People and Places

Local legends give fresh spin on spooky tales

This originally appeared in the October 2015 print edition of OTTAWA magazine. Above illustration (cropped): Kyle Brownrigg

Bored with the tales of D’Arcy McGee and Ottawa Hostel hangings? We rounded up a few Ottawa film, music, and writing buffs to weave new spooky stories for the city. Lee Demarbre, filmmaker and co-owner of the Mayfair Theatre; Brenda Chapman, author of Cold Morning; Charles DeLint, fantasy writer; Mike Dubue of the Hilotrons; and Rolf Klausener of The Acorn spin their own yarns of crypt and creep.

“The Mayfair. We’ve had paranormal investigators spend the night and determine there are three ghosts in the building — two behind the screen and one on the couch at the back.”
­–Lee Demarbre

**Don’t forget, the Mayfair starts their traditional screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Friday! Other Halloween favourites like The Shining are also on the schedule.**

What fantastical creature would be most likely to call this city home?

Gargoyles of the Peace Tower and Parliament Buildings. They have some pretty creepy little creatures up there — even dragons. If they came to life, they could do some damage.
— Brenda Chapman

I’d have to go with pukwudgies, the magical little people of the forest in Algonquin folklore, similar to European gnomes or fairies. I had one of them in my first urban fantasy novel, Moonheart. Jay Odjik, who wrote and illustrated the graphic novel Kakagi: The Raven, calls them pagwadj-inni. Jay says they’ve disappeared into their forests, never to return, but I think they’re still around.
— Charles DeLint

What’s the best place to host a genuine Monster Mash? If invited, what would you play?

The Concorde Tavern and Motel in Vanier. Or I’d take them out of the city to Brennan’s Hill, off Highway 105 past Wakefield. We would cover David Bowie’s Scary Monsters — verbatim.
— Mike Dubue

Anywhere deemed a safe space for monsters, by monsters. One where they’ll feel accepted, respected, and welcomed; let’s go with Laureen Harper’s [laundry] hamper. I’d play “You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac.
—  Rolf Klausener

If zombies invaded Ottawa, what would you do?

I’d welcome our new zombie community and ask them if they’d like to start their own zombie-themed music festival. I wouldn’t hide; I’d buy an early-bird pass.
— Rolf Klausener

Where would a real-life vampire live and hunt? 

I think she’d be a stripper working at Barbarella’s or The Playmate, and she’d dance and seduce men, and then the bar would close, and she’d say the right things to the wrong kind of guys and take them back to her or their hotel room and suck their blood and empty their pockets. My favourite thing about a vampire is the idea of sex as a weapon.
— Lee Demarbre

Where would you set a new ghost story in Ottawa? 

I live in Westboro. When I first moved here, there was a story of a house that burned and the boy who had been killed, and the families that moved in there could hear him crying — it was the neighbourhood urban legend, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.
— Brenda Chapman

I’d be tempted to tell a story set on the site of Brighton Beach on the Rideau
in Old Ottawa South — at the witching hour, on a cloudy night, with the moon drifting over the horizon. For something more traditional, I might pick the grave-yard at Billings Estate, tucked away in the woods as it is.
— Charles DeLint

If zombies invaded Ottawa, what would you do?

I’d welcome our new zombie community and ask them if they’d like to start their own zombie-themed music festival. I wouldn’t hide; I’d buy an early-bird pass.
— Rolf Klausener

I’d hide in the tunnels at Carleton.
I think I could barricade them and live there for
a while and maybe go scavenging to the surface from time to time from different access points in the tunnels. I could steal stuff from Tim Hortons in the Unicentre or from Rooster’s or go up to CKCU and use the radio and see if there are any survivors.
— Lee Demarbre

Where would you set a new song about a local ghost?

I was always really frightened of the marsh and wetlands out in Kanata. That whole area out there is right out of every single horror movie that involves woods or forests.
— Mike Dubue

In the Bruyère Hospital. The ghost [would be] my father, Bernhard Klausener, who passed away at the Bruyère in 1991. He was a polyglot and now likely speaks several dead languages, like Esperanto, Sanskrit, or the Queen’s English.
— Rolf Klausener