Haunted Places in Toronto – Part I

Massey Mansion/now Keg Mansion at 515 Jarvis St – built in 1868

1912 - Massey Mansion at 515 Jarvis St
1912 – Massey Mansion at 515 Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3070)

The stately home has quite a history when it comes to ghosts. Once home to the Massey family, after Lillian Treble Massey died, a maid was so distraught that she hanged herself in the foyer. Her apparition has been seen suspended in the main entranceway.

There have also been sightings at the Keg Mansion of a young boy playing on the staircase and the sound of children playing upstairs. There’s a female presence in the women’s washroom too. Customers have said stall doors unlock and toilets flush all by themselves plus, they’ve had the eerie feeling that someone was watching them.

SOURCE

Queen’s Park & the Legislative Building at 111 Wellesley St W – completed in 1892

1905 - Queen's Park & the Legislative Building at 111 Wellesley St W
1905 – Queen’s Park & the Legislative Building at 111 Wellesley St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 420)

Queen’s Park and the Legislative Building is thought to be a hotspot for paranormal activity.

Inside the province’s parliament building is the desk of the Sergeant-at-Arms, who is responsible for the security within the Legislative Precinct. While each government appoints a Sergeant-at-Arms, there may be more than one watching over the House today.

There have been sightings of a ghostly soldier standing beside the Sergeant-at-Arms desk. While there is no proof of who the spirit may be, some think it could be Charles Smith Rutherford. He served as the Sergeant-at-Arms from 1934 to 1940; however, he may be more well-known as a veteran and decorated hero of World War I.

In 1918, Lieutenant Rutherford was a distance ahead of his command in northern France when he wandered into the midst of over 30 German soldiers. Lt Rutherford thought quickly. He boldly told the Germans they were surrounded by Canadian soldiers and they were now prisoners. The Germans were so intimidated they surrendered, and Lt Rutherford took them back to his company. It was a masterful bluff. Lt Rutherford earned the Victoria Cross for his bravery. He passed away in 1989 as the last surviving Canadian veteran of WWI to have received such an honour.

Queen’s Park and the Legislative Building have resided on the land for over 125 years, but in 1842, it was home to Kings College. By 1850, the Kings College building became the University/Provincial Lunatic Asylum until it was torn down in 1886 to make way for the current structure. It’s said that three female residents of the asylum haunt the building and grounds:

  • The Lady in White – with her long flowing robe, the sad spirit roams the halls.
  • The Maiden – in a gingham dress who hides her face with her apron.
  • The Hanging Woman – her apparition appears suspended from a noose in the basement tunnel. Those that have seen her describe her clothing as ragged and the ghastly colour of her skin.
SOURCE
  • The Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Oct 29, 2011, pg A6, The Ghosts of Queen’s Park
  • Haunted Toronto by John Robert Colombo (1996), The Four Ghosts of Queen’s Park
  • Toronto Ghosts: Queen’s Park
  • Haunted Walk: Campus Secrets and Spectres – University of Toronto Ghost Tour

Old Don Jail/now Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital Administration Building at 550 Gerrard St E – built in 1864

1949 - The Old Don Jail at 550 Gerrard St E
1949 – The Old Don Jail at 550 Gerrard St E (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1152)

The notorious building with Father Time over its tall front doors is said to be haunted by many ghosts. They include those who have been executed, murdered or committed suicide. One such spirit is that of an angry female inmate who hanged herself in her cell in the late 1800s when the west wing of the jail was for women prisoners. It’s rumoured that her apparition has been seen in the central rotunda of the Old Don Jail.

SOURCE
  • Haunted Toronto by John Robert Colombo (1996), The Blonde Ghost of the Don Jail

Runnymede Theatre/now Shoppers Drug Mart at 2223 Bloor St W – built in 1927

1942 - Runnymede Theatre at 2223 Bloor St W
1942 – Runnymede Theatre at 2223 Bloor St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 147)

The former vaudeville and movie theatre is rumoured to be haunted by a young female spirit. She died on the Runnymede Theatre stage many years ago when a sandbag fell on her. Along with the theatre, the building has also been home to Chapters, and today is Shoppers Drug Mart. There had been reports from former theatre and bookstore employees as well as customers about hearing a child crying, books randomly dropping off the shelves and feelings of uneasiness.

SOURCE

Old City Hall & York County Court House at 60 Queen St W – completed in 1899

1901 - Old City Hall at 60 Queen St W
1901 – Old City Hall at 60 Queen St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 311)

The massive sandstone building was constructed over an 11-year period, but Old City Hall and York County Court House finally opened in 1899. It was designed by architect EJ Lennox in Richardsonian Romanesque style and cost $2.5 million to build. The current Toronto City Hall replaced it in 1965.

Courtroom 33 is rumoured to be haunted. There’s a theory that it’s the spirits of the last two men sentenced to capital punishment in Canada in 1962.

In a rear stairwell, there are reports of footsteps being heard, plus judges have felt tugging on their robes. Moans have been heard in the cellars of the majestic old building, which was the holding area for prisoners.

SOURCE
  • Haunted Toronto by John Robert Colombo (1996), The Ghosts of Old City Hall
  • Toronto Ghosts: Old City Hall

Fairmont Royal York Hotel at 100 Front St W – built in 1929

1930 - Fairmont Royal York Hotel at 100 Front St W
1930 – Fairmont Royal York Hotel at 100 Front St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1499)

The majestic Fairmont Royal York Hotel is rumoured to have a ghost on the 8th floor. Guests have mentioned seeing the apparition of a grey-haired man wearing a maroon smoking jacket walking the hallway. Others have heard children laughing and playing in its historic halls only to look out to find no one there.

SOURCE

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St – built in 1913

1988 - Elgin Theatre, now Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St
1988 – Elgin Theatre, now Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 46)

Built in 1913 and originally called Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre, the historic venue is not only home to two theatres but also a few spirits. Now the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre, its most famous ghost is The Lavender Lady. While no one knows who she is, there’s speculation that she could be a rival actress of a jealous castmate or perhaps a jilted wife whose husband fell in love with a Vaudeville showgirl. When she makes her appearance, it is in the grand staircase and elevator areas. Those that have felt her presence notice a drop in temperature and the scent of lavender.

She has also been known to call one of the 1913 manually operated cage elevators when she doesn’t feel like taking the stairs from the Elgin to the Winter Garden theatre. However, when the elevator door opens, the operator finds no one there except for a cool breeze and the fragrance of lavender flowers. This happens on nights when there are no productions in the theatres. The Lavender Lady is so famous that she was commemorated in 2016 on a Canada Post stamp.

Another ghost at the architectural treasure is Sam. In 1989, after the building restoration was complete, theatre volunteers and staff heard a trombone or trumpet playing. The strange thing was there were no rehearsals going on. Another odd occurrence was the seats in the theatre flipping down and then back up. The volunteers used a Ouija board to conduct a seance at midnight on the stage of the Winter Garden Theatre. The group communicated with a musician named “Sam.” He said he was a trombone player in a 1918 Vaudeville production at the Winter Garden.

In another ghostly incident, a staff member was doing a final walk-through the Elgin before closing. She heard someone calling her name twice. She looked around and found no one. The only other person in the building was a security guard at the entrance, who she was too embarrassed to tell. She told no one at the theatre about the occurrence. A few months later, another staff member said to her that he heard his name being called twice while walking through the empty Elgin theatre.

In 1984 during a rehearsal for Cats, some of the dancers noticed a man wearing a brown suit and brown bowler hat sitting in the second row. While they thought his attire was old-fashioned, the dancers thought it was allowed and could be a friend of the director or producer. After rehearsal, they asked who the man was sitting in the second row. The assistant manager proceeded to tell them that no one was there. You see, it was a closed rehearsal, and only the assistant and stage managers were allowed to watch.

SOURCE

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island – built in 1808

1955 - Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island
1955 – Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 318)

According to the heritage plaque on the lighthouse, the grounds are said to be haunted by the lighthouse’s first keeper – JP Rademuller. He was known to keep a keg of beer on hand at his cottage to share with friends.

Just north of the lighthouse was a blockhouse guarded by soldiers from Fort York. The soldiers would often row or walk down from Blockhouse Bay to visit him. Legend has it that back in 1815 when three soldiers were visiting, Mr Rademuller cut them off since he thought they already had enough to drink. A deadly brawl broke out, and Mr Rademuller mysteriously vanished. No one knew what happened to him, and the story of his disappearance was passed down. Several decades later, the fourth lighthouse keeper, George Durnan, found human remains buried beneath the ground nearby the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island.

SOURCE
  • Ontario Heritage Trust plaque
  • The Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Jul 20, 2018, pg GT6
  • Haunted Toronto by John Robert Colombo (1996), The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse Ghost

Bank of Montreal/now Hockey Hall of Fame at 30 Yonge St – built in 1886

1900 to 1920 - The Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St
1900 to 1920 – The Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 224-1)

Considered one of Canada’s finest 19th-century financial buildings, it operated as the Bank of Montreal Ontario head office until 1949 and later a branch until 1982.

When the building was home to the bank, there were reports of odd occurrences from the office staff. They would leave their desks tidy only to return to find them in a total mess. Others experienced lights switching off by themselves and heavy doors creaking open. Staff also heard footsteps behind them and felt hands on their shoulders.

But one of the most frequently reported experiences was the feeling of being watched, especially in the women’s washroom on the second floor. It was so profound that the Bank of Montreal had to build another washroom in the basement.

When the Hockey Hall of Fame moved into the building in 1993, it was thought that the resident ghosts might depart. One of the spirits could be that of a beautiful, young and charming teller named Dorothy. So the story goes, in 1953, Dorothy may have been having an affair with the married bank manager who also kept an apartment on-site. When he broke off their relationship, she was so distraught that when she arrived to work the following morning, Dorothy took the bank’s revolver (at the time, it was common practice for banks to keep one on the premises), went to the second-floor washroom and took her own life.

There are also rumours of a second female ghost wearing an old-fashioned dress, making her appearance by the vault and offices.

SOURCE

    Todmorden Mills at 67 Pottery Rd – built in the 1800s

    2020 - Todmorden Mills at 67 Pottery Rd
    2020 – Todmorden Mills at 67 Pottery Rd

    Settled by the Helliwell family, the earliest surviving structures at Todmorden Mills date back to approximately 1838 to 1850.  The site has been home to a mill, brewery, riding stables and more. Today it’s a museum, arts centre and nature preserve.

    Staff have reported a few ghosts at the historic property. In the Papermill Theatre and Gallery, staff mentioned seeing an older woman walking around the theatre, while others have seen a grey apparition near the sound booth above the stage. Over in the Helliwell house, a woman’s voice has been heard speaking upstairs.

    SOURCE