Your guide to the things that go bump in the night, from one end of the city to the other.
Although Toronto is a relatively young city by international standards, we seem to have crammed a decent amount of murder and mayhem into our brief but vivid history. As Halloween draws near, we at Torontoist thought we would draw on a number of online sources (including our own Toronto Ghost Map from last year) to provide a compendium of the city’s haunts and haunters.
This list is meant only to serve as a reminder of how rich and strange Toronto’s history has been. We’ve tried to exclude private residences, but be aware that most business owners and employees are not keen to discuss unexplained goings-on. In particular, we discourage readers from intruding, trespassing, or otherwise breaking the law in their attempts to experience something supernatural. As creepy as it might be to be in the right place at the right time to hear or see a ghost, it would be far worse to inadvertently become one.
And so, without further ado, and in no particular order:
- Gooderham & Worts Distillery (now known as the Distillery District) has such a great name for a haunted location, it would be a shame if it wasn’t. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective), James Worts apparently continues to show up for work at the former mill, opening and closing doors (and occasionally walking through them), banging around, playing with the lights, and giving workmen and visitors some scary surprises. (Near Parliament and Mill streets.)
- Colborne Lodge in High Park has been host to a number of unexplained sightings, some of which have been identified as resembling Mrs. Jemima Howard, wife of John Howard. The area to the east of Grenadier Pond has also seen some activity from what have appeared to be phantom soldiers, possibly dating back to 1813. (In High Park)
- Regis College, the former Christie Mansion (yes, that Mr. Christie), has a particularly vivid tale (mistress hidden in a secret room by her married lover becomes increasingly neglected and hangs herself) to explain its doors that close and lock with no apparent assistance. (100 Wellesley Street West)
- Glendon College (including Glendon Hall, the Hilliard residence and the Wood manor) has been the site of numerous seemingly supernatural occurrences, including sightings of a mysterious female figure in the rose garden by the library, voices in the basement, the “sense” of a hanging body at the staircase, and a residence room where occupants wake up to find unexplained markings on their legs. (York University, Glendon Campus. 2275 Bayview Avenue)
- Old Fort York (including the Garrison, the Centre Blockhouse and the Officer’s Quarters) saw much horrible carnage over three separate battles, and visitors and staff have reported odd noises, presences, and visitations—including a ghostly woman visiting the Officer’s Quarters, and a red-coated guard near the entrance and in the barracks. (100 Garrison Road)
- Staff and visitors to Spadina House have been treated to some benign supernatural appearances, including a grey, ghostly mass in the non-public areas that may or may not be associated with, of all things, a taxidermist’s mounted wolf on display. (285 Spadina Road)
- The Guild Inn grounds in Scarborough have a history of unusual presences, some benign, others a little more intense. Most of the appearances are behind the old buildings in the ‘theatre’ area, and not in the (now closed) buildings themselves. (201 Guildwood Parkway)
- For those who lament the lack of modern buildings on this list, we present the Cineplex Odeon Theatre at the Eglinton Town Centre. Staff and patrons alike have apparently experienced sightings of an unidentified adult man, a little boy, and a little girl, as well as moving garbage bins, signs, and doors. (22 Lebovic Avenue)
- The former CHUM-City Building, previously the Methodist Church of Canada headquarters and Ryerson Press (and now home to CTV Toronto), has experienced some mild but suitably eerie poltergeist-ish activity on its fourth floor, including toilets flushing, lights turning on and off, and malfunctioning electrical equipment. (299 Queen Street West)
- No list of haunted Toronto locations would be complete without a stop at Euclid Hall, former home to the Massey family and nowadays known as the Keg Mansion. Countless people have experienced (or at least have claimed to experience) the feeling of someone watching them in and near the washrooms, and staff and patrons alike speak of seeing and hearing phantom children upstairs. Oh, and there’s steak. (515 Jarvis Street)
- Such is the ghostly history of Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, on Toronto Island, that even the historical plaque affixed to it mentions its reputation as a haunted building. Lighthouse keeper John Paul Rademuller was gruesomely murdered and apparently can be sighted, on occasion, climbing up the tower or searching the grounds for his lost limbs. (Centre Island)
- Old theatres are havens for all kinds of manifestations, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are supposedly among the most haunted locations in Toronto. One of several presences in the building apparently likes to call the elevator to the fifth floor (and presumably ride down with the other passengers). (189 Yonge Street)
- Ryerson Theatre School, formerly a pharmaceutical college with an on-site morgue, has long been the site of whisperings, voices, presences, cold spots, light fluctuations, and occasional sightings of the figure of a woman in white. (44/46 Gerrard Street East)
- Not to be outdone, St. Michael’s Hospital is Toronto’s preeminent haunted hospital, with reports of a male figure walking up and down through the back filing room in the Medical Records office, and numerous encounters with a faceless nun—Sister Vincenza or ‘Vinnie’ to her colleagues—who visits the patients of the seventh floor, pulling blankets over them and keeping watch through the night. (30 Bond Street)
- Students and staff at Humber College Lakeshore, formerly the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, have reported a wide range of unusual experiences. People have heard voices humming, smelled mysterious floral scents, and seen unexplained figures and presences. Humber may want to consider offering a few courses on psychic research. (3199 Lake Shore Boulevard West)
- Before the start of construction of the Queen’s Park legislative buildings that we know and love, the grounds were the site of the University Hospital for the Insane, about which we will make no comment. Three different apparitions, all women, are rumoured to haunt Queen’s Park: a sorrowful ‘white lady’, a maiden in a checkered dress who holds her apron over her face, and a hanging woman in the long tunnel in the basement. There have also been reports of a regimental soldier descending the grand staircase of the main hall. (111 Wellesley Street West)
- University College at the University of Toronto is home to one of the city’s great enduring legends, the untimely death (and apparent return) of cuckolded stonemason Ivan Reznikoff, who attempted to murder his co-worker and romantic rival Paul Diablos with an axe and fell from the building’s tower to his demise. Sir Allen Aylesworth reputedly spoke to the unsettled spirit when he was a student, which lends this colourful tale some much-needed credence. (University of Toronto Downtown Campus)
- TTC workers have reported seeing a woman in a red dress traveling through the tunnels near Lower Bay Station. This in and of itself is not particularly chilling, until one hears that she apparently has no legs, and simply floats past as she makes her way to her ghostly destination. (Underground, and inaccessible to the public except on special occasions.)
- The spirits appear to be a little more aggressive in their attention-seeking at Old City Hall, where judges have felt unseen hands tugging at their robes and staff have heard moans in the attic. One of the courtrooms is reputed to be haunted by those who were among the last to hang in Canada. (60 Queen Street West)
- Likewise, the Old Don Jail was the site of some 34 executions before capital punishment was abolished in Canada, and has since had an unmarked burial site discovered on its grounds. Visitors to the building have noticed sudden temperature drops, unexplained anxiety, and feelings of heaviness and sadness. There has been more than one reported sighting of a ghostly presence, said to be a female inmate who hanged herself in her cell. (Near Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East)
- The Hockey Hall of Fame, formerly the Bank of Montreal, has long suffered from inexplicable occurrences, including the appearance of a young woman, said to be a bank teller named Dorothy who shot herself in the bank washroom when she was just 19. (30 Yonge Street)
- One of the more controversial entries on this list, Mackenzie House, has been rumoured to be haunted for more than 50 years. But the stories appear to have more to do with marketing than with any actual supernatural phenomena. It seems that in 1960 the Mackenzie House museum was on the verge of closing, when an enterprising staff member invented a collection of unexplained events to reignite interest in the failing attraction. After a few stories about clanging plumbing, ghostly printing presses and surprise appearances by Prime Minister King and his wife Isabel, business was suddenly booming. (82 Bond Street)
- Old Finch Avenue in Scarborough is another supposedly haunted site that may owe more to carefully cultivated urban legend than to any actual event or occurrence. The murder of the young girl that supposedly fuels the paranormal activities there may not have actually happened. The specific location of the paranormal events seems to shift and change with the teller. Also, many of the ghostly sounds have logical explanations (peacocks from the nearby zoo). Still, the stories persist. (Old Finch Avenue)
- And finally, a private residence in Toronto was famously home to what is known as The Philip Phenomenon, wherein a ghost with a lengthy history and a sterling pedigree made numerous appearances at gatherings held by a group of paranormal investigators who…well…invented him entirely out of their imaginations. They did so in an attempt to prove that we can create our own ghosts, and by doing so manifest the many supernatural activities associated with them. They largely succeeded. Forty years later, the conclusions of their experiment are still being debated. Are ghosts a trick of the mind? A dimensional slip? A residual energy? A manifestation of collective unconscious? Alas, there may be only one way to find out.
Additional material from the Toronto and Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society, CityTV, BlogTO, The Globe and Mail, and The Philip Experiment.