We met at 10.00 a.m. in the parking lot of picturesque Casa Loma. I was pleased to give them a welcome to the city of Toronto and talk about a question that haunts ghost enthusiasts in Toronto ~ "Is Casa Loma really haunted?" We also talked a little of nearby Spadina House, a wonderful Victorian mansion that was lived in right up until 1982, when members of the Austin family donated it to the city. Spadina House is a wonderful museum, well worth the visit, even though it is often upstaged by it's more grandiose neighbour. We had close to two hours to wander through the elaborate rooms and long hallways of Toronto's castle.
Once at the Elgin Winter Garden theatre centre, I was able to conduct the group on a tour throughout this marvellous bit of Toronto history. We talked about the history of the building, from it's 1913/1914 origins as a showcase for vaudeville, through the talking movie era, into the somewhat threadbare days of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Fortunately, the theatre centre was treated to a $29-million restoration between 1986 and 1989. The upstairs theatre, the Winter Garden, was open for the first time in about sixty years in the late 1980s ~ it had been locked up in 1928 and entirely abandoned for about six decades! The restoration seemed to uncover some of the permanent residents, as well ~ including the notorious and enigmatic "Sam", the most famous ghost of the theatre centre. Legend has it that he was a trumpet player at the theatre, who died sometime in the 1920s when he stumbled and fell into the orchestra pit. He has stayed on, though, giving special solo performances to only the luckiest of guests. For the rest of us, check back in with the Elgin Winter Garden theatre centre close to Hallowe'en, for their special once~a~year History Ghost Tour. Public tours of the theatre centre run Thursdays at 5.00 p.m. and Saturdays at 11.00 a.m. every week (costing $10 per adult).
Next, we ventured over to Mackenzie House, located just a few blocks north and east of the Elgin Winter Garden Theatre Centre. Our large tour group was broken into two smaller groups, and conducted around the building by guides in period costumes. The house was home to William Lyon Mackenzie for the last 3 years of his life (1858 until 1861). Mackenzie came to Canada from Scotland in 1820, and for about 17 years he published newspapers calling for democratic reform on Canadian shores. In December of 1837, he led about 800 men down Yonge Street, in open revolution. He spent the next 12 years in exile in New York State. During the 1850s, as an older man, he was involved in politics to a certain extent. Mackenzie died in his house on 82 Bond Street in August 1861 ~ but it's said he's never left!!! Caretakers who lived in the house during the 1950s claimed to see and hear him wandering about, and the stories have continued ever since. Mackenzie House now welcomes visitors to their museum on a seasonal basis ~ during the summer, the house is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5.00 p.m.
After our tour of Mackenzie House, we took a break, and then went down to the Toronto Harbour ferry docks at 6.00 p.m. We caught a ferry to Hanlan's point, and took a stroll of about half an hour over to the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was constructed about 1808, and his home to a notorious murder. John Paul Rademuller, the first lighthouse keeper, had a side line business brewing beer to sell to local soldiers. On a cold winters night in early 1815, some of these soldiers confronted him, and chased him up the tight spiral staircase of the lighthouse. Once up top, they had him cornered ~ they clubbed him over the head and threw his body down to the ground dozens of feet below. They filed downstairs to dismember him and hide his remains. To this day, the cause of the murder is still contended ~ was he watering their beer down, or did the soldiers just turn up drunk and out of control? As a result of this grisly tale, stories abound that Rademuller's ghost still wanders around the base of the lighthouse. There was a lighthouse keeper looking after the old building regularly up until the 1960s, and the stories have kept up for decades.
At about 11.00 p.m., after night had fallen over Toronto, we boarded the ferry once more and headed back to the Saturday night streets of Toronto. The group boarded their bus, once more, and headed back west to Hamilton. It was a long day, but we saw quite a bit.
I'd like to thank Dan and Stephanie from Haunted Hamilton (http://www.hauntedhamilton.com/) for bringing out their group, and a big thank you to all of you who came out! Also the tour would not have been possible without the staff of Mackenzie House, as well as a big thank you to Tracy and the staff of the City of Toronto who very graciously opened up the lighthouse for us on a Saturday night!
"The Haunted Streets of Downtown Toronto" goes every Monday and Wednesday at 7.00 p.m., and lasts 2-hours.
"The Ghosts of the University of Toronto" goes every Monday and Wednesday at 10.00 p.m., and Fridays at 7.00 p.m. It lasts about 75-minutes.
Contact me for more details!!