FROM MYSTERIOUS HAUNTINGS TO BONE CHILLING PROFESSIONS,
ANCESTRY.CA DIGS UP CANADA’S SPOOKY PAST
(Toronto, ON – October 29, 2009) As ghosts and goblins prepare to hit the streets this Halloween, Ancestry.ca, Canada’s leading family history website[i], has unearthed records of some of the most haunting people in Canadian history.
Digging deep into its four billion family history records, Ancestry.ca has exhumed real life ghosts, eerie occupations and some of the nation’s most sinister names.
Being a ghost might be great for some people, but a few Canadians couldn’t wait until the afterlife to join the dark side. It appears with a little dedication, anyone could find a job doing what they truly loved.
- Witch – It’s a good thing he didn’t live in Salem! John Quinn, a 48-year-old resident of Gaspe, Quebec, lists his occupation as a ‘Witch’ in the 1881 Census.
- Monster – Robert Hosking, a 42-year-old husband and father of four in Huron, Ontario, lists his occupation as ‘Monster’ in the 1901 Census. One can only wonder what his kids thought of him.
- Lunatic Keeper – John Corbett has the distinction of being Canada’s only official ‘Lunatic keeper’, according to the 1901 Census. John, a 48-year-old, lived in Saint John, New Brunswick.
- Criminal – John Middleton, a 19-year-old from Algoma, Ontario, was honest about his profession, listing himself as a ‘Criminal’ when asked for his occupation in the 1901 Census.
Real life ghosts
Every city and town has a unique ghost story as part of its lore. But what were the individuals behind these stories doing before they died, and before they started haunting houses? Here are some of the people behind some of Canada’s most infamous ghost stories:
- Lillian Massey – daughter of Hart Massey, Lillian is one of Toronto’s most famous ghosts. She is said to haunt the family’s former home, now the site of the Keg Mansion restaurant on Jarvis Street. Lillian died in 1915 and it is widely believed that her presence is felt in the second floor bathroom of the house. Lillian is listed in the 1901 Census of Canada, living with her husband, mother and four servants in Toronto.
- Corliss Walker – this Winnipeg theatre-owner built the Walker’s Theatre, which is said to be haunted by two of its own stage actors, Laurence Irvin and Mabel Hackney, who both drowned in 1914. The ghosts of the two actors are occasionally heard performing on the empty stage. Walker can be found in the 1906 Census of Canada, living with his wife and daughter in Winnipeg.
- Esther Cox – the victim of several hauntings, this young Nova Scotia woman would seek the help of a psychic investigator before allegedly starting a fire, on which she blamed her ghostly attackers. Esther can be found in the 1871 Census of Canada, living with her husband and two children.
- Peter Anthony Prince- this wealthy Calgary entrepreneur built what is now known as The Prince House, in 1894. Married four times, three of Prince’s wives died before him and are now suspected to be haunting the home, which is located in Calgary’s Heritage Park. Prince can be found in the 1891 Census of Canada, living in Calgary with his first wife, Margaret.
- George Dagg – this Quebec farmer began experiencing ghostly encounters after adopting a young Scottish orphan. Exasperated, Dagg sought the help of journalist Percy Woodcock, who would witness the hauntings. George Dagg is listed in the 1871 Census of Canada in his hometown of Clarendon, Quebec.
- William Lyon Mackenzie - Toronto’s first mayor, Mackenzie is said to haunt his old home, now the site of a museum dedicated to his family. Mackenzie is listed in the 1861 Census of Canada, living in Toronto shortly before his death with his wife Isabel and four of their children.
- Patrick James Whelan – this unfortunate young man may have been the victim of some very bad luck. Whelan was convicted and executed for the murder of D’Arcy McGee, one of the fathers of Confederation, a conviction that many now question. He is now said to haunt Ottawa’s Nicholas Street Hostel, the former prison where his execution took place. Whelan can be found in the Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, where he is listed at the time of his marriage.
- Laura Dunsmuir – Laura died in 1937 and is said to haunt the Hatley Castle of Victoria, BC, in the West Coast’s most haunted city. The Castle is now home to the Royal Roads Military College. Laura is listed in the British Columbia Death Index, 1872-1979, having passed away at the age of 79.
The following individuals may not have had any personal experience with ghosts, goblins or the undead, but their names may have scared off more than a few early trick-or-treaters.
- Nancy Monster – a 26-year-old woman living on her own in Stormont County, Ontario in the 1851 Census of Canada
- George Skeleton – a 38-year-old man living with his wife in a lodging house in Brockville, Ontario in the 1911 Census of Canada
- Ermand L Ghoul – a 36-year-old man who travelled from New York City to Quebec in 1932, listed in Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935
- Michael Witch – a 42-year-old single Irish man living with his brother in Chatham, Ontario in the 1901 Census of Canada