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First, you turn your headlights on and off, three times, slowly.
Then, you shout “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” — some say, in Polish. And then, you wait and see.
That’s the ritual performed by Sheena Lubitz and others who make the drive to a storied, haunted, lonely road in the Ottawa Valley near Round Lake.
In the more than 100 times she’s visited, the former ghost hunter claims to have witnessed everything from a light where there shouldn’t be one, to a revving engine to a car horn echoing in the dark.
“Each time I went was a different experience,” said Lubitz, who lives an hour away in Pembroke, Ont. “I would try and get there every weekend if I could.”
Getting to the bottom of Buck Hill
Lubitz isn’t the only one.
She says on the weekend the place can get “quite busy” with local teenagers and children from as far away as Toronto or North Bay, curious about the spot.
The legend goes that during the depression, a man and his daughter lived at the bottom of the hill.
“He went out to get an armful of wood, the dog got out and the little girl ran after him,” said Laverne Burger, picking up the tale.
“He kept looking and looking for the little girl but he never found her.”
“Some people believe that because he put so much energy into trying to find her throughout his life, when he passed on, his ghost remains looking,” added Mark Hopkins.
Ghosts in the Valley
Both shared the lore in a CBC Ottawa Creator Network film by Tys Burger and Josh Murphy who grew up in the area, Josh in Pembroke and Tys in nearby Chapeau.
The pair, who’ve been making films together as part of the Elytra Collective since 2015, have a passion for surreal horror films and wanted to tell the story they’d heard since high school.
“It was kind of the legend that was talked about among the students as soon as they got their driver’s licence,” explained Murphy, adding it was where you went to “really freak each other out.”
They were amazed by the community’s response to a social media callout for participants, with people of all ages showing up at an old barn on Burger’s grandmother’s farm.
So why do people in the Valley keep telling this story? Brittney Bos says it might be a function of how stories spread in rural areas.
“Most of the ‘Great Canadian paranormal mysteries’ … come from small towns,” said the historian who researched Buck Hill for Ottawa’s Haunted Walks.
“That sense of community, knowing that, ‘oh, that happened to Dave, I know Dave — he’s my cousin.’ … Having more of that community connection might fuel these stories,” she said, adding a disproportionate number of stories come from this area.
“People do tend to be bored or looking for things to do.”
For her, what makes a story like Buck Hill endure is that the story changes with every retelling and as each person inserts themselves into the narrative.
“You know, you could go to this location and if you do this ritual … it could happen to you.”
What do you believe?
For Burger and Murphy, the story of Buck Hill appealed because it allowed them to go deep with people in their community.
“There’s something disarming about asking someone a ghost question,” said Murphy, who’s interested in telling stories about taboo subjects like politics and religion.
“It’s kind of silly, but it is kind of opening them up to be more vulnerable. … They’re revealing different aspects about who they are and what they believe.”
Burger said stories like Buck Hill “are really special and a good window into … seeing what makes them tick.
For Lubitz, it’s simple. Despite the creepy factor (she says “you couldn’t find a scarier place in the Ottawa Valley than Buck Hill”), there’s something about it that keeps her coming back.
“I’ve been hearing about it my entire life. Everyone has a story or knows someone that has a story about Buck Hill,” said Lubitz.
“I think that’s one of the ways that you know you’re from the Valley is if you have a Buck Hill story.”