There’s lots of creepy places in the world, a fact worth pondering when the pumpkins come out. In fact, I just wrote about 11 of them for one of my favourite online haunts, Mental Floss. But what are the creepiest places in Canada?
While researching my book, I came across a few places that made my imagination tremble, the most unusual being Crooked Bush in Saskatchewan. My wife and I drove out there on October 30th, a dark, moody day in the prairies. Something had piqued my interest about this mutant grove of aspen. If it looked like it did in the few photos of it I could find online, then it demanded investigation. The Bush is located in the middle of nowhere, literally, but it is signposted in witch’s scrawl. I’d read that some farmers believed the place was haunted, and others the landing site of UFO’s, while botanists blame the malformed trees on a mutation. Well something must have caused that mutation, and UFO’s and ghosts are a good a theory as any. Once we started exploring the boardwalk, the wind picked up and it the leaves began to whisper. It was enough to send my wife scramming for the safety and warmth of the rental car. The entire experience was quirky and weird and unique and therefore twisted its branches into the book and onto the Bucket List.
I love the historical weirdness of Halifax’s Five Fisherman Restaurant, which was once a morgue for Titanic victims. Staff who work at this popular downtown restaurant swear there are things that go bump in the night, and if you ask your server, she’ll gladly tell you some of the stories. But hands down, my scariest supernatural moment researching the book was the night I spent in Ottawa’s hail hostel.
For over a century, the Nicolas St Gaol was a notorious hellhole, site of public hangings, torture, and all sorts of disturbing psychic energy. It was closed down in the early 1970’s due to the inhumane conditions for the prisoners, and opened up a couple years later as youth hostel because budget travellers will put up with just about anything. I arrived late and missed the nightly tour to the gallows and Death Row, which is maintained in the exact condition it was when the prison closed. Ottawa’s Haunted Walks kindly agreed to take me on a late-night solo tour, just myself and a young guide who quickly became spooked by the circumstances. Death Row, pictured above, is notorious for slamming cell doors, flickering lights, and other weirdness. I was acting brave, and she was acting brave, but as we walked through the upper floors of one of Canada’s most haunted buildings, we were both letting our imaginations freak us out. After the tour, I checked into a 4-person cell, which I had to myself. I’m a light sleeper at the best of times, but tonight every thud and creak was terrifying. It didn’t help that the cells were designed to echo noise, so guards could hear the prisoners. At about 3am, I needed to pee, which would entail leaving the safety of the cell, walking down a dark hallway to the communal bathroom. You know when you’re holding it in, hoping it will just go away? Tonight was one of those nights, and of course, it wasn’t going away. Oh well, if I’m going to get spooked by a supernatural incident, I might as well capture it on tape. So I switched on my video recorder, and walked down the hallway, waiting for a shadow to jump out behind a door. Of course, nothing happened. There’s a reason that TV show is called Ghost Hunters and not Ghost Finders.
So the next time you find yourself in a haunted house plagued by demons of the mind, the solution is simple. Hit the record button on your camera, and feel the terror disappear.