Ghosts of University of Toronto – St George Campus

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2022 - The main entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W
2022 – The main entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W

The University of Toronto’s downtown campus features magnificent architecture and pretty tree-lined paths, but there are also many ghostly tales. From spirits trapped in tunnels to ghosts shaking door knobs to a love gone wrong, read about the U of T’s spooky history.

Below are six buildings, including the University College, Trinity College, the Macdonald-Mowat House, the Royal Conservatory of Music (McMaster Hall), the Stewart Building and Massey College, where supernatural activity has been reported.

University College at 15 King’s College Circle

One of the University of Toronto’s most well-known legends is about Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diabolos. While there are a few versions, this story dates back to the late 19th century.

On a cold winter’s night, U of T student Allen Aylesworth was walking through the campus when he saw a big, burly man with a beard crouching on the University College steps. With a heavy Russian accent, the man introduced himself as Ivan Reznikoff. Allen invited Ivan to his dorm for a drink and to warm up.

The two began talking, and Ivan said he had been murdered 30 years earlier. Allen was both stunned and intrigued by the ghost’s tale. Ivan said that in 1856, he was hired as a stonemason to construct the University’s buildings. One of his coworkers was a Greek man named Paul Diabolos. The two stonemasons became close friends. Ivan introduced Paul to his fiancé, Susie. It wasn’t long before Ivan suspected that Paul and Susie had fallen in love. So, Ivan began spying on them and eventually caught them hand-in-hand on a park bench.

Ivan was so enraged he went home to get an axe and knife. When he returned, Paul saw him coming and ran toward the then-under-construction University College. Ivan caught up to him at one of the side entrances with a heavy oak door. Paul ducked when Ivan swung the axe, and it got lodged in the door. Paul escaped, and Ivan chased him further into the building. When Ivan reached the top of the tower, he was pushed off the edge and fell to his death. Since University College was still being built, it was easy to hide Ivan’s body. Paul and Susie bought two train tickets and fled Toronto. They were never seen again.

The ghost of Ivan Reznikoff then vanished from Allen Aylesworth’s dorm, leaving him bewildered by what had happened. Allen immediately shared the story of the strange meeting with his friends, who just laughed.

But it was Allen who had the last laugh. He was studying to be a lawyer and knew how to investigate. Allen took a look at the door and found there was a chunk missing. He then found a photograph of Ivan and Paul that listed the two as stonemasons. In 1890, the last piece of evidence was uncovered after a massive fire at University College. A silver belt buckle and a partial human skeleton were found during the tower’s reconstruction. Could it be the remains of Ivan Reznikoff? His ghostly presence has been reported to have been seen around the property.

On the University College, it’s thought that Paul Diabolos carved two gargoyles depicting the two men – a revolting one of Ivan Reznikoff and the other of himself laughing.

In a tribute to the tale, the University has named two restaurants after the famous pair – Café Reznikoff and Diabolos Coffee Bar.

Circa 1857 - A group of stone carvers in front of the architect's office at University College's west end of the south wing. U of T's most well-known haunted legend is about Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diabolos, both stone carvers who were in love with the same woman
Circa 1857 – A group of stone carvers in front of the architect’s office at University College’s west end of the south wing. U of T’s most well-known haunted legend is about Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diabolos, both stone carvers who were in love with the same woman (University of Toronto Archives, 2000-15-2MS)
1920s - University College at 15 King’s College Circle at the University of Toronto's St George Campus. The Romanesque Revival-style building was built between 1856 and 1859
1920s – University College at 15 King’s College Circle at the University of Toronto’s St George Campus. The Romanesque Revival-style building was built between 1856 and 1859 (University of Toronto Archives, 2003-35-2MS)
2021 - The main entrance of University College at 15 King’s College Circle
2021 – The main entrance of University College at 15 King’s College Circle
2023 - Cafe Reznikoff in Morrison Hall at 75 St George St
2023 – Cafe Reznikoff in Morrison Hall at 75 St George St
SOURCE
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Oct 3, 1959, pg 5
  • Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Jan 7, 2017, pgs GT1-2
  • Toronto Ghosts: University College
  • Haunted Walk: Campus Secrets and Spectres – University of Toronto Ghost Tour

Trinity College at 6 Hoskin Ave

In 1851, Bishop Johannes Strachan founded the school. Its original location was on what we know today as Trinity-Bellwood Park on Queen St W, between Gore Vale Ave and Crawford St. Bishop Strachan passed away on November 1, 1867. Even though the school moved to its new location upon the building’s completion in 1925, the Bishop makes a visit every year around the date of his death. His ghost has been seen wearing his Bishop’s hat and robe, roaming the halls of this historic building.

The school’s Chapel also has a resident ghost named the Grey Lady. With her grey complexion, she has been sighted both in the pews and outside the Chapel’s doors. The minister spotted the Grey Lady sitting in a pew one evening before mass began. He approached and began speaking to her, but she left as though upset and went into the smaller adjoining Lady Chapel. When the minister followed her, he entered the Lady Chapel but found no one inside, and there was no other exit from which the Grey Lady could have left. There is no information on this female ghost, who she is or where she came from, but she remains a presence to this day.

One of the scarier stories is that of the man in the tunnels. Between Trinity and St Hilda’s Colleges are steam tunnels that students once used to get to and from the buildings without going outside. Legend has it that a man who lives behind a section of the tunnel with unmatched bricks gets out just long enough to capture a student. For every soul he can steal, one brick is thought to be loosened, and at some point, the bricks will be loose enough for him to escape.

1925 - Trinity College is located at 6 Hoskin Ave. The school’s Chapel has a resident ghost named the Grey Lady. With her grey complexion, she has been sighted both in the pews and outside of the Chapel’s doors
1925 – Trinity College is located at 6 Hoskin Ave. The school’s Chapel has a resident ghost named the Grey Lady. With her grey complexion, she has been sighted both in the pews and outside of the Chapel’s doors (University of Toronto Archives, 2014-71-1MS)
2022 - The main entrance of Trinity College at 6 Hoskin Ave. One of the scarier ghost stories is that of the man in the tunnels
2022 – The main entrance of Trinity College at 6 Hoskin Ave. One of the scarier ghost stories is that of the man in the tunnels
2022 - Trinity College is rumoured to be haunted by the school's founder, Bishop Johannes Strachan. His apparition has been seen wearing his Bishop's hat and robe, roaming the halls of this historic building
2022 – Trinity College is rumoured to be haunted by the school’s founder, Bishop Johannes Strachan. His apparition has been seen wearing his Bishop’s hat and robe, roaming the halls of this historic building
SOURCE

The Macdonald-Mowat House at 63 St George St

In 1872, Toronto iron founder Nathaniel Dickey built the French Second Empire-style home. Four years later, Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, purchased and lived in the house until 1878. His son, Hugh John Macdonald, later occupied the residence until 1882. Sir Oliver Mowat, who served as Ontario’s third premier and later lieutenant governor, bought the property in 1888 and owned it until 1902.

In 1910, the 3-storey brick house was sold to Knox College, the post-baccalaureate theological college of the University of Toronto. For decades, rumours have been swirling amongst the students and custodial staff of an imposing apparition wearing a frock coat on the second floor. Perhaps it is that of Sir John A Macdonald?

2022 - The Macdonald-Mowat House at 63 St George St. Students and custodial staff have reported seeing an imposing male apparition wearing a frock coat on the second floor
2022 – The Macdonald-Mowat House at 63 St George St. Students and custodial staff have reported seeing an imposing male apparition wearing a frock coat on the second floor
2022 - The Macdonald-Mowat House at 63 St George St. The French Second Empire-style home was built in 1872
2022 – The Macdonald-Mowat House at 63 St George St. The French Second Empire-style home was built in 1872
SOURCE

The Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W

This National Historic Site of Canada opened its doors in 1881 as the Toronto Baptist College; however, it was commonly known as McMaster Hall after its founder, Senator William McMaster. Shortly before his passing in 1887, Senator McMaster devised plans to expand the college’s programs to avoid being annexed by the growing University of Toronto. He left the bulk of his estate to the establishment of McMaster University, which stayed in the building until 1930 when it moved to Hamilton.

The U of T acquired the building, and since 1963, it has been home to The Royal Conservatory of Music. The world-renowned music education institution, with alums that include Oscar Peterson and Sarah McLachlan, is rumoured to have a few ghosts lingering in the heritage building, including that of its founder.

One Sunday afternoon, a student was practicing in one of the rehearsal rooms. He came on a weekend because he thought the place would be pretty empty and he could focus on practicing for his upcoming exam. During his practice, the student heard the sounds of heavy footsteps. They grew louder as they approached the room, stopping outside his door. The student looked up, and a man was staring straight at him through the little window in the door. When he opened the door to see what the man wanted, they had vanished. There was no one in the hall or the surrounding rooms. The figure has been seen in other areas of the heritage building, including a man wearing a tailcoat and tall Victorian top hat rushing down the centre stairs. Other students have reported door knobs shaking as if someone wanted in.

One of the custodial staff has had encounters with this ghost, too. She has seen the presence looking out a window towards Philosopher’s Walk and felt a tap on her shoulder, only to find no one there. The staff member also said the apparition bears a likeness to the portraits of William McMaster.

Musicians have also reportedly seen an apparition of a woman wearing either a red dress or a red top in the second and third-floor hallways.

1885 - Looking southwest towards what was originally known as Toronto Baptist College, today's Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W. The building was also referred to as McMaster Hall after the school's founder, William McMaster, and it's thought that the structure is haunted by his spirit
1885 – Looking southwest towards what was originally known as Toronto Baptist College, today’s Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W. The building was also referred to as McMaster Hall after the school’s founder, William McMaster, and it’s thought that the structure is haunted by his spirit (Toronto Public Library R-1977)
2021 - The Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W. Some students and staff have reported hearing footsteps, feeling a tap on their shoulder and door knobs shaking, only to look and find no one there
2021 – The Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W. Some students and staff have reported hearing footsteps, feeling a tap on their shoulder and door knobs shaking, only to look and find no one there
2022 - The main entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W
2022 – The main entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor St W
SOURCE

Stewart Building at 149 College St

While today the historic Stewart Building is now part of the University of Toronto, in 1894, it initially opened as the Toronto Athletic Club. The building later became home to the Toronto Technical School, Toronto Police Headquarters/Station and the Ontario College of Art & Design.

There are numerous reports of the building being haunted. Some security staff said they were apprehensive about walking through the basement hallway. Once the pool and bowling alleys for the athletic club, the cellar area gives off eerie vibes, and odd noises have been heard.

On the third floor, students mentioned hearing strange sounds and knocks on doors, as well as the feeling that someone was watching them or being touched on the arm by a phantom hand.

1957 - Looking southwest toward the Stewart Building at 149 College St. There have been many reports of the building being haunted, including hearing strange sounds, knocks on doors and the feeling of being watched
1957 – Looking southwest toward the Stewart Building at 149 College St. There have been many reports of the building being haunted, including hearing strange sounds, knocks on doors and the feeling of being watched (Toronto Public Library R-6456)
2020 - Stewart Building at 149 College St is today part of the University of Toronto. Built in 1894, it was initially the Toronto Athletic Club and later the Toronto Technical School, Toronto Police Headquarters/Station and the Ontario College of Art & Design
2020 – Stewart Building at 149 College St is today part of the University of Toronto. Built in 1894, it was initially the Toronto Athletic Club and later the Toronto Technical School, Toronto Police Headquarters/Station and the Ontario College of Art & Design
SOURCE

Massey College at 4 Devonshire Pl

Massey College was a gift from the Massey Foundation to the University of Toronto. Even though the building is younger than many others, opening in 1963 on U of T’s downtown campus, it may have a resident ghost.

Massey College’s first master was the renowned Canadian novelist and playwright William Robertson Davies. He was a little envious that Massey College did not have a ghost of its own, like Trinity or University College. So for the College’s Gaudy Night, the annual Christmas party, Robertson Davies wrote and read a comedic ghost story. It was a huge hit, and every year, right up until his retirement in 1981, Mr Davies’s spooky stories would give an entertaining account of the many apparitions at Massey College. In 1982, his collection of 18 Gaudy Night ghost stories was published in a book titled High Spirits.

In 1995, the new master asked Robertson Davies to write and perform one last Gaudy Night. He agreed and promised to make it the best Gaudy Night story yet. However, Mr Davies died just one week before the scheduled Gaudy Night performance.

Shortly after his death, strange occurrences started to happen at Massey College. Students would lose items and later find them in odd places. They reported seeing shadowy figures and, from time to time, hearing loud crashes coming from empty rooms.

Before Robertson Davies passed away, he told the new master that upon his death, he hoped to go on to become a ghost at Massey College or, at the very least, he would do his best to try.

Between 1980s and 1990s - Massey College at 4 Devonshire Pl was a gift from the Massey Foundation and opened in 1963. There have been reports of a shadowy figure and of strange occurrences happening in the building
Between 1980s and 1990s – Massey College at 4 Devonshire Pl was a gift from the Massey Foundation and opened in 1963. There have been reports of a shadowy figure and of strange occurrences happening in the building (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 284, Item 2)
2022 - Since the passing of its first Master Robertson Davies in 1995, students at Massey College have reported losing items only to find them later in odd places
2022 – Since the passing of its first Master Robertson Davies in 1995, students at Massey College have reported losing items only to find them later in odd places
2022 - Robertson Davies plaque is located at the entrance of Massey College at 4 Devonshire Pl. Mr Davies was a novelist and the first Master of Massey College, living in the building from 1963 until 1981
2022 – Robertson Davies plaque is located at the entrance of Massey College at 4 Devonshire Pl. Mr Davies was a novelist and the first Master of Massey College, living in the building from 1963 until 1981
SOURCE
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 9, 1963, pg 13
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Dec 24, 1980, pg 12
  • Haunted Walk: Campus Secrets and Spectres – University of Toronto Ghost Tour
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library

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