Some of Canada’s most charming towns may have more than a homey feel: a dark and mysterious history. Those who are fascinated by stories with ghosts from the past have tried to explain certain events and encounters that are said to have taken place there – especially in famous historic buildings and landmarks, which can often be the perfect setting for tales of spirits living among us. Fiction or not, many war stories and legends from long ago cast a shadow of mystery over these towns. Here are some popular towns with a hidden history:
1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
This town has earned the reputation of “Canada’s Most Haunted Town” and is making a business out of it (take a tour). The town’s dark history – including a violent war and being completely burnt down in the early 1800s – is the source of many ghost stories, some right out of a mystery book. There’s the ghost of an angry soldier at The Angel Inn, the violent legend on Lake Ontario’s shore, the Courthouse, the Prince of Wales Hotel, the Apothecary, and Royal George Theatre.
Otherwise, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming town on the south shore of Lake Ontario, with beautiful lakefront homes. Often called nowadays “the loveliest town in Ontario,” it has a beautiful marina, three theatres, shopping, golf courses, parks, beautiful farmland and the world famous Niagara wineries.
2. Banff, Alberta
Nestled in the spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff, Alberta is home to the century-old luxurious castle known as Banff Springs Hotel. Notably, Marilyn Monroe stayed here once upon a time.
Spooky stories about the 1888 hotel abound. Over the years, guests and employees have reported eerie encounters and mysterious happenings, including a former bellhop named Sam believed to still haunt the halls of the hotel, a murdered family in room 873 and a doomed bride who died falling down the hotel’s marble staircase.
The hotel’s haunted reputation lends a mysterious allure to Banff, an area otherwise known for its spectacular natural surroundings, rich cultural history, landmark buildings and historic homes.
3. Hamilton, Ontario
Rich history or sinister past? The town of Hamilton has seen one of the darkest, most violent history of crime, murder and mobsters. You can hardly walk a block without stumbling upon a historic (a.k.a. haunted) building: The Radius Café, The Royal Connaught Hotel, Right House, Hamilton Place, and Whitehern Mansion are just a few. Whether for entertainment or pure excitement, people here just love a good “ghost story,” according to Haunted Hamilton, who offers tours of the various spooky places in town, for those fascinated by the paranormal.
For the rest of us, skeptics, Hamilton is a down-to-earth town on the south shores of Lake Ontario, surrounded by beautiful nature, with access to conservation and recreational lands, waterfalls, hiking and biking trails, and filled with distinguished residential neighbourhoods such as Durand, Ancaster, and Dundas.
4. Victoria, British Columbia
Rumour has it that Victoria is the most haunted city in B.C. Such a beautiful old city has, of course, its fair share of castles; and since castles and ghosts go hand-in-hand, it must have its fair share of ghostly stories from the past. The Edwardian Hatley Castle is reportedly haunted by ghosts of the Dunsmuir family who once owned it. Craigdarroch Castle staff have reported an apparition of a little girl, the image of a maid, and unexplained footsteps and music have been heard. Maritime Museum of B.C., in Bastion Square, the city’s former jail and gallows, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, Victoria’s infamous “Hanging Judge.”
It seems that the residents of Victoria are not in the least unnerved by any of it. This time of year they organize the Ghosts of Victoria Festival, when you can take tours of all the sights in Victoria ever suspected of being haunted or remotely spooky.
5. Regina, Saskatchewan
Located in the middle of the prairie, the capital city of Saskatchewan, Regina is known as a friendly and down-to-earth town with beautiful residential areas (with no reported history of haunting.) However, its vast urban (and possibly haunted) forest, makes Regina the perfect setting for paranormal literature. In addition, two of the city’s landmarks have been known as “ghost residences.”
The 1891 Victorian style Government House in Regina has had its fair share of ghost sightings and eerie appearances, according to local history. The Government House is the former residence of the lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan. Howie, his former cook, died in the house, and to this day is credited with haunting the place, especially the kitchen.
The Casino Regina is located in a historic building that was previously the Regina Union Train Station. The Casino is presently a tourist attraction, but for those more interested in mystery than gambling, it’s the perfect setting for ghost spotting, particularly the spirits of the former train station employees who apparently still like to hang around. As if this wasn’t spooky enough, the basement of the building used to be a jail, where an unexplained male apparition was spotted. A female spirit on a catwalk above the gaming floor was also reported.