Christmas Recollections 2014 - Part 4

Christmas Recollections 2014 - Part 3

DECEMBER 23rd, 2014


We couldn’t stop there with the photos… we have some more to share! Christmas Eve is almost here and we just had to post some more pictures for you all.


2014 Christmas with The Nutcracker... Boshoi Ballet performance via Cineplex

2014 Christmas with The Nutcracker... Boshoi Ballet performance via Cineplex

Gingerbread 2014... our adventure in gingerbread house decorating - Lana's first time ever

Gingerbread 2014... our adventure in gingerbread house decorating - Lana's first time ever

Gingerbread 2014... detail on back of house - pirates welcome

Gingerbread 2014... detail on back of house - pirates welcome

Gingerbread 2014... Yeti the Snowman

Gingerbread 2014... Yeti the Snowman

Reflections from one year ago... the ice storm of 2013

Reflections from one year ago... the ice storm of 2013

From John's collection... Starlight Star Bright

From John's collection... Starlight Star Bright

Best wishes to you and yours!

Christmas Recollections 2014 - Part 2

DECEMBER 23rd, 2014


As Christmas draws closer, we thought we would share some more happy moments of our Christmases, in the form of photos for you to enjoy.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Angus MacKringle... the 2014 ornament from Lana to John

Angus MacKringle... the 2014 ornament from Lana to John

Father Christmas... decoration at the Lilies homestead

Father Christmas... decoration at the Lilies homestead

2014 Pressie from a dear friend... Hoot! Hoot!

2014 Pressie from a dear friend... Hoot! Hoot!

A Lilies' Family tree ornament... Skinny Santa

A Lilies' Family tree ornament... Skinny Santa

A Lilies' Family tree ornament... Santa's a hoot!

A Lilies' Family tree ornament... Santa's a hoot!

A Lilies' Family ornament... a representation of John's folks

A Lilies' Family ornament... a representation of John's folks

A Lilies' Family ornament... Muppet Snowman - Thou shalt not melt

A Lilies' Family ornament... Muppet Snowman - Thou shalt not melt

A Carbon Family ornament... an owl flying high - say no to drugs kids

A Carbon Family ornament... an owl flying high - say no to drugs kids

A homemade ornament from John's youth... Reindeer Games

A homemade ornament from John's youth... Reindeer Games

A Carbon Family ornament... Snowball fight

A Carbon Family ornament... Snowball fight

A Carbon Family decoration... Mr. Snowman

A Carbon Family decoration... Mr. Snowman

Christmas Recollections 2014 - Part 1

DECEMBER 17th, 2014


[Lana] John and I thought it would be nice to reminisce about some of our most memorable Christmases from years gone by. ‘Tis the season after all. So I sat and pondered for a while just which holiday was dearest to my heart. What criteria should I even base my decision on? Do I go back to my childhood when belief and imagination always put a smile on my face as I pretended to go to sleep early but really waited as long as I could to hear the sounds of jingling bells, hoof beats and the laughter of a jolly old man. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the presents that I always found under the tree that next morning but there was something about that anticipation of that night filled with magic which was like no other.

Perhaps I should look upon my teenage years when I received the best gift any 16 year old could possibly hope for as my brother passed down his vehicle to his newly licensed sibling. The look on my face was apparently priceless as I opened a huge box, revealing a smaller and smaller one until I eventually got down to the key. I had always been a spoiled child…this I can admit but nothing before or since would ever compare to this in the form of a material gift.

Maybe I should jump even further ahead to the holiday season when I met John for the first time and realized that this was the person I wanted to spend every Christmas with from that point forward. Initially, we had agreed to meet in a strictly platonic manner but that spark was there which we couldn’t deny. We couldn’t be together that Christmas Day but we haven’t missed one together since then.

No, I know the one I should choose, the year my family decided to plan a series of family events instead of giving gifts. We would actually have days where we could spend time together doing something that would provide memories for years to come. It was a great plan in theory. Then we realized it was nearly impossible for those of us who still work to get time off at the same time. We were moving in the right mindset at least.

What I finally decided on however is to choose nearly every Christmas I’ve ever had. I know, I know…it is a bit of a cop-out I suppose but I honestly believe it is the truth now that I’m looking back on it. I have been lucky enough to share every Christmas with my family and I have discovered just how very important that is. It isn’t about gifts (whether given or received) or some saint in a red suit…it is about spending time with those you love and expressing how happy you are to have them in your life. Perhaps we could even do this throughout the year instead of waiting for a holiday to say how much you love and appreciate them. This is something I have been guilty of in the past. That is changing as of right now.

So to all of my family and friends (including our extended Carbon Lilies friends and readers), if I don’t see you, please know I’m thinking of you and sending my love. Happy holidays everyone.

[John] I think I’m going along the same pattern here… I’ve been trying to figure what story or specific Christmas to recount but all I can come back to is the feeling of Christmas.

I remember as a child, after learning about the ‘truth’ of Santa Claus, knowing I shouldn’t believe but still thinking, “what if he really is real?” I remember lying in bed, knowing my parents were finishing the gift-wrapping and getting everything under the tree and I could hear the Boney M Christmas Album playing in the living room. I had left out the cookies and milk because I wasn’t quite ready to give up that tradition yet, and as the music ended and I could hear my parents heading to bed, I was positive that I was also hearing noises on the roof.

As a child I lived in a townhouse. I was sure that no one would have been coaxed into walking along the rooftops pretending to be Santa but I was absolutely certain that there was someone on the roof. I dared not leave my bed and tell my parents that I could hear someone on the roof… they would either tell me I’m imagining it or they would get me straight back to bed so that “Santa” wouldn’t be upset with me. To this day I don’t know what I was hearing. All I know is that I was convinced there were footsteps on the roof.

I would eventually fall asleep, thinking of all the aunts and uncles and cousins that would be at the house the next day for Christmas dinner. All the kids to play with, the music to listen to and that warmth and comfort of having the tree lights on and everyone around being so happy and loving towards each other. What a feeling.

To this day, the magical feeling that fills the room once that tree is up and decorated… the Christmas lights on and the Boney M Christmas Album playing in the background, being with my family and seeing friends, all the people I love… what an incredible feeling that is. If I happen to hear ‘footsteps’ on the roof… perhaps I’ll close my eyes and imagine Santa up there with his reindeer pals, munching on some shortbread cookies and drinking milk while feeding carrots to his furry friends.

I love this time of year… and to all of you… friends, family, supporters and all… enjoy this time with your loved ones and if your loved ones are not around, know that Lana and I send you the warmest wishes for happiness and health and all kinds of greatness in the coming year.

Merry Christmas everyone… and happy holidays for whichever holiday you may celebrate.

Ottawa 46 1/2 - Part 2

DECEMBER 7th, 2014


[Lana] We had made big plans to explore downtown Ottawa during the day but ended up sleeping in late. We compromised on spoiling ourselves with a little room service and working on our first blog posting, deciding on doing our investigation of the city the next day before heading home. Since we don’t get much time when we can actually focus on writing for Carbon Lilies, we accomplished a lot.

[John] I was exhausted and Lana’s cold virus mixed with Irish whiskey from the night before, made for a very difficult time waking up and starting the day. As much as I wanted to go on a walkabout and explore, I was so happy we decided to stay in and get this blog up and running. I don’t think we could have been happier with that decision. If only we could have that dedicated time every week. Lana – we need to create that dedicated time every week! Okay… I need to make that dedicated time every week.

Day 2:

[Lana] Learning our lesson from the day before, we left early to ensure we would have time to eat before the Original Haunted Walk. Right across the street from the hotel was a restaurant called Monkey Joe’s. The name was just too interesting for us to pass up. The décor had an interesting albeit slightly tacky feel that they designed seemingly on purpose. Fake palm trees, giant stuffed monkeys, and even a safari style jeep suspended over the booths. The quick, attentive service and delicious, generous portions of food was a delightful surprise. My lasagna was one of the best I have ever had that wasn’t homemade and John seemed to truly enjoy his quesadilla. We would recommend Monkey Joe’s for sure.

[John] Lana has finicky taste buds (very finicky) and finding a restaurant that suits his taste and also has options of the non-deep-fried variety for me, is not always the easiest. Monkey Joe’s met the challenge quite nicely and yes… I did enjoy the quesadilla.

[Lana] Once our meal was finished, we made our way downtown for our second tour.

[John] After enjoying the first tour so much we were really looking forward to this one. Being able to spend some time inside the Bytown Museum was already a bonus for this tour and after the excitement we had in the jail the night before, we were itching to start walking on this tour.

[Lana] We first explored the ticket office to pick up a couple of souvenirs – we settled on a fridge magnet, a keychain flashlight and the book Ghosts of Ottawa by Glen Shackleton. Our purchases made, we left the building to begin our walk. Our guide for the evening introduced himself as Paul and began his first story right there on Sparks Street.

It seems that in January 2013, some street rail workers inadvertently discovered human remains while working on Queen Street. Police were called in but it was discovered that the bones were part of a mass burial site. Proper burials didn’t often take place and many of these sites were found in the area. The post office (the very spot we were standing) was one of those sites and there could very well still be bodies there to this day.

[John] I know that current burial practices were not always possible. I know that bad things happen now and did back then too. I know that towns change. I know that civilizations change. Yet… despite knowing all of that, it was a very strange feeling standing there and thinking of people buried underneath our feet. It felt so strange it felt wrong. It feels uncomfortable even now as I reflect on it… like walking through a cemetery and being unable to avoid walking over graves. I’m not a fan of that feeling. Standing there, thinking of what it must have been like for those workers to find those remains while performing daily job duties… what an odd sensation that must have been.

[Lana] A short stroll takes us into view of Château Laurier, a gorgeous, luxury hotel commissioned by Charles Melville Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway. When you take the tour you will hear the tragic Hays history told perfectly.

As the years passed by, it was discovered that the fifth floor of the Château is quite haunted. Disembodied voices, feeling the touch of someone who isn’t there and other unsettling occurrences have been reported by various guests.

We walked under the bridge along the Rideau Canal and heard tales of other haunted locations from across Canada before reaching our main destination for the evening…the Bytown Museum. You would think that with all the rich history that comes with being the oldest stone building in all of Ottawa, my favourite story would have roots from days long ago. Interestingly enough, that is not the case at all. The tale that piqued my imagination was a personal experience from the guides of the Haunted Walk themselves.

[John] I love walking through Ottawa at night. I didn’t realize how much more I could love it but hearing these stories told along the way just made it so much more fun. I, too, loved hearing the personal staff experiences. There’s something about hearing the stories of people you’ve met that make the occurrences so much more thrilling. Being able to connect the stories to people right in front of you… people you’ve met and with whom you’ve conversed… the stories become so real.

[Lana] Originally scheduled to have a staff meeting at the museum, Glen Shackleton felt uneasy about the location and changed the venue to somewhere with brighter lighting. The problem however, was that he realized the building alarm hadn’t been set and he would have to return to do so. He asked for some volunteers to accompany him so that he wouldn’t be alone. Three brave souls offered to go with him. They took a few minutes to look around the third floor before Glen and Margo (who we spoke to the night before) descended the stairs to the second level.

To their surprise they heard footsteps ascending the steps where they found no one. Could it be an echo of the others from the floor above? Neither of the other two had moved even a step. It was time to leave so Glen closed the sliding door at the alarm control panel while the other three went to the door. The door began rattling, growing more and more violent as though someone wanted out. He turned to the others to see if they had witnessed the activity but they were running outside. After a few moments, Margo re-entered the building to help guide Glen, who had been paralyzed with fear, out of the museum. It turns out the others didn’t even notice the door, as it was the sound of heavy boot clad footsteps from the level above that sent them running. Building their courage, they bolted back inside to properly set the alarm. The group stayed half an hour hoping the alarm would ring out letting them know the whole thing was just a prank.

The alarm never sounded.

[John] I keep trying to picture myself in that situation. I keep trying to figure out what I would do. I keep trying to convince myself that I would be cool. Calm, collected, stoic even. I keep trying to see myself in that situation and I am chilled out, not afraid, even steps throughout.

I keep lying to myself. After the experience at the jail the night before, I think we can safely ascertain that stoic is not the adjective to use for me. When faced with the invisible… I will likely scream and cry and blush intensely from it all. Though I’d like to think myself a brave soul… I’m more apt to be braver when I’m the ghosty producing the loud footsteps and violently rattling doors.

[Lana] Just like the night before, a spin of the Wheel of the Damned Good Prizes was on the line by correctly guessing the fictional story. This time I was the one who chose the red herring ([John] YAY!) but was not lucky enough to be selected to spin the wheel ([John] BOOO!!). Instead, our prize came as the night neared its end and we met Paola St. Georges, the woman behind the Twitter account for The Haunted Walk ([John] YAY!). It was truly a pleasure to talk in person and to learn just how knowledgeable about and invested in the city she is. Paola surprised us with a copy of The Ghosts of Ottawa signed by Glen Shackleton himself as a thank you for our support. It was such a wonderful sentiment that we greatly appreciate.

[John] I am extremely sentimental and so deeply appreciative it tends to get in the way of normal day-to-day function. This gesture from Glen and the whole gang… touched me so strongly I had to hug Paola as we bid our goodnights. Some may find it silly but it really touched me to receive this book… this kindness. Thanks Glen, Paola, Élise, Margo and friends… we had a lovely time and look forward to our next visit.

Day 3:

[Lana] We were leaving Ottawa today but wanted to visit the Byward Market before we left.

[John] There are three things I need to do whenever I visit Ottawa… 1) walk through Byward, 2) eat a BeaverTail and 3) visit Mrs. Tiggy Winkles.

[Lana] John told me that we couldn’t leave without having a BeaverTail. I had never had one so was looking forward to giving it a try.

[John] While I could survive without the browse through Mrs.Tiggy Winkles I cannot leave without going through Byward and having my BeaverTail. That Lana had never eaten a BeaverTail felt much like blasphemy to me and so I insisted we spend the morning downtown before considering the drive away.

[Lana] We left the car in the same parking garage that we used the previous two nights and walked towards the outdoor market. As we passed the War Memorial, we were just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony.

[John] I wasn’t familiar with the ceremony at the memorial. I had previously only known it to occur at Parliament Hill. It was nice to see it at the memorial and we decided to walk through the memorial on our way back to the car.

[Lana] We walked on the opposite side of the street to the War Memorial and as we reached the Château, who did we happen to meet there but Paola returning from giving a tour of the non-haunted variety. We chatted for a couple moments before parting ways with promises of seeing each other again someday soon. We arrived at the market, looking at all the goods from outdoor veggie stands and specialty food stores to jewelry vendors and multicultural gift shops.

[John] I could spend hours walking through here. The sights, the scents, the temptations, the people, the sounds… I love this place.

[Lana] We came to the end of the street and I saw John’s eyes light up. We had arrived. It was the BeaverTails stand.


[Lana] You know that fear you get in the pit of your stomach that something has been so hyped up that it could never meet the high praise and expectation that builds up? That wasn’t the case here. BeaverTails are worthy of all that praise and more. I daresay it is the best pastry I had ever had. Thank you John.

[John] Quite welcome. I couldn’t allow you to leave Ottawa without eating a BeaverTail. 

[Lana] With our goals we had set for the morning accomplished, and a couple bottles of delicious maple syrup to take home to our families, it was time to bid adieu to our nation’s capital. Two days is not nearly enough time to see and do the many things that the city has to offer (not even close). That just means there is definitely going to be a return trip in our hopefully not too distant future.

[John] It’s always so hard for me to say goodbye to Ottawa. We walked along the War Memorial and stopped at each statue and plaque, and we stood and admired the guards. As it began to rain again we walked back to our car but I kept wishing we could have more time to spend visiting, taking pictures and enjoying the city.

[Lana] We traveled home, stopping only to grab something to eat at Rob Roy’s Pub and Restaurant in Smiths Falls. Surprising, as it may seem, this Celtic themed establishment provided some pretty darn good fish and chips. Had we been able to spend a bit more time, I would certainly have challenged John to a game of darts. We instead chose to carry on and return home after another amazing adventure.

[John] I rock the dartboard. I do… I can play darts like no one else. No one. It’s true. I love playing darts. I love it most when I actually hit the board. You know, when dartboards are installed they should really add protection to a wider wall surface and the floor should also be covered. I don’t know why that isn’t standard practice. I love playing darts. I’ll throw some darts with you anytime, Lana. Let’s go back just for that.

Darts aside, I too very much enjoyed the fish and chips.

[John] You know… this has been a hard article to write. Now I want BeaverTails, fish and chips and a really great game of darts.

Well… Ottawa… thank you… for a lovely time. I look forward to our next encounter and maybe – just maybe – I will put on my big girl pants and brave a night on the 8th floor of the old jail. A whole night. In a cell. On the 8th floor. Of the jail. Yes I will.


Ottawa 46 1/2 - Part 1

DECEMBER 7th, 2014


[John] Hi everyone… sorry for the late post. We are here now though! We hope you enjoy this article about our recent trip to Ottawa.

Here we go…

[Lana] One of the most enjoyable things that John and I have discovered we like to partake in is a good haunted walk. How else can you get a generous helping of local history, mixed in with some dramatically spooky storytelling and topped off with a brisk evening stroll? It is nearly the perfect event for people like us. I must admit that I may not have said the same thing just over a year ago before taking the Ghost Walks tour at Niagara-on-the-Lake but how quickly things can change (more on that experience a little later on).

[John] Yes… going into that first walk last year, we really didn’t know what to expect. Happily surprised, I must admit that it still didn’t give me a faith for all haunted tours. While one might be great, does that really mean the others will also be enjoyable?

[Lana] So we turned to Google to find other cities not too far away, which might host some similarly eerie tours to satisfy our growing interest in the darker parts of Canadian history. The very first entry to appear was The Haunted Walk - Ottawa. The company had been founded in 1995 by Glen Shackleton, a local historian, author, researcher and expert ghost story teller. On viewing the website we discovered that, not only did they have multiple tours in Ottawa, but that they also provide walks in Toronto and Kingston. We felt fairly confident that one of these tours would be perfect for our next adventure. All that was left to do now was to decide which city we wanted to see the creepy underbelly of the most.

While websites provide outstanding information, I enjoy looking to social media as a supplement to making this type of decision. I located @hauntedwalk on Twitter and quickly discovered that they were not only extremely knowledgeable but also quite friendly and fun loving. It always makes the experience more enjoyable when you can have fun people around. Since that initial contact almost a year ago, I have also interacted with a few of the tour guides (@OttawaZel, @margo_thespian and @PaolaSt_Georges) who are equally as fun to chat with on Twitter.

[John] Lana is much more the social media fan than I am and so I tend to leave the online conversations and posts up to him, for the most part. I couldn’t be happier that he was able to locate this great group of people.

[Lana] Our minds were made up fairly quickly after these online exchanges…besides, it had been ages since either of us had been to the nation’s capitol.

[John] Ottawa. Capital of our country. Political. Historic. Beautiful.

This is a place I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. I believe my first Ottawa experience was when I was about five or six years old. It must have stuck. I often wish for return visits so when we had an opportunity to spend a couple of days there in October, I insisted that we take advantage and enjoy the crisp autumn air of the season.

Day 1:

[Lana] Nearly a year to the day from our first spectral walk, John and I were on our way to Ottawa with tickets to both The Original Haunted Walk and The Ghosts and Gallows tours in our excited little hands (well packed into our bags if we are to be perfectly honest). Since we were already in Prince Edward County, we took the Glenora Ferry across the bay. Unlike any previous time we took the short cruise, we had to detour ten minutes or so along the shoreline so that two ships might make their trek towards Lake Ontario. We weren’t in a rush and we both love the water so we didn’t mind the extra long boat trip whatsoever. Once on the mainland, it was a short drive to the United Empire Loyalist historic landing place and burial ground in Adolphustown, the first permanent white settlement in the region. We had no idea the site was even there, we actually just stopped to get pictures of the ship that was responsible for our extended ferry ride.

[John] It was a strange experience really. I suspect during summer hours there is normally a guard at the entrance to the park and I’ve heard that there is typically a gate as well. On this day however, we entered without restriction and we were able to watch the ship pass along its way. We then drove further into the park, past a small cemetery and we noticed a small heritage plaque that provided the history. It was an odd feeling to me that the park was essentially “membership only” and the plaque defines it as being the first white settlement of the area. I suddenly felt very out of place and we chose to make our way out of the park and be on the road again. As we turned back onto the main road, we noticed a small cemetery that we will have to make a point of visiting another time – if only to have a close look at the one grave stone with a chain draped on it. Very curious we are.

[Lana] Yes…what was up with those chains?

The lake along the highway made for some beautifully scenic views as we drove easterly. It would have been nice to continue along the lesser used routes but we wanted to make sure we had lots of time. Perhaps we would have more time on our way back.

We made a quick stop in Bath to grab our refreshments before jumping on the major highways and decided not to take another break until we arrived in Kemptville to grab some lunch. Being the adventurous people that we are, we like to try greasy spoons from off the beaten path. Sometimes you hit a goldmine…other times you get Fast Eddie’s Diner.

[John] We seem to have a knack for finding the gems.

[Lana] While John found us a table, I made my way to the washroom…or so I thought. The door which clearly had a plaque stating WASHROOM was being used as a storage room. I turned to go back out to the dining area when I spotted an artsy hand drawn washroom sign. Opening the door, I squeezed into a small closet with a toilet and sink. A little confused, I then made my way to our table and while looking around I noticed a photo on the counter by the cash register that puzzled me once more. I pointed out to John the autographed picture of a muscleman competitively posing.

[John] I’m still trying to figure out that photo… a staff member’s previous life perhaps? It was definitely somewhat out of place there on the food counter…

[Lana] And, seeing an overly muscular man always makes me want to say… “We are here to PUMP you up!!”

We had no more than placed our order when the employees (who were giving us dirty stares from the moment we walked in) began to stack chairs on the tables around us in preparation of closing for the day. I have seen this before and wouldn’t have thought twice about it had it not been before 2:00 in the afternoon. That teaches us for not reading the handwritten, Bristol board sign which stated that the diner did indeed close at 2 pm Monday to Thursday.

[John] I would have been happy if they had informed us of that tidbit when we sat down instead of staring at us and rushing us through it all. There’s no harm in letting your customers know up front that you are preparing to close and the kitchen is no longer serving food.

[Lana] With that in mind, perhaps the most surprising thing, considering the rushed service, was that the food was actually quite good.

[John] I had the chicken burger and it was a decent hunk of well-seasoned, tasty fried chicken in a bun… quite yummy.

[Lana] So thank you Fast Eddie’s for a unique visit, an education in sign reading and we will definitely try to make it earlier in the day should we ever stop in again.

[John] We will likely not stop in again… just sayin’. Feeling like an outsider isn’t always a fantastic experience. Though it was an interesting place.

[Lana] We didn’t stop again until we reached our hotel in Ottawa. The Best Western Macie’s was nice enough and had all the amenities in the room we could want but they had the smallest queen size beds we had ever seen. We were only there long enough to unload our luggage and freshen up before heading downtown to search for parking hopefully not too far from 46 ½ Sparks Street…the Haunted Walk.

It was easier to find parking than we could have imagined which opened up some time to grab our supper before the tour. We tried next door to the Haunted Walk, at D'Arcy McGee’s, but with a 20-minute wait just to get in we didn’t want to risk it. We made the decision to return to the pub after the evening’s entertainment and we walked to Second Cup for a nice discussion (and the best hot chocolate I have had in a very long time) while we patiently waited for our start time.

[John] It was a brisk, very wet evening and so the warm shelter and hot drinks made for the perfect remedy prior to the walk. After a short while we walked back up to Sparks Street for our tour.

[Lana] Upon returning to our rendezvous point, we had the chance to meet up and chat with two of the guides we had been corresponding with on Twitter…Élise (who was to be our guide for the evening) and Margo. It was a true pleasure to finally meet them in person. Perhaps next time we will have even more time to talk after they are finished with their tours.

[John] It really added something to the evening for us, having the opportunity to interact with the guides and properly introduce ourselves, enjoying a few minutes of chatting before being called to gather for our tour with Élise.

[Lana] The moment we had waited for finally arrived. Élise gathered the group together and, after a short introduction, the tour was officially under way. I was so into the stories as we made our way along the Rideau Canal and over to Byward Market that I want to share every little detail but I will try to hold myself in check. We should leave some tales for the professionals, after all.

After some brief stops along our walk through the beautiful downtown area, we found ourselves at the Carleton County Gaol much sooner than I had expected but was soon to discover why…the building had such a haunted history of its own that we needed all the remaining time and then some to fit in all Élise had to share.

[John] The walk through town was really nice and we had some stops along the way to hear some different ghostly tales. While on our way to the County Gaol, we had a very nice chat with an incredibly accommodating Élise, who shared with us her years of experience doing these tours and her acting career also. We were disappointed to learn that we would not be in town for a show that Élise and Margo were doing that weekend. Hopefully another time we will be able to participate as audience members in one of their performances.

I always marvel at the ability to memorize lines and recite stories. Élise graciously shared with us that while it isn’t always easy, she has been doing it long enough that the Haunted Walk stories are somewhat second nature now. It was also nice to learn that each guide takes on different tours from time to time, so they learn new stories and are able to share different tales with their groups, preventing the material from becoming stale for the storytellers.

[Lana] For someone like me with a “Swiss cheese” memory, it is more than impressive.

[John] Oh but you are a drama geek with a brain for lines… you could easily remember the stories and the fact that you would tell them as exciting tales versus simply memorizing a recitation, you would fit in perfectly. I’m the one who doesn’t really do the costumes and the dramatic readings. I’d feel completely out of place and would definitely screw up the stories. I could never do that job.

[Lana]  I think you are totally confused. Drama yes, lines never and you would totally rock at it.

[John] You neglect to realize that in the few minutes we have been sitting here, you have recited lines from about three different movies and shows and in the appropriate voices too. It’s so natural for you that you don’t even realize it.

So there. I win.

[Lana] Anywho…

[John] Sore loser much?

The other piece I enjoyed learning was that the tour guides themselves are involved in some of the research as they learn about new potential stories of the area. This is a company that verifies the stories they tell, including speaking to potential witnesses whenever possible. The stories become that much more real when you know that the people sharing the information with you, have done the research, spoken to witnesses and sometimes they have even experienced a ghostly surprise of their own while on tour.

[Lana] This is a good time to interrupt our experiences to bring you this brief historical note…

From the Haunted Walk and from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography we learned that one of the founding fathers of Canadian Confederacy, Thomas D'Arcy McGee staunchly spoke out against American expansionist motives towards Canada. Although an Irish nationalist, McGee denounced the Fenian Brotherhood in America because they felt a forceful takeover of Canada from Britain by the United States was necessary. Many believe it was these very actions that led to the only political assassination on the federal level in Canada’s history. On April 7, 1868, after a parliamentary debate that went past the midnight hour, McGee returned to his boarding house on Sparks Street. Finding the door locked from the inside, he had to wait for his landlady to greet him at the entrance. No sooner had Mary Ann Trotter opened the door, than a brilliant flash went off. A .32 caliber bullet sliced through McGee’s neck and exploded out his jaw, sending his dentures flying by sheer force. Thomas D'Arcy McGee fell into the street dead.

By the next night, over 40 Fenian supporters were being held for questioning (including Patrick Buckley, stable hand to Sir John A. Macdonald, who named Patrick James Whelan as the assassin). Whelan maintained his innocence the entire time but, even though the evidence was circumstantial, he was found guilty and sentenced to what would be the very last hanging at the Carleton County Gaol. In front of 5,000 onlookers on February 11, 1869, Patrick Whelan told the crowd one last time that he was innocent and that he knew who had killed McGee, before being hung by the neck until he was dead.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.

[John] Hearing this story told on the walk does greater justice than what we can provide here on the blog. The details gained in the tour truly add a level of intensity that cannot be gained by reading the story itself or reading it here as we have just recounted for you. Being in the locations of the murder and the hanging also add another level to the entire experience. I cannot say enough times that you should all make a point of taking this tour when you have an opportunity.

[Lana] Upon entering the building that is now used as a hostel, we bypassed the main desk and directly made our way up the eight flights of stairs.

[John] I’m glad we didn’t know ahead of time that there would be eight flights of stairs to ascend, or we may have reconsidered the decision. Though we enjoy our walks and I am an avid hiker, we are nearing old fogey status (really… Lana is nearing old fogey status) and eight flights of stairs can be intimidating (for Lana). I am proud to say that we made it to the top neither fainting nor experiencing heart failure… congratulations Lana… I’m very proud of you. I’ll carve you a special cane for your next birthday. (heh heh)

[Lana] *Wheeze* *Wheeze* I’m still young enough to tell you where you can put that cane.

[John] … and I’m still younger than you…

[Lana] The eighth floor is the one with the claustrophobic single cells. So much unexplained activity occurred on this level (footsteps in the hall, cell doors slamming closed and disembodied voices), that no one could spend the entire night and would always leave, demanding their money back. It got to the point that the hostel even offered the rooms free to anyone who managed to remain the entire night. They’ve never had to give a complementary stay.

No sooner had Élise finished telling us these details when a door slammed somewhere down the hall in the unused section of the floor. She genuinely looked startled. I wanted to explore down the walkway but wasn’t sure if we were allowed and hesitant to leave while needing to stay with the tour, we moved on to death row.

[John] A number of us jumped when that door slammed, including Élise. My own heart was racing and I grabbed onto Lana’s sleeve (remember in this partnership I am the girl and Lana is actually the guy… and I had a very typical girl moment of burying my head in Lana’s shoulder and then gripping his hand tightly) and then my brain immediately wandered to thinking that either a staff member had been in that hallway, or that the tour guides had set up the experience just for us. After the tour, I did ask Élise about the use of the hallway and she said that the door is never used. Élise also confirmed that they hadn’t set anything up to falsely surprise us. The skeptic in me is still unsure it was a true paranormal experience but I will not deny the thrill of the moment with such impeccable timing. I also proved to myself that I am indeed a typical girl who almost cried when a door was slammed in a creepy environment. Le sigh.

[Lana] John’s reaction was completely adorable in the best ways possible.

On death row, the first cell was walled off to keep the next in line for the gallows separated from the other prisoners. I felt a darkness emanating from this area in the brief moment as I passed through. John confided in me afterwards that she too was affected there, which confirmed the sensation.

[John] Honestly… I was still thinking about the door slamming and hadn’t really clued into what Élise had said about the area we were entering, so I didn’t realize what room it was that we were passing in that moment. All I knew was this heavy feeling pressed hard against my chest and I looked up at the doorway while, for a brief moment, I was conflicted with the desire to peer further into the dark and the intense urge to run away. I returned my gaze to the rest of the group and followed along into the main area of death row. When Élise continued her story and detailed the use of that one room, chills ran through my entire body and the image of the solid darkness in that cell took over my thoughts and unfortunately I really don’t remember much else of what Élise said. Even as I write this, I can feel that pressure and the pull to peer into the darkness but I am quite happy that I chose to continue walking with the group.

[Lana] Our attention was drawn to the door at the opposite end of the passageway where the executioner would emerge to complete his duty. A room now used as a storage area, it was this door that on a previous tour shook and rattled despite being locked. It was this door that, while padlocked, I just had to touch ever so lightly as we walked past, causing it to shake and rattle much more than I think it should have. I know I didn’t touch the door enough to cause it to vibrate the way it did.

[John] I was ahead of Lana when he touched the door and as it rattled I whipped around to see him moving away from it. Lana told me he touched the door, so when Élise also turned with a somewhat concerned and quizzical look on her face, I explained it was Lana who had caused the door to rattle. I thought Lana had pressed hard on the door purposely rattling it to see how stable the door was. I hadn’t realized that he’d only lightly placed his hand on the door. We explained this to Élise at the end of the tour… I’m not sure exactly what she thought at the time but the experience had Lana and I wondering about the cause. Is it possible that Lana’s light touch was heavier than he realized? Sure it is. Is it possible that the door was not completely solid in its hinges or design? Of course. Could there have been a ‘presence’ on the other side of the door playing with Lana? I won’t rule it out entirely. All I know is that we won’t have the true answer and for me that is a challenge to find out the real reason behind the rattle.

[Lana] Next on the agenda were the gallows themselves. Unused in an official capacity since 1869, a noose hangs dramatically as a reminder of those days long ago. The exit at the bottom of the stairs led us right under the drop of the executioner’s rope before taking us into the courtyard where many of those executed were buried.

[John] When we reached the gallows and stopped to hear some more stories while standing and looking at the noose, it was really interesting to hear of some experiences that other visitors have had in that same spot and I’m glad that nothing as dramatic happened to us.

When we exited the building and stood outside, under the gallows, I was overcome with a great sadness. Looking up and seeing the light bleeding through the wooden covering constructed as a feeble attempt of hiding the gory history of the jail, I felt mystified by our human need to witness suffering. In those days it was supposedly normal to watch a man be put to his death. At times I’m sure there was even cheering. What a strange concept to me. For the general public to bear witness to such an event and cheer, while a life – unproven as guilty as it was in many cases – is drained of the body by force and potentially unfound judgment. That where we stood in that moment was an historic site of violent death… I felt an inner cold take over me and it was all I could do to not walk away and cry.

While my emotions ran high as I found myself lost in my thoughts, I realized Élise was telling another interesting story and so I pulled myself back to present day and upon considering the details of that last tale of the evening, I made a conscious note to pay attention to whether Lana or I ended up with a bloody nose later that night. (Curious? Go to Ottawa!!)

[Lana] Because it was the Hallowe'en season, we had been told that one of the stories we had heard this night in the gaol had been completely made up. It was now our task to decipher which of these tales was the false one for a chance to win something from the Wheel of the Damned…Good Prizes. Out of the 19 (or thereabouts) people in our group, only 3 correctly identified the fictitious piece of history. John was one of this astute trio but unlucky when it came to having her name drawn for the opportunity to spin the Wheel. I was still proud of her.

[John] Aw shucks.

[Lana] With this last bit of business complete, the tour was at an end.

[John] I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to go back in and explore some more. I wanted to check out the door that had slammed. I wanted to ask the employees some questions. I wanted time to take pictures. I wanted to peer into the darkness.

I wanted to run away.

[Lana] You can’t always get what you want…

[John] But if you try sometimes…

[Lana] We thanked Élise for the wonderful job and an excellent evening before slowly returning to Sparks Street, taking a few photos along the way.

[John] Because of the wet evening, we had opted to leave behind our DSLR cameras and we functioned solely on our phones and a small, old point-and-shoot… I think this alone warrants another trip to Ottawa so we can really spend some quality time behind our camera lenses.

[Lana] Arriving back at Sparks Street, we saw that D'Arcy McGee’s was much quieter now and so finally grabbed something to eat. I have long been enamoured by Celtic history, folklore and culture so was quite pleased that we gave the Irish pub a chance. Although the seating was a bit crowded by the sheer number of tables they tried to squeeze into the dining area, the food was good and the selection of Irish whiskeys was even better. The area by the bar was still hopping and had live music that made me smile. I do revel in a bit of Celtic music.

[John] We both love the Celtic side of things and it was a wonderful, warm and inviting way to remove the chill of the evening and prepare us for a good night’s sleep to energize us for the next day. Lana had picked up a bit of a cold that week and the Irish whiskey of his choice was exactly what he needed to put the cold in its place and allow him a peaceful night of rest. One whiff of his whiskey was enough to put to me to sleep.

[Lana] With our meal finished, it was time to call an end to the evening. After all, we had another big day to look forward to.