DECEMBER 7th, 2014
By LANA CARBON & JOHN LILIES
[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.
[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.
[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.