I have always been curious about the paranormal. Admittedly, I am also a huge fan of the Ghostbusters remake, (controversial, I know). When I found out that The Courtyard Restaurant was listed as allegedly haunted, I knew that I had to do some investigating into both their ghosts and their food.

The History

wine, beer
Magda Knyszynski

The Courtyard’s history literally sounds like the setup for an American Horror Story season. The place goes all the way back to 1827 when the first documented building on that plot of land served as a tavern. In the late 1860s, it housed military personnel and was the site of the last ever military hanging. In 1911, it was a civil emergency center during the typhoid epidemic.

In 1980, the building was officially transformed into the Courtyard Restaurant but there was a major fire five weeks after opening that forced it to temporarily close while it was renovated again. The Courtyard Restaurant is currently midway through its 36th year of existence and still sits at 21 George Street in Ottawa's Byward Market.

The Ghost Story

water, coffee, beer, tea
Magda Knyszynski

The site's history makes it seem like an appropriate place for something spooky to be going on down there. But there's more. The place is home to a residential ghost called Mrs. Evans.

Mrs. Evans is said to wear a long black gown and it is believed that she died in a fire. She has been spotted looking out from the second-floor window, potentially waiting for someone to rescue her from the flames. Some staff has reported the sound of "tinkling glasses" after being left completely alone in the dining room and other staff has claimed to see salt shakers move on their own. 

The Courtyard's Senior Event Coordinator, Cynthia Verboven, has had several encounters with Mrs. Evans and refers to her as a friendly "colleague", who also enjoys event planning. Verboven recalls placing a highchair in front of the fireplace to match a client's seating plan and later returning to find the highchair moved away from the heat.

If Mrs. Evans did meet her demise in a fire, it is understandable that she wouldn't like Courtyard clients, especially babies, dining near the fireplace. Also, during a meeting, a whiteboard listing The Courtyard's upcoming events suddenly detached from the wall and landed on Verboven's desk, as if by ghostly force. Thus confirming for Verboven that Mrs. Evan's was equally as excited about the many wedding reservations.

The Interview

beer, coffee
Magda Knyszynski

Paranormal encounter stories really spike my curiosity so I quickly called up my buddies and made a Friday night dinner reservation. I didn't want to go in unprepared so I decided to speak to an expert beforehand. John Moore is the Lead Paranormal Investigator and Founder of Ottawa Paranormal Research and Investigations (OPRI). He has been active in the paranormal industry for 22 years, his favorite food is a ghost pepper, and he was happy to speak to me about what I should watch out for.

Spoon: What would you say to a skeptic?

John: As investigators, we are our own biggest skeptics. Anytime we see something, we can't just assume that it's really paranormal. We have to check and find out if there are other explanations and solutions. With the skeptics that, whatever you show them, they think it's all nothing or in your head, I tell them, until they actually experience something, they need to keep an open mind. 

Spoon: What kind of misconceptions do people have when it comes to the paranormal?

John: The biggest one is that ghosts can hurt you and that every ghost is something to be afraid of. That really isn't the case.

Spoon: How should I approach my dinner reservation at The Courtyard? 

John: Going to dinner there, I don't believe you'll actually see anything. With the number of people that are in there, it would be hard to tell what is paranormal and what isn't. There is so much chance for contamination. What I do know about The Courtyard is that the majority of the sightings that occur there happen with employees after hours. You are more likely to see something when there are fewer people in the building. With 30 people in a room, you could think a chair moved, but it would be impossible to determine if somebody actually bumped it.

Spoon: What are some investigation techniques that I could try?

John: If we were going to investigate these claims, we would set up a table the way they would have it set. Then we would move something slightly just to see what would happen. If the salt and pepper shakers were always set a certain way, we'd make them switch places or move them to the opposite side of the table.  

We would set up a camera right there. We would also put paper underneath and mark an outline of the shakers so we could see if they shifted from their new spot. It's something you could try but it would be tough to control with servers going by or vibrations from movement elsewhere in the room. If we did it, we would actually isolate that room completely. 

Spoon: Is there anything else that I could be doing while at dinner?

John: Get as many pictures, in as many different areas, as you can. Watch for something to show up. Look for a person in the digital image that is not actually there in real life. Take multiple pictures at once and see if there are any differences between them. 

Spoon: Do you have any advice for people who are interested in the paranormal or are looking to conduct their own investigations?

John: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to do that is do not go by what you see on TV. What you're seeing on TV is what an editor has put together. They do that for entertainment. That's it. We've been involved with a few television shows ourselves and each time the editors take what we do and try to make it interesting.

People don't want to watch us sitting in an empty room for eight hours. When people first come out with us they say "It's nothing like what I see on TV." Also, to anyone coming into the field, do your own research. Read books on it. If you can, try to get out with an experienced team that can show you what to do properly, instead of trying to wing it on your own. 

Spoon: Would it be possible for an inanimate object, like your dinner, to become possessed? 

John:  I would say no. Though there is one thing, relating to food, that would be considered slightly paranormal. There are paranormal places where people have reported smelling things liked baked goods. We went to one place, it was a family home, and they thought it was haunted by their grandmother. She had died years ago, but she was believed to be attempting to connect with her family members with the smell of her cookies. It was believed that she was manifesting the scent to comfort them and say, "Hey, I'm here" in their time of need. 

Spoon: Can ghosts eat?

John: I don't believe they can eat. Although, we have had instances where people would leave beer bottles on a bar in a haunted restaurant. They would come back to find them empty. Food doesn't necessarily attract ghosts, but it can be used as a trigger object, especially in a scenario with the spirit of an alcoholic. 

The Investigation

Armed with John's advice, my Spoon squad and I went to The Courtyard for dinner. The setting was very ominous. The place was old, there were lots of candles, and we were seated in a corner next to a mysterious tiny door.

soup, wine, coffee, tea
Magda Knyszynski

I attempted to recreate the salt shaker experiment that John described. As my luck would have it, there were no salt shakers. So we set the butter dish on a piece of paper, traced its outline, and waited to see if it would move at all. As John predicted, we didn't get anything. 

cream, chocolate
Magda Knyszynski

Being dissatisfied with those results and eager to find something, I decided to venture into the bathroom alone. Though the space was not completely controlled, (the building still had people in it, including on the floor above), the ladies room was a lot more quiet and isolated compared to the dining area. Therefore, the bathroom was much more conducive to detecting something.

After making sure I was alone, I made some voice recordings and took some pictures—I did not catch anything on either medium. To an outsider, I was just taking a bunch of weird selfies for fives minutes. 

beer, cake, tea, coffee
Carleigh Reynolds

When it was time to eat, I ordered the Cedar Planked Atlantic Salmon and got the Maple Sugar Pie for dessert. Ladies and gents, never in my life have I had a fish satisfyingly melt in my mouth like this did. 

salmon, rice, risotto
Magda Knyszynski

Also, the pie is topped with blueberries which have subsequently become my favorite fruit. If you're thinking about eating at The Courtyard but are afraid of the ghosts, trust me that the food is worth the risk of the scare.

butter, pie, mousse, cheesecake, cream, peanut butter, peanut, chocolate
Magda Knyszynski

Rating: Five Ghost Emojis Out of Five.


Based on my dining experience, I cannot conclusively call The Courtyard Restaurant haunted. Though I do believe there is something bizarre about the spot. So I would like to return and try out some of John's more advanced investigation techniques. Until then, I no longer have to live in fear of my ramen becoming possessed.