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Body, Mind & Spirit Unexplained Phenomena

Creepy Capital

Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region

by (author) Mark Leslie

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
May 2016
Unexplained Phenomena, General, Supernatural
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2016
    List Price

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A supernatural tour of the Ottawa region with ghostwatcher Mark Leslie as your guide.

Come along with paranormal raconteur Mark Leslie as he uncovers first-person accounts of ghostly happenings throughout Ottawa and the surrounding towns — the whole region is rife with ghostly encounters and creepy locales.

Discover the doomed financier who may be haunting the Château Laurier. Experience the eerie shadows and sounds at the Bytown Museum. Listen to the echoing howls of former prison inmates at the Nicholas St. Hostel. And feel the bitter sadness of the ghost of Watson’s Mill in Manotick. You’ll marvel at the multitude of ghosts that walk the streets and historic landmarks of Canada’s capital.

About the author

Mark Leslie would be the first person to admit he's still afraid of the monster under his bed. That might be why most of his books explore the darker side. In addition to penning a series of true ghostly tales (that include Spooky Sudbury, Haunted Hospitals and Creepy Capital), he has written a few horror titles (I, DEATH, One Hand Screaming, and NOCTURNAL SCREAMS), is the editor of the horror anthologies CAMPUS CHILLS, FEEL THE FEAR, and SUPERNATURAL, and is the author of the humorous urban fantasy action/adventure 'Canadian Werewolf" series.

His other passions within the non-fiction realm include fan appreciation/trivia books about the classic modern films Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (THE CANADIAN MOUNTED) and Die Hard (YIPPEE KI-YAY MOTHERF*****)

Proudly adopting the term "Book Nerd" for himself, Mark is most comfortable with a pen in hand, fingers on keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book.He can often be seen traveling to book events with a life-sized skeleton named Barnaby Bones.

Born in Sudbury Ontario, Mark has courted with a serious addiction to reading and writing his entire life. He has called both Ottawa, ON and Hamilton, ON home for about a decade each and currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Mark Leslie's profile page

Excerpt: Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region (by (author) Mark Leslie)

The Grant House at 150 Elgin

On a chilly Halloween eve in 2014, just days prior to the grand re-opening of Beckta Dining & Wine, owner Stephen Beckta drank champagne from a 140-year-old glass that once belonged to the Grant family, who used to live at that residence.
When questioned as to whether he felt concerned regarding the stories he had heard about the building’s history and the alleged spirit that still resided in the building, Beckta shrugged with a laugh and said: “Not at all.”
But not everybody else is so brave in their approach.
The building at 150 Elgin Street was originally built for Doctor James Alexander Grant in 1875, designed by Bradish Billings Jr. The home, considered a mansion, would have cost approximately $11,000 to build at a time when the average home’s cost was less than half of that.
Born on August 11, 1831, in Inverness, Scotland, James Grant came to Canada not long after his birth when his parents settled in Glengarry, Ontario, about an hour’s drive south-east of Ottawa. There, Grant’s father set up a medical practice and established himself as a one of the region’s most distinguished physicians. Grant followed in his father’s footsteps by receiving his undergraduate degree at the University of Queen’s College (Queen’s University) in Kingston, Ontario, then moved on to study medicine at McGill College in Montreal, Quebec. He became a medical doctor in 1854 and established a practice in Ottawa. Grant married Maria Malloch in 1856 and the two had a dozen children together.
Further following in his father’s manner, Dr. James Alexander Grant ran a very successful medical practice. Due to his renowned skills and relentless work ethic he became known and sought out by many of the more prominent members of the local community.
Grant published several articles in medical journals in Canada and England and his vast interest and knowledge in the scientific fields led to his role as a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada. In addition, he served as president of the College of Surgeons on Ontario and the Mechanics’ Institute and Athenaeum of Ottawa. Grant also served as the official physician for the Governors General from 1867 to 1905.
Grant also became involved in the political scene. He served as a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party between 1867 and 1874, as well as between 1893 and 1896.
After saving the life of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, after her sleigh accident near Rideau Hall, Grant was knighted “Sir” James Grant and he was awarded the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and King George (KCMG). Grant died on June 5, 1920, after having lived at his Elgin Street home for nearly half a century.
Given both the status that he held as well as the long-time association with the building, it’s no wonder that when tales of odd and eerie occurrences started to be reported that people’s thoughts turned to Sir James Alexander Grant. Perhaps Grant’s role as a physician — which included stories that the basement of the residence at 150 Elgin was used as a morgue — has been a factor in some of the ghostly tales that are shared about the building.
Though the tales didn’t start until the thirty-seven-year run of a very successful restaurant known as Friday’s Roast Beef House, the building itself has survived a significant number of changes.
After the Grant family vacated the building, it was purchased by the University of Ottawa’s University Club before the 1930s. In the late sixties and early seventies, highway construction projects threatened the building, and in 1974 the city came under attack for what was described as its lack of interest in preserving a historic property. A proposal to bring a sixty-bed youth hostel to the building arose, but never came to fruition. What finally took residence in the building was a restaurant known as Friday’s Roast Beef House, which occupied the building from 1972 to 2009.
It was during that era when most of the tales started to come out alluding to a ghost within the building’s walls.
The majority of sightings and ghostly encounters have taken place on the second- and third-floor hallways. Well after the building had been closed and almost empty, restaurant staff reported hearing the distinct sound of footsteps descending the stair only to witness that stairway completely empty.
Both patrons and staff have shared stories of being shoved or pushed by unseen hands, some of whom have reportedly fallen sideways over the banister. In each case, the person who fell claimed the sensation of unseen hands pushing them. Members of the Haunted Walk of Ottawa shared a tale in which a woman who had been on one of their tours claimed that exact thing happened to her before the tour guide had a chance to share any stories about the building. The unseen presence responsible for these actions has also knocked trays mysteriously out of the staff’s hands.
Restaurant staff have also reported several occasions where after they had closed for the night they might hear the sound of laughter echoing in from the empty piano bar, or hearing their name being called out when there was nobody else around.
There was one particular table on the second floor that seemed prone to icy cold breezes and objects on the table were reported to have moved entirely of their own volition. Cliff Scott, the author of Ottawa Stories: Trials & Triumphs in Bytown History, decided, after having researched the building’s history and the stories about it, in particular that one table on the second floor, to muster the courage to sit there with his wife for dinner one evening. Scott reported feeling nothing other than a little bit of trepidation, as well as the eyes of the other patrons, who were likely all there waiting to witness something supernatural.
The second floor seems to have been the location at the center of the ghostly tales. And whispers are still shared about the spectral image of an elderly man seen sitting at a second-floor window well after the restaurant was closed and all staff had gone home.
Among the most eerie of incidents to have been reported at 150 Elgin when it was Friday’s Roast Beef House are the stories of staff and guests who have described hearing the odd sound of some unseen person breathing heavily right next to them. The combination of wheezing and hacking cough is a consistent description, which ties in quite interestingly to the fact that Sir James Alexander Grant had been a sufferer of severe asthma for most of his life.
Stephen Beckta, the aforementioned restaurateur and owner of Beckta Dining & Wine, has begun the latest chapter of this historic building on the solid footing of creating something new and unique while taking great care to both respect and preserve history. “This is a legacy project that will outlive us by far,” Beckta said in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen.
Beckta and Peter Weiss, project manager for PCL Construction Company, put together a time capsule, which includes a history of the legacy building, an outline of the design of the twenty-three-storey tower that now adjoins the building, an historic letter from 1932 that was found in the home, and one of the crested Grant family glasses that Beckta drank champagne out of while celebrating the pre-opening of his gorgeous new restaurant. The capsule is sealed in a back wall of the building with a glass plaque visible from the Winter Garden atrium that connects the historic building to the newly constructed tower. Etched on the glass is a line from the late Bob Marley: “In this great future you can’t forget your past.”
“I told Dr. Grant that we were going to take good care of his house,” Stephen Beckta said in an interview with Danika Grenier, digital content manager of Ottawa Tourism. “And ever since then, everything seems to have been going swimmingly. So if there is a ghost, he likes us in this space.”