Travel

7 spooky places to visit in Canada (even if it’s not Halloween)

From haunted hotels to an infamous island, plan a visit to one of these spooky spots in Canada — if you dare

  • Oct 31, 2019
  • 1,059 words
  • 5 minutes
Can you name this spooky spot? (Photo: SamuelDuval/Wikimedia Commons [CC by-SA 3.0])
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Halloween comes just once a year, but if you’re the kind of person who craves chills and thrills, you’re in luck: Canada has an abundance of spooky spots to get your pulse racing all year long. Here are seven of our editors’ favourites. 

Caribou Hotel, Carcross, Yukon

At this famous Yukon hotel, a ghost may even draw your bath for you. Now that’s service! (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC by-SA 3.0])
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Perhaps no accommodation in the North is more infamous for its resident ghost than the Caribou Hotel in Carcross, Yukon. A designated Yukon Historic Site more than 100 years old, the Caribou Hotel is home to spirit Bessie Gideon — a former owner of the hotel who died in 1933 but remains stuck there for all eternity. Bessie has been known to slam doors, knock on floorboards, stand in the windows to scare passersby and even fill guests’ bathtubs with bubbles. According to the locals, however, she means no harm at all. In fact, she’s a big part of the hotel’s tourist draw. Bessie was even featured on her own Canada Post stamp in 2015. How many ghosts have that kind of claim to fame?

Peggys Point Lighthouse, N.S.

Canada’s most photographed lighthouse also has a sad and spooky tale attached to it. (Photo: KristaKals/Wikimedia Commons [CC by- SA 3.0])
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Canada’s most photographed lighthouse is also the site of one of its saddest ghost stories. Although there are several variations on the hair-raising legend, the basic story goes like this: A woman named Margaret (a.k.a. Peggy) settled in Peggy’s Cove after suffering the accidental death of her child. One day, to cheer up the grief-stricken Margaret, her husband decided to perform a funny dance out on the rocks, but slipped and fell to his untimely death. Unable to recover after losing both child and husband, Margaret jumped into the ocean and was swept away forever. Or was she? Visitors to Peggys Cove often report seeing a woman in a blue dress standing out on the rocks, but when they try to get a closer look, she jumps into the water and disappears.

The Diefenbunker, Ottawa

Travel through this tunnel at the Diefenbunker Museum ... and emerge into Canada’s Cold War past. (Photo: SamuelDuval/Wikimedia Commons [CC by-SA 3.0])
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Scout your sanctuary to survive the zombie apocalypse at this creepy, Cold War-era bunker just outside of Ottawa. Built by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1959, the aptly named Diefenbunker was a top secret, 9,290-square-metre facility intended to allow the Canadian government to operate safely underground for 30 days in the event of an up to five-megaton nuclear blast. The Soviet Union never did drop that bomb, and the bunker is now a national historic site and museum offering daily tours, escape rooms and other special events. 

Oak Island, N.S.

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Maybe you’re a fan of the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. Maybe you’ve read or heard about it elsewhere. Regardless, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the mysterious, booby-trapped “Money Pit” on Oak Island in Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay has to be a least a little intrigued by the lethal tales of buried treasure — six men have died trying to uncover it. Ever since a teenager started digging in the circular depression on the island in 1795, treasure hunters have been flocking to the Oak Island pit believed, according to an amateur cryptologist, to hold two million pounds sterling. Oak Island Tours offers both public and private tours of the private island for those wanting to see the infamous isle firsthand.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alta.

The castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs hotel has its share of spirits. (Photo: Don Surphlis/Can Geo Photo Club)
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Whether they seek The Bride, Sam the Bellman or some other apparition, the Fairmont Banff Springs resort attracts its fair share of ghost-hunting guests. The Bride, who died in the hotel in the late 1920s falling down a marble staircase, is so infamous she was featured on a coin from the Royal Canadian Mint, while Sam, thought to be the spirit of 60s head bellman Sam McCauley, is a friendly phantasm, mysteriously addressing guest problems. Then there are the haunted rooms, with various tales of otherworldly visitors who enjoyed the picturesque landscape and castle-like hotel so much in life, they returned for good.

The Olde Angel Inn, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

It’s said that as long as the Union Jack hangs over the door of the Olde Angel Inn, its resident ghost won’t give any trouble. (Photo: Ccostel5/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0])
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Considering how much history this English-style inn and pub in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake has witnessed in its 200-plus years of operation, it’s a bit surprising that the place has acquired only one notorious spirit. Legend has it that during the American invasion of May 1813, a British captain named Colin Swayze ignored orders to abandon his post, staying in town to wait for his lover. As the American forces descended, Swayze fled to the inn’s wine cellar and hid out in an empty barrel. We’ll spare you the gory details of what happened next; let’s just say that the invaders’ bayonets quickly found their mark. Today, Captain Swayze still makes his presence felt around the inn, but as long as the Union Jack hangs over the door, he’s harmless. And even if you don’t have a run-in with Swayze’s ghost during your visit, the traditional pub fare here is scary good.

Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Breton, N.S.

A perfectly spooky day at the Fortress of Louisbourg. (Photo: Tim Addison/Wikimedia Commons [CC by-SA 3.0])
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At more than 300 years old, how could the Fortress of Louisbourg not be haunted? The French began construction of this walled community on the rocky eastern shoreline of Cape Breton Island, which survived two sieges by the British, in 1713. Today, visitors can explore the town and learn about daily life in the 18th century. But you may find more than just Parks Canada interpreters within its stone walls. A haunted doll at the old DeGand house, a spectre dressed in period clothing yelling French obscenities, and the spirits of some 42 soldiers, whose graves were uncovered during a storm, are just some of the otherworldly inhabitants reported at the Fortress of Louisbourg.

 

Bonus: Room B15A, 50 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

This is where we put misbehaving Can Geo staff. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Can Geo Travel)
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It was probably just a storage closet, but there’s something about this small cement-block cell in the sub-basement of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s headquarters at 50 Sussex Drive that sets the imagination running wild. Why is the door so thick? Why does it have such a heavy-duty latch and hinges? Obviously, it was built during the Cold War to conceal some experimental super-creature that broke out, swam across the Ottawa River, and is now living its best life in the Gatineau Hills. But you didn’t hear that from us.

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