’s mouth was a massive boulder, which looked as though it once might have been employed as primitive door. The natives cautiously approached the cave and peered inside, but were unable to see anything on account of the darkness. In order to combat this, they gathered pitchwood (a type of pine heartwood naturally saturated with flammable resin), lit it on fire, and began to explore.

Not far from the mouth of the cave, the natives came upon a primitive stone house. “We couldn’t make a thorough examination,” Victor explained, “for our pitchwood kept going out. We left, intending to return in a couple of days and go on exploring.”

When Victor and his companions told the tale of their discovery to their fellow tribesmen back at the Reserve, the elders warned them not to venture near it again, as it was surely occupied by a wildman. “That was the first time I heard about the hairy men that inhabit the mountains,” Victor told Burns.

Disregarding the elders’ advice, Victor and his companions went back to explore the cave. When they reached it, they discovered, to their astonishment, that the massive boulder that stood near the entrance had been rolled back over the mouth, fitting so perfectly “that you might suppose it had been made for that purpose.”


Charley Victor’s First Encounter

About twenty years later, Charley Victor and a couple of his friends were bathing in a small lake near Yale, B.C. After he has finished bathing and had started to put on his clothes, a big hairy man stepped out from behind a rock only several feet away. “He looked at me for a moment,” Victor said. “His eyes were so kind-looking that I was about to speak with him, when he turned about and walked into the forest.”

The Wild Women of Hatzic, B.C.

In around 1914, Charley Victor had a second encounter with a hairy wild giant while hunting in the mountains near the village of Hatzic, just east of Mission, B.C.

On this excursion, Victor was accompanied by his dog. Upon hiking up to a plateau, his dog rushed over to a large cedar tree and began to growl and bark at it. Victor noticed that there was a large hole in the tree about seven feet from the ground, and that his dog apparently wanted to enter it. Victor lifted his dog up and watched it scurry into the hole.

Suddenly, a muffled cry issued from within the tree. Victor raised his rifle, thinking that his dog had encountered a bear. Sure enough, something large crawled out of the hole and fell to the ground. Instinctively, Victor took a shot at it- an action which he immediately regretted, for there at his feet sprawled a bleeding, naked, black-haired Caucasian boy of about twelve of fourteen years of age.

Horrified, Victor dropped his rifle and approached the boy to examine the extent of his injury. He saw that he had shot the boy in the leg, but before he had a chance to dress the wound, the boy cried out as if appealing for help from the forest.

“From across the mountain a long way off,” Victor said “rolled a booming voice.” Shortly thereafter, Victor heard the voice again, this time a little closer. The boy screamed again, as if in reply.

Although he was scared out of his wits, Victor’s conscience would not allow him to abandon the boy he had wounded. He waited on the plateau, his dog whimpering fearfully at his feet, while the boy guided his mysterious sylvan savoir to his location. “Less than a half-hour,” said Victor, “out of the depth of the forest came the strangest and wildest creature one could possibly see…”

“The hairy creature,” he continued, “for that was what it was, walked toward me without the slightest fear. The wild person was a woman. Her face was almost Negro black and her long straight hair fell to her waist. In height she would be about six feet, but her chest and shoulders were well above the average in breadth.”

Victor told Graves that, although he had already met several wildmen by this time, he had never seen anyone quite so savage in appearance as this woman. “I’m sure that if that wild woman laid hands on me,” Victor said, “she’d break every bone in my body.”

The creature glanced at the boy before rounding on Victor, her face contorted with rage. Then, something truly remarkable happened. Using St’at’imcets, the tongue of the Douglas First Nation (a branch of the Lillooet tribe whose members lived at the northern end of Harrison Lake), the wild woman snarled, “You have shot my friend!”


Victor, who knew the Douglas language, replied that he had mistaken the boy for a bear, and that he was sorry. Ignoring him, the wild woman proceeded to dance around the boy, chanting the word “yahoo” in a loud voice. Every time she vociferated, a similar reply came from the mountain.

Soon, the wild woman was joined by another creature like her, who carried a six-foot-long cord which Victor suspected was either a snake or the intestine of some animal. “But whatever it was,” he said, “she constantly struck the ground with it.”

At the end of this strange ceremony, the second wild woman effortlessly picked up the boy with one hairy hand. That accomplished, she turned towards Charley Victor, pointed the cord at him, and said, “Siwash, you’ll never kill another bear.” With that, the wild women and the boy disappeared into the woods.”

With tears in his eyes, Charley Victor admitted to J.W. Burns that, indeed, had had not shot a bear nor any other animal since that fateful day.

The Wild Man of Agassiz, B.C.

Another wildman story which J.W. Burns included in his article derives from a letter which Burns received from a young native man from Vancouver named William (or perhaps Herbert) Point.

According to the letter, Point and a native girl named Adaline August decided to pick wild hops one day in late September 1927, in the wilderness near Agassiz, B.C. When they were finished, they returned to August’s father’s orchard by way of the railroad track. Along the way, August noticed something walking along the tracks in their direction.

“I looked up,” wrote Point, “but paid no attention to it, as I thought it was some person on his way to Agassiz. But as he came closer we noticed that his appearance was very odd, and on coming still closer we stood still and were astonished, seeing that the creature was naked and covered with hair like an animal.” Nearly scared stiff, Point picked up two stones with which he intended to hit the creature if it decided to attack him or August.

“He was twice as big as the average man,” Point wrote of the creature, “with hands so long that they almost touched the ground. It seemed to me that his eyes were very large and the lower part of his nose was wide and spread over the greater part of his face…”

Terrified at the creature’s appearance, the teenagers ran all the way to Agassiz. There, they told the story of their encounter to a group of natives who were enjoying themselves after a day of berry-picking. The elders there informed them that the creature belonged to a race of hairy giants who had always lived in the mountains, making their homes in tunnels and caves.

Etymology of the Word “Sasquatch”

There are two factors which make J.W. Burns’ 1929 article in Maclean’s magazine especially remarkable. The first is that, in Charley Victor’s tale of the wild woman of Hatzic, the wild woman around whom the story revolves demonstrated the ability to speak, incidentally in the dialect of the Douglas First Nation. To the best of this author’s knowledge, this is the first of only two stories in which a North American wildman is purported to speak.

The second factor which makes Burns’ 1929 article truly remarkable is that is widely believed to be the first instance in which the word “Sasquatch” appears in print. Although there are older articles which reference the wildmen of the Pacific Northwest, Burns’ is the supposedly the first to actually refer to these creatures as “Sasquatch”- the name we know them by today.

The Accepted Explanation

Most sources which purport to explain the etymology of “Sasquatch” claim that the word is Burns’ Anglophonic perversion of the word “Sasq’ets”- a Halkomelem word meaning “hairy mountain man” (Halkomelem is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Chehalis, the Skwah, and other indigenous groups from the Fraser Delta).

Gian J. Quasar’s Theory

One researcher named Gian J. Quasar put forth an interesting alternative theory regarding the origin of the word “Sasquatch” in his book Recasting Bigfoot. Without citing any evidence to back his assertion, he claimed that the word “Sasquatch” was really a combination of two words: “Saskahaua”, and “Kinchotch”. “Saskahaua”, Quasar claimed, was the British Columbian district for which J.W. Burns became Indian agent. And “Kinchotch”, as Quasar correctly pointed out, is a Chinook Jargon term meaning “English”, which derived from the words “King George” (Chinook Jargon is an old pidgin trade language from the Pacific Northwest). According to Quasar, the Coast Salish Indians from the Fraser Delta area referred to hairy wildmen as “Saskahaua Kinchotch”- literally “Englishmen from Saskahaua”. J.W. Burns, Quasar claims, contracted this phrase into the simpler word “Sasquatch”.

There is one major problem with Quasar’s theory: to the best of this author’s knowledge, there was never a “Saskahaua” district in British Columbia.

A Closer Look at Burns’ Article

A closer look at J.W. Burns’ 1929 article reveals that the truth behind the origin of the word “Sasquatch” may have evaded both Gian Quasar and mainstream etymologists. In his article, Burns quotes Skwah Indian Charley Victor as saying of B.C.’s hairy giants:

“The strange people, of whom there are but few now- rarely seen and seldom met… are known by the name of Sasquatch, or, ‘the hairy mountain men’.”

Even more importantly, Burns later quotes directly from a letter written by William Point, the young native man from Vancouver who saw a wildman on the railroad tracks near Agassiz. An excerpt from this letter reads:

“Old Indians who were present said: the wild man was no doubt a ‘Sasquatch,’ a tribe of hairy people whom they claim have always lived in the mountains- in tunnels and caves.”

Assuming that Burns faithfully recorded these lines as they were said and written, it appears that the word “Sasquatch” may actually be an old Halkomelem word (or, at the very least, William Point’s interpretation of the Chehalis word for B.C.’s hairy wildmen) and not some invention of J.W. Burns’.

The Story Behind the Sasquatch Mountain Resort

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that Mount Keenan (formerly Mount Morris), home of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, is the birthplace of the word “Sasquatch”. Indeed, it is the setting of the first story of Burns’ article, in which Chehalis man Peter Williams had a brush with an angry Sasquatch at the mountain’s base.

In 1940, Burns wrote another even more dramatic story of a Sasquatch encounter on Mount Keenan which is perhaps the most extraordinary Sasquatch story ever written. This tale is so remarkable that it deserves an article all to itself. If this interests you, please check in with us next week to discover the incredible story behind the naming of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.


  • Further Delving Into the Fascinating Life of J W Burns, from the June 2017 issue of the BCSCC (British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club) Quarterly, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • Introducing B.C.’s Hairy Giants: A collection of strange tales about British Columbia’s wild men as told by those who say they have seen them, by J.W. Burns in the April 1, 1929 issue of the magazine Maclean’s.
  • Recasting Bigfoot (2010), by Gian J. Quasar
  • Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961), Ivan T. Sanderson
  • Are They the Last Cavemen? British Columbia Startled by the Appearance of ‘Sasquatch’, a Strange Race of Hairy Giants, in the July 29, 1934 issue of the Sunday Journal and Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), by Francis Dickie

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The Mounties, the Mentalist, and the Murderer

The Mounties, the Mentalist, and the Murderer

Canadian history is riddled with strange stories of “mentalists” who, through the use of some mysterious inherent quality, make accurate predictions based on past events of which they ought to have no knowledge.

Last month, I wrote an article on incidents involving “Second Sight” on the Canadian frontier, most of them featuring clairvoyants of indigenous extraction.

A few days after that, I wrote another article on a case of Canadian clairvoyance, this one involving a murder which was witnessed by the brother of the victim in a vision more than 4,000 miles away.

Today, I’m pleased to bring you a similar story which was brought to my attention by my friend Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra, an American researcher with a passion for unexplained phenomena. Without further ado, here is the incredible true story of a Saskatchewan farmer who lost his life at the dawn of the Dirty Thirties, and of the incredible clairvoyant who helped bring his killer to justice.

Beechy, Saskatchwan

If you drive an hour and twenty minutes northeast of Swift Current, you’ll come to the lonely little village of Beechy, Saskatchewan. Today, this tiny community’s most famous attractions are the Beechy Sandcastles- bizarre-looking, wind-sculpted sandstone formations which overlook the “Lake Diefenbaker” section of the South Saskatchewan River. Ninety years ago, however, this strange little place in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies was the site of an even stranger mystery involving two Mounties, a mentalist, and a brutal murder.

Professor Henry Gladstone

Our story begins on the eve of December 10, 1930, in Beechy’s little movie theatre. It was Wednesday night, and in order to help the local farmers and their families beat the mid-week winter blues, the establishment’s proprietor had brought in a mind-reader from Saskatoon. His name was Professor Henry Gladstone.

Professor Gladstone was a tall, sombre-eyed gentleman with silver hair and a piercing gaze. He stood gravely on the stage, his hands clasped behind his back, and asked for volunteers to assist him with his act. Soon, the good folks of Beechy were roaring with laughter as grey-bearded old-timers and fresh-faced farm kids performed all manner of hilarious antics under Gladstone’s hypnotic direction.

Suddenly, the elderly mentalist stopped in the middle of his act and pointed his finger at a genial rancher named Bill Taylor. “You there,” he said solemnly. “The man you’re thinking about… he was a good friend of yours, wasn’t he?”

Immediately, a hush fell over the crowd, and the colour drained from Taylor’s face. The rancher nodded slowly, mutely affirming that the mentalist had read his mind.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, son,” Gladstone continued, “but he was murdered. Brutally murdered! There was blood on the snow.”

Suddenly, the mentalist pointed at another audience member- Constable Charles Edward Carey, an RCMP officer dressed in plainclothes. “That’s him!” Gladstone proclaimed. “That’s the man.”

Constable Carey sat up in his chair, startled. His shooting hand instinctively dropped to the butt of the revolver that was holstered at his side.

“That’s the one,” Gladstone continued, “who will find the body of the murdered man. And I’ll be with him when he does!”

The Disappearance of Scotty McLachlan

Constable Charles Carey knew from the moment Bill Taylor nodded his head that the man he had been thinking of- the man whom Gladstone said was murdered- could only be Scotty McLachlan, one of Taylor’s close friends.

James Stewart “Scotty” McLachlan was a local rancher who once owned a plot of land in an area known as Coteau Plains. Nearly three years earlier, he had sold his land and most of his belongings to his partner, a 23-year-old farmer named John Franck Schumacher. Shortly thereafter, in January 1928, he suddenly and inexplicably vanished.

At the behest of his relatives, the RCMP launched an investigation into Scotty McLachlan’s disappearance. Several local farmers recalled that McLachlan, in the weeks preceding his disappearance, had often spoken of leaving Saskatchewan for British Columbia. His partner, Schumacher, also informed them that, several days before his disappearance, McLachlan had packed his gear as if in preparation for a great journey. Try as they might, however, the Mounties could find no trace of Scotty McLachlan nor any evidence suggesting he had made a westward journey. Without any leads to follow, they dropped the case. The mystery of Scotty McLachlan’s strange disappearance had haunted the village of Beechy, Saskatchewan, ever since.

The Mounties

Following Professor Gladstone’s eerie revelation, Constable Carey phoned up Detective-Corporal Jack Woods of the RCMP’s Criminal Investigation Bureau. Woods, who operated out of Saskatoon at that time, was a hard-nosed detective who hardly believed in the possibility of extrasensory perception. A lead was a lead, though, and Woods desperately wanted to get to the bottom of the McLachlan mystery- a black mark on his otherwise spotless record. The detective shrugged into his heavy buffalo-skin coat, started up his squad car, and headed down the snow-packed Whitecap Trail for Beechy.

The following day, after a brief meeting in the Beechy barracks, Detective-Corporal Woods and Constable Carey interviewed a number of locals, starting with the visiting Professor Gladstone. Gladstone told the Mounties that he had read Bill Taylor’s mind via some sort of Second Sight, the nature of which he did not fully understand himself. He claimed that he knew Scotty McLachlan was murdered, having received a vision of his bloody corpse in the snow, but did not yet know the identity of his killer. “Allow me to accompany you,” the mentalist insisted. “I will know him when I see him.” Begrudgingly, the Mounties obliged.

The Investigation

Next, Woods and Carey began questioning local farmers and ranchers. After several interviews, a pattern began to emerge. Many of the sod-busters and cowhands who plied their trade in the Beechy area suspected that Scotty McLachlan’s disappearance had something to do with a pretty farm girl for whose affection he had competed with a local wrangler. Shortly after McLachlan’s disappearance, his rival proposed to the girl, and in no time the two were happily married.

The Mounties paid a visit to the cowboy in question, who told them another tale entirely. He readily admitted that he and McLachlan had not seen eye to eye, and had engaged a number of impassioned disagreements over the years. But McLachlan’s real enemy, he maintained, was his partner, Schumacher, with whom he’d often had violent quarrels. Another local farmer once told him in confidence that Schumacher “called on him one morning madder n’ hell and said he’d kill the damned Scotsman one of these days.”

Woods and Carey, accompanied by the tall, taciturn Professor Gladstone, then paid a visit to the farmer of whom the cowboy had spoken. Seated around the man’s kitchen table with mugs of steaming coffee in their hands, the Mounties asked the rustic if he recalled hearing Schumacher make death threats against McLachlan. The farmer denied having any recollection of the incident, and brushed off the cowboy’s tale as a baseless country canard.

The Mounties thanked the farmer for his time and headed for the door when Professor Gladstone spoke up from out of the shadows. “I’ll tell you what happened,” he said sternly. “You were sick in bed. Schumacher pushed through the door, told you he’d had a quarrel with his partner, and swore he’d kill that damned Scotty before he was through with him.”

Stunned, the slack-jawed farmer sank back into his chair. “You’re right,” he admitted after a long pause. “Schumacher came to my place, like you said, cussed his partner and said he’d kill that damned Scotchman yet. But how on earth did you know?”

Schumacher’s Farm

Woods, Carey, and Gladstone left the bewildered farmer and made for the farmhouse of John Schumacher in nearby Coteau Plains. By the time they reached the gravel road that led to Schumacher’s property, it was evening. The sun kissed the horizon in the west, painting the clouds above in a glowing gradient of crimson and violet that set fire to the prairie sky.

Soon, Schumacher’s two-storied farmhouse and red barn rose up from the surrounding snow. An overall-clad farmhand greeted the lawmen at the door and informed them that Schumacher had gone to town for gasoline, and would probably be arriving shortly.

“We’re water-diviners from the Department of Agriculture,” Detective Woods lied. “Mind if we take a look around?”

“Suit yourself, boys,” the farmhand said with a dismissive wave.

The three men tramped around in the snow outside Schumacher’s farmhouse, gradually making their way across a field and up a hill towards a red-painted barn. Suddenly, when they were about half way up the slope, Professor Gladstone stopped and sniffed the air. “There’s something strange around here,” he finally declared. “A peculiar odor.”

“Sure is,” said Woods, grinning as he kicked away the snow beneath his feet to reveal a pile of frozen manure. “You’ll find it wherever there’s a bunch of cows.”

“There’s been trouble here for Scotty McLachlan,” Gladstone continued, ignoring the Mountie. “His body is around here somewhere. I can feel it.”

John Franck Schumacher

By this time, it was getting dark, and the Mounties had no time to verify the mentalist’s assertion. The three men returned to the squad car and headed back down the road to Beechy.

All of a sudden, a huge truck loomed in the car’s high beams, thundering down the road towards them without any headlights on. Woods managed to avoid a head-on collision by swerving into the ditch, nearly flipping the squad car in the process. The truck roared on past, leaving a cloud of dust and exhaust in its wake.

Without skipping a beat, Woods turned the squad car around and tore after the truck. He soon overtook it and pulled it over, and there are the wheel was John Schumacher. “You’re the guy we’re looking for,” said Woods. “We want to talk to you about your partner, Scotty!”

“OK,” the farmer mumbled, “I’ll see what I can tell you.”

The Interrogation

That night, Woods and Carey interrogated Schumacher at the Beechy barracks, mercilessly barraging him with questions regarding the days leading up to his partner’s disappearance. Schumacher provided the same answers he had three years prior, maintaining that his partner had packed up and probably left for British Columbia. “I paid McLachlin $150 for his horse and cattle and gave him a note for another $200 for the rest of the stuff.”

Just as Woods was about to terminate the interview, Professor Gladstone, who had been standing quietly in the shadows, began to pace about the room, his hand stroking his wrinkled forehead. Finally, he snapped his fingers and turned towards Schumacher.

“The barn!” he exclaimed. “The barn!” The mentalist planted his hands on the table and fixed his eyes on the astonished farmer. “I’ll tell you just what happened,” he said, slowly working himself up into a frenzy. “Scotty left the house… went over to the barn. You followed him. Forced him into a quarrel.”

Schumacher squirmed in his chair.

“There was a fight,” Gladstone continued, perspiration trickling down his face. “Scotty fell, and you struck, and struck, and struck… Then you buried his body near the barn.” With that, the elderly Professor collapsed into a chair, exhausted.

When Detective Woods and Constable Carey satisfied themselves that the old man would recover from his outburst, they turned their attention towards Schumacher. The farmer was white as a ghost, his countenance conveying superstitious horror.

“Better tell us what you know about this business, John,” said Carey, struggling to mask his own astonishment. “It’ll make it a whole lot easier.”

After staring at the mentalist for some time, Schumacher shook his head. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” he whispered.

“Have it your way,” said Woods. Turning to Carey, he said, “Put him in the cell. We’ll bring charges against him in the morning.”

The Body

Early the following morning, Woods, Carey, and Gladstone, equipped with shovels, escorted Schumacher to his own barn. They found the place crawling with spectators. Word of Schumacher’s arrest, it seemed, had reached the ears of the Beechy locals.

On the way to the barn, Gladstone stopped at the same place he had the previous evening. “Beneath that manure pile,” he said to the Mounties, “you’ll find what’s left of Scotty.”

Woods and Carey looked at each other and shrugged. Although neither of them could bring themselves to fully believe in the efficacy of the mentalist’s strange gift, they decided to put his theory to the test. They made good use of the bystanders by having them chip away at the frozen manure pile and the solid earth beneath with picks and shovels.

For nearly two hours, the farmers toiled fruitlessly. Finally, just as the Mounties were about to pack it in, one of the labourers let out a cry. The man plunged his shovel into a nearby snowbank, went down on his hands and knees, and wrested a woolen sock from the frozen earth.

The excavation continued at a feverish pace, and in no time, a complete human skeleton dressed in ragged winter clothing, with matted hair and dried flesh still clinging to the skull, was liberated from its icy tomb. “That’s Scotty, all right!” said a farmer who had watched spectacle unfold. “I’d know that scarf and mackinaw anywhere.”

The Confession

That night, John Schumacher was subjected to another grilling by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this time in the jail at Saskatoon. After a long, gruelling interrogation, he finally broke down and confessed that he had, indeed killed Scotty McLachlan in his barn, just as Professor Gladstone said.

On the morning of January 16, 1928, Schumacher told the Mounties, Scotty had returned to the farm after being away all night. He had packed his personal effects, and stated that he was leaving for the Pacific Coast. The two partners

engaged in an altercation revolving around the money that Schumacher owed McLachlan. The argument turned violent when Scotty lunged at Schumacher with a shovel. In self-defence, Schumacher seized a pitchfork that was resting against the barn wall and ran his partner through.

Realizing the enormity of his crime, a guilt-ridden Schumacher retreated to the farmhouse, where he spent an hour and a half contemplating his next course of action. Finally, he returned to the barn, where he checked Scotty’s pulse and found him dead. He dragged his partner’s corpse by one arm to a site about fifty metres from the barn and 150 yards from his house. He buried the body there, on the side of a hill. He threw straw over the corpse, and later covered it with manure, to which he added from time to time.

The Trial

In March, 1931, John Franck Schumacher was tried for the murder of James Stewart “Scotty” McLachlan. The proceedings took place in the courtroom of Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Disagreement over the significance of triple fractures to McLachlan’s skull saved Schumacher from the gallows. Ultimately, the jury decided that Schumacher had killed McLachlan in self-defence. The farmer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Newspapers indicate that John Schumacher was married, and that his wife gave birth to his first child during his trial.


And what of Professor Gladstone? An article in the February 2, 1931 issue of the Winnipeg Tribune suggests that the mentalist’s uncanny gift may have temporarily deserted him. About a month before Schumacher’s trial, an arsonist set fire to Gladstone’s apartment in Saskatoon. The elderly clairvoyant’s adventure in Beechy had made him gravely ill, and a bedridden Gladstone had to be carried from the inferno by a fireman and a police officer onto the nearby street.

Professor Henry Gladstone lost about $10,000-worth of personal belongings in the fire that consumed his apartment building. It appeared, however, that he may have also regained his mysterious ability, as he correctly predicted that a body would be found in the ashes.


  • “How a Mentalist Solved a Murder”, from the January 1959 issue of the magazine Fate, by Philip H. Godsell; courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • “Mind Reader Aids to Solve Murder: Indicates Where Body of Main, Slain in 1928, Lies,” from the December 16, 1939 issue of The [Montreal] Gazette.
  • “Mind Reader Leads Police to Body of Buried Man”, from December 15, 1930 issue of the St. Cloud Times.
  • “Fire Destroys $150,000 Block in Saskatoon: Occupants Escape in Night Attire With Aid of Fireman, Police,” from the February 2, 1931 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune.
  • “Sask. Farmer Accused of Murder Arraigned,” from the December 16, 1930 issue of the Manitoba Free Press.
  • “Schumacher To Be Tried For Murder: Coteau Hills Farmer Committed on Charge of Slaying His Partner,” from the December 31, 1930 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press.
  • “Mind-Reader’s ‘Murder Done’ Solves Mystery: Police Unearth Half-Garbed Skeleton of Murdered Man”, from the December 15, 1930 issue of The Ottawa Journal.

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The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush is, without a doubt, one of the most famous events in Canadian history. This brief but exhilarating period saw thousands of men and women from all over the world flock to the Yukon goldfields in search of fortune and adventure. It spawned outrageous villains like “Soapy” Smith, and bred celebrated Canadian heroes like Sam Steele. The Klondike Gold Rush inspired the poems of Robert Service, the novels of Jack London, and the films of Charlie Chaplin. It gave birth to the Northwestern genre, and changed the face of the Canadian North forever.

Here at Mysteries of Canada, we’ve put together a six-part series detailing the history of this great Canadian event.

Part 1: Background

The first part of our series describes the context behind the Klondike Gold Rush. First, it outlines the geography of the Yukon, the territory in which the Klondike is located. Next, it pinpoints the exact location of the Klondike region in this vast northwestern territory. Finally, it details the history of the Yukon pioneers who panned for gold in the Canadian Northwest long before gold was struck in the Klondike.

Part 2: The Discoveries

The second part of our series describes the discoveries made by Robert Henderson, George Carmack, and “Skookum” Jim Mason in the summer of 1896. These three prospectors discovered gold nuggets in the Klondike, sparking a small local gold rush.

Part 3: The Advent

The third part of our series details the small local gold rush that resulted from the discoveries of 1896. First, it describes the handful of lucky pioneers who wrested fortunes from the Klondike’s creek beds. After that, it describes the founding of Dawson City, a rough mining camp situated at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. In time, Dawson would become the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Part 4: The Stampede

The fourth part of our series outlines the true beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush. First, we describe how prospecting pioneers returned to civilization from the Klondike bearing fortunes in raw northern gold. Following these prospectors’ triumphant returns, restless men and women from all over Seattle and San Francisco prepared to set out for the Klondike, rallying to the cry of “Klondike or bust!”. Enterprising businessmen took advantage of the opportunity and marketed their wares as “Klondike grade”.

After that, we describe the rise of the towns of Skagway and Dyea on the Lynn Canal. We also detail the White Pass and the Chilkoot Trail, two major trails over the Coast Mountains over which Stampeders would travel on their way to the Klondike.

Part 5: Dawson Trails

The fifth part of our series describes the various trails that Stampeders took to get to the Klondike. The most famous of these is the Bennett-Dawson Trail. Stampeders who took this route travelled from the Lynn Canal over the Coast Mountains by way of the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail. On the other side of the divide, on the shores of Lake Bennett, they built canoes from green lumber. When spring breakup came, they paddled across Lake Bennett and down a succession of lakes and rivers to Dawson City.

Other trails to the Klondike include the grueling Ashcroft Trail up British Columbia; the arduous “All-Canadian” overland route from Edmonton, Alberta; the suicidal “All-American” route over the crevasse-ridden Valdez and Malaspina Glaciers; and the St. Michael Trail up the Yukon River from its mouth.

Part 6: Dawson City

Our sixth and final post on the Klondike Gold Rush describes Dawson City, around which the rush revolved. It details the colourful characters who populated the boom town, whose exploits are now the stuff of legend. Finally, our series ends with a commentary on the legacy of the Klondike Gold Rush.


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10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

(That You Can Stay in Tonight!)

“What comes to mind when you think about Canada?”

This question was the subject of a YouTube video I watched the other day in which Japanese students were asked to share their thoughts on the Great White North. Aside from general things like maple syrup, cold temperatures, and wilderness, the most common answers were “Toronto”, “Niagara Falls”, and “Justin Bieber”. All three of these (to my shame as a Western Canadian) are products of Ontario.

Indeed, the province of Ontario is one of Canada’s most popular destinations. This is true for international globetrotters and Canadian tourists alike. According to Tourism Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area hosted over 43.7 million visitors in 2017- a record high. And according to Statistics Canada, Ontario alone accounted for 44% of all overnight visits in Canada in 2016. Considering all the amazing attractions the Heartland Province has to offer, from Ottawa’s Rideau Canal to Toronto’s CN Tower, this is hardly surprising.

While Ontario certainly has a knack for attracting tourists, some say that its allure is so strong that some visitors refuse to leave, even in death. Like all regions with turbulent histories, Ontario has its fair share of haunted hotels. From eerie inns to mysterious motels, these creepy accommodations are said to be occupied by spectral guests who never truly checked out. So if you’re planning on visiting Ontario this summer, choose your lodgings wisely, or you might find yourself bunking with a roommate from the great beyond.

Without further ado, here are 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario, all of which you can stay in tonight… if you dare!


1. Chateau Laurier

Let’s begin our tour of Ontario’s haunted hotels in Ottawa, the Capital of Canada.

Canada’s Capital Region has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these is the Grand Hotel, situated in the town of Carleton Place about 46 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa. This establishment was an old stomping ground (pun intended) of celebrated Canadian folksinger “Stompin’” Tom Connors. Some say that the sound of Tom’s cowboy boots thumping out a rhythm on his plywood “stompin’ board” still echoes throughout the corridors.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier

One of Ottawa’s most famous haunted hotels is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a magnificent French Gothic palace overlooking the Ottawa River. This five-star castle was named in honour of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, who helped secure the site of its construction.

Over the years, the Chateau Laurier has hosted a number of famous guests, from John Lennon to Princess Diana. Countless heads of state have stayed in the hotel during their diplomatic visits to Parliament Hill, a five minute walk across Plaza Bridge. The Chateau Laurier even served as the permanent residence of Canada’s eleventh Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett. The powerful men and women who have stayed there over years, coupled with its architectural resemblance to the nearby Parliament buildings, have earned the Chateau Laurier the nickname “the third Chamber of Parliament” (the other two being the House of Commons and the House of Lords). In a skit celebrating the Chateau’s 100th anniversary in 2012, Canadian comedian Rick Mercer quipped, “I would guess more has been accomplished in the bar of this hotel than in the Parliament building.”

A Little History

The Chateau Laurier is said to be haunted by the ghost of Charles Melville Hays, the man who commissioned it in the early 1900’s. Hays was the president of the Grand Trunk Railway, a Montreal-based railway system which connected Eastern Canada with New England.

Canada’s Railroad Era

In the early 1900’s, settlers from all over Europe flocked to Canada to settle the Prairie Provinces. In those days, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and much of Manitoba were sparsely populated. Canada’s federal government hoped to fill this vast and wild domain with farmers and ranchers in order to discourage the United States from invading it. Accordingly, they marketed the Canadian Prairies to prospective homesteaders as the “Last Best West”.

Settlement of the Canadian interior was made possible by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. European navvies and Chinese “coolies” built this enormous thoroughfare over the plains and blasted it through the mountains back in the 1880’s. The Canadian Pacific Railway effectively bridged Eastern Canada with British Columbia, allowing for a united Canada that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, the Canadian Northern Railway built the second trans-Canada railway. This line connected Quebec City with Vancouver.

The Third Trans-Canadian Railway

Charles Melville Hays dreamed of constructing a third transcontinental railway across Canada. With the help of Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, he eventually succeeded in extending the Grand Trunk Railway from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Prince Rupert, BC. This more northerly transcontinental railroad crossed the Rocky Mountains via the Yellowhead Pass, running through what is now Jasper National Park. Construction of this so-called “Grand Trunk Pacific Railway” commenced in 1905.

The Grand Railway Hotels

Decades earlier, the Grand Trunk’s main rivals built several luxury hotels, like the Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise, to serve their passengers. These so-called “grand railway hotels” succeeded not only in increasing the railroad traffic, but also in attracting wealthy European tourists. Following his rivals’ lead, Charles Melville Hays arranged for the construction of his own railway hotel, the Chateau Laurier.


The Death of Charles Melville Hays

After four years of construction, the Chateau Laurier was complete. Hays scheduled its grand opening to the public on April 26, 1912. About a month before the ceremony, the railway tycoon made a business trip to London, England. There, he attended several meetings in the Grand Trunk Railway’s head office.

Of course, Hays fully intended to return to Canada in time for his hotel’s grand opening. He wouldn’t miss it for the world. Hoping to arrive in style, he booked passage aboard an enormous new ocean liner. This magnificent craft was the largest and most luxurious ship on earth at the time. Hays, his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, his secretary, and his maid all shared a deluxe suite on the steamship’s upper deck as the RMS Titanic set out on its maiden voyage.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg about 600 kilometres south of Newfoundland. Much to the passengers’ astonishment, this seagoing colossus began to sink. In accordance with the “women and children first” protocol, a British maritime code of conduct, Hays and his male comrades chivalrously escorted their female companions into one of the Titanic’s twenty lifeboats. The gentleman remained on the sinking ship, assuring the ladies that there was plenty of time for everyone else on board to be rescued.

Tragically, Charles Melville Hays, his son-in-law, and his secretary perished that night in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. They were joined by more than 1,500 other passengers, who similarly met their ends in the icy waters. A ship called the Minia recovered Hays’ body several days later, and the railwayman’s corpse was buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

The Ghost of Charles Hays

The headmen of the Grand Trunk Railway postponed the grand opening of the Chateau Laurier to June 12, 1912, on account of Hays’ untimely death. Although the railwayman never made it to the ceremony, some say that he attended in spirit. Furthermore, a number of strange occurrences experienced by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest that Hays’ spirit still lingers in the halls of the Chateau Laurier to this very day.

Spooky Happenings

Some guests who have stayed at the Chateau Laurier claim to have felt a mysterious presence in the corridors when no one else was around.

One lady claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that someone was sitting on her bed. When she looked to see who it was, she found herself alone in the room.

Another woman claimed to have felt a phantom hand caressing her arm and shoulder in the bathroom of her suite. Later that night, while removing makeup in front of a large mirror, something caught her eye in the mirror’s reflection. The woman watched in horror as the closet door behind her slowly swung open on its own.

Patrick Watson’s Experience

One of the most famous spooky tales to come out of the Chateau Laurier is the experience of Patrick Watson, former chairman of the CBC (a major Canadian media company). One night in the 1980’s, while staying in one of the hotel suites, Watson awoke to a sharp crack which seemed to come from the middle of the room. Fearing that a gunman had entered his suite, Watson quietly slipped out of bed and prepared to confront the intruder. To his bewilderment, he found that the source of the sound came from a heavy glass ashtray which had inexplicably split in two.

The following night, Watson woke with a start, this time roused by a loud crash in the bathroom. His heart hammering in his chest, the media man crept over to investigate. To his surprise, he discovered that his metal shaving kit had somehow leapt from behind the sink faucet, where he had wedged it before going to bed, to the floor on the other end of the bathroom.

Watson described his creepy experience in a letter to Joan E. Rankin, author of the book Meet Me at the Chateau. “Both of these events,” he wrote, “though trivial, were inexplicable and left me quite shaken. I will never forget them.”


2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

Another older haunted hotel in Ottawa is the Ottawa Jail Hostel, a fortress of stone and iron which once served as the city’s main prison. Here, patrons can spend their nights in cells once occupied by thieves, murderers, and madmen. Some say that the anguished souls of bygone criminals still serve time there, carrying out their sentences from beyond the grave.

Back when it was employed as a maximum security prison, the Ottawa Jail was notorious for its nightmarish living conditions. Petty offenders shared cells with hardened criminals. Cruel guards murdered prisoners they didn’t like. Tortured shrieks issued from dark, isolated oubliettes where dissidents spent months in solitary confinement, spread-eagled and chained to the floor. Considering all the suffering and death that has taken place there over the years, it is no surprise that the Ottawa Jail Hostel is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Canada.

Ghostly Criminals

As might be expected, some of the ghosts of the Ottawa Jail are said to be far from friendly. Ghostly thieves are known to steal guests’ belongings from time to time. Staff members have reported being slapped by invisible hands. One employee even lost several of her fingers when a heavy steel door suddenly and inexplicably slammed shut on her hand.

The Tunnel

Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the sanitation situation in the Ottawa Jail was appalling, and disease ran rampant through its wings. Infected prisoners were often left to die in the Quarantine Room beside the kitchen. After they passed away, their bodies were wrapped in sheets and incinerated or buried in mass graves on prison property. Some say that on quiet nights, the howls of these tormented souls echo throughout an underground tunnel connecting the prison with the courtyard, though which their bodies passed en route to their final resting place.

The Secret Staircase

Another supposedly haunted section of the Ottawa Jail is a stairway known as the “secret staircase”, which connected the prison with the home of the jail’s governor. Every once in a while, prisoners would leap to their deaths in this stairwell, preferring death to the medieval horrors of the Ottawa Jail. And in 1910, a particular group of prisoners is said to have heaved their guard over the stairwell’s railings, sending him plummeting to his death.

As a result of the violent deaths that occurred there, the secret staircase is purportedly the dwelling place of a number of restless spirits. One of these is a “vampire ghost” said to feed on the sick. This bizarre legend has its origins in a cryptic inscription found on the stairwell during renovations in 1972. The inscription reads:

“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the ninth floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”

The 9th Floor

The ninth floor of the Ottawa Jail once housed the innocent wives and children of debtors who were unable to pay their dues. Guests staying on this floor today sometimes report hearing the muffled cries of children and the wailing of women in the middle of the night.

Every once in a while, visitors to the Ottawa Jail report seeing the apparition of a ghostly woman who sometimes appears wearing a hood. One tourist captured the ghostly reflection of a woman’s face in the glass of a display case with her camera. The apparition appears to be standing right beside the photographer.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

One of the Ottawa Jail Hostel’s most famous permanent residents is said to be the spirit of Patrick James Whelan, an Irishman accused of assassinating Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a Father of Canadian Confederation.

Patrick James Whelan was born in the city of Galway on the Emerald Isle in around 1840. A tailor by trade, he came to North America when he was about 25 years old. Whelan worked various jobs in Quebec City, Buffalo, Hamilton, and Montreal, leading a somewhat transient lifestyle. Eventually, he settled in Ottawa, where he married an upper class woman thirty years his senior.

The Fenian Brotherhood

Throughout the mid 1800’s, much of the world was embroiled in a series of violent political revolutions, from the February Revolution in France to the bloody Taiping Rebellion in China. Ireland, whose Gaelic nationalists had resisted English rule for three hundred years, was by no means immune to this trend.

Many patriotic Irishmen in both the Old Country and the New World yearned for a sovereign Irish republic

independent of British rule. This sentiment led to a political movement known as the Fenian Rising.

In the United States, supporters of the Fenian movement formed an organization called the Fenian Brotherhood. In 1866, this Irish republican militia launched three raids on British Army forts in Canada, hoping to blackmail Great Britain into giving Ireland independence. All of these Fenian raids ultimately ended in failure.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee

One prominent political figure during this turbulent time was an Irish-Canadian immigrant named Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

In his younger years, McGee had been an Irish republican rebel. Despising British rule in Ireland, he struggled to foment a peasant revolution from which an independent Irish republic might emerge. After partaking in a failed rebellion in 1848, McGee fled to the United States, a republic that he admired greatly. McGee founded several of his own newspapers in New York City, Boston, and Buffalo, in which he wrote in favour of American expansionism and expressed his desire to see the United States absorb Canada.

Over time, life in the United States completely changed McGee’s opinions regarding democracy and republicanism. As a staunch Irish Catholic, he became especially disenchanted with Protestant America’s general disdain for Catholicism. Although British Canada was largely Protestant as well, McGee felt that it exercised significantly more tolerance towards the French and Irish Catholics under its rule. In 1857, he left the United States for Montreal, where he began to encourage Canadian devotion to the British Empire.

The Shooting

In Canada, Thomas D’Arcy McGee involved himself in politics and eventually gained a significant following. He denounced the Fenian cause that he has once adhered to, and encouraged both Canada and Ireland to adopt a model of self-government within the framework of the British Empire. His speeches earned him enemies among many Irish republican radicals in Canada and the United States, who considered him a traitor to the cause.

On April 7, 1868, nearly a year after Canadian Confederation, McGee participated in a long parliamentary debate on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill which dragged on into the night. When the debate was finally finished, McGee walked back to his hotel, puffing on a cigar as he went. Just as he was about to enter the gates of the boarding house, a shot rang out from inside. McGee lurched backwards and collapsed onto the street, his jaw shattered by a .32 calibre bullet. The impact of the shot tore open the Irishman’s jugular, and Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dead within moments.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Following McGee’s assassination, Dominion Police officers arrested forty Irish-Canadians suspected of Fenian allegiance. One of these was Patrick James Whelan. Whelan had a .32 Smith & Wesson pistol on his person, each of its six chambers loaded. On April 9, the 28-year-old Irishman was considered the prime suspect in the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and charged with murder.

Whelan’s subsequent trial is considered by many to have been gravely unfair. With only circumstantial evidence against him, Whelan was ultimately convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, he proclaimed “I am held to be a murderer. I am here, standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed… I never took that man’s blood.”

After the trial, Whelan was confined in a cell in the top floor of the Ottawa Jail- the prison’s death row. For ten months, he awaited his execution. All the while, he persistently and vehemently insisted that he was innocent. Whelan appealed his conviction twice, but to no avail.

On February 11, 1869, Patrick J. Whelan received his last rites and bravely mounted the scaffold at the Ottawa Jail before 5,000 witnesses. After proclaiming his innocence one last time, he said, “I humbly ask forgiveness of any to whom I may have done harm, and I forgive all those who have wronged me. God save Ireland, and God save my soul.” On these words, Patrick J. Whelan was hanged. His body was later buried in an unmarked grave on prison property- according to legend, with the hangman’s noose still around his neck.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

Legend has it that the spirit of Patrick James Whelan still haunts the Ottawa Jail Hostel to this very day, unable to rest without a proper Catholic burial. It is said that Whelan’s ghost sometimes appears to guests at night, walking straight through their cells with a Bible in his hand before vanishing before their eyes. Although the hotel is well-heated, the prison’s death row, where Whelan spent his final months, is always cold.


3. Hochelaga Inn

If you drive about two hours southwest of Ottawa, you’ll come to the city of Kingston, situated on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario near the head of the St. Lawrence River. Site of the tragic fire of 1840 and the birthplace of the Tragically Hip, Kingston is a place where, as reflected by the city motto, “history and innovation thrive.”

In the heart of this historic city, a hop, skip, and a jump from both the waterfront and Queen’s University, sits the historic Hochelaga Inn. Although hotel management denies that the Hochelaga is haunted, a couple of stories told by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest otherwise.

A prominent local lawyer named John McIntyre built this elegant Victorian mansion in 1879. McIntyre studied law with Canada’s First Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, to whom he was related by marriage.

Following the death of McIntyre’s wife, Harriet, in 1903, John sold the property to the Bank of Montreal’s Hochelaga Foundation. In 1933, the Foundation sold the building to a local landlord, who converted it into an apartment complex. Fifty two years later, the building’s owners converted it into a bed and breakfast.

The Woman in Black

The Hochelaga Inn, some say, is haunted by the ghost of an elderly woman wearing a black, Victorian-style dress. This phantom’s favourite haunt is said to be a chair by the hotel’s front window, in which guests can see her from time to time. This ghost is purportedly inclined to play with the fire alarms, throw objects across hotel rooms, turn the television on to scare the housekeepers, and sing lullabies in the night.

One patron who was unaware of the hotel’s haunted reputation rented a room in the basement of the Hochelaga Inn. While the innkeeper led her and her husband to the room, she quipped that they were being relegated to the “haunted basement”. “The innkeeper propped the door open,” she wrote in a review, “so [that] we could look at the room… Just as we thought we would take it, someone or something pulled the door shut in front of my very eyes.” The woman and her husband did not relish the prospect of sharing the suite with an ethereal roommate, and decided to stay somewhere else that night.

The Woman and her Daughters

Another spooky story from the Hochelaga Inn took place in the summer of 2005.

One evening, a woman and her two teenage daughters checked into the hotel. They decided to stay in a two-bedroom suite, each bedroom separated from the other by a door. The mother stayed in one of the  bedrooms, while the girls shared a bed in the other.

Later that night, the woman woke up to find one of her daughters standing at the foot of her bed. “We have to get out of here right away,” the girl said.

The groggy mother assured her daughter that everything was alright, and urged her to go back to sleep. Without another sound, the girl turned around and walked back to her own room. As she drifted off to sleep, the woman vaguely wondered as to the cause for her daughter’s nocturnal visit. The girl must have been frightened, she reasoned, as she left the door between their rooms ajar.

No sooner had she fallen asleep than the woman woke up a second time, hearing quiet laughter at the foot of her bed. Yawning, she told her daughter to go back to bed, and to leave her be.

The Next Morning

The following morning, the woman noticed that the door separating her room from her daughters’ was closed. Even more curiously, she had to apply an unusual amount of force to open it, as if someone was holding it shut from the other side.

The woman asked her daughters why they had come into her room the previous night. Confused, both girls insisted that they had remained in bed all night long. With a chill running down her spine, the woman realized that the figure that had stood at the foot of her bed appeared as a black shadow, and that she hadn’t been able to make out any of its features in the darkness.


4. Brockamour Manor

On the opposite end of Lake Ontario is the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, the historic capital of Upper Canada. Over the centuries, this site at the mouth of the Niagara River has witnessed a native genocide, two intercolonial battles, and a town-wide razing. Considering its rich and violent history, it is perhaps not so surprising that Niagara-On-The-Lake is considered by many to be the most haunted town in the country.

As might be expected of Canada’s most haunted town, Niagara-On-The-Lake has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these haunted hotels in Ontario is Brockamour Manor, one of the oldest residences in town. Today, this 19th Century home functions as a charming bed and breakfast.


In order to fully appreciate the story behind the ghost of Brockamour Manor, a little historical context is required.

The War of 1812

In the early 1800’s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British Royal Navy stationed several warships off the coast of New England. They hoped to prevent Napoleon’s France from trading with the United States. Many disaffected British sailors aboard these ships deserted their posts and defected to the United States. In order to replenish their ranks, British Naval crews impressed American sailors into service. Unsurprisingly, many of their new Shanghaied recruits similarly abandoned their posts and fled to America.

In the summer of 1807, the British Royal Navy decided to bring some of their deserters to justice. Accordingly, the crew of a particular British ship attacked and boarded an American frigate called the USS Chesapeake, on which a number of British expatriates served. Outraged at Britain’s lack of respect for American sovereignty, the United States declared war on Great Britain and prepared to invade Canadian territory. And thus the War of 1812 began.

Major-General Isaac Brock

At that time, the British Army in Upper Canada (a British province skirting the northern shores of the Great Lakes) fell under the command a daring officer named Isaac Brock. Popular opinion at that time held that Canada would easily fall to the Americans in the upcoming war. Nevertheless, Brock was determined to do all he could to repulse the Yankee invaders. He bolstered fortifications in Quebec City, built a navy for the Great Lakes, and made a military alliance with Chief Tecumseh, the leader of a powerful Indian confederacy from the Great Lakes region.

In mid-August, 1812, Brock and Tecumseh laid siege to Detroit- at that time, an American fort situated across the Detroit River from the British settlement of Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario). By intimidating the enemy commander, they succeeded in capturing Detroit with very little bloodshed. Their stunning victory earned Brock a knighthood, as well as the nickname ‘The Hero of Canada’.

The Romance of Sir Isaac Brock and Sophia Shaw

In those days, a palisaded military complex called Fort George served as the headquarters of the British Army in Canada. Fort George stood near the mouth of the Niagara River, near Newark (present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake), the former provincial capital (The town of York (present-day Toronto) served as the capital of Upper Canada after 1796). Accordingly, duty demanded that Sir Isaac Brock spend a considerable amount of time there.

According to legend, Brock fell in love with Sophia Shaw, the beautiful daughter of fellow Major-General Aeneas Shaw, an officer of the Canadian Militia. Eventually, he asked the general for his daughter’s hand. To his dismay, Shaw refused. Although Brock was a decorated military commander, Shaw, for whatever reason, did not consider him an appropriate match for his daughter.

Despite this setback, Brock continued to see Sophia in secret. More often than not, the couple met at the home of Sophia’s sister, Isabella. Isabella was married to Captain John Powell, an officer stationed at Fort George who had built his home a short distance from the garrison back in 1809. Whenever Brock’s duties allowed him some R&R in the Fort George area, the Powell family home was the site of many a happy rendezvous. Eventually, Major-General Brock proposed to his sweetheart, and the two became secretly engaged.

October 13, 1812

In the early morning hours of October 13, 1812, Isaac Brock awoke in his quarters at Fort George to the thunder of distant cannons. He quickly slipped on his field uniform, supplementing it with the red sash that Tecumseh had gifted him as a token of friendship, and ordered a detachment to investigate the commotion. Brock was a man of action, however, and would not content himself by waiting for the detachment’s report. The officer mounted his horse and rode south to assess the situation himself.

Legend has it that, shortly after leaving the fort, Brock made a quick visit to Captain John Powell’s house in order to see his beloved Sophia. His betrothed served him a ‘stirrup cup’ of tea and bid him a fond farewell. Sophia waved her handkerchief at the general as he galloped off towards the sounds of battle. The couple would never meet again… at least, not in this life.

The Battle of Queenston Heights

After a brief ride, Isaac Brock discovered a small group of British infantrymen huddled at the foot of an escarpment known as Queenston Heights. The redcoats informed the Major-General that the long-awaited American invaders had finally arrived, and that several thousand Yankee soldiers were making their way across the Niagara River. Despite British resistance, the first wave of U.S. troops had captured a British artillery battery atop Queenston Heights.

Brock immediately sent word to Fort George for reinforcements. Rather than wait for the reinforcements to arrive, however, he decided to storm the strategically-important battery. Drawing his sabre, he led the charge uphill towards Queenston Heights.

During the ascent, Isaac Brock took an American musketball to the chest. The celebrated Hero of Canada died almost instantly. Despite the loss of their commander, the British eventually regained Queenston Heights and drove back the Americans.

Sobbing Sophia

A heartbroken Sophia Shaw spent her remaining years living with her sister in the home of Captain Powell, now known as the Brockamour Manor. She lived a reclusive existence, and never married.

Some say that, ever since her death, Sophia’s spirit has remained in her sister’s home, where she and her beloved Isaac had shared some of their happiest moments. She makes her presence known to guests by singing near the top of the stairs, opening and closing doors in the night, and appearing near her favourite armoire. One female guest who stayed in Sophia’s old room reported waking up in the middle of the night to see the spectre of a woman in 19th Century clothing standing at the foot of her bed, admonishing her with a disapproving glare.

Legend has it that on cold autumn mornings, you can hear Sophia weeping softly in the halls of Brockamour Manor, mourning her lost love. Another, more cheerful story has it that Sophia and Sir Isaac Brock were united in death. Every once in a while, guests report seeing a vision of a red-coated Army officer and a 19th Century lady strolling arm-in-arm through the rose gardens. Whatever the case, Brockamour Manor remains shrouded in the mystery and romance that surrounds Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada’s most haunted town.


5. Olde Angel Inn

A ten minute walk from Brockamour Manor will bring you to another haunted hotel in Niagara-On-The-Lake, the Olde Angel Inn. There, you can rent out one of five rooms, the names of which bear testament to the establishment’s colourful history. The “General’s Quarters” and the “Governor’s Room” are spacious two-bedroom suites; the “Sweetheart’s Room” and “Captain’s Room” are cozy one-bedroom affairs; and the “Colonel’s Suite” boasts an antique “Irish Fertility Bed”, perfect for honeymooners.

This ancient establishment is perhaps the oldest operational hotel in Canada. Built in 1789, it was initially founded as the “Harmonious Coach House”. In 1793, after passing the Act Against Slavery (a law which made Upper Canada the first British colony to abolish slavery) the legislators celebrated the event that evening at the inn’s tavern. The same heavy oak beams that supported the tavern’s ceiling back in 1793 are still there today, scarred by scorch marks from American arsonists who burned most of the town to the ground during the War of 1812… but that’s a story for another time.

In addition to being the oldest hotel in the country, some say that the Olde Angel Inn is one of the most haunted hotels in Ontario. Indeed, some claim it is the most haunted roadhouse in the whole country. Like those of Brockamour Manor and the vintage Prince of Wales Hotel nearby, the ghost story surrounding the Olde Angel Inn has its origins in the War of 1812.

The Battle of Fort George

Following the death of Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights, Canadian military forces lacked strong leadership. Holes in Canadian defenses allowed sixteen American ships to travel from the State of New York to the town York (present-day Toronto) on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. On April 27, 1813, 1,700 American Army regulars disembarked on the shores of York, captured the Canadian capital, and burned the town to the ground.

Following the Battle of York, American troops retreated by ship to Fort Niagara, a French-turned-American military fortification on the eastern shores of the Niagara Delta. Fort Niagara stood across the Niagara River from Fort George, Britain’s martial headquarters in Canada (situated at present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake). The American soldiers spent several weeks recovering at Fort Niagara before striking out again, this time at their Canadian neighbours across the river.

On May 25, 1813, American warships set anchor in the Niagara River off Fort George and barraged the British garrison with heated shot. After a two-day cannon bombardment, four thousand American soldiers disembarked on the shores of Lake Ontario and marched for Fort George. British infantrymen charged the Americans with their bayonets as they waded ashore. However, grapeshot fired by American ships drove them back.

American troops pushed onwards and succeeded in capturing Fort George- by this time, a smoking ruin on account of the heated shot they had pumped into it. They occupied the nearby town of Newark and built a new fortification in the ashes of the old fort.

The Ghost of Captain Swayze

Legend has it that during the Battle of Fort George, a Captain in the Canadian Militia named Colin Swayze delayed his retreat to rendezvous with his true love in the Harmonious Coach House in nearby Newark. Before the officer could steal away to join his regiment, American soldiers overran the inn. Panicking, Captain Swayze hid in a barrel in the cellar.

In an effort to root out British deserters, the American infantrymen stabbed burlap sacks, dark corners, and other potential hiding places with the bayonets attached to the ends of their muskets. One soldier threw the lid off the barrel in which Captain Swayze was hiding and plunged his bayonet into the lovesick officer. Colin Swayze quickly succumbed to his wound.

Some say that the ghost of Colin Swayze never left the cellar, and remains in the Olde Angel Inn to this very day. Guests staying in the “Colonel’s Room” report strange noises in the night. Inn staff sometimes open the dining room in the morning to find furniture mysteriously rearranged. One guest even claimed to have seen the face of the erstwhile captain in the mirror of the ladies’ washroom.

Although the Captain’s appearance may frighten some guests from time to time, local legend says that his spirit is harmless, and will remain so as long as the British flag flies over the Olde Angel Inn. To keep their resident spirit happy, the inn’s many managers have proudly displayed the Union Jack at the establishment’s front door, where it remains to this very day.

6. Fairmont Royal York

If you leave Niagara-On-The-Lake and drive an hour and a half along Queen Elizabeth Way, you’ll come to the city of Toronto. Not only is Toronto the capital of Ontario; it is also the largest city in Canada.

In the heart of this sprawling metropolis, not far from the CN Tower and the barn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, stands a 4 star luxury hotel: the Fairmont Royal York. This Canadian Pacific Railway hotel is among the most opulent of all the haunted hotels in Ontario.

The Royal York, equipped with its Royal Suite, is the hotel of choice for Queen Elizabeth II whenever the British Royal Family pays a visit to Toronto. It is also said to be preferred residence of a number of ghostly guests.

The Man in the Purple Jacket

Among the most famous of the spectral residents said to walk the halls of the Royal York is a grey-haired man in a purple smoking jacket. This phantasmal gentleman is purported to appear on the hotel’s eighth floor to unwitting patrons and staff before vanishing into thin air.

Legend has it that this spectre is the spirit of a wealthy man who stayed in the hotel on his honeymoon night. That night, the man murdered his new bride before committing suicide. Consequently, his spirit remained in the hotel, doomed to haunt the vicinity of his terrible crime.

The man’s murdered bride is said to also haunt the Royal York. Her spirit supposedly resides in the room in which she lost her life. She makes herself known to guests by opening and closing the bedroom door, and by appearing as a strange light in the middle of the night.

The Employee

Another ghost believed to haunt the Royal York Hotel is a former hotel employee who hanged himself from a stairwell railing on the 19th floor. It is said that guests who use the stairwell sometimes feel a malevolent presence in the area. Similarly, other stairwell users report experiencing the eerie sensation that they are being watched. And every once in a while, anguished screams are said to echo throughout the stairwell in the middle of the night. When hotel staff investigate these chilling shrieks, they find the stairwell empty.

The Children

The last group of ghosts supposed to haunt the Royal York are handful mysterious children. These youthful spirits run through the halls in the middle of the night, laughing as they go. When angry patrons step out into the hall to admonish the youngsters, the laughter stops abruptly, and the children are nowhere to be found.


7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

If you drive an hour and a half north from Toronto, through the city of Barrie, Ontario, and beyond Lake Simcoe, you’ll come to a wild country of forests and lakes known as Muskoka. Colloquially referred to as “cottage country”, this quiet backwoods is a popular destination for recreational fishermen, hikers, bikers, and anyone in need of respite from the big city.


Muskoka has always been a rugged and secluded territory. For many years, settlers avoided the area, as its hard clay soil was not conducive to agriculture. In the 1860’s, its mixed forests attracted the eyes of lumbermen, who established remote logging camps deep in the Muskoka wilderness. Lumberjacks transported the timbers they harvested down Lake Muskoka using steamboats. From a wharf on the lake’s southeastern shore, they carted their lumber to southerly sawmills by way of the Muskoka Colonization Road, a rough corduroy path. This crude carriage highway was upgraded to a railway in 1875.

Naturally, a settlement developed at the northern terminus of this thoroughfare, which connected the logging camps of Muskoka with timber-hungry municipalities of Barrie and Toronto. This transportation hub quickly flourished into the town of Gravenhurst, earning itself the nickname “The Gateway to Muskoka”.

The Resort

On the outskirts of Gravenhurst lies the small community of Severn Bridge, on the Severn River. Just outside Severn Bridge lies the even smaller village of Port Stanton. And just outside of Port Stanton, tucked away in a little cove on Sparrow Lake, is the Bayview Wildwood Resort and Hotel.

The Bayview Hotel is not really a single building, but rather a cluster of cabins and apartments. There are four main buildings- the Sparrowview House, the Walton House, the Lakeview House, and the Lakeshore House- which contain a number of large one-bedroom suites. Guests also have the option to stay in one of fifteen separate cottages of varying sizes. Last, but certainly not least, patrons have the option to stay in the historic main building, the resort’s oldest and most storied residence.


This tourist attraction was first established in 1884 by a prominent local steamboat captain named Thomas Stanton and his wife Ellen. For more than 130 years, the Stanton family has diligently maintained and expanded this charming lakeside getaway. Unlike many historic (and possibly haunted) hotels in Ontario, the Bayview Wildwood Resort is as well-kept and operational as the day it was founded.

The Ghosts of the Bayview Wildwood Resort

The main building of the Bayview Wildwood Resort is said to be home to a number of ghostly residents. Every once in a while, guests hear mysterious footsteps on the upper floor when nobody is up there. Doors are known to open and close all by themselves. Some staff member report having seen a pair of disembodied legs walking up the building’s main stairs, only to disappear at the top.

According to an article in the Shelburne Free Press, the ghosts that haunt this building include Webster, the spirit an Ojibwa caretaker who worked at the resort before his death; the ghost of an American patron who died of a heart attack while staying in the main building; and a phantom cat who jumps up on the beds of unsuspecting guests in the middle of the night.


8. Inn at the Falls

If you drive half an hour north of the Bayview Wildwood Resort, you’ll come to Bracebridge, the regional capital of Muskoka. This small town was built around a waterfall on the Muskoka River not far from the lake which shares its name. Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of this picturesque community is a Victorian-style mansion called the “Inn at the Falls”.

This impressive estate was first constructed by English stonemasons in the mid 1870’s, when Bracebridge was still a rough logging village. It was originally commissioned as the private residence of a man named John Adair. The house changed hands several times throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries before finally being converted into an inn in the 1930’s. Since 1988, it has been known as the “Inn at the Falls”.

The Three Official Ghosts

This charming establishment is perhaps the last place one might expect to see a ghost. Nevertheless, hotel management makes no secret about the Inn’s perpetual residents who make themselves known to patrons and staff from time to time.

The Inn at the Falls is “officially” haunted by three different spirits, whom hotel staff have fondly named Bob, Sarah, and Charlie. According to an old menu once distributed at the Inn’s Fox and the Hound Pub, “our three resident ghosts… are friendly spirits and tend to keep mostly to themselves…”


The ghost called Bob is said to haunt the Inn’s kitchen area. This mischievous spirit has never appeared to anyone, but he has displayed a penchant for hurling pots and pans across the kitchen, opening and slamming freezer doors, turning kitchen lights on and off, and generally pranking the kitchen staff.

Sometime in the 1990’s, the late Canadian writer Terry Boyle claimed to have watched an ashtray levitate, float past his face, and land beside him on another countertop in the Inn’s kitchen. A cook he was speaking with at the time assured the astonished writer that this was just Bob’s way of saying ‘hello’.

One time, an unruly patron complained to the hotel staff that someone had kicked him in the rear while he was descending the stairs. When he turned around to admonish the troublemaker, he found himself alone. The guest was none too pleased when staff member suggested, matter-of-factly, that Bob was probably the culprit.


The ghost called Sarah is said to haunt the dining room at the Inn at the Falls, as well as the main hallway and the corridor leading to the pub. She typically announces her presence in the early morning. Sometimes, staff open up the dining room bright and early to find fresh candles burning, as if they had just been lit. On other occasions, they are greeted by a faint, sweet “hello”. Every once in a while, Sarah’s fragrance- a pleasant aroma of lavender and roses- lingers in the dining room several hours before breakfast.

Unlike Bob, Sarah sometimes reveals her presence by literally appearing to startled staff and guests. Usually, her apparition is only visible from the shoulders up. More rarely, her entire body materializes in vivid detail. Witnesses typically describe Sarah as a beautiful young woman with long brown hair, usually dressed in white.

Kevin Poole’s Encounter

In the early 1990’s, a respected Ontario businessman named Kevin Poole checked in to the Inn at the Falls. One night, while sipping a beer at the Inn’s Pub, the bartender told him about Sarah’s ghost. Poole scoffed at the story. Although he entertained the possibility of the paranormal, he doubted that a ghost could materialize as vividly as the bartender claimed Sarah sometimes did.

Not long afterwards, Poole left the hotel and walked over to his car. As he fiddled with his keys, a beautiful young woman with flowing brown hair in a long white gown brushed past him. Startled, the businessman made to follow her but found that she had vanished. Poole was certain that he had encountered Sarah, and that she had appeared to him in order to prove her existence.


Charlie, the Inn’s third “official” ghost, is said to inhabit the corridor on the second floor. He has been known to slam the emergency exit door, and to pace the hallway on the second floor, loudly discussing business with another ghostly gentleman.

William C. Mahaffy

Many believe that “Charlie” might actually be the ghost of William Crosby Mahaffy, the estate’s second owner and first permanent resident. A young lawyer fresh out of law school, Mahaffy bought the estate off John Adair in 1877 (Adair had never actually occupied it). He moved in with his wife and three sons and opened up a law practice in town. He worked his way up the legal ladder until, in 1888, he was appointed Muskoka’s first District Judge. The Mahaffy family home subsequently became the hub of Bracebridge’s social and commercial activity.

In the summer of 1912, William Mahaffy travelled to London, England, to undergo a surgery. He died there on the operating table, and his family subsequently sold the Bracebridge estate.

The Judge’s Ghost

Although William C. Mahaffy gave up the ghost on the other side of the world, some say that his spirit returned to haunt his home. Over the years, several staff members of the Inn at the Falls have reported seeing the spectre of a gentleman in Victorian attire in the pub and in the parlour on the main floor. The phantom’s facial features allegedly corresponded with Judge Mahaffy’s, whose portrait once hung in the main hall. Every once in a while, phantom cigar smoke hangs heavily in the Inn’s parlour, where Mahaffy used to relax after a long day in the courtroom.

The ghost of Judge Mahaffy apparently has strong opinions on how things ought to be in his home. In the spring of 1998, for example, one of the hotel managers was about to turn off the lights in a small room beside the pub when a man’s voice barked “Don’t turn the lights out!” The manager was the only one in the Inn at the time. On another occasion, some mysterious force repeatedly repositioned the sofa and turned up the heat in the parlour when no one was looking. This performance continued until one of the mangers entered the room and shouted “that’s enough!”

The Spectral Lady of Room 105

It is said that the most haunted room in the Inn at the Falls is Room 105, the historic master bedroom on the second floor. This apartment is allegedly the domain of a ghostly woman whom some have conflated with Sarah.

The spectral lady of Room 105 is most often seen in an armchair, gazing out the window. Some claim to have seen her through the window while looking up at the Inn from the street. One hotel guest even walked in on her while she was lounging in her favourite chair. Instinctively, he apologized for his intrusion and backed into the hallway, only to realize that 105 was indeed where he was staying. When he went back inside, the woman was gone.

Some guests sleeping in Room 105 have claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night to see the lady glide across the room, settle into her chair, and vanish. Others have seen her smiling face in the reflection of the room’s television. Others still have noticed the imprint of her body on the bed, or have felt her gentle hand caress their back at night as if in an effort to help them sleep.

Creepy Cavorting

Like Bob, the woman from Room 105 seems to enjoy playing tricks on the living. She appears to have a predilection for hiding room keys and TV remotes, and sometimes plays with the lights and the shower. Oftentimes, people staying in Room 105 find that electronic equipment fails on them unexpectedly.

Room 105 is also said to undergo dramatic and unexplained temperature fluctuations. “You can feel a presence in here,” general manger Krista Havenaar said of the place, “and sometimes it gets so cold you can see your breath.”

The Lady of the Stairs

Another phantom said to haunt the second floor is the ghost of a pregnant woman, whom some have associated with Sarah and the spectral lady of Room 105. This ghost has been heard shuffling about the hallway near the staircase and weeping as if in distress. Sometimes, the voice of a man, whom some believe might be the spirit of her husband, can be heard comforting her.

Many of the hotel staff believe that the pregnant woman is the ghost of the wife of Edward Kirk, a businessman from Toronto who purchased the mansion in the 1930’s. Shortly after moving into the house, Kirk’s wife learned, to her delight, that she was pregnant.

One night, near the baby’s due date, Mrs. Kirk slipped from her bedroom and began wandering throughout the house, unable to sleep. Tragically, she tripped down the stairs, killing both herself and her unborn child in the process. Some say that her tormented spirit has haunted the Inn’s staircase ever since.

The Children

Every once in a while, guests staying at the Inn at the Falls report hearing the sound of children playing in the main hallway and the corridor on the second floor. Some have claimed to have heard the giggling of a little girl in Room 105. Others have reported being greeted by an invisible child in the pub. One time, the son of the front desk clerk returned from the hotel’s basement inquiring about the little girl he had met down there.

There have been few ideas put forth as to the identities of these shadowy children. Some have suggested that one of them- perhaps the little girl- might be the spirit of Mrs. Kirk’s unborn baby, enjoying an otherworldly childhood in the home she never lived to grow up in.

Jackie Niven

Another spirit said to haunt the Inn at the Falls is that of Jackie Niven, whose husband, Jim, bought the building in 1975. Jackie passed away in the house later that decade, succumbing to cancer. Some say her spirit never left.

One morning in the 1980’s, hotel employee Cathy Morrow claimed to have encountered Jackie’s ghost near the pub. “It was so vivid,” she said, “I could describe everything she was wearing. She had on blue jeans and a red and white striped shirt. She was a small woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair. [The woman] would have been in her 40s. I just looked at her an in seconds she vanished into thin air.” Cathy later told her tale to the housekeeper, who had worked in the building for many years. “You have just described Jackie Niven,” the housekeeper informed her.

The Inn at the Falls seems to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. Perhaps, as Canadian writer Andrew Hind suggested, this is because the Inn is built on the site of an old Ojibwa burial ground. Maybe certain tragic events, like Mrs. Kirk’s untimely death, have anchored spirits into the stone walls of the establishment. Or perhaps the Inn is simply so lovely that its former occupants can’t bear to part with it. Whatever the case, the Inn at the Falls is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Muskoka.


9. Windermere House

Half an hour north of Bracebridge, on the eastern shores of Lake Rosseau, lies the tiny community of Windermere, Ontario. This backcountry settlement is dominated by a magnificent historic hotel called Windermere House.

The Story of Windermere House

Like most of our haunted hotels of Ontario, the Windermere House has a rich and colourful history.

Thomas Aitken

Back in 1860, a 28-year-old Scotsman named Thomas Aitken left the Shetland Isles for the New World. The previous year, his beloved wife and first child both died in childbirth. Hoping to start fresh, the heartbroken Shetlander boarded a steamer for Canada.

A series of odd jobs drew Aitken northwest to the Ontario frontier. After securing a land grant from the Canadian government, he built a homestead on the shores of the Rosseau River and carved out a living for himself from the wilderness. Eventually, Aitken remarried and started a family.

In the early 1870’s, enterprising businessmen introduced steamships to the lakes of Muskoka Country. This development opened up the region to a whole new type of industry: ecotourism. Soon, the rough lumberjacks who plied their trade in the Muskoka forests found themselves rubbing shoulders with wealthy European sportsmen.

The gentleman hunters and fishermen who flocked to Muskoka required lodging. Out of courtesy, many homesteaders invited these wealthy European visitors to share their cottages. Sensing an opportunity to make a little money, Thomas Aitken built several additions to his own cabin and rented rooms out to outdoor adventurers. And thus, the Windermere House was born.


Over the years, demand for accommodation in the Windermere area grew. The Windermere House expanded accordingly. After the railway was built connecting Gravehurst with the cities down south, the Muskoka tourism industry exploded. So did business at the Windermere House. To keep up with the increasing demand for quality service and comfortable surroundings, the Windermere House gradually evolved into an elegant 56-room Victorian boarding house- one of Muskoka’s great steamship hotels, complete with a tennis court, a croquet field, and a lawn bowling green.

The Fire

In February 1996, during the filming of The Long Kiss Goodnight (a Hollywood movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis), the Windermere House caught fire and burned to the ground. Undaunted, the owners of the property rebuilt the historic hotel in exactly the same style as the original. Square-headed nails from the original

building were hammered back into the structure. In addition, a piece of timber salvaged from the sunroom was worked into a time capsule, and intended to be opened in 2096, a century after the construction of the new Windermere House.

The Ghosts of the Windermere House

Legend has it that the Windermere House is haunted by the ghost of its founder, Thomas Aitken. Phantom footsteps, strange whispers, mysterious knocks on the door, and inanimate objects moving as if on their own accord have all been attributed to Aitken’s spirit.

Another phantom said to haunt the Windermere House is the ghost of a mysterious little girl. Every once in a while, patrons awake in the middle of the night to find a little girl standing beside their beds. Before they can rub their eyes to ensure that they’re not dreaming, the little girl disappears.


10. Albion Hotel

The last stop on our tour of haunted hotels in Ontario is somewhat off the beaten path. On the southeastern shores of Lake Huron lies the municipality of Bluewater, an amalgamation of five small rural communities. One of these is the village of Bayfield.

Bayfield, Ontario, is home to several historic inns. The most famous is the Little Inn, a classy brick stagecoach stop that has welcomed guest since the mid 1800’s. Another is the Albion Hotel, a Georgian-style colonial roadhouse built in the early 1840’s. According to a legend born from first-hand accounts of hotel patrons and staff, this heritage building might just be haunted.

Note: The Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, is not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in Guelph, Ontario- a former hotel associated with a great ghost story involving American gangster Al Capone and Sleeman beer.

The Shooting of Harvey Elliott

On November 8, 1897, the Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, was the site of a murder.

At that time, the hotel was owned by the Elliott family- a local clan which some said was cursed. Maria, the family’s matriarch, had raised five boys and two girls. By 1895, three of her sons were dead and buried. In 1896, her husband, Edward, passed away as well. In 1897, the only men remaining in Maria’s life were her sons Fred and Harvey, who helped her run the Albion Hotel along with her two daughters.

On that fateful evening, after closing up the hotel bar for the evening, Fred and Harvey got into a heated argument

on the verandah. 23-year-old Harvey was roaring drunk, and was beginning to bet belligerent. He started swearing at 19-year-old Fred, and would have struck him in the face had a friend not restrained him.

“Keep him away from me,” warned Fred, drawing his revolver, “or I’ll shoot him.”

Suddenly, Harvey broke from his restraints and lunged at his brother. Fred raised his gun and shot Harvey point blank in the throat. The elder Elliott brother crumpled to the floor.

With tears in his eyes, Fred dropped his gun and helped his big brother inside, but it was too late; Harvey Elliott died at the bar of the Albion Hotel, his blood staining the unvarnished wooden floor.

The Ghosts of Albion Hotel

Fred Elliott was tried for the murder of his brother. Ultimately, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years of hard labour in the Kingston Penitentiary. He was released early on account of poor health, and died on September 13, 1905, at the age of 28.

The Ghost of Harvey Elliott

As for Harvey Elliott, however, it is said that his spirit remains at the Albion Hotel to this very day. Harvey’s favourite haunt appears to be the hotel bar. Every once in a while, the bar light will turn on after the hotel has closed for the night. Beer taps sometimes mysteriously turn on by themselves, and glasses are thrown off the bar rack by unseen hands. Death, it seems, has not quelled Elliott’s appetite for hooch. Alternatively, perhaps Harvey simply makes his presence known at the site at which he spent his last living moments. Whatever the case, the ghost of Harvey Elliott is as much a fixture of the Albion Hotel as the bar in which he resides- a permanent resident whom hotel staff fondly refers to as their “rent free guest”.

The Farmer’s Wife

The Albion Hotel is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a farmer’s wife who once lived in what is now the hotel’s common room. She has been known to caress guests’ faces in the night, change the channel on TV, and to call out for her husband John.

One New Years’ Eve, Mike Parkinson, the hotel chef, noticed a husky, long-haired brunette woman sitting on the staircase of the Albion Hotel. In the blink of an eye, the woman disappeared into thin air. Is it possible that Parkinson had a run-in with the ghost of the farmer’s wife?


A third ghost, whom hotel staff refer to as Molly, is believed to haunt the office adjacent to the common room. Molly apparently has a penchant for opening and closing doors, and for pulling books off bookshelves.

Room 4

If you’re looking to have a ghostly experience in the Albion Hotel, management suggests that you book Room 4. A couple staying in this room reportedly heard guitar music on the main floor. When they inquired as to the identity of the musician the following morning, staff members informed them that there had been no one else in the building at the time.

One guest staying in Room 4 reported hearing disembodied footsteps in the hallway outside. Another claimed that, at one point in the night, her bed began to shake.


Tell Us Your Stories!

And that’s the end of our tour of 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario. If you’re brave enough to visit one of these spooky places and happen to have a ghostly experience of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to share your own ghost stories with us in the Comments section below.



1. Chateau Laurier

2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

  • Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places (1998), by Terry Boyle
  • Creepy Capital (2016), by Mark Leslie
  • Season 1, Episode 1 of the TV series Creepy Canada

3. Hochelaga Inn

4. Brockamour Manor

5. Olde Angel Inn

6. Fairmont Royal York

7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

8. Windermere House

9. Inn at the Falls

10. Albion Hotel


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