On the evening of April 6, 1968, James Earl Ray arrived at 102 Ossington Avenue, a Victorian rooming house run by Feliksa Szpakowski. After bartering his rent down to $11 a day, Ray signed on for a second-floor apartment, complete with a large bay window, under the alias “Paul Bridgman.”
Two days earlier, the 40-year-old small-time crook had assassinated Martin Luther King on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Having spent time in Toronto and Montreal the previous year after escaping prison on an armed robbery charge, he evaded the ensuing manhunt by ducking across the border again with a counterfeit passport.
Ray was observed by locals buying a newspaper every morning, and whiled away his evenings at bars like Spadina Avenue’s Silver Dollar. He bunked at 102 Ossington for just 11 days, receiving only one telephone call in that time, before moving to another flophouse at 962 Dundas St. W.
When the FBI’s pursuit of Ray became public knowledge on April 19, the Szpakowskis forwarded tips about their former tenant to law enforcement. A flurry of RCMP officers descended on the house, sweeping Ray’s recent crash pad for evidence. When he flew to London on May 6, he was apprehended at Heathrow Airport.
Questions still surround Ray’s stay in Toronto: A 2008 CBC investigation revealed that, of Ray’s four aliases,
three belonged to men living in Scarborough, which prompted speculation about a possible network that helped conceal Ray during his month-long hideout.
The house, divided into apartments, still stands today, nestled between the Lower Ossington Theatre and a vintage clothing store. Once sold by the Szpakowskis for $26,000,it fetched $695,000 in 2007.