There’s something lingering in the air throughout October, leading up to the culmination of all things spooky on its final day – Halloween.
October starts with the summer’s lush canopy of green bidding a final farewell through a stunning display of vibrant colours. When the leaves die off and settle as a multi-coloured blanket on the forest floor, and the fog rolls in over the lakes and fields, so does that familiar unsettling feeling.
If you’re the type to watch scary movies all month to chase those heebie-jeebies, here are a few creepy spots in Ontario’s Highlands to visit this season.
If you head out in search of the haunted, abandoned, and otherwise scary locations in our region, please be respectful of the locals and do not trespass on private property. Leave no trace and take only photographs – if you dare.
*Feature photo credit to the Carleton Place & Beckwith Heritage Museum.
Moore House – Carleton Place
In downtown Carleton Place, nestled amongst heritage buildings made of limestone and brick, a single log house is bound to catch your eye. Built in the mid-1800s, the Moore House is now home to the Roy Brown Museum, Visitor Centre, and Chamber of Commerce. But as legend suggests, the ghost of Ida Moore has never left.
In 2017 a paranormal investigation found evidence that a spirit continued to lurk throughout the home. Keep the ominous feeling going while in Carleton Place with a self-guided haunted heritage walk throughout town.
Treat Tip: You’ll be more alert for ghost-spotting with a sugar boost from Taste Blooms.
Buck Hill – Killaloe
The legend of Buck Hill is well known around the Ottawa Valley. During the Depression, a logger returned home during a snow storm to find his daughter distraught about her missing dog. Knowing the conditions were treacherous, he warned her not to leave the house, but when he let his guard down, she disappeared into the storm and was never seen again.
Legend has it he’d be out searching for her every night by lantern, and his spirit has continued to do so well after his death. If you visit Buck Hill Road at night, you might see the glow of his lantern weaving through the trees. Local musician Liam Lloyd even wrote a song from the eyes of the father.
Treat Tip: Warm up with a hearty meal or hot drink from The Cottage Cup in Golden Lake.
TTC Streetcar – Haliburton
Have you ever wandered through a forest and seen something that shouldn’t be there? In a wooded area east of the village of Haliburton, you might come across something you wouldn’t expect to find – an abandoned TTC streetcar. If you head out in search of this creepy spot, be mindful that you are surrounded by private property. Do not trespass and adhere to any local signage.
Treat Tip: Stop by Castle Antiques in Haliburton before you go for a vegan and gluten free treat, there’s nothing spooky about that!
Magnetic Hill – Dacre
Right off Highway 41 in the Ottawa Valley you can experience a strange sensation that some have attributed to the paranormal. On Magnetic Hill Road, you can drive to the bottom of the hill, put your car in neutral, lift your foot off the brake and watch as your car glides back uphill.
While urban legend often attributes this to magnetic fields or some sort of unknown force warning you that you’re unwelcome, the truth is it’s actually a rare optical illusion where you appear to be going uphill, when in reality it’s downhill. Though it’s not a busy road, do exercise caution when testing this out, you are operating a motor vehicle after all.
Rockingham Church – Rockingham
The Rockingham Church is not necessarily haunted, but it certainly looks the part. The little wooden church on the hill was built for the thriving hamlet of Rockingham in 1875. By the 1940s the hamlet was mostly abandoned and the church left to deteriorate.
It was saved from demolition in the mid-90s and designated a heritage site. With a tiny cemetery in front, and a forest behind, it’s a nice spot to take hauntingly beautiful photos.
Note: the church grounds are open for exploration during daylight hours only, though the church itself is closed to visitors due to COVID-19.
Treat Tip: Pay a visit to the Madawaska Coffee Co’s shop in Barry’s Bay for a fresh brewed coffee.
Franktown Public Cemetery – Franktown
Lanark County is rich with history, having been settled back in the early 1800s. As a result, many of the historic cemeteries give off an eerie vibe with their decrepit grave markers. The Franktown Public Cemetery is another cool spot that makes for a nice backdrop for creepy-themed photos. Its oldest tombstone dates back to 1823, and its stone fence with arching sign are a photographer’s dream.
Note: it should go without saying that you should be respectful in a cemetery.
Treat Tip: The Cheddar Stop in Carleton Place with its glorious magenta cow out front is a must-stop for fudge, cheese curds, and more.
Heritage House Museum – Smiths Falls
The Heritage House in Smiths Falls is another historic building where you might feel the hair on the back of your neck stand. It’s not known for sure whether spirits really haunt this building, but it is true that the original owner died in 1864 just a few months after construction was completed on his home.
Perhaps the uneasy feeling staff and visitors have reported, or the mysterious activity recorded in a 2008 paranormal investigation can be attributed to the owner, but the truth remains a mystery. The museum is open to visitors, and appointments are encouraged.
Treat Tip: Your one-stop-shop for sweet and savoury is Sweet Scoops and the Pickled Pig – a combo store where you can get a sandwich for lunch and an ice cream too.
Haliburton Highlands Museum – Haliburton
Ask a local from the village of Haliburton and you’ll get a slew of spots that are reported to be haunted, including the Haliburton Highlands Museum’s Reid House. Just last year, fueled by reports of the ghost of a boy spotted by children who visited the Reid House, paranormal investigators recorded video and audio throughout their visit and pored over the footage.
They reported their findings in a special presentation in 2019 around Halloween: the most unusual was an audio recording that resembled a woman’s voice, which nobody had picked up on until they were reviewing footage. Check the museum out for yourself – it’s open Tuesday through Sunday.
Treat Tip: Once you work up an appetite searching for ghosts, fill up on delicious Mexican grub from Poquito Loco.
Bonus: Guided Tours and Events
Nobody knows the ghost stories of Ontario’s Highlands quite like the locals. Join an event or a guided tour this October for a hair-raising good time.
- Guided Cemetary Walks hosted by Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, October 16, 22, & 23
- Northfire Circus and Bass Witch Coven present Theatre on Fire: The Witches at Abbey Gardens, October 22-23
- Perth Ghost Walks, lead by a local historian, will take place on October 28-30