Toronto, I Love You Blog

Toronto Ghosts, I Love You

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)

 image lovingly borrowed from wikipedia

image lovingly borrowed from wikipedia

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!

 image lovingly borrowed from whyihearttoronto.tumblr.com and frighteningly looked at by me.

image lovingly borrowed from whyihearttoronto.tumblr.com and frighteningly looked at by me.

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. 

Mackenzie House

 image was found on buzzbuzzhome.com because I can't take such a nice picture!

image was found on buzzbuzzhome.com because I can't take such a nice picture!

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!

Rebel Mayor, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

I originally was going to write this post about parody twitter accounts of Toronto politicians. I started reading through the accounts and quickly realized that I really didn't want to relive the embarrassment of our previous mayor, who single-handedly made me embarrassed to be Torontonian more times than I can count. 

 What a happy looking gentleman. 

What a happy looking gentleman. 

Instead of dwelling on the (painful) recent past, I will instead dwell on the distant past - back to the first mayor of Toronto, William Lyon MacKenzie.

To give you a brief background on this handsome gentleman, William Lyon MacKenzie was a journalist, then a Member of the Legislative Assembly, our first mayor, and a leader of the Rebellions of 1837. Born in Scotland, he came to Canada in 1820 and moved to York (Toronto) in 1824. In his political career he was, um ... how to put it ... really good at pissing people off - so much so that he was often threatened, assaulted and attacked (they destroyed his printing press and threw parts of it into Lake Ontario!) They kept booting him out of the Assembly, and his constituents kept bringing him back! In 1834 he became mayor, but his term was short as he was elected to the provincial Parliament again. He was defeated in the polls in 1836 and got so upset that he decided on an armed revolt (it didn't go particularly well due to lack of planning and leadership and probably lots of alcohol so he fled to the US where he kept trying to rebel from Navy Island. They beat him there too so he moved to New York). If you want the full story, you can find more here

There is no denying he was a scrappy fellow. In this day and age, modern-day scrappers like to spend their time giving hell to each other on the internet, so it makes perfect sense that William Lyon MacKenzie is back - in twitter form.

I knew as soon as I decided to start this blogging project that the rebel mayor would be included on my list of things I love about Toronto. From his ongoing feud with former Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, to his ongoing threats to the public peace, to his hatred of Toronto, its history, and it's Tory politics, here are a few of my favourite tweets from our first mayor:

 Trying to help local MPPs

Trying to help local MPPs

 A sassy repartee with the former Deputy Mayor.

A sassy repartee with the former Deputy Mayor.

 Reaching out to the media to keep them in the loop.

Reaching out to the media to keep them in the loop.

    Showing his city pride.

   Showing his city pride.

I reached out to our former mayor, once I'd decided to include him, to let him know he would be included in my list of things I loved about this city. I figured he may want to weigh in on the inclusion. I assure you, he did not disappoint. I also asked him what he loved about the city, which he also shared with me. I am sad to say that I have since challenged him to a duel to honour the good name of our fair city. I will let you know how it goes lest I perish by musket-fire!

Unlike the former mayor, we love Toronto and want to share it with you! Toronto, I Love You opens tonight at Bad Dog Comedy Theatre and runs at 8pm Wed-Sat until January 31st!

High Park, I Love You

by Stephanie Malek

I grew up in the east end of the city, but my grandparents lived on Sunnyside Avenue (Roncesvalles area). We would visit quite a bit but my favourite would be going to High Park. My Aunt and I would read plays on the picnic benches, my high school friends and I filmed a weird version of Alice in Wonderland on some of the more secluded paths, I would fool around with boyfriends tucked away from view among the trees, or throw impromptu Warriors-themed birthday parties on the stage in the middle of the park.

High Park's beauty isn't just in its nature-hidden-in-the-city, but also in it's variety. Some of the amazing gems hidden among the paths:

  • A small zoo - my dad likes to tell me the story about when the Buffalo escaped and ran down the streets of the neighbourhood looking for their freedom! 
  • A historic museum, Colborne Lodge, depicting Victorian life as well as hosting numerous events and workshops (I did a wreath-making workshop once with some friends and it was delightful!) 
high park.jpg
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  • An allotment garden where Toronto residents can rent a plot and plant to their heart's content.
  • The best dang off-leash dog area in the city -  if you ever need a cheer-up, just go to Doggy Hill
  • PWYC Shakespeare productions during Shakespeare in High Park put on by Canadian Stage
  • The coolest community-built adventure playground (after arson destroyed not one but two other playgrounds in the same spot, Mike Holmes lent a hand and funds to help create the current version of the Jamie Bell Playground)
  • A beautiful Japanese water garden in the heart of the park.
  • The stunning cherry blossoms (this will warrant it's own post at some point in the future, including the cool story of falling in love with my partner!)
high park.JPG

Those are just SOME of the things in this park. I am so enamoured with the park that I moved literally two doors down from one of the gates to the park so I could enjoy it as much as possible. 

If you've been, you've probably got numerous of your own stories and areas of the park that you love. If not, each season has its own magic in the park so make sure you check it out. 

What do you love about High Park? Any fun stories? What other places in Toronto do you love?