U of O’s haunted history part of paranormal hotspot

Photo: Courtesy of Michel Prévost

For those who aren’t kept up at night by scary stories, Canadian paranormal research group Cold Spot is now recruiting case managers from the Ottawa area.

It doesn’t have a sweet theme song like Ghostbusters, but the Toronto-based firm has investigated paranormal activity throughout North America since 2002.

Believers from the University of Ottawa might not have to look far to do some research. The school has a couple of ghost stories of its own. Michel Prévost, the university’s chief archivist, described the stories and how students had a great interest in the ghost tours he offered last year with Community Life Service across Lowertown for a haunted walk.

One of the ghost stories takes place right here in Tabaret Hall.

After a fire burned down  the original Tabaret building in 1903, three people who were inside died, including one unknown woman. When the building was rebuilt, it included a residence, and students who stayed there claimed to see a woman’s ghost walking around late at night. After the residence was converted into offices in 1965, she has not reported to have been seen since.

In fact, most of the Ontario based reports that Cold Spot investigates come from Ottawa, says the group’s founder, Michelle McKay.

She says her interest in the paranormal began when she was only 10 years old, living in a house she believed to be haunted. After her friends asked her to investigate their homes, she said it never stopped.

McKay’s family has a background in paranormal research, with her great uncle Henry McKay being one of the former leading UFO researchers in Canada. However she says she never knew about her uncle’s research until after she began her own.

“I’ll never forget standing in his kitchen and telling him what I did and him telling me what he did,” she recalls. “We both stood there with our mouths dropped, just in shock.”

Now that her great uncle has passed away, McKay says she’s dedicating more of her time to continuing his research and wants to keep the busy Ottawa branch buzzing.

Of course, skeptics are aplenty. But she says she’s here for the believers.

“I don’t waste a minute on trying to convince the skeptics, because I don’t care about the skeptics. I have nothing to prove to them,” she says.

Prévost is not a believer himself, but he says there’s merit in learning about these stories.

“Is it true? We don’t know,” he says. “But it’s part of our history, so for me I find it very interesting.”