Ottawa’s most picturesque high school, Lisgar Collegiate Institute, has stood at 29 Lisgar street in the Downtown area since 1873. Despite having hosted many notable alumni (including Tom Cruise, Alex Trebek, and Matthew Perry) the school harbours a much darker history.
Lisgar lives in infamy as one of Ottawa’s most haunted buildings, but few know the true stories behind its hauntings.
Should you visit the campus during one of Ottawa’s notoriously frigid winters, you may notice that a certain section of the courtyard is blocked off. This barred area lies directly beneath the drastically steep roof of the fourth floor attic, where snow and ice tend to accumulate.
In the early forties, Lisgar’s head girl was walking alone beneath this same window. A recent heavy snowfall followed by a frost froze the mountain of snow atop the roof, turning it to ice. Due to the weight, a slab of ice slid from the roof, killing her. To this day, passersby often claim to see a slim girl’s figure standing watch from the attic window.
The attic is technically the only room on the fourth floor. Or rather, it would be, if it actually had a floor. Instead of a floor, the attic has a few parallel wooden planks. It was once used as a shooting range for the Lisgar Rifle Club and the Lisgar Cadet Corps, who had to lie flat on these planks to practice their shooting. The attic was also used as storage for janitorial and sports equipment. In the past, janitors had to exit a door at the far end leading out to the roof, to brave the harsh elements and remove ice and snow.
But there is some debate as to who truly haunts Lisgar’s attic. One day, a certain janitor (who had earned the malicious nickname The Asp from students) was out shoveling the roof when he lost his footing on the ice and fell 100 feet to his death.
Staff and students began to notice a strange presence shortly after. Other janitors said they would feel a drop in temperature when they approached the door to the attic, and would avoid going up there at all. Others experienced feelings of being watched, strange noises from above, and strange lights coming from the attic window late at night.
Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence arose in the the 70s, when the school was being renovated. Inspectors discovered traces of several electrical fires that had began in the walls of the attic, but had seemingly been put out on their own. This was a strong confirmation for many of the staff and students that The Asp was still present in their school, as during his time there he was well-known for his ability and fervour to fix anything and everything that was broken.
Whether it's the long lost head girl or The Asp that continues to possess the topmost tower of Lisgar, I believe it only adds more interest and mystery to the rich history of the school and the city itself.
Grace Mahaffy is a 19-year-old Professional Writing Student who has lived in Ottawa virtually forever. She enjoys visual art, music, literature, and spending quality time with her dog. She also has a healthy enthusiasm for exploring unsolved crimes and all things eerie and mysterious.