Scary, eh? Canadian ghost stories and urban legends 

By: Callum Denault

Published on: October 24th, 2023

Whether you call them ghost stories or urban legends, every culture has its own scary tales, and Canada is no exception. Given that Halloween is a horror themed holiday celebrated in Canada in the month of October, what better way is there to learn about this great country’s culture than by reading a few spooky stories during a cool, autumn night? 

Wendigo: Nightmare of the Algonquin people 

Canada is infamous for its brutal winters. Now imagine how brutal those winters must have been in a time before food could be stored in cans, kept cold in refrigerators, and shipped conveniently to you from warmer parts of the world through global supply lines. Imagine when the trees have lost their leaves, the lakes have frozen solid, and the snow is choking out grass. Imagine living in that cruel emptiness, and trying to find something to eat

Associated with winter, the Wendigo is an evil beast which has a never ending hunger for human flesh, and is thought to bring cold, hostile weather wherever it goes. Wendigos easily stand over 15 feet tall, have pale, ashy skin and the long, emaciated features of a corpse. Armed with long teeth and sharp claws, the Wendigo smells like rotting flesh, and releases a haunting screech before it pursues its prey. They can only be killed by piercing their icy hearts. 

The most terrifying thing about Wendigos, is how they are made. Some legends say Wendigos are not just evil spirits, but cursed humans, suffering from eternal hunger as punishment for resorting to cannibalism, or living in greed. The Wendigo can be thought of as a cautionary tale, discouraging people from turning against their fellow man, even when the winters grow long and hungry. 

These legends belong to the Algonquin people, and similar legends have been told by the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potowatomi tribes. While modern depictions of Wendigo include antlers or other deer like features, this is not very accurate to the original Indigenous myth. 

The haunting of Bay subway station 

Nothing is that scary about a subway station, especially not one as popular and well run as Bay station in downtown Toronto. At least, nothing is scary about the part of the station that people use

Lower Bay station is an abandoned part of the subway stop, on that members of the public rarely see. Some public transit employees reported seeing ghosts down there, including a woman in red

In 2022, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) decided to get in on some spooky fun, opening Lower Bay station for the first time in decades during the Halloween season. There, they held a family-friendly event with free giveaways, a Halloween themed subway train, and a garage sale. 

Ghost sightings aside, Lower Bay station might not be as scary as it is made out to be, given that several movies and tv shows have been filmed there. If there are ghosts haunting the train tracks, perhaps they are polite enough to let filmmakers do their job in peace. 

The Canadian Prime Minister and the axe murderer: A tale of two Bordens 

Unlike the two stories above, this one is completely true. What do WWI-era Canadian Prime Minster Robert Borden, WWII-era British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and 1950s Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe all have in common? They are all distantly related to each other. Well, related to each other and an infamous cousin of theirs. 

In the 1890s, Lizzie Borden earned herself a dubious spot in history for being the prime suspect in the murder of her father and stepmother. This, in turn, inspired a rather creepy child’s nursery rhyme

“Lizzie Borden took an axe, 

And gave her mother 40 whacks, 

When she saw what she had done, 

She gave her father 41.” 

Neither of Lizzie Borden’s parents were “whacked” 40 times, although they did suffer multiple injuries from an axe or hatchet. Given Lizzie Borden had family troubles, was the only person at home during the murders other than the housemaid, and was seen acting strangely after the death of her parents, the authorities figured she was guilty. Despite an intense court case which involved using the skulls of the victims to show how they had been killed, Lizzie Borden was found not guilty. To this day, many people believe she did commit the murders. 

While Lizzie Borden’s innocence remains in question to this day, what can be proven is her family ties to the former Canadian Prime Minister. The alleged axe killer is just as much a part of the Borden family tree as Robert Borden, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe, which is a dubious honour for the otherwise very accomplished family tree. It is unlikely Robert Borden talked about his distant cousin all that much when campaigning to lead Canada. 

Cadborosaurus: The real body of a mysterious sea monster 

The Cadborosaurus, or Caddy, is essentially Canada’s answer to the Loch Ness monster from Scotland. The Cadborosaurus reportedly can grow up to 40-60 feet long, and may either be a giant serpent or a plesiosaur which survived the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. 

Named after Cadboro Bay in British Columbia, Caddy is a strange creature that has not only been witnessed by sailors, but actually has washed up on Canadian shores as an authentic corpse

In 1937, fishermen pulled out a strange animal from the belly of a whale they hunted. Known as the Naden Harbour carcass, it was documented with photographs.  

However, this is not concrete evidence that a massive, undiscovered reptile is lurking off the west coast of Canada. Several, equally bizarre looking carcasses have been found, which were later proven to belong to more familiar ocean giants like whales or sharks. Often the dead bodies of these animals become unrecognizable when they rot or are eaten by ocean scavengers, making them appear ghoulish and serpent-like. 

As for the Cadborosaurus sightings, it is possible those reports were actually sightings of the Oarfish, a long, bony fish which can grow up to 50 feet long and is thought to have inspired the mythical sea serpent.  

Not enough? Watch some Canadian horror shows  

The first season of The Terror takes place in the Canadian Arctic during the 1840s, covering the crews of two exploratory ships who find themselves being hunted by a mysterious force. While based on a real expedition that did go missing, the show does take some liberties with Inuit mythology, adding in the fictional Tuunbaq monster. 

From is about a group of people trapped in a mysterious American town where they are unable to leave, are surrounded by a deadly forest, and hunted by monsters that come out every night to slaughter the townsfolk. The show is filmed in Beaverbank Villa, which used to be a small town that served a nearby military base, but was destroyed in 2004. Ten buildings were made to film From, which is one of many productions to treat Nova Scotia as a premium filming location.  

Based off a popular video game, The Last of Us takes place 20 years after an apocalypse caused by a fungal infection that turned people into zombies. Alberta made a list of all the places the show filmed their different scenes in, which includes parts of Calgary, and Canadian actor Lamar Johnson received an Emmy nomination for his role in the show. 

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