By SAM YEE
Seventy-five years ago, Lisgar and Glebe had a spectacular throwdown, which Lisgar history books dub “The Storming of Glebe.” What this throwdown was about I have no idea, but we do know that the Lisgar students held a banner with the slogan: “we may be old but we don’t creak!” This may hold true when used to describe the ability of the Lisgar stairs to withstand the test of time, but let me tell you: “we may be old” is definitely an understatement. The fact that Lisgar was able to make age jokes in 1943 proves my point. This building is old, eerie, and it sure does creak.
As you may know, Lisgar is a focal point of the Haunted Walk Tours because of the numerous creepy ghost stories and dark wartime past that make up such a large part of the school’s reputation and history. Most of these tales concern Lisgar’s infamous haunted Fifth Floor. That’s right, we call it the Fifth Floor now — not the “Fourth Floor,” as it used to be called. A shooting range for Lisgar Rifle Club and Cadet Corps during both world wars, the Fifth Floor’s history and inaccessibility have amplified its mysteriousness and have given rise to all sorts of otherworldly rumours.
Given my love of conspiracy theories, I figured the perfect way for me to commemorate Lisgar’s 175th Anniversary would be to research the school’s connection to the paranormal and to find any evidence to support the vast array of ghost stories.
Many years ago, there was a custodian who the students nicknamed “The Asp”. According to several former students, he always seemed to appear out of thin air to chastise the students about not cleaning up after themselves. Some say that this custodian resembled a cranky old koala who just wanted to nap (honestly, that description sounds like most grade twelves suffering from senioritis, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a mix-up). However, despite his more unfavourable traits, The Asp was supposedly the quickest to fix anything broken in the building and a loyal member of the school staff. Legend has it that one cold, icy morning, The Asp went up onto the school’s roof (no one really knows why), and sadly, he slipped and fell to his death 30 metres below.
Strange happenings began to occur shortly after the death of this custodian. Other custodians reported feeling like they were constantly being watched. Some reported bizarre noises from up above, and others claimed they saw lights flicker at any mention of the missing custodian, as if he was listening to their conversation through the walls and ceiling.
Flash forward to the 1970s, when the Ottawa Board of Education was pretty broke. They wanted to close down Lisgar to sell the property, but protests and an enormous show of public support for the school ensued, so they didn’t go through with the plans. Instead, the school underwent major renovations (it makes no sense, I know). The Fifth Floor received quite the facelift; fluorescent lights were installed, as was new heating and air circulation equipment, requiring to be stripped and inspected. Safety inspectors found evidence of several electrical fires in the walls that had somehow put themselves out. Many have speculated that the ghost of The Asp is responsible, and in his never-ending loyalty to the school, put out the fires himself.
Ghost of Head Girls Past
As anyone who has ever walked past Lisgar would know, there is always a section a few metres away from the base of the school that’s fenced off in winter, due to the danger of falling snow and ice from above. The school didn’t always do this, though. Time jump to winter of the 1942-1943 school year, and we’re in the thick of an Eastern Ontario freezing rain storm that spanned weeks.
Rumour has it that during this storm, Lisgar’s head girl was walking outside the school only to be struck by a massive falling icicle, killing her instantly. This is supposedly the reason why safety measures to prevent students from being struck by falling ice were implemented. Better yet, the girl’s ghost apparently haunts the Fifth Floor as well. Some former students and staff claim to have heard the shriek of the head girl while passing the stairwell by the Fifth Floor entrance, while some passersby believe they have seen a shadow resembling a young girl, as well as the flash of a lantern through the windows of the Fifth Floor. Sounds like Lisgar very own “Moaning Myrtle”…
I must admit that when I did some actual research instead of just reading Ottawa ghost blogs on Tumblr and Reddit, I found no concrete evidence supporting any of this. Not to totally debunk my own story or anything, but just so you know: there’s no proof of any student deaths due to falling ice in any issue of the Ottawa Journal published from 1941 to 1943 (unless the school covered it up to avoid being closed down…who knows?). In fact, past editions of Vox Lycei (the school yearbook) show no proof of Lisgar even having a head boy/head girl system until the late 1940s.
These days, the only glimpse of the Fifth Floor students ever get is during the Spirit Comm- ittee’s annual Haunted House, started in 2016. But the ever-growing collection of strange tales that has been shared over the years is just one of the things that makes the Lisgar experience truly unique. I encourage everyone reading this to continue telling their own stories. Not just the supernatural ones, but any story of your time at Lisgar. My hope is that in doing so, we’ll help keep the imaginations of future Lisgarites alive for the next 175 years at least!