Don’t go down the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse steps if you want to stay ghost free.
Unbeknownst to many, Toronto is full of landmarks, private homes, and even university buildings that supposedly shelter real live ghosts. From the McLaughlin Planetarium at the ROM to the Queen’s Park vaults, these are the places that keep ghostbusters in business. Here are a few options if you’re looking for a proper scare this Halloween.
Haunt #1: Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
In the southwest corner of one of Toronto’s most popular attractions—Centre Island—is the city’s oldest landmark. With its light grey brick exterior and bright red door and roof, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse sits invitingly atop a small slope in the midst of tall trees, a sharp contrast to the ghastly tale of murder that’s believed to have occurred within its walls. The only clue for visitors is a historic plaque to the left of the door.
Warren Hoselton, the Parks Supervisor, told Torontoist the story.
“The first keeper of the lighthouse, J.P. Radan Muller, died in 1815. He was killed by two soldiers, supposedly over an alcohol dispute,” says Hoselton. “Radan Muller was born in Germany where he learned how to distill booze. He continued to do this when he moved to Canada, in the lighthouse. He was popular with the soldiers.”
“Legend has it that on one night, last call came and he refused to serve two soldiers any more drinks. They got upset, became violent, and beat him severely with a belt,” says Hoselton. “Then they stabbed him with a bayonet.”
The ghost of J.P. Radan Muller is believed to haunt the lighthouse to this day.
“Bones were found here in the early 1900s,” he says. “Someone was gardening and found part of a wooden casket, with a human jaw bone. Too bad we didn’t have CSI back then.”
Hoselton visits the lighthouse at least once a month and hasn’t experienced anything strange, but hears about eerie incidents from visitors and co-workers. Joe Padovani, another park employee, had a more recent encounter with the deceased keeper’s bones.
“In the early 1980s, either 1981 or 1982, in the spring, the runners on the stairs needed to be rebuilt. I was working on that with another handyman, Lionel,” says Padovani. “I looked around and saw that at the base was an opening to a long, cylindrical shaft. I went down and Lionel and I rummaged around. We found a candlestick holder and then I found the bone that goes from the knee to the hip.”
“I phoned the superintendent at the time, Jim, and he told me to leave everything there, they’d send cops tomorrow. The next day, at seven in the morning, Jim, two cops, and I went back down the shaft. I had left everything there, but the room was empty.”
Padovani says that someone must’ve played a trick on them, but admits he thinks the lighthouse could actually be haunted. “Maybe J. P. Radan Muller played a great prank on all of us,” he says.
For amateur bone-hunters, tours of Gibraltar Point Lighthouse are available to the public. Along with a potential ghost sighting, it offers some great views!
Haunt #2: 82 Bond Street
William Lyon Mackenzie caused a lot of commotion during his life, and some say, after his death.
The fiery leader of the Rebellions of 1837 and his wife, Isabel, passed away in Mackenzie House, their home at 82 Bond Street and now a museum commemorating their lives. Visitors and employees have claimed the spirits of the couple remain at their home.
Janet Schwartz, the Mackenzie House site coordinator, has heard all the stories.
“The reports of ghost sightings and other supernatural occurrences began in the 1950s,” she told Torontoist. “A volunteer-run group called the William Lyon Mackenzie Homestead Foundation had started up. This group was concerned about maintaining the museum. The live-in caretakers that worked during this time reported stories about seeing Mrs. Mackenzie’s ghost and once being slapped by her.”
When the Toronto Historical Board took over the house in 1960, they wanted to put an end to the ghost rumours over concerns for the museum, said Schwartz.
“They were having problems with vandalism. People wanted to come in and see ghosts,” says Schwartz. “The Toronto Historical Board decided not to hire any caretakers and brought an Anglican priest to go from room to room and pray that any spirits find rest.”
Regardless, the rumours continued and in 1988 two real live ghostbusters came in. “They claimed to be ghostbusters,” says Schwartz. “They looked through the whole house, but we’re still not sure what they found.”
Mackenzie House is now maintained by the city of Toronto’s cultural services division and the supernatural activity apparently hasn’t come to an end.
“We had a visitor in here just a few days ago who said she thought we had ghosts. She said she’s sensitive to things like that and could sense it. Other visitors have said they hear strange sounds,” says Schwartz.
Want to see for yourself? Mackenzie House is one of ten historic museums operated by the city of Toronto. Tours are available for the public throughout the week.
Haunt #3: University College
At the University of Toronto, some students have class in supposedly haunted halls. University College—a major academic building at the St. George campus—was the site of a gruesome murder that occurred over one hundred years ago. It began during the construction of the college in the late 1850s when two carvers named Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diabolos fell in love with the same woman.
“They were very different men,” Yvonne Palkowski, UC’s events & communications coordinator, told Torontoist. “Reznikoff was a large man with a severe temper and Diabolos was handsome and calm. The woman loved Reznikoff and they were planning to marry, but Diabolos convinced her otherwise.”
A bold arch sprouting from two heads is carved into the stone, grey exterior of the building and depicts the faces of the men (as seen in the photo above); Reznikoff on the left with coarse features and Diabolos on the right—youthful, chiselled, and laughing. Diabolos is credited as its creator.
“Diabolos and the woman attempted to run away together but were discovered and he was affronted by Reznikoff at the college,” explains Palkowski. “Reznikoff attacked Diabolos with an axe but didn’t know Diabolos had a dagger. As Reznikoff swung his axe, Diabolos pulled the iron handle of a door and it swung forward taking the blow instead.”
The solid oak door is still standing and bears the marks of the axe.
“After dodging the axe, Diabolos tried to escape Reznikoff. He was running through the bare, unfinished halls when the idea to hide in the tower occurred to him,” she says. Diabolos ascended a wooden staircase to the tower and hid in the ceiling rafters. Soon after, Reznikoff appeared.
“Diabolos jumped on Reznikoff and murdered him with his dagger. He then threw his body into the well,” says Palkowski. It was over Reznikoff’s mangled corpse that the winding staircase leading to the top of the tower was constructed. Workers and students at the college have reported strange encounters since, even after a fire in 1890 when Reznikoff’s bones were discovered and buried in the courtyard.
Palkowski has worked at the building for a year and a half and swears she’s never experienced anything supernatural. But Alana Awad, the fundraising and events coordinator, claims she had a ghostly visitor after an event at Bissell House, the principal’s official residence.
“It was after a party and I had finished cleaning up. I was about to leave the room and something came over me, this feeling that I had to turn around,” says Awad. “I did, and noticed that a lamp was on. I thought that was strange since I had just turned off the lights, so I went to turn it off, but it turned off on its own. I tried to leave again but got the same feeling and, sure enough, it was on again.”
Awad left the building immediately. “I thought it might be one of those motion lamps, but it’s just an ordinary lamp. And Bissell House isn’t open to the public. Very few people have access to it,” she says.
Anyone wanting to meet Reznikoff themselves can book a campus tour. Don’t forget to visit the appropriately named coffeehouses: Diabolos Coffee Bar and Reznikoff’s Café.
All photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.