Calabogie Cottage Horror

It’s a dream of many, a summer escape, life along the lakeshore, with cold drinks, around a glowing fire-pit at night. Many of us imagine a tranquil place, with long lazy days, not a care in the world, boating, swimming, and dining on savory barbecued meals in the great outdoors.

It should have been the perfect way to spend a vacation, some well-deserved time off, relaxing, unwinding, but in a tale as strange as they come, a frightening chain of events ended with a young family packing up their gear, and speeding up Highway 511 toward Lanark, vowing never to return again.

It was late in the season when Mark saw the ad in the paper, a three bedroom cottage for rent by the week, with all the bells and whistles, and the price was right, in fact it was more than right, it was a downright steal. Perhaps the bargain basement cost for a luxury rental should have been the first clue that something was not as it seemed. When Mark saw the price, and that the place came with a boat for the week, he didn’t want to take a chance of letting this great deal slip away, so he called his wife, Jill, from the office. She gave the green light to go ahead and book it.

The kids had mixed reactions when they learned they’d be away from their friends, stuck with their parents for a week. “I don’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere, where there’s nothing to do!”, were the first words out of Josh’s mouth. Josh was 10, afterall, and liked to get together with friends and play video games. Caitlin, at 14, just didn’t want to be away from her friends. She and her friends liked to go back and forth between houses for sleepovers, staying up late, and watching movies.

Once the decision was made, Mark and Jill did their best to bring up all of the positive points about spending the week at a cottage. They could swim, fish, go out on the boat, have smores and toasted marshmallows around the fire at night; it would be a lot of fun, and it was only a week afterall, and they’d be back with their friends in no time.

Calabogie Lake, Renfrew County, Eastern Ontario

The drive to Calabogie didn’t take as long as they thought, and within an hour they’d unpacked, and the kids were getting settled in their rooms. Caitlin changed into her bathing suit, grabbed the sunscreen and headed out to the dock to work on her tan. After Jill and Mark filled the fridge, and put the bags away, Mark decided to check out the boat. He hadn’t driven one for a while and was anxious to get it out on the water, and see what it could do.

On the path from the cottage, he could see Caitlin face down on the dock, head resting on an inflatable pillow, and as he got closer he realized he was looking at the largest spider he’d ever seen in his life, just inches away from Caitlin’s shoulder. He yelled, “Caitlin, stay still, honey, don’t move!”  Startled, Caitlin began to look around, spotted the enormous spider – about four inches in diameter, with black and grey striped legs, and she let out a blood-curdling scream, and ran frantically back toward the cottage. She told her mother what she’d seen and how large it was, and how she was not going back onto that dock again for the rest of the trip.

Meanwhile, Mark made his way down the dock, passed the spider, and continued toward the boat. Mark remembered an old wives tale he heard when he was a kid, something about killing a spider and then it rains. The last thing he wanted was rain on his vacation, so he walked past it, and stepped down into the boat. It had probably been twenty years since he’d driven a boat and he was excited at the prospect of touring around the lake all week. He put the key into the ignition, started the engine, removed the tie line, and pushed the throttle forward, heading out toward the center of the lake.

After a few passes around the lake, Mark headed back to the cottage, and slowed the engine as he approached the dock. Pulling up alongside, he grabbed the line to tie off the boat but he didn’t notice that a female spider had laid her eggs in the coils of the rope while he was gone. By the time he looked down, he had already plunged his hand into the wet sticky center, and sent hundreds of baby spiders in every direction. He jerked his hand back in horror, his fingers dripping with dozens of spiders, and then plunged his hand into the lake, thrashing his arm from side to side, frantically trying to remove what remained of the web and the spiders. After he’d managed to clean off his hand and arm, he glanced over at the tie line and saw that it was also covered with hundreds of spiders. He walked up toward the cottage, picked up a stick from the grass, and removed the rest of the nest from the tie line, then secured the boat.

Mark decided it was best to keep the story of his misadventures on the dock to himself, and waved at Jill as he made his way up the stone path to the cottage. The scent of the burgers on the barbecue was almost enough to make him forget his disturbing experience, and he called out to Jill, asking if she needed any help.

The barbecue was delicious, and in a rare moment, the kids actually seemed content. After supper Jill brought some marshmallows and smore-making supplies outside, and Mark used some crumpled paper to get a fire started in the fire pit. It was a beautiful night, a perfect pink sunset, the sound of loons along the shore, and the family enjoyed some great conversations and lots of laughs before deciding to pack it in for the night and head inside the cottage.

Josh was the first one off to bed, but it wasn’t long before he appeared at the doorway to his room. “I’m not sleeping in there.”, he said firmly, “My room is full of bugs.”

When Mark asked him what he meant, Josh led him into the room and when they turned on the overhead light, and looked up, there were dozens of large black dock spiders, crawling in every direction across the ceiling. He repeated himself, “I’m not sleeping in there.”

Jill came to the doorway, looked up at the ceiling, and tried her best not to react in front of the kids. She said, “Sure, Josh, you can sleep on the couch in the living room. No problem. We’ll take care of that tomorrow, and get the room all ship-shape for you.”

She headed toward the linen closet to get some extra bedding to make up the couch for Josh. She pulled the closet door open, and hundreds of spiders tumbled out onto the floor, and scattered across the living room, and into the kitchen.

Jill looked at Mark, “We can’t stay here. I’m not staying here, and neither are the kids. Let’s go home now. Let’s just pack up our things and we can hope that we don’t bring any of these things back home with us.”

Mark agreed, and the family packed their suitcases, Jill took everything they’d brought out of the fridge, filled the cooler, and brought it out to the car. Within an hour, they were in the car and back on the road again, heading up Highway 511 toward Lanark.

Now Mark understood why the cottage rental had been so cheap. The owners hadn’t bothered to tell them in advance that the beautiful cottage was already fully occupied….not by people, ……………………………but by the infamous, and larger-than-life…….Calabogie Dock Spiders.

(Part of the Spooky October Tales series)

All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to a person living or dead is purely coincidental. Dock Spiders are Canada’s largest spider, among nine species in North America. The mother spider’s ‘egg sack’ can hold up to 1,000 baby spiders. They have water-resistant legs and can walk on the surface of a lake, and even stay submerged for up to half an hour to avoid being caught by predators. These creatures are rarely aggressive toward humans, and normally hide when approached.

October: Tales of Fright from the Ottawa Valley

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of 10 books: “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email:

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