Rideau McMadness

Ottawa is filled with plenty of buildings rumoured to be haunted. Visitors travel from far and wide to gaze upwards at the green roofs of Parliament, or to speculate about the supposed hauntings of some of the historic buildings downtown. Even the lengthy Rideau Canal draws tourism. In winter, it is transformed into one of the largest outdoor skating rinks. There are plenty of buildings scattered around Ottawa that attract plenty of attention, but one of the most infamous in the area is the Rideau Street McDonald’s.

Positioned by the Rideau Centre shopping mall and close to Parliament, it draws in high numbers of visitors daily. Because of low prices and having both a front and a back entrance, this particular McDonald’s location draws in steady attention.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Everyone has heard of the Rideau Street McDonald’s. With perpetual visits from the police and recurring videos trending of brawls, it is legendary. One can hardly manage to complete four years attending an Ottawa university without watching the poorly filmed video of one particularly large fight, where a raccoon is pulled from a man’s jacket.

The popularity of this McDonalds location is primarily based off of its physical location. By sitting close to Parliament and other government buildings, it is also nestled close enough to the University of Ottawa, which attracts a high number of students. With student budgets, positioning in proximity to Rideau Centre and the Byward Market, this location is clearly very attractive to consumers.

You might notice, visiting the location, that classic music unexpectedly plays over the speakers. Perhaps management is attempting to psychologically tame the savage beasts with their choice of background music? Who knows. Despite this music, however, police officers visit this location daily to handle issues involving drug use and violence.

Violence is a staple of the Rideau McDonald’s experience. Dinner with a show is a key description of this location. Guests frequently verbally assault workers and begin physical brawls that are often caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube within hours. The wise visitors travel in groups, as chaos is a constant attribute to the Rideau McDonald’s location, and can quite swiftly pull any innocent bystander into the mix.

mcdonalds

Because of this aggressive reputation, the Rideau McDonald’s restaurant has changed their open 24 hours reputation and instead, has shifted into being open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Because of the constant need for police backup and numerous aggressive encounters within the store, they have also opted for hiring trained security. Safety has finally become a priority, after a lengthy history of assault and brutality on site.

Despite the alleged hauntings in nearby buildings like the Bytown museum or Chateau Laurier, the Rideau McDonald’s is somehow far more terrifying than a few ghosts. If you feel like you’ve missed out on the prime 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. experience, don’t worry. Plenty of wild incidents also occur throughout the day.


Leave us a comment if you’ve experienced a terrifying encounter at the Rideau McDonalds, or risked your life venturing into the bathroom down the hall.


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Rachel Small

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.

Prague: In the Dark of the Night

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, November 3rd, 2018.


Looking for some prime haunted locations to get a good thrill? Then look no further than the Czech Republic’s capital city, Prague. With its twisting paths, haunting architecture, and mysterious atmosphere, it's not hard imagining that Prague is overflowing with supernatural occurrences.

Old Town in particular is a hot-spot for lingering spirits who can’t seem to find rest in their eternal slumber. While there are numerous sites and hauntings to visit, here are some of the more intriguing ones you might want to see (or avoid) on the dark streets of Prague.

Photo courtesy of David Curry on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of David Curry on Flickr.

Perhaps you’ll encounter “The Headless Templar”: a dishonoured knight beheaded for a crime long forgotten by the living. He can only be released from his ghostly wanderings if slain by a mortal person in combat. Are you brave enough?

Need a shave? “The Mad Barber” was a man who dabbled in alchemy, trying to make mountains of gold for himself despite various warnings. This plan obviously didn’t go well: he lost all of his money, his family fell apart, and he lost his mind. He eventually started slicing into everyone who crossed him with his razor, and was beaten to death when he challenged a group of soldiers. If you’re willing to let his ghastly figure shave you, you’ll find him wandering Karlova Street, waiting to be set free.

The Czech Republic has some fantastic beer. Should you overindulge, don’t be scared if you encounter a tall, skeletal man on your way back to the hotel. He only bothers the drunks on the street for money. Legend has it that he was once an unusually tall man who sold his skeleton to a doctor for a fortune. Celebrating his new found wealth, he went out to celebrate, but became overly intoxicated and bragged about his luck to the wrong people. They robbed him and stabbed him to death. His restless spirit now wanders in the hope that he can buy his skeleton back.

Everyone loves a good turkey, right? Well go to Kampa Island during the night of Good Friday and you may see one: on fire! This phantom creature gobbles around the old mill since one of the previous owners roasted and devoured it whole when he should have been fasting. The man became ill and died within a few hours. Every year since then the turkey’s flaming image appears. Please note that you must not challenge the turkey: the turkey is evil and shall prevail. You will burn.

If you’re in the area and interested in investigating these and other haunts, click this link and check out the map below. BohemianMagic has put together an interactive map for prospective ghost hunters to follow.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 28th, 2018.


Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the fact remains that horror is not simply limited to fiction. The debate over whether or not ghosts do exist is one that’s been argued for centuries. However, what is not up for debate is the existence of ghost towns. Perhaps you’ve seen coverage of this matter in a movie. Think Silent Hill for a popular example. But ghost towns don’t just exist in the movies. They are very real. And, ironically, considering the name, they tend to draw quite a large amount of lively tourism to them.

Have you ever wondered how many ghost towns there are, dotted throughout our world of the living? Perhaps you’ve even heard of some, like Hashima Island in Japan, or Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of the one I intend to cover today: Pripyat.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Chernobyl Disaster, this is the breakdown: On the morning of April 26th, 1986, in Pripyat, Ukraine there was a power surge in the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant. It triggered a chain reaction that ultimately led to a catastrophic nuclear disaster. Prior to this event, Pripyat, the city most directly affected by the accident, held a population of approximately 14,000 people. After the disaster, it held 0.

But the thing that makes Pripyat so fascinating is the tourism that it attracts. The reasons for the abandonment of all ghost towns in this world vary greatly, but Pripyat’s is still relevant, even now, some thirty years later. It remains to this day extremely radioactive, and experts predict that it will remain that way for hundreds of years still to come due to health risks posed from the radiation. The include various kinds of cancer, deformations, and acute radiation syndrome. In fact, many people who evacuated Pripyat in the early days following the accident developed cancer and subsequently died from it.

Despite this level of danger, Pripyat has attracted countless tourists from all over the world. Evidently radiation has died down just enough to allow tours through parts of the city, but if you ask me it’s still a very calculated risk by all those that enter. After all, every person that goes into Pripyat on a tour must be cleared by a radiation detection machine before leaving. How inviting!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

But I can understand the fascination that ghost towns such as this generate. Maybe it’s a side effect of being a writer, this unrelenting curiosity, but it’s astounding to me that a place which was once so thriving and grandiose could turn into something so haunting and left-behind. Pripyat in particular looks and feels like a place completely frozen in time. There are pictures of dolls and teddy bears left behind, old classrooms and nurseries completely as they were, but with a thick layer of dust and decay covering them now. There is even a ferris wheel that was new and completely unused at the time of the evacuation that stands in this vacant world inhabited by nothing but radiation, dust and debris, and perhaps the occasional animal.

But when I really get thinking, I have to wonder if the radiation is truly the only thing that haunts the city.

I’m not saying outright that Pripyat is a town full of ghosts. But I have a hard time believing that a town that was abandoned so quickly and so entirely by all its living inhabitants wasn’t taken back over by inhabitants of a different kind.

For a more detailed guide on the requirements of touring Pripyat, please refer to this blog written by Stephanie Craig, a woman who participated in a tour group through the city herself.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Year Without Summer

Before 1815, Mount Tambora, measuring at 4,300 metres tall, was one of the largest volcanoes on Earth. For comparison’s sake, Yellowstone is currently 2,805 metres tall, and Mauna Kea, the world’s current largest volcano is 4,205 metres (excluding the section below sea-level).

On April 5th, 1815, tremors began to shake Mount Tambora, a volcano located on Sumbawa Island, in present-day Indonesia. For a few days it seemed like it would be just like any other volcanic eruption. But on April 10th, a catastrophic eruption occurred, which was so massive it could be heard as far away as Sumatra Island, over 2,000 kilometres away, and its effects reached as far as Europe and North America. To this day it remains the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. It measured at a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), a number that was last reached in 180 AD when the Lake Taupo volcano erupted.

For a more detailed look at how big the Tambora eruption and its after-effects were, Erik Klemetti gives an excellent breakdown in the article “Tambora 1815: Just How Big Was The Eruption?

Photo courtesy of  Jagoush  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jagoush via Adobe Stock

When Tambora first erupted, approximately 10,000 people were killed immediately. It was later discovered that these were all residents of a village that had previously lived in the shadow of the volcano. The village was also called Tambora, and after the eruption it was completely buried in volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows.

Many decades later, various remains and signs of the life that had once existed there were eventually uncovered. Items such as dishes, pots, and glasses were found. In addition to these belongings, entire homes, which included the remains of people still in them, were found, buried beneath volcanic debris.

On top of this, the language that was spoken in this area was exclusive to Tambora, so when the village was wiped out, so was the language. An entire place, its culture, its language, and its residents were completely removed from the map in a matter of moments.

Those first 10,000 people, however, were unfortunately not the only victims of Mount Tambora’s volcanic wrath. Over the next couple of years, the deal toll from the aftermath totalled close to 90,000 people.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The continuously rising death toll that followed over the years was due to many different problems such as crop failures, subsequent famine, problems resulting from ash build-up in the Earth’s atmosphere, etc. In fact, there was so much ash build-up that it blocked out the sun’s rays and global temperatures dropped by an average of 1-2 degrees Celsius for the following year, which plunged the world into a volcanic winter. In North America, there was frost and snowfall throughout the months of June, July, and August. Because of this, 1816 was dubbed “The Year Without a Summer”. In fact, temperatures around the world were in flux for a few years afterwards.

Climate change wasn’t the only thing that the eruption of Mount Tambora and the subsequent “Year Without a Summer” inspired, however. Because of all the ash build-up in the atmosphere, sunsets that year were a particularly vibrant shade of orange, and despite the terrible reason behind them, they were strikingly beautiful. Painters such as J.M.W. Turner were inspired to capture the beautiful sunsets, and writers such as Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Pidoltri created works inspired by the event. In the summer of 1816, the three writers took a trip to Lake Geneva. But because temperatures were all colder than usual that year, they were stuck inside a cabin for much of their time. To keep themselves amused, they created a contest among themselves to see who could come up with the scariest story. Shelly presented Frankenstein, Byron presented his poem, “Darkness”, and Pidoltri presented Vampyre.

Art wasn’t the only thing that came out of this horrible aftermath, however. The invention of the bicycle, the discovery of Indiana and Illinois and the birth of the anti-slavery movement were also attributed to the aftermath of Mount Tambora’s eruption.

Photo courtesy of  homocosmicos  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of homocosmicos via Adobe Stock

1815 was Mount Tambora’s largest eruption, but it wasn’t the only one. Tambora remains to this day an active volcano, and it had two more eruptions after 1815, in 1880 and 1967. There was also higher seismic activity in the volcano between 2011 and 2013.

Nowadays, Tambora stands at approximately 2,851 metres high. It’s about half of what it once was, and though it’s still active, it doesn’t pose the same threat it did prior to 1815. That being said, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, and there are plenty of other volcanoes - such as Yellowstone - that lie in wait. And if Yellowstone does decide to go, well, the effects are extremely likely to rival even those of Tambora.

We can never truly know when the next disaster will happen. All we can do is treat the Earth with respect, try to be prepared, and acknowledge that everything is a little more interlinked than we are perhaps willing to admit.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Salem Witchy Tourism

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 31st, 2018.


In the early 90’s Wicca, a branch of Paganism, became officially recognized as a religion despite developing activity in the 1940’s. This acceptance of a religion that actively promotes the idea of witchcraft and rituals shows that society has developed quite a bit since the time of the Salem Witch trials.

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time that was founded in hysteria and paranoia that spread throughout the community, spurring people to isolate suspicious members and accuse them of treachery and consorting with the devil. These accusations were particularly devastating because torture and a biased justice system followed, and ended with a death sentence. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, with a high number of the accused being women, but only 20 overall were executed.

Present day Salem has changed quite a bit since the days of the witch trials. Nearly 1500 local women have publically announced their status as witches, and have helped establish a strong witch tourism trend in the area. Storefronts publically announce fortune readings and a variety offer spellcasting. This tourism feeds off of the deliberate atmosphere that Salem has promoted, by hosting a variety of events like ghost tours and parades celebrating the dead. These events are popularized with the intent in gaining economic revenue, and sustaining the area.

Witchcraft has gained popularity due to the change in popular culture. People have grown up with television shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as books like the Harry Potter series. Typically, witches are presented as positive members of their respective societies. The shift in trends pushed witchcraft into a popular light and in turn popularized Wicca.

However, with this tourism so fixated on the promotion of witchcraft as well as theatrical performances, the question of historic sensitivity comes to light. The Salem witch trials had represented massive torment within a community, but less attention is being focused on the historical sufferings that people faced and instead being put on celebrating Halloween inspired events to promote revenue streams.

It can be argued that this is an attempt to take and transform the brutality into something positive. The witches of Salem suffered because a powerful group of men occupied positions of power in the justice system. It can be powerful, retaking a brutal narrative and turning it into something positive that celebrates women. Women in Salem today no longer need to hide their identities and are able to commemorate these differences in lifestyle.

The Puritan church leaders must be rolling in their graves as women actively participate in their community based off of witchcraft and rituals. Salem witchcraft attracts a wide variety of tourists who want to participate in the customs and traditions, and also engage with the festive events that Salem hosts.

The power of the original Salem witches clearly lives on in Salem today, as generations later they are still remembered. If you’re interested in checking out some tourism related to these events, check out the official website for Salem.

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com


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Rachel Small

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.

A Screaming Omen

Irish mythology contains a lot of twisted creatures that have, over time, been cast aside in favour of more light-hearted, Disney-like creatures. For example, when you hear the word ‘fairy’, what exactly comes to mind? A thumb-sized, blonde girl with a green dress and a magic wand? Tinkerbelle certainly had an attitude, but she isn’t exactly what I’d call dangerous.

Fairies from Irish mythology, on the other hand—the real, original fairies—are a little less “faith, trust, and pixie dust”, and a little more problematic. But Irish mythology covers quite a lot of creatures that are classified as fairies, such as banshees.

Photo courtesy of  rodjulian  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of rodjulian via Adobe Stock

The origin of banshees has been traced back to the 8th century, where they were, regardless of what you believe in, real women. They were hired to stand outside the houses of those who were close to death, or at the funerals of those who’d already died, singing mournful tunes in order to help family and friends of the dead grieve. These women were referred to as keeners, because of the sounds they made for their songs.

As time went on, however, these women and their jobs became less popular. Reality faded into legend, and the keeners were replaced by banshees—spirits that roamed the hills of Ireland, warning the living that someone around them was soon to join the land of the dead.

Contrary to what some would believe banshees aren’t actually harmful. Banshees are harbingers of death: they don’t cause it, they simply warn of it.

However, while it seems to be agreed upon that they can take several different forms, ranging from a hauntingly beautiful young woman to a wrinkly old hag, it seems that the myth has formed different iterations over time. In some instances, the banshee is an angry spirit that trails their enemies, shrieking in celebration when said enemy finally dies. In others, they’re very dedicated to their families, even in death, and they follow them around, singing songs of sorrow, or screaming a warning into the night when a family member is about to pass on.

Photo courtesy of  locrifa  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of locrifa via Adobe Stock

In the latter, the legend goes so far as to say that banshees follow very specific families. That list has grown over the years, but it originates with the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Grady’s, and the Kavanaghs. Each family was believed to have its own banshee, and as the members married and had children, the family’s banshee would continue to follow each descendant and watch over them for generation after generation.

While mostly considered to be a myth in modern-day culture, the belief in banshees was originally so strong in Ireland that it was considered blasphemous if you were someone who didn’t believe.

Nowadays, no one can really say for sure. But if you ever find yourself in Ireland, and are awoken by a piercing scream, be aware that death may be near.


What are some myths you’ve heard around the world? Feel free to leave stories in the comments below!


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Spirits in the Cotswold Hills

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 17th, 2018.


The city of Bath and its surrounding towns have been host to a wide array of different societies and peoples throughout history—Iron age Britons, Romans, Saxons and Georgians, among others. So, it’s not at all surprising that the area still bears their marks, in architecture or in stories of a more ghostly nature. And if you believe those stories, then you’ll find that most deceased residents have decided to stick around.

The first, and perhaps the most infamous of the stories around Bath, is the legend of Sally in the Woods. So the legend says, Sally was a little girl who was locked in Brown’s Folly, the tall tower standing alone in the woods, and she died there.  Since then, people have reported seeing the apparition of a girl in the roadway, which is pitch black at night without lamps or moonlight coming through the trees overhead. Cars often swerve to evade the phantom and crash into the dark forest. As such, the legend lives on and residents continue to avoid that road at night, for fear that Sally will emerge in their headlights.

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Another story, which has made the rounds in the past century, involves the Bath Theatre Royal on Sawclose, built in 1805, and still the most incredible work of Georgian architecture. I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the following stories, as I did not see or feel or smell anything during my many visits as a child. However, others who have gone to see performances do experience some rather strange phenomena attributed to different spirits.

One of the spirits people report seeing is known to all as ‘the Grey Lady’. She sits in the top left box during shows, leaving behind the distinct smell of jasmine and a terrible depression that affects show-goers for days after. The Grey Lady is said to be an unnamed Victorian actress, who hung herself in the Garrick’s Head Pub next-door to the Theatre when she discovered her husband had murdered her lover.

Of course, we cannot speak about Bath without mentioning the outer towns. And this time, it’s Bradford-on-Avon, the quaint town built on a once thriving textile industry and the site of a few grizzly happenings. Where, in 1532, a local man was burned at the stake for heresy, now there is a zebra-crossing, or a crosswalk for those of you who are of a more North American persuasion. The road crossing is between a pharmacy and a charity shop. Residents and tourists pass over it daily, most without knowing what transpired there five hundred years ago.

Thomas Tropenell, the above mentioned Bradford resident, was arrested for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation—the belief that bread and wine given at the eucharist were quite literally the blood and body of Christ. For doing so, he was burned at the stake upon that very crossing. And sometimes it feels like the fires are still burning. People who cross the road often experience a sudden change in temperature, a sudden unexplainable heat on an otherwise cold winter day. Those who do feel it don’t know what to attribute the heat to, but author Jasper Bark theorizes that the execution of Thomas Tropenell left a permanent mark that can still be felt today.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Ghost of Watson's Mill

When I was a kid, my grandma told me my first ghost story. Maybe this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but my grandma doesn’t like ghost stories. She doesn’t believe in them, she doesn’t tell them, they just “aren’t her cup of tea” as she’d tell me.

But she told me this one. So, without further ado, here’s a story this Voice has been meaning to tell from the beginning:

On the way out of Ottawa, Canada, there is a small suburb called Manotick. I’ve been there myself countless times growing up. It was where the best dancewear store was, so my mom would take me to buy all of my clothes and shoes. It’s where my mom rushed me to practice from school every day for the two years I was in the Nutcracker. It’s where my mom took me and my grandma for Sunday afternoon lunches when I was a kid.

Photo courtesy of  emkaplin  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of emkaplin via Adobe Stock

It’s a peaceful, sleepy little town, with cute shops and beautiful scenery, The Rideau River runs right through.

But in the very heart of this peaceful, sleepy little suburb, it’s also where Watson’s Mill stands.

Watson’s Mill is not in itself a problem. It was opened in 1860, by Joseph Merrill Currier and Moss Kent Dickinson. They had obtained the water rights to the property just a year previous, and in fact, it’s Dickinson who’s said to have named Manotick in the first place, after the Ojibwa word for ‘long island’ or ‘island in the water’.

It was a powerful mill; according to Rideau-info.com, it “was capable of producing 100 barrels of flour a day and the sawmill could cut up to two million board feet per year.” The problem in this story was a combination of things.

In 1861, on the one year anniversary of the mill’s opening, Joseph Currier brought his new bride, Anne Crosby Currier, in for a tour. They made it all the way up to the attic, while Joseph pointed out all the machinery and inner-workings of the mill to his beloved bride. On their way back down, however, tragedy struck.

Photo courtesy of  bonciutoma  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of bonciutoma via Adobe Stock

Anne was dressed in a flowing dress with a hooped skirt that allowed the dress to drag behind her. It was no doubt a beautiful dress, but an unfortunately disastrous choice to wear inside the mill.

On their way back down from the attic, between the third and second floor, a part of Anne’s dress got caught in one of the Mill’s rotating shafts. The rotating shafts moved too quickly for her to realize in time to pull herself free, and she was yanked against a pillar, dying on impact.

Joseph was so heartbroken that when he left the mill that day, he never looked back. He sold his shares to his partner, and never again returned. Anne, on the other hand, never left.

Over the years, many have reported seeing and hearing things that had no explanation while wandering in and around the Mill. Some reported seeing a woman peering out of a second-floor window, while others swore they heard light footsteps creaking across the upstairs floorboards, even when there was no one up there to make them. What’s more, some visitors to the Mill even report being grabbed or shoved while walking around the upper floors. Many believe it to be Anne, likely trying to warn them away from the same fate she suffered.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Voices Recommend: Short Horror Films

Recently I have been watching some pretty cool short films on youtube, because I, unfortunately, exhausted my supply of feature films. Most of them, on average, are about fifteen minutes long. But the great thing about short films is that they aren’t spread thin like longer feature films, which means greater attention to detail. Short films also offer more creative freedom and they give talented filmmakers the chance to show their work. So let’s dig in!

1.) The IMom

Directed by Ariel Martin, The IMom is a dark science fiction film that tells of a future in which the work of a mother is done instead by a robot, called the IMom. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, the immediate result is a detached and lazy biological mother,  who is more interested in her phone than she is her own children. Meanwhile, the eldest son, Sam, is not particularly fond of his real mother or the IMom, even though the IMom is the one cooking for him and helping him memorize the Bible as part of his homework.

Fortunately, the IMom has the Gospel of Matthew installed, so she recites the verses for him:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

There’s a power cut, and IMom seems to glitch for a few moments, before recovering and returning to normal. Then she shares a heartwarming moment with Sam. They talk about the sheep and the wolf again. Sam asks her, which one are you? You look like me, so you must be a sheep like me.

But IMom is neither.  Brace yourself for a horrible twisty ending.

2.) The Top of the Stairs: Agatha

This one is a neat little period piece, but it’s not like Downton Abbey or Poldark.  Agatha, directed by Timothy Vandenberg, is more reminiscent of  2012’s The Woman in Black, and I loved every second of it. We begin in an old house, probably around the early 20th century. A little girl stands in the hallway, where she is asked by a stern-sounding lady if she has come alone, as requested. The lady instructs her that her job is to take food up to the attic, place the food on the table, then leave. She must never, ever walk past the table.

So the little girls goes up into the dark attic with a plate of raw chicken. There’s a figure lying on the bed, who makes this horrible wheezing sound—not reassuring, right? But she manages to put the plate down without incident, then she gets paid for doing so. The little girl does this several more times. The second time the figure is nowhere to be seen, the third time it’s sitting by the window. You’ll have to find out what happens next.  I recommend this one for the sheer creepiness factor and the incredible makeup work. It sent shivers up my spine.

3. And They Watched

Inspired by the reinstatement of the electric chair in Tennessee, Toronto-based director Vivian Lin dives into the topic of capital punishment her gruesome yet thought-provoking film, And They Watched.

A prison janitor goes about his job, numb to the dreadful realities of the place where he works. He cleans the windows that separate the electric chair from its audience, paying no mind to the lives that have been lost there. He’s so divorced from reality that he doesn’t even notice the grisly apparitions following him around. However, the deceased prisoners want retribution.

4.) Dédalo

If you are a fan of the Alien franchise, then Dédalo, directed Jerónimo Rocha, is certainly something to watch. It’s a dark and grimy science fiction horror that takes place aboard a space freighter, which has been overrun by alien creatures. Siena, the main character, must survive in the maze of machinery while avoiding the creatures, who are eating her crewmates.

5.) The Exorcism

This one isn’t so much a horror film, but more of a comedic homage to the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. So, if you have a dark sense of humour, this will give you the giggles at the very least. The Exorcism, by Adam Bolt, explores the surprisingly endearing relationship that has developed over the years between the demon Valak and Jacob, the exorcist on call.  Together they recount all the times they’ve met, telling stories to the bewildered and markedly unimpressed sister of the possessed woman. It’s a wild ride, let me tell you, and absolutely worth a watch.


That’s all we have for now! Let us know what you think about these spooky films in the comments, or give us a shout on twitter @atticvoices!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Blood in the Attic: The LaLaurie Mansion

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 21st, 2018.


Leading up to 1834, the LaLauries were members of high society: hosting lavish parties and pampering their guests. Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a beautiful, charming woman who purchased the mansion in 1832 and maintained the household herself; her husband had little to do with the property and its affairs. Behind closed doors, she was known to be quick of temper and lashed out.

When a young female slave fell to her death from the roof (in order to escape being beaten after brushing a snag in the Madame’s hair), neighbours who had seen the Madame burying her in the courtyard called for law enforcement. This little girl was not the first reported death at the mansion; one man had purposefully jumped out a window to escape punishment. That window was quickly sealed with cement and remains so to this day.

Photo courtesy Luděk Maděryč via Pexels

Photo courtesy Luděk Maděryč via Pexels

As there were laws restricting the mistreatment of slaves, Madame LaLaurie was forced to give up her slaves. However, she convinced a relative to buy them back for her, and heads turned the other way. After that, rumours circulated Madame LaLaurie about her brutal treatment of her slaves, despite showing civility to them in public (and even manumitting two of her own). The LaLauries quickly lost popularity in the French Quarter, which worsened the Madame’s temper.

Suspicions were confirmed when a fire started in the kitchen in 1834: Madame LaLaurie was, in fact, torturing her slaves. Rescuers found that at least seven of her slaves had been locked in the attic and were mutilated beyond belief. Reportedly, the cook set the fire herself, either as a suicide attempt or to expose the horrors taking place. She named Madame LaLaurie responsible for the treachery in the attic. More exaggerated tales claim that these were macabre medical experiments and that Madame LaLaurie’s doctor husband aided her.

When the attic was discovered, locals flew into a rage and ransacked the mansion. The LaLauries were nowhere to be found; they had fled the scene amidst all of the commotion. Most rumours claim they left for Paris: others whisper that Madame LaLaurie returned under a new identity. However, a plaque with Madame LaLaurie’s name and death date can be found in New Orleans.

As for the rest of the LaLaurie slaves, witness accounts say that the slaves in the attic died from their wounds or were already dead when they were discovered. Some even swear they were put on display at an auction as proof of Madame LaLaurie’s brutality.

Today, the LaLaurie mansion is now privately owned and has been converted into apartments, but before then it had unoccupied. Nicolas Cage bought it in 2007, but never spent a night there and sold it a year later. It most recently came under the spotlight as a filming location in American Horror Story: Coven (according to Huffington Post).

Photo courtesy of stevesheriw via Flickr

Photo courtesy of stevesheriw via Flickr

Passersby claim the mansion itself has a spooky atmosphere about it, that ghostly screaming and the clanging of chains can be heard from within. On occasion, the little girl who fell from the roof can be seen around the place. Unfortunately, there are no tours of the interior since the mansion is privately owned, but walking tours of New Orleans usually make the detour.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

The Hook-Man

When I was a kid, we had these books in our school library, called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. There were three different volumes, and each was a collection of short horror stories for children. I read a single story in them once, and terrified myself so much that I didn’t sleep for a week.

But my best friend growing up adored them. She was constantly sitting in the aisles reading them, and checking them out to bring home. She was always much braver than me, and spent a large majority of our shared childhood trying to convince me to share her love of horror stories. (Actually, she did, eventually. That shout-out in my bio about being forced to watch Paranormal Activity? That was her.) Nonetheless, at the time, I wouldn’t bite.

But for years, she’d tell me scary stories she’d read, make up legends of her own, or even insist that her own basement was haunted. I of course, vehemently denied it all. But there were still many-a-night that I lay awake in bed, too terrified to open my eyes, but also too terrified to fall asleep.

She was, or so it seemed to me, utterly fearless. That is until we came across the urban legend about the Hook-Man.

Photo via scaryforkids.com

Photo via scaryforkids.com

I don’t remember where she found this story. I don’t remember if it was in one of the books in the library, or if someone had told it to her, but I know that we learned it long before we were allowed access to the Internet. Regardless, this was a story that got to her. Remember my post about Bloody Mary? Well, as it would seem, the Hook-Man is my friend’s Bloody Mary. To this day, she refuses to get into her car after dark without first checking the trunk and the doors.

As with any urban legend, there are several variations of the story, but generally speaking, it begins with a young couple, up on Lover’s Lane by themselves in a parked car for some… alone time. They’ve got the music on the radio for some ambiance, but their good ol’ makeout session is interrupted by a sudden radio broadcast.

Photo Courtesy of Ella_K via Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Ella_K via Pixabay.com

It tells them that a patient of a nearby mental institution has broken out, and that he’s crazed and murderous. He’s also missing his right hand. In its place is a hook, that he wields as a weapon. The radio broadcast encourages the young couple - and anyone else listening - to be careful while they’re out and about, and to call the police immediately with any information they come across about the Hook-Man.

The girl in this legend immediately becomes terrified upon hearing the broadcast and insists her boyfriend take her home. He, however, is not scared at all, and just wants to go back to getting it on. He tries to keep kissing her, but the mood has effectively been ruined. In many versions of the legend, she even insists that she’s heard scratching on the car door.

Annoyed, the boyfriend relents, begrudgingly, and takes her home. When they arrive at her home, he gets out of the car to open her door, but just stares at the handle. She then jumps out herself to see what’s the matter, and there, hanging on the handle of the door, is a silver, bloodied hook.

Photo via thesanguinewoods.com

Photo via thesanguinewoods.com

Now, this is one of many endings to the legend. In a surprisingly large amount of variations, the boyfriend doesn’t survive, and is instead murdered by the Hook-Man. In others, the escaped murderer is out to punish all college students that are sexually active. In all versions he’s a cautionary tale against teenagers disobeying their parents to sneak out after dark, and engage in underage sex.

In fact, some even believe that the legend is based in reality, because in the 1960s, the legend was mailed in as a Dear Abby letter, framed as though it were a real event that teenagers needed to be warned about.

Regardless of whether or not the legend is real, it was enough to scare my friend, and I’m sure many other people over the years. But isn’t that the whole point of a good urban legend?


Let me know your thoughts down below! I’m quite interested in urban legends, so feel free to comment or send in a submission of an urban legend you’ve heard of, and it might even appear in a later post!


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Weird: A Review

In February, we here at Voices In The Attic did indeed leave our dark hovel for a night out at the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, where we watched a performance of Weird: The Witches of Macbeth.

Weird is the flagship show of Theatre Articus, a performance company based in Kitchener-Waterloo. You might recognize this show from the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival, where it was the recipient of the Cutting Edge Award. The Ottawa Fringe Festival also gave Weird a glowing review, and awarded it the Best of Fest in 2015. So we knew we were in for a pretty great show.

As the name suggests, Weird is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. It combines both the famous verses from the original play, and new verses in Iambic pentameter by writer and director Phillip Psutka. However, Macbeth is just an invisible character on the sidelines of this play, because the Weird Sisters are centre stage, as they rightfully should be.

The Witches of Macbeth are iconic characters in both theatre and literature. To many modern women, they are a symbol of female power. However, at the time of their conception, post-Elizabethan Britain had descended into a hundred-year witch panic. Dissident women were put to trial, burned or taken to the gallows for something as small as a birthmark. So, naturally, the original Weird Sisters were supposed to represent evil and spiritual treachery.

That’s not the case in this play though. Philip Psutka and co-creator Lindsay Bellaire masterfully present the witches as multi-dimensional characters, who are anything but evil. Instead, they are servants to nature. The three sisters—played by Lindsay Bellaire, Lauren Fields and Emily Hughes—are incredibly compelling women.

All in all, Weird truly is a unique composition of aerial acrobatics on crimson silks, imaginative storytelling, fantastic acting, and expert use of Shakespearean language and rhythm. And we didn’t even need a translation book to understand it! I would absolutely recommend this show to anyone looking for innovative Canadian theatre. If you see it around, go see it!

I will leave you with a particularly potent (and some might say relevant) line from Weird: “The earth doth rot, when power is had and reason is not,”


Check out Theatre Articus’ website for more information.


Do you love the Witches of Macbeth as much as we do, because we really love the Witches of Macbeth. Talk to us in the comments!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Screaming Tunnel

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 13th, 2018.


Niagara Falls, Canada is home to many ghosts. Countless landmarks are actually inhabited by citizens that once walked the streets of this beautiful place, and now refuse (or are unable) to move on. Perhaps you’ve even heard of some of its most famous haunts: The Olde Angel Inn, The Blue Ghost Tunnel, and The Doll’s House Gallery, to name just a few. It’s also home to a place known as “The Screaming Tunnel”, which is an old railway tunnel that has attracted a couple of ghosts of its own.

The first is an old woman whose story many locals have passed down through the years. Back when there was still a small neighbourhood nearby the tunnel, this woman lived in one of those houses with her husband. Legend goes that she and her husband would be up every night fighting, and that when they finished, she’d storm down to the tunnel, and scream at the top of her lungs. The neighbours believed that she was trying to make everyone feel the pain she did in her marriage. When she died, it would appear that she kept returning to her tunnel to scream.

The main ghost in the tunnel, however, is where the story gets interesting. It also happens to be where the story gets really twisted.

The most popular ghost in the Screaming Tunnel is a young girl, thought to be around 14 years old. The problem is, as time has passed, her story has gotten more and more warped, and three variations currently exist. But they all end the same way.

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Rapprich via Pexels.com

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Rapprich via Pexels.com

The first variation of the story says that she was a little girl who got caught in a nearby barn fire, and ran to the water that flowed through the tunnel at the time in an effort to soak her burns. But she was too late, and succumbed to her burns while lying in the stream.

The second variation believed her to be the child caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between her mother and father. When her father lost, he became so enraged, that he took her down to the tunnel, doused her in gasoline, and burned her alive.

The third variation is the most horrifying. It involves the little girl being sexually assaulted by an old man who, in order to destroy the evidence of his crime, murdered her, and burned her body in the tunnel.

Regardless of the lead up to the event, because of the fact that she died burning, it’s believed that anyone who enters the tunnel and tries to light a match will draw out her spirit, which becomes so terrified of the flame, that she blows it out. This inability to light a match in the tunnel, and the sound of screaming often heard, is what draws people and their curiosity to the site.

No one quite knows which story – if any –  is real, but there are many legends about this tunnel aside from the above mentioned. Either way, next time you find yourself in Niagara Falls, consider checking out the tunnel. Just beware of any screaming that you hear emanating from inside. And whatever you do – never light a match.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

What to Read in March 2019

March is the month of surprise snow storms, excessive Irish drinking, and some time to check out some magnificent books. If you’re pondering what your next great read will be, have no fear. We Voices keep up-to-date with both classics and the newest releases in the book world.


The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was the divine mind behind Beloved, the beautifully creepy story about a family and their life after abolished slavery, chronicling the experiences of a black woman named Sethe. Beloved focused on not just her days as a slave and her time living as a free woman, but also the mental trauma that she endured. Morrison infused Beloved with the heavy theme of infanticide, representing the true historical actions of many slave women.

Morrison was also the writer behind many other great books like The Bluest Eye and Paradise, and in February 2019, she came out with a brand new book, The Source of Self-Regard. As a collection of essays, speeches, and meditations, she evaluates social issues with keen awareness as well as giving insight to her work as a creator and artist.

If you’re interested in some deep reading to get you through the chaotic snow drifts of March, I strongly recommend giving Morrison a look.

Check out  Penguin Random House  for Morrison’s new book.

Check out Penguin Random House for Morrison’s new book.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

A possibly biased opinion, but Shirley Jackson was the foundation of modern Gothic literature. With her creepy inspiration, she published a massive collection of short stories along with five novels in her lifetime. Her most popular novels were The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but The Sundial was one of the most deviously clever novels.

What set this book apart from others was the thoroughly unlikeable cast of characters living in a grand house, driven mad with paranoia and potential prophecies of end times.

Jackson appreciated fine architecture. Her work is full of grand mansions that are overwhelming in physical details and personal histories. The Sundial revolved around the large mansion of the family, and turned into their prison as they began to fear the world ending, due to a supposed ghostly apparition claiming that the family would inherit the Earth in a year’s time.

Fearful of destruction, panic from the real world Cold War infused itself into the plot. The family retreats into this mansion like a bunker, preparing for world’s catastrophic events. They begin to burn their possessions to make room for necessities like first aid kits and rations, and slowly descend into madness.

Winter might seem like the end of the world, but you can at least take comfort in Jackson’s delightful dialogue and dramatic plot lines.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out  Penguin Books UK  for this great read.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out Penguin Books UK for this great read.

Looker: A Novel by Laura Sims

I always appreciate a fantastic debut novel, especially when it is so masterfully creepy.

Telling the story about a woman obsessed with her famous neighbour, Laura Sims describes a delicate boundary between admiration and obsession with a master touch. Living just houses away, there is no privacy to be found in this story. The narrator obsessed over not just the woman but her garbage and looks, adopting similar lipstick and clothing to become the woman.

The theme of stalking in literature has become immensely popular due to the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series You, and we have become much more aware of the privacy concerns. We’ve possibly all tried to cyber stalk an ex-partner online, or have been stalked by others, and we have grown startling used to cat-fishing. Looker is a new spin on the issue because it removes romantic obsession from the story, and infuses the desire for friendship and basic relationships.

Friendship is often an undervalued theme in literature, and Looker revealed the danger that can exist between two different people, without the inclusion of a sexual element.

An excellent contribution to the thriller genre, Sims manages to include jealousy and real world infertility struggles into her work. We should all be keenly anticipating her next novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out  Simon & Schuster  for this brilliant novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out Simon & Schuster for this brilliant novel.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson

Famous for her poetry, Maggie Nelson draws inspiration from real events that impacted her own family when her Aunt Jane Mixer went missing and was found murdered in the 60s.

Her work The Red Parts had been written after her collection of poetry based on Jane, titled effectively as Jane. The poetry shed insight of true crime and the issues of inherited grief, and contained enough research that it became heavily valuable to detectives who picked up the case. She was communicating frequently with the lead detective, sharing her personal research and providing careful insight to certain elements of the case.

Due to limited resources at the time, Mixer had been a cold case before DNA had grown highly useful. With new technology and options available, her case was reopened and connected to two different DNA sources, allowing justice to be legally given.

The Red Parts is a personal examination on the experiences on living exposed. Mixer had originally been suspected to have been a victim of the Michigan Murders, but elements of her case had separated her from other bodies. Because of the mystery behind her disappearance and reappearance in a graveyard, her family suffered trauma and confusion. Death becomes more terrifying when a sister and daughter are found strangled on top of a grave, with her possessions pooled around her.

Nelson cleverly gave testimony as a stranger to her dead Aunt, but it shows how deeply Mixer’s murder impacted her own life, and her relationships with her family. An excellent nonfiction look into the corners of the true crime world, Nelson weaves poetic language into her prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to  Penguin Books UK  and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to Penguin Books UK and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Recently widowed Elise is sent to her husband’s country estate, and is tossed into a Gothic landscape filled with unsettling wooden figures that slowly multiply over the course of the book. Carrying on in the same vein of other excellent books like The Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca, this book is highly recommended to readers who love the feeling of anxiety twisting in their stomachs.

She’s recently released a new novel in the past year, and I highly recommend browsing through her work. She establishes historical scenery and fixates on proper representation of women as both victims and villains.

Modern (and successful) takes on the Gothic genre are incredibly rare, but Laura Purcell managed to successfully transform the element by including brand new material like wooden mannequin dolls. With a dead cow left on the doorstep of the country estate and unreliable narrators, this is a brilliant read that you will fly through. You’ll be pondering over the true villain for days afterwards.

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up  Penguin Random House .

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up Penguin Random House.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Is anything more haunting than a postwar mansion slowly crumbling away?

Sarah Waters spins a haunting tale about the Hundreds Hall, a once impressive and massive estate that is now falling to pieces. The garden is overwhelmed with weeds and the house is becoming a challenge to maintain with limited income by the Lady of the house and her two grown children. Doctor Faraday becomes quite close to the family of Hundred Hall, and begins to pry apart the ghostly secrets within the walls.

This book is definitely the opposite of a classic ghost story. Waters uses this novel to reveal the historical downfall of the entire class system post war, with the infusion of a possible ghost running around. With delightful atmosphere and lengthy dialogue sections, this book is fairly lengthy, but a perfect read to get you through the month of March.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, you will adore the tense and unreliable narration, and the vivid characters springing to life across the pages. Waters has written many great novels that focus on different areas of history, but this is one of her most vividly researched pieces.

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at  Penguin Random House Canada .

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at Penguin Random House Canada.


Don’t be a victim during the final stretch of winter’s cold, icy grip. Set yourself up with either some fictional tales of ghosts or brilliantly written accounts of true crime, and find yourself a comfortable place to hermit.

Any books catch your attention lately? Let me know @rahel_taller.


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Rachel Small

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.

Stop and Smell the Poison

As children, many of us wasted away hours traipsing through our parents’ gardens, pretending to be princes or princesses, witches, dragons, and all kinds of other fantastical things. Our imaginations ran wild, and with such a beautiful backdrop like the sweet-smelling flowers planted by our parents, it was the perfect scene to set the mood.

Photo courtesy of Jacqui via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Jacqui via Flickr

The world is full of many different gardens that range in size and beauty. One such place is the Alnwick Garden, located in North East England. This garden, however, is unlike the ones we all grew up playing in for more reasons than one. For behind all the roses, and tulips, and tiger-lilies, far at the back, a black, iron gate is found, warning all those brave enough to enter. Because The Alnwick garden is very beautiful indeed. But it’s also the world’s deadliest garden.

In 1995, when Ralph Percy became the 12th Duke of Northumberland, his wife, Jane Percy (now the Duchess of Northumberland) obtained ownership of Alnwick Castle’s garden. Her husband instructed her to do something about the garden, which had fallen into an unfortunate state of disuse over the years. Not wanting to have just any lovely, traditional garden, the Duchess, taking inspiration from a trip to Italy’s poison garden, Medici, decided to gather as many of the world’s most lethal plants as she could find, and plant them for her own collection. Today, the Alnwick Poison Garden gathers around 600,000 visitors a year, so the Duchess was clearly onto something.

The garden is full of all manner of poisonous and deadly plants. With a range of different plants, from the simple cannabis plants, to those much more vile, such as Amorphophallus Titanum - also known as ‘the corpse flower’ which is named for the fact that it smells like a dead body. The symptoms and effects the plants in this garden have on people also vary. Some simply smell horrible, while others have horrifying, physical effects: Hemlock causes muscular paralysis, including the muscles required in breathing. Foxgloves, in addition to hallucinations, also cause vomiting, blurry vision, seizures, and death. And one of my personal favourites, Atropa Belladonna, more commonly known as “Deadly Nightshade”, has the ability to cause dilation of the pupils, hallucinations, rashes, and death.

Atropa Belladonna; Photo courtesy of DerWeg via Pixabay.com

Atropa Belladonna; Photo courtesy of DerWeg via Pixabay.com

In the past, these plants have been primarily used for innocent means, leaving the user to learn a little too late of the real effects. Deadly Nightshade, for example, was often used by Venetian women in drops from the berries juice, because as mentioned above, it dilated their pupils, and they believed this made them more attractive. Too bad it also made them go blind, in addition to its other less-than-pleasant effects mentioned above.

Angel’s Trumpet was thought to be a strong aphrodisiac, and Victorian women often added a little of its pollen to their tea in order to experience its high. Unbeknownst to them, Angel’s Trumpet, in addition to hallucinations and delirium, also causes comas and death. Not exactly worth the high if you ask me.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Andison via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Duncan Andison via Shutterstock

Because of the degrees of deadliness of all the plants contained within, Alnwick’s poison garden is littered with warning signs, discouraging all visitors from eating, touching, smelling, or even getting too close to the plants. However, there are always those that choose not to listen, and it should come as no surprise a number of people pass out in the gardens each year, and there are countless health and safety reports written up. Word to the wise: don’t ignore the signs.

The signs, however, are not the garden’s only means of security for the general public against these plants. The garden was granted special permission to grow coca plants (cocaine) and marijuana plants (weed), both of which are kept in metal cages within the garden because of the effects they can have on the human body. Duchess Jane Percy uses these plants to get across an anti-drug message to children who tour the garden, telling Smithsonian Magazine that “it’s a way of educating children without having them realize they’re being educated.”

Ultimately, that’s the goal of the garden: to showcase something unique, but also to teach everyone who visits about the world’s most dangerous plants, and what they can do. In fact, not every plant in the garden is just lethal - some actually have other uses too that, when handled properly, can actually be quite helpful.

Opium Poppy; Photo courtesy of Vishnevskiy Vasily via Shutterstock

Opium Poppy; Photo courtesy of Vishnevskiy Vasily via Shutterstock

Take, for instance, the opium poppy. It has a wide array of uses that range from harmless to harmful, depending on which part of the plant you use, and in which concentration. Its ripe seeds can be harvested as an ingredient in some baked goods, oils and seasonings, and can even be used as birdseed. The capsules of its unripe seeds, however, fall on the more dangerous end, as the milky latex within is what is used to produce drugs such as opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin, all of which have positive medical uses, but are lethal when overused.

Of course, not everyone to ever have made use of these kinds of plants used them for pure reasons. In London in 2010, a young woman was arrested for crushing up Monkshood seeds and sprinkling them in a curry for her ex-lover.

Thankfully, no one has ever died in the garden. So if you’re like me, and itching for a chance (no pun intended) to get into this garden and have a peek around, check out places such as Trip Advisor. Just remember to heed the warning signs, lest you be one of the many visitors to pass out among the beautiful, but deadly plants.


I couldn’t even begin to cover all of the plants in this awe-inspiring garden, but feel free to leave a comment below about your favourite deadly plant, and what exactly makes it so harmful. Perhaps I’ll even re-visit this topic in the future, and do a post on some of the specific plants behind the black iron gates.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Bytown Museum Hauntings and Disturbances

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 10th, 2018.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

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/

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com


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Rachel Small

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.

Merciless Mountain

Back in the day, having a car or an indoor toilet used to be the much-coveted status symbol that we all wanted. Not too lofty a goal, right? It’s pretty sensible. An indoor toilet won’t put your life in too much danger, especially if you have a good toilet plunger. Well, the status symbol of the late eighties was considerably less sensible. People wanted to reach the summit of Mount Everest, one of the dreaded ‘Eight Thousanders’, the highest and most dangerous mountain on planet Earth.

You’ll find Everest in the Himalayan mountain range, rising 8844.43 metres above sea level. That means the summit is in the upper troposphere, where oxygen is sixty percent less than it is at the first base camp. So it makes sense that a person would want to go there, where they can quickly die from several different fatal illnesses, like cerebral edema, hypothermia, and altitude sickness. To date, two hundred and twenty-three climbers have died, mostly from falling or being caught in the path of a colossal avalanche.

Consequently, Everest is littered with corpses that cannot be retrieved because it’s too dangerous to take them down. One such corpse is simply called ‘Green Boots’. It lies in a limestone alcove four hundred metres below the summit and has been there ever since the ’90s. Though this corpse remains unidentified, people theorize that it is Tsewang Paljor, a member of the first Indian team to reach the summit. He died during the infamous 1996 Everest disaster, which also claimed the lives of seven other climbers.

Image courtesy of  Maxwelljo4 0 via  Wikipedia .

Image courtesy of Maxwelljo40 via Wikipedia.

Another of Everest’s victims was none other than George Mallory, a participant in the first three British expeditions on the mountain. We will never know whether George ever reached the summit on his last try in 1924, because he never returned to his camp. No one knew what happened to him—until 1999, when American climber Conrad Anker discovered Mallory’s corpse lying face-down on Everest’s north face. Despite the fact that he had been dead for seventy-five years, his corpse was remarkably well preserved, mummified, bleached white by the sun. He still had a full head of hair, flesh on his body, a boot on one foot and name-tags on his clothes.

Left: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Right: photo courtesy of Dave Hahn via Getty Images.

Left: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Right: photo courtesy of Dave Hahn via Getty Images.

They were even able to retrieve his personal effects: goggles, letters, a knife, and a compass. On formal examination of Mallory’s corpse, it appears that he sustained a severe head wound, likely inflicted by a stray ice axe. However, the body of his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, has never been found.

The third and final of Everest’s most notable corpses is Hannalore Schmatz, the first woman and the first German citizen to die on the mountain. Schmatz reached the summit in October 1979 and was on the descent when she and her fellow team member Ray Genet decided to set up camp in the death zone, despite being told not to by the Sherpas. In winter, the temperature in the death zone can drop as low as -60°, so it’s no surprise that Genet died of hypothermia during the night. Genet’s death prompted Schmatz and the Sherpas to start the descent again, but the attempt was short-lived. Schmatz was eventually overcome by exhaustion. She asked for water, then passed away.

An attempt was made to recover her body by Police Inspector Bahadur Thapa and Sherpa Ang Dorje, but both men fell to their deaths in the attempt. So, for the next two decades, Schmatz remained on the mountain. Hundreds of passing climbers encountered her corpse one hundred metres from Camp Four, still sitting up, eyes open and hair blowing in the wind. But, eventually, a fierce wind blew her corpse over the Kangshung face, and she was never seen again.

There are approximately one hundred and fifty bodies left on Everest, many of which will not be recovered or even found. Sounds to me like we should respect Mother Nature and leave that mountain alone.

For more information, check out this informative video by Caitlin Doughty from Ask A Mortician.


Would you consider climbing Everest? Or do you think commercial mountaineering has gone too far? Tell us in the comments, or tweet @Atticvoices!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Yukon Jack with a Dash of Cannibalism

Here at Voices in the Attic, we promise to bring you a regular dose of all things creepy. And I like to think we’ve made good on that promise. Today, however, I bring you something new. While you can still call it creepy, this story is one I think is just plain gross. So buckle up, readers, and allow me to tell you about one of Canada’s most hilariously disgusting traditions: The Sourtoe Cocktail.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Sager via The Wallstreet Journal

Photo courtesy of Ryan Sager via The Wallstreet Journal

As of 2016, Dawson City, Yukon held a population of 1,375 people. Despite this limited population, it draws tourists from all over the globe. All of this is due to a creative, crazy tradition, held within the Sourdough Saloon. The tradition involves joining “The Sourtoe Cocktail Club”, by drinking the club’s namesake.

The Sourtoe Cocktail is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a shot of alcohol with a human toe in it. The toe has actually been through several incarnations, all of which come with their own unique backstory.

The tradition began, as legend would have it, with a pair of brothers. Louie and Otto Liken were miners and rum runners during the 1920s. One day they were caught in a blizzard, and Louie suffered severe frostbite that ultimately cost him one of his toes. The brothers preserved the toe in a jar of alcohol as a way to commemorate their trip. It’s uncertain how it left their possession, but once it did, it ended up in the possession of Captain Dick Stevenson, in 1973.

Intending it as a joke, Captain Dick decided to start an exclusive club, which had only a single rule in order to gain membership: anyone who wished to be a member was required to drink the Sourtoe Cocktail. As he liked to say: “You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe.” There weren’t any other specifications besides that. Some say that originally you had to drink the shot with whiskey, but these days it can be any kind of alcohol that’s 40% or higher. Most elect to drink the cocktail with Yukon Jack.

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Courier

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Courier

But sadly, the first toe was not long for this world. In 1980, a man named Garry Younger was attempting to break the Sourtoe record of most shots in one sitting. He made it through thirteen before his chair fell backwards, causing him to accidentally swallow the toe.

Not much is known about the second cocktailed toe, other than the fact that it was donated from somebody who had it amputated after discovering they had an inoperable corn.

The third toe, much like the first, was donated from a victim of frostbite, and also became the victim of swallowing from a saloon patron.

Toe number four mixed the legend up a bit, and was donated anonymously before later being stolen.

Both the fifth and sixth toes were donated to the saloon by an old patron of the saloon who wished to exchange his withered digits for a round of drinks for his nurses.

Toe seven was about as uneventful as toe number two, in that all anyone seems to recall about it is that it came from someone who had it amputated due to diabetes.

The eighth toe—and my personal favourite—was dropped off at the saloon in a jar of alcohol with a note that simply said: “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.” Important words for all of us to keep in mind! But this is not the only reason this toe is of particular interest. On August 24th, 2013, toe number eight met its demise when a man named Joshua Clark walked into the saloon and ordered, as many had before him, a Sourtoe Cocktail.

Photo courtesy of LadyHobo via Ladyhobo.com *

Photo courtesy of LadyHobo via Ladyhobo.com *

Clark was not the first patron of the Sourdough Saloon to swallow one of the toes. He was, however, the very first to do it intentionally. Upon ordering his shot, he promptly downed the whole thing, toe and all, and paid the $500 fine attached to the toe in case of swallowing, and then immediately left the bar. Because of him, the fine was subsequently hiked up to $2,500.

His actions also deeply angered Terry Lee—otherwise known as the Toe Captain: the man who oversees the drinking of each Sourtoe Cocktail—who then sent a search party after Clark and the toe, which was comprised of bartenders and regulars at the saloon alike, as well as, according to some, a few Hell’s Angels.

This search party never found Clark, however, and by the following morning, he’d left town. He was then permanently banned from the Sourdough Saloon.

Fortunately for the legend though, the saloon had two toes in circulation at the time, and Clark only swallowed one, so the cocktails were still able to continue. However, toe number eight was allegedly Toe Captain Terry’s favourite, and he was very displeased that not only was it stolen, but that the remaining toe was suffering from overuse and would, therefore, need to be replaced soon.

According to CBC, Clark felt so guilty about what he’d done that he eventually got in contact with the saloon, and willed his own big, right toe to them upon his death. Whether or not Clark intends to keep that promise remains to be seen, but nonetheless, the Sourtoe Cocktail is still in circulation today, awaiting the next brave souls willing to give it a kiss.

Perhaps you’ll even be one of them.


*This particular photo came from the blog of a woman listed simply as “Lady Hobo”. She’s clearly someone who’s been to the Sourdough Saloon, and I encourage you to read her article, The Sourtoe Cocktail Experience, because not only does it include facts not in my post (including the fact that the Toe Captain has a list called “The Captain’s Shit List” with names of past “Toe Abusers”), but it’s a really well written article.

Let me know in the comments down below if you’ve ever tried the Sourtoe Cocktail, or if you ever would!


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.