I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to scare you there. It’s just that with it being October and Halloween coming up, we get in kind of a spooky mood around here and sometimes get a little carried away.
But you know…since the season is upon us, how about a couple of ghost stories? After all, one of the perks of being Old Town Toronto is having some of Toronto’s oldest and scariest ghost residents. From former mayors and prisoners to hotel staff and even a few ghostly cats, it can be pretty scary around these parts.
So grab a seat, turn down the lights, and if you’re not too scared, read about some of the ghosts of Old Town Toronto!
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
Having been around for nearly a century, the famous Fairmont Royal York Hotel is full of spooky happenings reported by both staff and guests.
One of the most notable spectral residents resides on the eighth floor of the hotel, where guests have reported strange noises and the sound of children’s laughter in the middle of the night. There have also been sightings of a grey-haired man in a maroon smoking jacket and slacks silently walking through the halls. You might laugh that off as just the commotion of kids and a sighting of a bellhop, but there have also been some rather…hard to explain occurrences. The elevator door opens and closes repeatedly only on that floor, alarm clocks go off in areas where rooms don’t exist, and people have reportedly seen strange shadows of multiple figures moving around in their rooms while they were in bed.
What’s more, the hotel’s former Crystal Ballroom, which was closed permanently years ago, has been known to be something of a hotspot of paranormal activity. Staff service elevators open at the room at random intervals and guests staying in rooms below have complained of music and sounds of a party coming from the empty room. Could the Royal York’s Crystal Ballroom be the less intense Canadian version of the Overlook Hotel’s Gold Room?
While there are plenty of ghost sightings of people who have passed away in some form or another, many often forget the stories of former animals that have become wandering spectres. And according to longtime residents of the Distillery District, the area is occasionally visited upon by several ghosts of the feline persuasion.
You see, when the old distillery was up and running in the 1830s, mice would regularly eat the grain to be used for making whisky, so cats were often employed to take care of the mouse population in exchange for shelter. This practice is still used today, with several breweries taking on a cat staff member. So now, only a few times a year in the middle of the night, you just might see several of the grey or white blurry ghosts of the vigilant cats running around the Distillery, on the prowl for mice looking to eat James Worts and William Gooderham’s precious grain!
Toronto’s First Post Office
Toronto history buffs will know the name of James Scott Howard well. As Toronto’s first-ever Postmaster, Scott was in charge of ensuring the mail got where it needed to be and helped navigate the challenges that come with running the newly formed city’s first post office. Sadly, in 1837 Howard would be fired from his post based on suspicions of sympathizing with rebels during the Upper Canada Rebellion. His wrongful dismissal had been called “the best-documented drama of the 1837 Rebellion” and when he left postal operations in the building moved to another part of the city.
However, since Toronto’s First Post Office became fully operational, rumour has it that the ghost of James Scott Howard himself has been haunting the building, loyal to his post from beyond the grave! Staff have said they often feel an unseen presence around the building and have noticed random items falling off shelves when no one was around. The strange happenings have even been verified by paranormal investigators, who came to look into the ghostly claims. Not only did they confirm that the building was haunted, but they also attest that the fireplace could be a possible portal to the great beyond!
So if you’d like to send a letter to a loved one who has passed away, you know where to go.
St. Lawrence Market
Bruce Bell of Bruce Bell’s Tours is one of Old Town Toronto’s best historians and, up until a few years ago, a skeptic of ghosts. That all changed while he was giving a tour in the St. Lawrence Market’s basement area and a guest had asked him if he had ever seen a ghost. Before Bell could answer “no” the guest’s camera had flown from her hand, the lights began to flicker, and a loud banging noise could be heard from behind the bricked off door located in the room.
After an awkward moment of silence, Bell responded: “I have now”.
While there had been no official documentation of paranormal activity happening in St. Lawrence Market, shopkeepers and staff have noticed the occasional weird occurrence. The sounds of footsteps coming up empty stairs, lights randomly flickering on and off, and the floorboards squeaking under the pressure of some unseen force.
Could it be ghosts? It’s possible. After all, the market was once Toronto’s first permanent city hall and even a jailhouse from 1845 to 1899. Considering the appalling jailing conditions at the time, it’s possible that the spectre of some poor soul chained to the wall in the basement or condemned to death could be wandering the market. Though Bell also suggests that the spook might just be the ghost of disgraced former Mayor John Hutchinson, trying to apologize for abandoning the “Peoples Esplanade” along the harbour and giving the land to the railroad. Unfortunately, there are no reports of a ghost train on the railroad.