It is one of the oldest and most-acclaimed ghost stories in Ottawa, older than Canada itself. But why has the young spirit of Ann Crosby Currier stuck around Watson's Mill for over 150 years?
Along the Rideau River, in the heart of the community of Manotick, lies Watson’s Mill. Built in 1860, and originally owned by Moss Kent Dickinson and Joseph Currier, this notorious historic building is possibly one of the most haunted sites in the Ottawa area.
Shortly after Watson’s Mill’s official opening on Valentine’s Day, 1861, Joseph Currier decided to bring his young bride, Ann Crosby Currier, for a visit. They had just returned from their honeymoon and had only been married six weeks when tragedy struck.
Ann was ascending the staircase between the second and third floor when her dress became caught in the spinning works of the mill. With no time to free herself, she was flung against a wooden pillar and killed on impact.
After her death, Joseph cut all ties with the mill, moved to Ottawa, remarried, and built a house that is now the primary residence of our prime ministers. Although he escaped the misfortune of that awful day, some say his late wife never did, and that her spirit remains where it left her body.
It’s difficult to say when the signs of the mill's haunting began. One of the first accounts comes from a fisherman who visited the mill during a storm in 1921, claiming he heard unearthly screams and bolted immediately. Over the following decades many people have also reported hearing a woman’s scream and seeing the shadow of a woman in a white dress in the second floor window. Several visitors to the mill have claimed they felt a touch on their ankles or arms while walking on those same second floor stairs.
The Haunted Ottawa Paranormal Society (HOPS) has investigated the mill several times. They have experienced a number of unexplained sounds such as footsteps, knocking, disembodied voices, as well as strange lights, tugging on clothing, temperature change, and batteries draining without explanation. In 2010, HOPS founder and operations director Daniel Touchette insists that he was physically pushed by Crosby’s spirit while attempting to contact her. He had been asking the spirit whether she had been courting anyone other than her husband when he received the startling answer. “It was not an attack; it was a warning,” he says of the incident.
Perhaps this spirit only wishes to warn us, hoping that no one will end up like her in the dangerous works of the mill. Perhaps she mourns the fact that her husband settled down with another woman so soon after her untimely death. Or perhaps she simply believes she is still alive, still trapped between the second and third floors of Watson’s Mill, where she will remain for eternity.
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.