Am I mad, I ask myself. It’s freezing outside – minus 11 to be precise – there’s snow on the ground and I’ve decided to take myself off on a self guided walking tour of Toronto’s ghostly hotspots. Yes it might be cold but it’s a beautiful day outside, the sun is shining and I’m wrapped up nice and warm. Check out the view from my hotel room.
I start my walk outside of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel (100 Front St. W.), it’s a landmark in the city of Toronto and at one time, the tallest building in the commonwealth. Although dwarfed now by Toronto’s modern skyscrapers it still survives and is regarded as one of the cities most luxurious hotels.
The tale of a grey haired man that appears in a maroon smoking jacket and slacks moving silently along the hallway of the eighth floor of the dormitory tower is the most famous of the hotel ghosts, although there have been other strange happenings reported by both guests, and staff. These include loud disembodied footsteps in certain stairwells, phantom screams, and the feeling of being watched. Enjoy your stay!
From the Fairmont I walked up Bay Street where I found the former Toronto Stock Exchange (now the Design Exchange 234 Bay St.). This was Toronto’s first Stock Exchange and was built in 1912. In the 1930’s the Exchange merged with the Standard Stock & Mining Exchange and a new building was erected on the same site. The Exchange moved in 1983 to it’s current headquarters at the corners of King and York Streets. During redevelopment the original building remained wholly intact and parts were fully restored.
Staff here have reported poltergeist like phenomena such as turning on taps in the kitchen, interference with the electrical system, footsteps, apparitions, eerie feelings of a presence, and possible images of a strange creature caught on a surveillance camera. This building is open to the public if you’re brave enough.
I kept walking up Bay Street until I reached Queen Street West where you’ll see right in front of the Old City Hall. Built in the late 1890’s and once the seat of the Municipality of Toronto and County of York, this building is now used as the city’s municipal courts.
There are many reports of ghostly activity here. The rear staircase has a poltergeist that likes tugging on judges’ robes as well as walking up and down the stairs where it’s footsteps can still be heard. The cellars at one time used to be the holding area for prisoners and the moans of the incarcerated have been heard as well. The northwest attic is also a spot where a presence is felt, but no one is quite sure what it is. Courtroom 33 is said to be haunted by the spirits of the last men condemned to hang in Canada. It’s here where it’s said the spirits are the strongest.
If you can find it, and it took me a while, my next stop was Trinity Square and the Scadding House, No. 6. This historic building was home to the first rector of the Holy Trinity Church which stands beside the home. Scadding was a scholar who wrote early histories of Toronto as well as his work for the church. Some people have said that his presence still lingers around the old house. An employee who worked in the small shop inside the house said on occasion, she would feel that there was someone else in the room with her looking around at the merchandise but when she’d turn to talk to the person there would be no one there.
Continuing behind City Hall I walked to University Avenue where at 555 you’ll see the Sick Kid’s Hospital. This world famous hospital has a well deserved reputation for it’s care and amazing staff. The story here goes that a brave and particularly happy thirteen year old girl passed away of the leukemia she was being treated for. Brave to the end, she devoted her last few days to comforting an eight year old boy who was also fighting the disease. Some months after her passing, the young boy was lying in his bed, dying. A night nurse, on rounds, noticed a visible glow coming from the boy’s room. She peered in and saw the young girl sitting beside the bed of the boy in the picture of health holding his hand. The nurse was understandably concerned but the girl simply looked, smiled in recognition and resumed telling the boy that he had nothing to be afraid of. The boy passed away that night.
My next stop was the Stewart Building at 149 College Street. This building used to be owned by the Ontario College of Art and at that time students were making a documentary film about the building itself. One of the buildings previous uses was the home of the 52 Division Police Station and during that time one of the prisoners detained there committed suicide by jumping out of a window. It was reported by various people while making the film that there were strange noises and creepy vibes especially in the basement. Another story from this building relates to a student who worked weekends as part of the buildings security team. Their eerie experiences included the feeling of being watched, strange noises, hearing rapping on doors when nobody was there, and being touched by a disembodied hand.
Entering Queen’s Park I found the Ontario Legislative Building, also known as “the nuthouse” and not for the reasons you might think! Before the construction of the Legislative Complex, the University Hospital for the Insane was built here, dating back to 1842. Three apparitions of women haunt the present complex – most probably former residents of the original institution.
The White Lady wanders the halls, appearing sorrowful, with a long white flowing robe and long hair. The Maiden wears a checkered dress with an apron which she holds over her face to conceal her features. Most gruesome is the Hanging Woman, who dangles from a hook in the long tunnel in the basement. Also here is a curious apparition of a soldier in full regimental dress that appears angry as he descends the Grand Staircase of the main hall.
The huge campus of the University of Toronto was where I found myself next and in particular University College. This is the story of Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diablos, whose fight gave Toronto one of it’s most enduring legends. It is said that during the construction of this gothic revival building, a Russian stone mason named Reznikoff was courting a young lady native to Toronto. Apparently, Mr Diablos, a Greek mason, was seeing the maid on the side as well. The legend goes that Diablos even carved two gargoyles that adorn the university, one an image of Reznikoff and another of Diablos laughing behind his back. When Reznikoff found proof of his girlfriend’s infidelity, he immediately confronted Diablos and a fight began near the construction site. Reznikoff chased Diablos through the unfinished building with an axe (taking swings at him and once, missing him and leaving an axe mark on the door that’s still visible to this day), and the duo ended up high in the unfinished tower. Reznikoff took a mighty swing, missed, and plummeted to his death, Diablos, to escape blame, buried Reznikoff in the foundations of the building and vanished from Toronto. Years later, after a devastating fire in 1890, the remains of an unidentified man were unearthed at the college.
The apparition of Ivan Reznikoff has been sighted by the students and staff of the university. There have also been reports of poltergeist activity in and around the connected buildings.
The Mcdonald Mowat House is just north of Knox College and has tales of Canada’s first Prime Minister still lurking around. There’s the story of an apparition of a man in a frock coat on the second floor being seen by students and the caretaker staff.
I’am now at the Soldiers Tower still in the University of Toronto. The tower was built as a monument to remind the university community of students and alumni who died during the First World War. There is a long standing tale of the ghost of a repairman who fell to his death while polishing the bells in the 1930’s. His apparition has reportedly been seen near the tower and strange lights have occasionally been seen coming from the tower windows.
Trinity College is my next stop and is one of Toronto’s grandest and most beautiful pieces of gothic architecture. There is a portrait of Bishop Strachan that hangs in the Provost’s Office, and the eyes of that portrait are said to follow you around the room. Also, reports say that on the anniversary of his death, his apparition walks the halls of – not as old as it appears – building. His death, strangely enough was on November 1st, the day after Halloween. There are also other reports of ghostly goings on in this building and the chapel.
The last part of my walk took me to Bloor Street West and the Royal Conservatory of Music. McMaster Hall was built in 1881 to house the Toronto Baptist College, a residential school for training missionaries and ministers. It was beautifully designed by the architectural firm Langley, Langley & Burke. The Royal Conservatory moved to McMaster Hall in 1963, after their original buildings were sold. No longer a residential school, McMaster Hall is now filled with music studios and classrooms.
The building is said to be haunted by more than one ghost. There is a spirit that likes to linger while musicians practice in a certain studio. Other reports state a female entity and a female poltergeist. The two apparitions of a woman are described in either a red top or a red dress. She is seen in the hallways of the second and third floor. The other is “felt” as if someone is entering a room, and there’s a change in the environment as if someone has now come in, but no one is physically there.
My final stop is the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. Two ghosts apparently inhabit different parts of the museum. One is the original director of the ROM, Charles Trick Currelly, whose apparition has been seen wearing a nightshirt and wandering the East Asiatic collections. Staff have reported strange occurrences in this gallery and some have seen the ghost themselves. The other ghost is that of a little girl dubbed Celeste whose sad little spectre would sit in the long since gone McLaughlin Planetarium watching the shows. I wonder where Celeste is now?
I enjoyed my ghostly walking tour of Toronto, this took me approximately 3 hours to complete including time spent getting lost, stopping for coffee (well it was cold!) and time spent taking photographs. There is another tour which takes in other buildings and areas and of course ghostly goings on which I’ll probably do next time I’m in the city.
Note: The photographs of the University, The Royal Conservatory of Music and The Royal Ontario Museum were not taken by me, they are from the internet. The light in the later stages of the walk was poor and my photo’s didn’t turn out very good.