Story Ideas

10 things you need to know about…Canada’s dark and sinful urban history.

Discover notorious ghosts, bordellos, murder, mayhem and more on these city tours.

13 November 2013

Suggested tweet: Take a walk on Canada’s dark side via one of these 10 sinful city tours #explorecanada

Like a little dirty laundry? From coast to coast to coast, Canadian cities offer up tours that explore their dark, juicy and sometimes terrifying pasts, from Vancouver’s Prohibition-era speakeasies to Ottawa’s haunted death row. Notorious ghosts, bordellos, unsolved crimes and more wait to be discovered on these titillating tours.

1.    Atlantic graveyard by candlelight: Explore the oldest English graveyard in Canada on this after dark, candlelit tour at Fort Anne National Historic Site in Annapolis Royal, NS. First erected in 1629 and situated high above the Annapolis River, Fort Anne has witnessed more than its share of gory battles and deaths over the centuries.

2.    Dark history in Montréal:Old Montréal, QC, may be charming today, but hundreds of years ago it was infested with charlatans, criminals and disease. Discover ghastly legends in the darkest corners of the city on this theatrical guided tour.

3.    Behind bars in Canada’s capital:Ottawa’s Carleton County Jail was once among the most notorious in the country, keeper of the last working gallows in Canada. The jail closed in 1972 and was later converted into a hostel. Regular tours now take visitors into the meticulously preserved death row on the top floor.

4.    Terror-on-the-Lake:The placid Lake Ontario waterfront hides a dark secret: one of Canada’s most haunted towns. Historic Niagara-on-the-Lake is rumoured to be infested with 100 witches, a sobbing War of 1812 widow, long-dead British soldiers and sundry ghouls, all of whom you might bump into on this unique ghost walk.

5.    Spirits of the Big Smoke:More than 150 years ago, the cobblestone streets of Toronto’s lively Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market area were the scene of debauchery, murder and mayhem. Hear grisly tales from the city’s bad old days on this spirited historical tour.

6.    Hit men and women in Hamilton:Canada’s steel capital boasts an especially sinister past. Learn about the misdeeds of mobsters from Al Capone to Rocco Perri, as well as the gruesome story of infamous murderess Evelyn Dick, on this walk on the dark side.

7.    Naughty on the Prairies:In the early 1900s, Winnipeg’s Exchange District was a hotbed of gambling, drugs and prostitution. Travel back to those freewheeling days on this tour of the city’s old opium dens, brothels and drinking halls.

8.    Into the bowels of Moose Jaw:Beneath this tranquil Saskatchewan city, secret tunnels once served dark and mysterious purposes. Venture underground on this guided tour and learn about Chinese immigrants’ quest for a better life and Al Capone’s bootlegging days.

9.    Gastown’s dark and dirty past:The charming, cobblestone streets of Vancouver’s Gastown were a whole lot rougher in the late 1800s, when the city was still a violent frontier town. Learn about a devastating plague, unsolved gold-rush murders and the city’s first madam on this interactive walking tour.

10.Getting wild on the West Coast:The Vancouver Police Museum organizes this steamy look into the Prohibition-era sins of the city. The edgy historical tour takes visitors back to 1920s Chinatown, a world of speakeasies, gambling houses and copious amounts of opium.

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