'Scare with Flair!' Halloween haunts in your home or on foot in Ottawa
OTTAWA -- This Halloween, if you would like to live in a haunted house, Glen Shackleton can arrange it.
He can, at least, bring his version of "virtual haunting" into your home.
Shackleton is the founder and CEO of Haunted Walks Ottawa. He’s earned a living scaring people, throughout the year, for the past 25 years by leading guided ghost walks to some of Ottawa’s most chilling sites.
His fixation on all that is haunted started when he was a history student at Queen’s University in Kingston.
During this "scary time", Shackleton and his "ghoul-interested guides" have had to adapt from haunting only on foot, to finding a new way to offer that eerie feeling to those who don’t want to leave home.
The pivot for them: virtual Haunted Campfires.
Guides generate scares to those in need of some spooking while all nestled in front of their laptops, at home.
"There has been so much participation and social interaction as part of the show, that it has really recharged our batteries after a difficult year. I fully expected the wonderful storytellers we work with to wow them with their spooky tales, but I didn’t expect it to be such a meaningful experience for so many who have been joining us for these events, including me," says Shackleton.
These virtual hauntings have been running since early October. For those who like to save their scares for Halloween, Shackleton has created two special Virtual Haunted Campfire events.
"One at 4:30 p.m. called Terrible Tales for Creepy Kids that will focus on horrible history and spooky, but not too spooky stories for brave children. We will also be offering a Midnight Ghost Stories from the Haunted Walk campfire where we will bring out some of our scariest stories for adults only," said Shackleton.
Terrifying tales, like a personal experience shared by a guide, who, as a child was "understandably" afraid of the dark.
"One night she felt something brush her hair in the dark and looked in the mirror at the foot of her bed to see a ghostly little girl standing behind her and reaching toward her. She screamed and as her mother came running up the stairs, the little girl dropped to the floor and scuttled under the bed, never to be seen again," Shackleton shares.
One of Shackleton’s favourite ghosts lives in the Mayor’s Office at Ottawa City Hall.
"It used to be the old Normal School or Teacher’s College. One of the old instructors from that school, Eliza Bolton, is frequently seen by security guards checking on the old classrooms. One summer night a guard ran into her in the attic and she turned to him and said 'Get Back to Class.' He left his job and has not returned."
To work, or to class, we assume.
Shackleton says, "Gather your inner circle, turn the lights down low and prepare yourself for a spooky night of hair-raising fun! The Haunting at Home is a ghostly on-line audio experience that challenges you to conduct a series of paranormal experiments in your house, apartment or creepy cabin in the woods."
If you prefer a scare in the open air, outdoor "bubble tours" will continue throughout November.
Ottawa Bubble Tours
"These tours are a safe and fun way to enjoy some fresh air and hear some great Ottawa ghost stories. Up to 12 participants can take part in these limited-time, socially-distanced bubble versions of our Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa and Haunted Ottawa Jail Tour. These smalls groups are perfect for spooky storytelling," said Shackleton.
Shackleton has made a business of giving guests goosebumps. He understands people enjoy getting a bit scared but he says, "I, personally, am a real chicken."
Scary and Delicious Take-Out at The Courtyard Restaurant:
One popular stop on the haunted walks is The Courtyard Restaurant.
Over many years, countless staff members there have had experiences with the resident ghost they call Mrs. Evans.
And Mrs. Evans, who is believed to have perished in a fire in the 1870s, and is awaiting rescue, has prominent billing on the restaurant’s website where she is described as "our resident ghost."
"We are most honoured to introduce you to your complimentary guest and our ghostly colleague, Ms. Evans, circa 1870. She is a kind and spunky ghost and someone that we believe enjoys witnessing your finest moments. In a venue that celebrates over a hundred weddings a year and more than 600 events, why would anyone want to leave such a vibrant and festive place?"
The ghost has appeared on surveillance video. She is known to rearrange the furniture, and generally observe customers dining, or celebrating special occasions, when, before closure due to COVID-19, customers could dine-in.
Julia Johnston is the events coordinator at The Courtyard and believes that Mrs. Evans just wants to "be part of the party" and "witness those milestone celebrations."
During this time the skeleton staff must appreciate the company. Staff would also appreciate clients who like a good ghost story and elegant and delicious take-out for their Halloween weekend and all of days after all Hollow’s Eve as well.
Mrs. Evans may help the chefs add a "little chill" to the warm food.
Johnston says much of the menu is available for take-out. Some top picks: Locally-sourced Charcuterie, Duck Poutine, and Flourless Chocolate Cake
To celebrate a different Halloween at home, and Ultimate Take-out Friday, simultaneously, you could enjoy food that is described as scary good from that haunted eatery.