Whether believe in ghosts or not, you can’t deny the creepiness of some of the stories about Canada’s most haunted places. When one person reports a ghost, sure, maybe it’s all in their head. But when the same stories and sightings keep happening again and again, sometimes over decades, it gets harder to chalk it all up to imagination.
These 10 places have some of the country’s most frequent reports of hauntings and paranormal activity, and you can visit them all…just don’t go alone.
Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ontario
This old stone building served as Ottawa’s jail for over a century, and closed back in 1972. A year later, it opened as a hostel for budget travellers visiting the city — not much time at all to clear out the ghosts! The jail was the site of three executions, all by hanging, including the legendary execution of Patrick J. Whelan for the assassination of one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation, Thomas D’Arcy McGee. As many staff and guests of the hostel will tell you, Whelan’s ghost still haunts the building, even appearing at the foot of guests’ beds. You can still stay in the jail, even in an original three-by-nine-foot one-person cell (with a few modern creature comforts added, of course).
Frank Slide, Alberta
In 1903, in the wee hours of the morning, 82 million tonnes of rock broke free from a mountainside above Frank, Alberta, burying part of the town, its rail line and a local coal mine. Between 70 and 90 residents were killed, most of whom remain buried in the rubble to this day. Ever since then, residents have reported seeing spooky mists and lights on the mountain where the landslide happened.
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
This major tourist hot spot makes no secret of its treacherous location. The lighthouse atop smooth, weather-worn rocks is picture-perfect, but the whole place can be dangerous and downright fatal when rough weather hits and the rocks get slippery. One local legend tells the story of an original resident, Margaret (nicknamed Peggy), who settled here after surviving a shipwreck nearby. Her children didn’t make it, and she would regularly walk the rocks at night, grieving their loss. One night, her new husband went out with her and danced on the rocks to cheer her up. But he slipped and died, and Margaret later took her own life. Visitors to Peggy’s Cove have reportedly seen the ghost of a woman in a blue dress standing at the edge of the rocks, about to jump.
Blue Ghost Tunnel, Ontario
This abandoned 655-foot-long railway tunnel near St. Catharines, Ontario, was in use for only 39 years but was the scene of many accidents, including a teenager killed by a boulder and a train collision just outside of the tunnel, not to mention 107 men killed during the tunnel’s construction alone. Today, there have been reports of all sorts of paranormal activity inside the tunnel, like weird lights, the sensation of being watched, touched or pushed, plus the sounds of footsteps, children crying, voices and whistling.
Craigdarroch Castle, British Columbia
This lavish castle was built in Victoria, B.C., in 1890 as a private home for a local coal baron who died before construction was complete. It passed through many hands since then, and is now a tourist attraction open for tours, but rumour has it some old residents still call the castle home. There have been reports of a ghostly woman in white who stands alone in the castle ballroom, the sounds of children crying and even a piano that plays itself.
St. Louis Ghost Train, Saskatchewan
Along an old abandoned railway in St. Louis, Saskatchewan, there have been many reports of a train light that travels up and down the line, changing in colour and intensity as it moves. Some say it’s a ghost train, others say it’s the light from the lantern of a ghostly brakeman who was beheaded by a train in the area way back when.
Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta
The majestic 19th century Fairmont Banff Springs was one of the original railway hotels built by CP Railway to attract travellers westward. While the hotel denies it’s haunted, there’s a long-standing story about a bride who died while falling down one of the hotel’s grand stone staircases in 1932. To this day there are reports that her ghost, still in her wedding dress, has been seen dancing alone in the Cascade Ballroom.
Gastown, British Columbia
Gastown was the heart of the original city of Vancouver and is steeped in lore, legend, and quite a few ghost stories. Rumours abound about ghosts at the old Hotel Europe and a ghost train conductor who now lives at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Water Street (would you like some spooks with your spumoni?). But perhaps the most haunted building is the stately Waterfront Station, originally built as the city’s train station in 1914. Many late-night security guards and cleaning staff have reported sightings of ghosts and the sounds of Depression-era music sounding through the hallways.
Royal York Hotel, Ontario
One of CP Railway’s old-stock hotels once stood tall on Toronto’s skyline (until all the condo towers moved in). Today it’s still one of Toronto’s most luxurious and grandest hotels — hey, Queen Elizabeth II has stayed there — but like many of these old buildings, it’s full of ghost stories. There are tales of the sounds of children running up and down the halls, only to turn silent upon further investigation. Some guests on upper floors, in rooms under the once-lively Crystal Ballroom, which was permanently closed because of fire code infractions, report hearing voices and music coming from the vacant space.