Ghosts of Exhibition Place in Toronto

1908 - A ghostly appearance during a card game
1908 – A ghostly appearance during a card game (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2232)

While Exhibition Place grounds are best known for the fun, food and excitement of the CNE, when the Midway’s bright lights dim, there may be spirits lurking about the park and its old buildings.

The Ex grounds are rich in history. Over the past 200 years, the area has been part of major historical events, which include the Battle of York in 1813 and the Horticulture Building temporarily being turned into a morgue in 1949 after the SS Noronic cruise ship disaster.

Below are three buildings, including the Stanley Barracks, the Horse Palace and the General Services Building, where paranormal activity has been reported.

The Stanley Barracks

Built in 1841, Stanley Barracks was one of about seven buildings in what was known as the New Fort, a British military post established to replace Fort York. The limestone building was originally the Officers’ Quarters and was renamed Stanley Barracks in 1893 in honour of Governor General Lord Frederick Stanley. The building later served as a prison and, in 1946, was emergency public housing. By the 1950s, the New Fort had been so neglected that it had to be torn down; however, Stanley Barracks was preserved. In 1955, it became Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame/Hockey Hall of Fame, then the Marine Museum and later a restaurant.

There’s rumoured to be a lot of ghostly activity in Stanley Barracks. There’s Jenny, a little girl looking for her cat, and Jenny’s father, who is looking for her. But there are also two hostile and especially aggressive spirits named Bob and Dave, terrorizing the other spirits. When the building’s basement was home to a restaurant, workers mentioned cutlery and platters being moved around, perhaps by a more mischievous ghost.

Stanley Barracks is the oldest surviving building constructed on Exhibition Place grounds. Today, the heritage-designated building is a part of Hotel X.

1867 - A driver, horses and carriage on the west side of the Officers' Quarters at the New Fort. Today the building is known as Stanley Barracks at 115 Princes' Blvd at Exhibition Place. It's the oldest surviving building constructed on the Ex grounds
1867 – A driver, horses and carriage on the west side of the Officers’ Quarters at the New Fort. Today the building is known as Stanley Barracks at 115 Princes’ Blvd at Exhibition Place. It’s the oldest surviving building constructed on the Ex grounds (Toronto Public Library R-3029)
1884 - Looking southwest towards the Officers' Quarters in the New Fort. The limestone structure was built in 1841, and we know it today as the Stanley Barracks at Exhibition Place. There have been reports of paranormal activity in the historic building
1884 – Looking southwest towards the Officers’ Quarters in the New Fort. The limestone structure was built in 1841, and we know it today as the Stanley Barracks at Exhibition Place. There have been reports of paranormal activity in the historic building (City of Toronto Archives, Series 327, Sub Series 1, File 19)
2022 - Looking southwest towards the Stanley Barracks at 115 Princes' Blvd at Exhibition Place. Originally the Officers' Quarters at the New Fort, they were constructed in 1841. The building later served as a prison and, in 1946, was emergency public housing. There’s rumoured to be a lot of ghostly activity in Stanley Barracks
2022 – Looking southwest towards the Stanley Barracks at 115 Princes’ Blvd at Exhibition Place. Originally the Officers’ Quarters at the New Fort, they were constructed in 1841. The building later served as a prison and, in 1946, was emergency public housing. There’s rumoured to be a lot of ghostly activity in Stanley Barracks
SOURCE
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Jul 11, 1946, pg 2
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 17, 1949, pg 3
  • Ghosts of the Canadian National Exhibition by Richard Palmisano (2011)
  • Ghost Walk at Exhibition Place led by Steve Collie of After Dark Tours

The Horse Palace

The massive, 2-floor Art Deco-style Horse Palace was built in 1931. It was constructed through a joint agreement between the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and the Dominion of Canada to provide better horse accommodations. The equestrian facility has stables to accommodate 1,200 horses and a large exercise ring. Throughout the building are carvings and sculptural reliefs of horses.

Today the historic Horse Palace is home to an equestrian school and the Toronto Police Services – Mounted Unit.

The building has had its share of ghostly sights and sounds. Officers and riding school employees stated they’d heard footsteps and horses moving above them on the mezzanine level, but that floor is usually vacant of people and animals.

A riding school staff member would bring their dog and play fetch by tossing a red ball up the ramp to the second floor in the northeast corner of the Horse Palace. One time, the dog returned with no ball, but a few moments later, the ball came bouncing down the ramp when no one was up there.

In another instance, while a custodian was mucking out a stall one night during The Royal Canadian Winter Fair, they saw a uniformed police officer and his horse walking down the corridor. The custodian greeted the officer when they passed and continued to work; however, when they turned to look again, the officer and horse had vanished.

1952 - Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place was built in 1931. The equestrian facility has stables and a large ring and could initially accommodate 1,200 horses
1952 – Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place was built in 1931. The equestrian facility has stables and a large ring and could initially accommodate 1,200 horses (Toronto Public Library R-3474)
2022 - Looking northeast towards the Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place. Today the historic building is home to an equestrian school and the Toronto Police Services – Mounted Unit. Notice the CN Tower in the background on the right
2022 – Looking northeast towards the Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place. Today the historic building is home to an equestrian school and the Toronto Police Services – Mounted Unit. Notice the CN Tower in the background on the right
2022 - The ramp in the northeast corner of the Horse Palace
2022 – The ramp in the northeast corner of the Horse Palace
2022 - Box stalls on the second level of the Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place. The building has had its share of ghostly sights and sounds
2022 – Box stalls on the second level of the Horse Palace at 15 Nova Scotia Ave at Exhibition Place. The building has had its share of ghostly sights and sounds
SOURCE
  • Ghosts of the Canadian National Exhibition by Richard Palmisano (2011)
  • Ghost Walk at Exhibition Place led by Steve Collie of After Dark Tours

General Services Building

While the unassuming building today is home to Exhibition Place’s maintenance, security and archives departments, from approximately 1910 until 1959, it was the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal building. There are rumours of a few spirits guarding the building.

The first is Michael, who was a lineman for the Hydro company. On an October night in 1924, two explosions rocked the building, plunging half the city into darkness. Every available line person was called to work, including Michael, who had been an employee of the Hydro company for one year. When Michael was repairing a switch-box in the basement of the building, he accidentally came in contact with metal parts, was electrocuted and died. His ghost warns people to go away because of the danger due to the high voltage.

Another presence is thought to be that of a night watchman who had a heart attack during his shift and passed away. He has been heard still making his rounds, checking if doors are locked and lights are off.

1915 - General Services Building, originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal, at 2 Manitoba Dr at Exhibition Place. There have been reports of spirits guarding the building, including Michael, a former Hydro company employee
1915 – General Services Building, originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal, at 2 Manitoba Dr at Exhibition Place. There have been reports of spirits guarding the building, including Michael, a former Hydro company employee (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 890)
2022 - Looking southeast towards the General Services Building at Exhibition Place. The building was originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal. A presence in the unassuming building is thought to be that of a former night watchman who has been heard still making his rounds
2022 – Looking southeast towards the General Services Building at Exhibition Place. The building was originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal. A presence in the unassuming building is thought to be that of a former night watchman who has been heard still making his rounds
2022 - The General Services Building at Exhibition Place was originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal. Built circa 1910, the structure has undergone several updates and is currently home to the maintenance, security and archives departments. There are rumours of a few spirits guarding the building
2022 – The General Services Building at Exhibition Place was originally the Strachan Avenue Hydro Terminal. Built circa 1910, the structure has undergone several updates and is currently home to the maintenance, security and archives departments. There are rumours of a few spirits guarding the building
SOURCE
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Oct 9, 1924, pg 11
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Oct 10, 1924, pg 11
  • Ghosts of the Canadian National Exhibition by Richard Palmisano (2011)
  • Ghost Walk at Exhibition Place led by Steve Collie of After Dark Tours
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library