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First, you turn your headlights on and off, three times, slowly.

Then you shout “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” — say some, in Polish. And then you wait and see.

This is the ritual performed by Sheena Lubitz and others who travel to a lonely, haunted and legendary road in the Ottawa Valley near Round Lake.

In the more than 100 visits she has made, the former ghost hunter claims to have witnessed everything from a light where there shouldn’t be, from a revving engine to a horn of echoing car in the dark.

“Every time I’ve been there it’s been a different experience,” said Lubitz, who lives an hour from Pembroke, Ont. “I would try to go there every weekend if I could.”

Filmmaker Tys Burger’s grandmother, Laverne Burger, says you have to shout “Daddy!” Father! Father!’ three times when you visit Buck Hill Road at night. (Tys Burger and Josh Murphy)

Getting to the foot of Buck Hill

Lubitz is not alone.

She says that on weekends the place can get “quite busy” with local teenagers and kids from as far away as Toronto or North Bay curious about the place.

Legend has it that during the depression, a man and his daughter lived at the foot of the hill.

“He went out to get an armful of wood, the dog came out and the little girl ran after him,” says Laverne Burger, picking up the story.

“He kept looking and looking for the little girl but he never found her.”

“Some people think that because he put so much energy into trying to find her throughout his life, when he died his ghost continued to search,” added Mark Hopkins.

A woman is holding an electronic device.
As part of his volunteer work with the Canadian Haunting and Paranormal Society, Lubitz uses this spirit box to do investigations. She also does some research, even going so far as to call the local township of Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards to find out more about Buck Hill. (Caroline Dorothy Creative)

ghosts in the valley

The two shared the lore in a CBC Ottawa Creator Network film of Tys Burger and Josh Murphy who grew up in the area, Josh in Pembroke and Tys in nearby Chapeau.

The couple, who have been making films together as part of the Elytra collective since 2015, are passionate about surreal horror films and wanted to tell the story they had heard since high school.

“It was kind of the legend that was talked about among college students as soon as they got their driver’s license,” Murphy explained, adding that this was where you would “really freak out.”

They were amazed by the community’s response to a call for participants on social media, with people of all ages showing up at an old barn on Burger’s grandmother’s farm.

A lantern moves in the dark.
According to locals, if you go to Buck Hill at night, you might see unexplained phenomena like light where there shouldn’t be. (Tys Burger and Josh Murphy)

Persistent Paranormal

So why do the people of the Valley continue to tell this story? Brittney Bos says it could be a function of how the 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, it happened to Dave, I know Dave – he’s my cousin.’ … Having more community connections could fuel those stories,” she said, adding that a disproportionate number of stories came from that region.

“People tend to be bored or looking for things to do.”

For her, what makes a story like Buck Hill last is that the story changes with each story and as each person inserts themselves into the story.

“You know, you could go to this place and if you do this ritual…it could happen to you.”

Although filmmaker Tys Burger didn’t see any ghosts at Buck Hill, “it was a really scary vibe…I was scared.” “There’s a moment when everything seems calm. That’s when you feel most vulnerable out there,” added filmmaker Josh Murphy. (Caroline Dorothy Creative)

What do you think?

For Burger and Murphy, the Buck Hill story appealed because it allowed them to go in depth with people in their community.

“There’s something disarming about asking someone a ghost question,” said Murphy, who enjoys telling stories about taboo subjects like politics and religion.

“It’s kind of silly, but it makes them more vulnerable. … They reveal different aspects of who they are and what they believe.”

Burger said stories like Buck Hill “are really special and a good window into…seeing what drives them.

Two people on a rural road.
Tys Burger, left, and Josh Murphy, right, wanted to capture a story they had heard since high school, filming The Legend of Buck Hill for CBC Ottawa’s Creator Network. (Caroline Dorothy Creative)

For Lubitz, it’s simple. Despite the scary 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 heard of it all my life. Everyone has a story or knows someone who has a story about Buck Hill,” Lubitz said.

“I think that’s one of the ways you know you’re from the Valley is if you have a Buck Hill story.”