THE LEAD UP TO HALLOWEEN INEVITABLY BRINGS OUT BONE-CHILLING, SPINE-TINGLING, GOOSEBUMP-INCITING STORIES OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, SPOOKY SIGHTINGS AND HAUNTED TORONTO DESTINATIONS. FEELING THE URGE TO INDULGE YOUR INNER GHOSTBUSTER? HEAD TO OEN OF THESE SIX SCARY SPOTS IN THE CITY—IF YOU DARE.
Depending on who you talk to, both Robert Turpin and Arthur Lucas are said to haunt one of two different locations in Toronto: Old City Hall and the Don Jail. Turpin and Lucas were the last two individuals in “Muddy York” to be sentenced to death for their crimes. As one story goes, the penalty of death by hanging was delivered in a courtroom at Old City Hall where the men now roam, sometimes tugging at judges’ robes. Alternatively, the men haunt the gallows of the Old Don Jail—where many inmates were treated poorly while the prison was in operation from 1964 to 1977, and in whose open courtyard hangings were carried out.
History buffs and military aficionados can appreciate the significance of Fort York National Historic Site. It’s notable as the location of the 1813 Battle of York, at which nearly 200 British and American soldiers were killed and then buried in shallow graves. It’s no surprise that staff and visitors alike have reported hearing cannons and guns firing, as well as repeated sightings of a spectral red-coated guard who wanders the barracks.
A trip to the Toronto Islands is a must for any visitor, not least because the harbour-crossing ferry ride affords such a picturesque view of the skyline. The Islands are also home to the city’s oldest landmark, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. While operational, the lighthouse helped to guide many boats, but its story also has a sinister side: in 1815, lighthouse keeper John Paul Rademuller was savagely murdered on the building’s 13th step. Subsequent lighthouse keepers reported hearing footsteps outside of the lighthouse, stopping short of the 13th step, and it’s said that Rademuller haunts the grounds to this day
Diners may be familiar with The Keg’s reputation for serving up great steaks, but its Jarvis Street location is also known for supernatural sightings. The Keg Mansion was originally the private residence of the prominent Massey family. (It was also a radio station headquarters, an art gallery and a non-Keg restaurant before the steakhouse chain took it over in 1976.) Over the years, guests have reported similar occurrences, such as the sound of a young boy running on the second floor—which was the Massey children’s quarters—and a child peering down toward the dining room, although children are not permitted in the second-storey bar. Other tales tell of the presence of a woman dangling from above the main staircase—in 1915, a Massey family maid hung herself there—either in grief over the death of her employer, Lillian Massey, or because of an illicit affair.
While the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is the residence of choice for Queen Elizabeth II and members of the British royal family when they visit Toronto, it’s also the preferred accommodations for some party-loving ghosts. In its heyday, the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom was renowned as a destination for the city’s elite to gather and socialize. It was ultimately shut down for fire code violations, but that doesn’t mean the revelry came to an end. Hotel guests staying on the floor below the ballroom have reported hearing music and talking from above, as well as mysterious instances of the elevator stopping at the ballroom floor even though no passenger has pressed the button.
One of the city’s hallowed institutions of higher education, the University of Toronto, is also known for its apparitions. A love triangle between a woman and two stonemasons resulted in the death of one of the men; some accounts have one man killing his rival with a dagger, while others report that the man accidentally fell to his death during a fight. The body of Ivan Reznikoff was hidden on campus in an attempt to cover up the crime, and body parts—though never identified as Reznikoff’s—were ultimately found following a fire on campus. Various dispatches place the spectre of a man lurking around University College. Strange noises have also been reported.
Curious about more creepy destinations in the city? Take a guided tour with some local experts. Richard Fiennes-Clinton leads Muddy York Walking Tours, which features two ghost-themed tours—Haunted Streets and University of Toronto Ghosts—while the folks at the Haunted Walk of Toronto lead year-round sessions like Ghosts and Spirits of the Distillery plus, until the end of this month, a special Halloween tour. The Tour Guys also offer a two-hour Fact or Fiction Ghost Tour through to October 31.