This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 10th, 2018.
Rattling doors and crying porcelain dolls are the stuff that ghost stories are made of. Ottawa as a city is a fantastic area filled with activity and heritage. However, one of Ottawa’s most unique attributes is its long history of ghosts. With so many heritage buildings located in the city, it isn’t strange to consider their morbid history. The Bytown museum, located next to the similarly haunted Chateau Laurier, is rumored to be haunted by Duncan McNab, a previous supply manager.
Despite being dead for over 150 years, his spirit remains active within the museum. The Bytown museum is known for cold spots and the peculiar sound of footsteps that persistently follow workers and visitors.
Originally designed to act as a storehouse for supplies, it eventually underwent a drastic transformation in the 1950s, turning into a museum that would host the history of the Ottawa area and the Rideau Canal. However, despite any alterations that the building underwent, ghosts seemed to cling to the building. The Bytown Museum has gained notoriety for its haunting, bringing in a host of paranormal experts and even the local haunted walks of Ottawa, all seeking to unveil the secrets of the building.
The Bytown Museum is famous for more than just cold spots and the sound of footsteps, though. Porcelain dolls have often appeared to be crying, items move freely of their own accord, and strange experiences with orbs of light that flash in rooms. Rumors say that the museum isn’t haunted by a single ghost, but at least two, due to an encounter with Lieutenant-Colonel John By having controlled a computer within the building, bring up his name again and again on a document. By was an engineer who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal and the founding of Ottawa (originally known as Bytown).
However, an argument can be made that the ghosts are neither McNab or By, but rather the hundreds of Irish workers who died during construction of the canal. With little ceremony and burial rituals, bodies had often been disposed of freely. Not until 2004 was a plaque commemorated to mark their passing. Irish workers had taken jobs digging the canal due to the limitations they faced during their time, and they suffered from illness, exhaustion, and hunger while working on the canal. Death rates were high and it wouldn’t be unlikely for a spirit or two to be restless still. The Bytown museum is perched beside the canal and could play host to the Irish. As Tony O’Loughlin said, canal workers were “despised in life and forgotten in death”.
Who knows what or who is behind the disturbances in the Bytown Museum. It could be a disgruntled previous worker as a manager, or it could be dozens of restless souls, rattling at the doors and stomping across the rooms.
Check out the museum here: https://bytownmuseum.com/
Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.