Camping just isn’t camping without scaring the you-know-what out of your fellow tent buddies with a good, old-fashioned ghost story. Here are five lesser-known tales of the paranormal activity surrounding some of Toronto’s best-known (and now, creepiest) landmarks, as told to us by the city’s bravest tour guides.
1. The Haunting of the Distillery
Some believe that The Distillery District’s founder, James Worts, still watches over the area—despite the fact that he died tragically in 1834, throwing himself into a well because his wife died during childbirth. Strange noises have been reported in many of the buildings, from banging and rattling pans to pianos playing on their own. Chairs have been known to move themselves across the floor. At Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, a heavy chandelier was seen violently swaying back and forth for no reason. Many of the businesses have even reported seeing a man wandering the streets in period work-clothes. According to one tale, a crewman working on a movie-set nearby followed this strange man along the street, only to see him walk right through a wall before his very eyes.–Jill Sullivan, The Haunted Walk of Old Toronto
2. The Shadow Lady of Mackenzie House
In the late 1850s, Mackenzie House (82 Bond St.) was home to Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon MacKenzie. The Edmunds family lived in the building as caretakers in the 1960s, and told of many strange encounters. Mrs. Edmunds had several terrifying experiences with a female ghost in her bedroom. She would often wake up in the middle of the night to find a woman floating above her bed. According to Mrs. Edmunds, the apparition lay above her “like a shadow,” and had dark hair long enough to actually touch her shoulders. Soon after being spotted, the ghost would disappear. One night, Mrs. Edmunds was feeling brave, and when the ghost appeared, she tried to sit up in bed. The ghost struck her hard across the face and vanished. Frightened, Mrs. Edmunds woke up her husband, who told her she had red welts across her face. By the next morning, she had a purple, swollen eye.–Rowena Brook, The Haunted Walk of Old Toronto
3. Murder at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
The first keeper of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island was J.P. Radan Muller. He was a known bootlegger, and local soldiers were frequent clients. Legend has it that an alcohol-fuelled dispute between Muller and a group of guards ended in his murder. To hide the evidence, the soldiers dismembered his corpse and buried the remains around the lighthouse perimeter. They were charged, but served no sentence. Some say they’ve heard moaning and seen pale apparitions in the area on foggy evenings. Perhaps it’s the ghost of Muller, forever bound to his lighthouse, searching for justice and his scattered remains.–James Waters, Tour Guys
4. The Undead Soldiers of the War of 1812
Over the next year, many commemorations of the War of 1812 will take place here in Toronto. There will be special ceremonies at Fort York, to be sure—but keep an eye out for unusual visitors! A ghostly guard has been spotted, still on patrol at the western entrance to the fort. Either himself or a comrade also patrols the southern walls of the garrison. The spectres of some officers, along with their wives, are said to come back now and then to enjoy a ghostly dinner party in the barracks, and the kitchen of that building is also said to be haunted. While visiting Fort York, you might accidentally learn about those soldiers dedicated enough to have never retired from service.–Richard Fiennes-Clinton, Muddy York Walking Tours
5. The Boy Ghost of the Keg Mansion
While I was conducting a tour last Halloween, a woman approached me to share her experience while dining at the Keg Mansion (515 Jarvis St.) a few years ago. Apart from the busboy who was cleaning tables, she and her friend were alone in the basement dining room. At some point during the meal, she looked down to see a little boy, no older than 10, with his arms up on the table, and a mischievous grin on his face. He was wearing an old-fashioned blue sailor’s outfit and had bright blond hair.
After a while, he wandered off and the woman called the busboy over to warn him that the boy might be missing his mother. Quietly, he asked her to repeat what she had said. When she did, the waiter turned white as a sheet and rushed out of the room. Her dinner would have been otherwise uneventful if, on her way to the bathroom, she hadn’t noticed the historical photographs along the wall. Halfway up to the next floor, grinning mischievously for the camera, was a blond boy in a blue sailor suit.–Stephen Cardie, Tour Guys