by Stephanie Malek
I touched on this topic very briefly in my Black Creek Pioneer Village post. I find the idea of ghosts super fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes I have felt weird energies being in places that I can't explain and then later find out some bad things have happened in those places (ask me about the house I lived in on Rolyat sometime over a drink). I learned a lot about ghosts and the paranormal from my mom, who shares the same fascination (we've often talked about hauntings and ghosts and she is way braver about it than me because I am a scaredy cat!) No matter my end feelings about ghosts, I can't stop reading about them, or hearing about them.
Toronto has a lot of famous ghosts and a lot of people who want to tell you about them! I've done a few ghost tours (one was through the Tour Guys for Halloween and the other was a free ghost tour of Queen's Park over lunch hours during October). Both were wonderful and informative and scary and made me think about my favourite Toronto ghosts! Here is some music to set the mood as you read about some of Toronto's most famous ghosts!
University of Toronto
This ghost story starts with Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diablos, two stone masons helping to construct buildings at the U of T campus. These two fell madly in love with the same woman (tale as old as tiiiiiiime). While both were (unknowingly) romancing the woman, Diablos convinced the her to elope with him and when Reznikoff discovered their secret and their affair, he confronted Diablos, chasing him through University College with an axe (you can still see the axe mark on one of the doors!). There are two versions of the story from this point: in one, Reznikoff swings, misses, and plummets to his death and in the other Diablos stabs him to death. In both cases, Diablos buried the body in the building to avoid blame. Human remains were discovered after the fire of 1890 and since then, ghostly apparitions, as well as poltergeist activity have been observed at University College.
The Keg Mansion (aka Massey mansion)
Everyone who grew up in Toronto probably knows someone who has worked at this place and has seen this ghost, or heard about this ghost, or felt this ghost, or was this ghost (there are so many stories I wouldn't be surprised if this was one). I first learned about the hauntings in grade 3 from a classmate who's cousin worked at the Keg Mansion and said she experienced some of the spooks first-hand.
Before it was known as the Keg Mansion (because it houses a Keg franchise) it was owned by the Massey family (yes, that one). Lillian was the only daughter of Hart Massey and was by far the most beloved family member who lives there. Her health declined over the course of many years (since the death of her husband in 1910) and she passed in 1915. One of the maids of the house was so distraught over the loss of Lillian (or because she may have had a secret affair with one of the Massey men and feared this death would somehow reveal her secret) that she took her own life upon learning of her death. She hung herself over the oval vestibule by the main staircase and visitors have often seen a figure hanging in this very same spot!
Some of the other ghosts of the mansion include phantom footsteps of children from the second floor, a ghostly boy looking down from the main staircase at diners, and the presence in the women's washroom. I had a birthday dinner here one year and for sure I was TERRIFIED to go to the bathroom. I didn't see a ghost but I sure as heck didn't spend a lot of time hanging out there on the off chance that some freaky angry spirit was gonna mess my shit up. People have reported locks opening on stall doors, bags being lowered down by phantom hands, and a general sense of being watched while in there.
I've already written about the rebel mayor Mackenzie so it should be no surprise that his house contains as much unrest after his life as it did during his life! I've done a couple of tours of this house and it's hella creeps. A lot of places try to play down their ghost stories out of fear that it might drive people out but not Mackenzie House - they are proud of their creepers. It has been reported as the most haunted house in Toronto, and possibly even Canada. While Mackenzie only lived here for a couple years, this is where he passed away (in his bedroom on the second floor). Since then, people have seen a small, bald man in a wig and frock (who looks an awful lot like the former mayor) around the home, as well as a woman with long hair (who looks like Mackenzie's wife) on the upper two floors of the house. The printing press in the basement has been known to start up on its own (despite being locked and unattended), footsteps are often heard throughout the house, and a piano can be heard playing after the house has been closed and no one is left in the house! Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's a great place to visit though make sure to bring a camera to see if you can capture any orbs in your photos!
I could tell you about so many more haunted places and so many other ghosts but there are so many people who will tell it better!
Torontoghosts.org provides a printable map for a DIY walking tour of downtown, as well as links to numerous accounts from around the city on their website. A quick google search of Toronto Ghosts will keep you busy for many hours on end!
Whether you believe or not, there's no denying that Toronto has some great ghost stories!
Did I miss an obvious one? Tweet at me @stephanie_malek and let's talk! I love talking about Toronto!
Also, Toronto, I Love You returns TODAY for 5 more shows! It's selling out like crazy so don't miss out and buy your tickets in advance. I'll be there Friday night and Saturday at front of house so come say hello!