Canada’s 10 Best Ghost Walks
Gruesome murder, grisly executions and cursed ground… There’s nothing like a good scary story, and a ghost walk is the best way to experience the torrid tales that Canadian history has tried to forget. For guaranteed goosebumps, we’re counting down the 10 best ghost walks in Canada.
1. Ghost walks in Toronto
In the dark, cavernous interior of Toronto’s McLaughlin Planetarium lurks the ghost of a seven-year-old girl who’s terrified employees since the building first opened in the 1960s. Nicknamed Celeste, the apparition is apparently the spirit of a girl who died in a house that stood on the site before the planetarium was built. Her presence has permeated the building through its many iterations, from children’s museum to storage facility. Seen flitting down hallways-and blamed for moving items and throwing toys at employees-the attention-starved little girl’s laughter echoes about. While guests of the Muddy York Walking Tour—a ghost walk that focuses on the University of Toronto and its surrounding neighbourhoods—can’t enter the Planetarium, many have reported seeing Celeste through the building’s glass doors, which have been known to rattle of their own volition.
2. Ghost walks in Victoria
Founded by historian John Adams, Victoria’s Ghostly Walks tour follows phantoms’ footsteps through the back alleys and historic buildings in the city’s oldest district. The tour reaches a creepy climax at the former jail and Supreme Court in the infamous Bastion Square. The 1889 building is apparently teeming with the spirits of the condemned, and Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie—nicknamed “the Hanging Judge”—trolls the hallways searching for a criminal to sentence. If that’s all he does, you can count yourself lucky. Reports of people feeling pinned against the wall in the building’s antique elevator and an uncanny sense of being forced down the staircase have attracted ghost hunters near and far.
3. Ghost walks in Hamilton
What do you get when you combine forbidden love, a broken heart and the shell of a mansion in the middle of a forest? The perfect ingredients for a great ghost story, of course.
Some say Hamilton’s Hermitage Ruins are haunted, others call them cursed, but all visitors to the site agree it’s eerie and unnerving. That’s likely thanks to the ghost of William Black, a coachman who hung himself after being prevented from marrying the mansion-owner’s niece. When you first spot the ruins rise out of the darkness (the Hermitage Ruins ghost walk has been granted special permission to access the site) the coachman’s haunting heartbreak is palpable. So palpable, in fact, that even animals—who reportedly have a sixth sense for spiritual activity—tend to steer clear.
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4. Ghost walks in Ottawa
Why is Ottawa’s first teacher’s college now a stop on this popular lantern-lit ghost walk? It might have something to do with the fact that one security guard swore he’d never work the night shift again following his encounter with a sinister spectre on-site. As the story goes, the guard was patrolling the historic hallways of the college (now a part of Ottawa’s City Hall) when he spotted a female trespasser dressed in old-fashioned attire exiting a former classroom. When he called out to her, she stared him dead in the eyes; when he approached, she vanished. Later, looking at old photos displayed in the building’s lobby, the guard recognized the apparition as Eliza Bolton, one of the college’s first instructors.
5. Ghost walks in Kingston, Ontario
As Canada’s first capital and home to one of the country’s oldest prisons, Kingston, Ontario is prime territory for a paranormal experience. Even the Haunted Walk ticket office at the old Prince George Hotel can boast its own tales of terror. The 1809 hotel is reputedly haunted by Lily Herchmer, daughter of the original owner, who loved a sailor but was forbidden from fraternizing with him. Undeterred by her father’s decree, she’d hang a lantern in her window at night to let her lover know when to visit. But one fateful night, a gust of wind blew the flames into her room, causing a tragic fire that killed lovesick Lily, whose ghost has since slammed doors, locked rooms and fiddled with radios as she mourns her lost chance at love.
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6. Ghost walks in Halifax
Between victims of the Titanic, casualties of the 1917 Halifax Explosion and fallen soldiers from revolutionary wars, Halifax plays host to a slew of historic ghosts. If you’re brave enough to join Tattle Tours’ evocative evening ghost walk, you’ll tread in the footsteps of some of the most terrifying. At the Old Burying Ground—an historic cemetery dating back to 1794—you’ll find the grave of Major General Robert Ross, who led the charge that burned Washington in the War of 1812. Since he did not successfully complete his mission, Ross’ restless spirit has been seen to stalk the cemetery at night, sword drawn in readiness for the next battle.
7. Ghost walks in Montreal
The Ghost Walk & Dark Encounters tour divulges the sinister side of Old Montreal with tales of charlatans, criminals, witches and ghosts. Among the most gruesome stories is that of headless Mary Gallagher, who’s renowned as one of the most deranged spirits to still walk the city’s cobblestone streets. Axed to death and then beheaded by a fellow prostitute in a fit of drunken jealousy in 1879, Mary reportedly returns to the site of her murder every seven years, searching in vain for her severed head.
8. Ghost walks in St. John’s, Newfoundland
Murder most foul, torrid trysts and duels to the death are all on the agenda on the St. John’s Sinners and Spirits Tour. Guides regale guests with the haunted history of Canada’s oldest English-founded city, including the legend of a kind-hearted longshoreman, who’s said to haunt Water Street. Tricked by a demon posing as a lost young boy, the longshoreman offered to carry the sobbing child home on his shoulders. But block by block, the boy became heavier and heavier until the man could barely walk. Though the longshoreman finally escaped the demon’s grip by hurling himself over a bridge, he was never the same after his brush with the paranormal.
9. Ghost walks in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Fort George National Historic Site is considered the most haunted place in one of the most haunted towns in Canada, and it’s no wonder. The site of a devastating battle during the War of 1812, it’s also where a retreating general gave the devastating order to destroy Niagara. Candlelit ghost walks hosted by the Friends of Fort George will guide you through this foreboding fortress, but it’s the back tunnel leading to a lookout tower that will really test your mettle: The trek down the cold and narrow 70-foot-long stone passageway is conducted in a thick, oppressive darkness. One tour guide’s story of feeling an icy grip coming from the stone wall (resulting in livid bruises) might send you screaming for safety.
10. Ghost walks in Quebec City
If you happen to hear the sounds of rattling chains and blood-curdling cries on this ghost walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec, you’re not alone. They’re likely coming from the ghost of the notorious witch and murderess La Corriveau, who was executed in 1763. In a practice reserved for the most heinous criminals of the time, La Corriveau’s corpse was left on display in an iron cage for 30 days after her demise. Though every building said to have housed her cage has since caught fire, La Corriveau apparently still believes she has a score to settle, as her spirit continues to terrify unsuspecting citizens of the historic Quartier Petit Champlain.