Night at the Museum: The West Wing Ghost

Who is the entity haunting the exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Nature? 

It was a rainy evening last spring when my boyfriend and I, having heard nothing but great things about the exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Nature, decided to go and check it out for ourselves.

By Chester Oakley from Ottawa, Canada (Canadian Museum of Nature  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Chester Oakley from Ottawa, Canada (Canadian Museum of Nature  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian Museum of Nature—formally known as the Victoria Memorial Museum—was built between 1905 and 1911. The original mastermind behind the European-inspired design was architect David Ewort.

Aside from the beautifully arranged exhibits, the elegant staircase—which extends from the first floor to the fourth—caught my attention. Made of marble and encased by the recently constructed glass tower, the staircase merges the castle-like architecture of the original building with a touch of modernity. 

As with any old building of grandeur, it’s not uncommon to experience an eerie aura as you walk throughout. Others have experienced the same gut-sinking feeling as I did when climbing that staircase, nearing the fourth floor of the museum. In fact, both staff and visitors of the museum have documented a number of supernatural occurrences. Incidents of classic poltergeist behaviour such as doors slamming and elevators moving on their own are commonly shared tales among residents here in Ottawa. Ghostly encounters in the west wing on the fourth floor have been so abundant that this portion of the museum remains closed to visitors. 

Again, the question begs, who is the ghost haunting the west wing on the fourth floor of the Canadian Museum of Nature?

"The Honourable Sir Wilfred Laurier" by William James Topley

"The Honourable Sir Wilfred Laurier" by William James Topley

Not surprisingly, there exist a number of ideas surrounding the identity of this lost soul. One theory is that David Ewort himself leapt from the roof of the building in 1912 upon its completion and is now making his presence heard. It is believed that he is in disarray over the museum’s original tower being demolished due to its instability in 1916. This theory has been deemed unlikely as David Ewort did not in fact plunge from the museum’s roof in 1912, but rather died of old age nine years later. 

Another theory is that of an aboriginal spirit who has latched onto an artifact in one of the museum’s exhibits. Could he be spending his afterlife wandering the upper west wing in shambles, choosing never to rest because a sacred artifact has been put on display rather than returned to its rightful owners?

Interestingly enough, Sir Wilfred Laurier, our eighth Prime Minister, was lain in state in the auditorium of the museum after his death in 1919. This occurred when the museum housed the Canadian Government after the parliament buildings were damaged in the fire of 1916. Could Sir Wilfred Laurier still be present in the capital, by way of his endlessly roaming spirit at the Canadian Museum of Nature?

The Canadian Museum of Nature offered me a first taste of Ottawa’s supernatural history and has since sparked my interest in experiencing all that our capital has to offer from beyond the grave. If you’re sceptical, sign yourself up for one of Ottawa’s Haunted walks to hear more haunting stories from the Canadian Museum of Nature.


Alexa Scott is a Carleton University Graduate currently in second year of the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. When she's not in class, she can be found watching Law & Order and perfecting her guacamole recipe. She also loves to spend time at the park with her best friend, a mini Goldendoodle named Maple. 

Loss and Locks: The Dark Side of the Rideau Canal


The Rideau Canal: the perfect place to have a picnic, take an evening stroll, or see a ghost. When most people think of the world-famous waterway, they conjure up images of Beavertails and ice skates or the leaf-strewn bike paths along the sparkling water. What some may not realize is that the Canal claimed many lives during its construction, making it the perfect place for paranormal activity.

Building of the Rideau Canal began in 1826 under the direction of Colonel John By, leading to the formation of Bytown—now Ottawa. It is estimated that 2,000-4,000 men worked on the Canal per year. Bush, swamp, and rock made construction difficult and the dangerous work and unhygienic living conditions contributed to approximately 1,000 deaths between 1826 and the waterway’s opening in 1832. Disease was the biggest cause of death, particularly malaria.  For more detailed information, read “History of the Rideau Canal”.

To accommodate these deaths, cemeteries were built close to the worksites.  Three are still accessible to the public; the rest have disappeared over the years. While it is safe to assume that graves would have been relocated before new construction began, the recent discovery of bodies near Queen Street hints otherwise. How many other bodies unknowingly lie below us? I think about the times that I’ve taken a book and spent blissful afternoons lounging under trees. Perhaps those solitary outings were not as solitary as I thought.

I have spent many hours along this iconic landmark and I have yet to experience anything paranormal but several ghost stories have popped up since its existence.


An old supply manager, Duncan McNab, and Colonel By himself reportedly haunt the former supply storehouse and treasury—now the Bytown Museum. Both visitors and staff have reported odd occurrences such as the sound of children crying, men’s voices, winking dolls and rattling doors.

Not all Canal-related deaths occurred during its construction. Davy Davidson was murdered after pack peddlers who were travelling along the canal invaded his home on Lake Opinicon—a lake that was formed during the building of the waterway. It was a grizzly murder but it’s rumoured that Davidson’s spirit is friendly. Several people have claimed to see the ghost canoeing across the lake.

The Rideau Canal is a beautiful feat of engineering and should be enjoyed by those who visit it but we should remember the sacrifice that was put into its construction. Next time you're admiring it, keep your eyes open and your senses alert; your peaceful walk might turn into a paranormal experience. 


Photo on 2017-09-25 at 1.56 PM.jpg

Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.