A HAIR-RAISING HISTORY...Take a walk on the haunted side

Date Posted: 17/10/16

Murder, suicide, and illness have plagued most major cities throughout history but have you ever wondered what stories and legends have spawned from such tragedies? Muddy York Haunted Walking Tours is a great way to get the dish on all the spooky events that occur everyday in Toronto buildings, and it’s a great way to get the whole family into the Halloween spirit.

Richard Fiennes-Clinton, founder, tour guide, and great-ghost-guru of the Muddy York Tours knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to Toronto’s haunted past. For several years now, he has been sharing these ghost stories with groups of all ages. His aim is simple… make history fun. He achieves it wholeheartedly by packaging Toronto’s unique past with a bizarre mix of eclectic tales.

As with most walking tours, this one is entirely outdoors and full of distractions, however the subject at hand will have you locked and learning. Toronto is oozing with fascinating tales. Many of our downtown buildings date back several hundred years and remain in their original form, and many come complete with stirred stories of speculation and the supernatural. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the stories will leave your spine tingling as they relate to real people and actual events that have occurred over the years.

The tour of tragedy begins at the Royal Ontario Museum with an introduction to a ghost who haunts the interior. It is the story of Charles Trick Currelly, the museum’s first curator, who worked there from 1914 to 1946. Currelly often worked long hours and was known for sleeping over in his office. Charles made the ROM his home away from home and despite his passing in 1957, is said to be still roaming the halls to this day. Late night workers have come to recognize his presence with the sudden (and unaided) switching on of the radio, well known to be Currelly’s favourite late night distraction.

In the neighbouring building, formerly the McLaughlin Planetarium, you’ll find the spirited apparition of an unknown young girl. Due to her style of dress, many suspect she was a victim of the cholera epidemic of 1834. The little ghost was nicknamed Celeste as she was first spotted watching the celestial shows of the Planetarium. The building later closed and reopened as the Children’s Own Museum in 1998, with sightings of Celeste as frequent as ever. Now, with the building left abandoned, many of the old caretakers worry about Celeste’s fate.

Not all of the ghosts that haunt these buildings are passive. Many have had hard lives and gruesome deaths. There are three ghosts that are regularly spotted in Queens Park; all women and all said to be in distress whenever spotted. It is believed that these three women are holdovers from former times when an insane asylum stood on the site of today’s Ontario Legislative Building. It turns out that a secret tunnel exists beneath University Avenue, connecting Queens Park with other government offices. Many workers habitually avoid that tunnel as those who tempt fate often come face to face with the “hanging woman” a howling woman seen hanging from a noose. My companion on this tour, a government employee himself, ventured down into the awkward tunnel the following day and reported that the dim blue lit and echoing hall had a definite sense of the supernatural.

No haunted Toronto tour would be complete without a stop at the Mackenzie House, the most haunted house in all of Canada. At present, it stands as a museum because those who had lived there following the death of William Lyon Mackenzie claim that the constant ghostly goings-on were far too distracting. Some of these include the sound of Mackenzie’s printing press operating despite being locked, the antique piano heard playing after the house was closed to visitors and, of course, the vision of a short-frocked coat man matching the description of William Lyon Mackenzie and the apparition of a “grey lady” who bares a striking resemblance to Mackenzie’s wife Isabelle. One frightened visitor who saw the lady up-close at the age of nine was so scarred that she was unable to walk up a darkened staircase for most of her life.

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