Toronto tales of haunting horror

In Arts & Life /

Everyone loves a good scare.  Every year on Halloween, people pull up the pink flamingoes and erect plastic tomb, stones on their lawns.  They flock to haunted houses, dress in ridiculous getups and play tricks on their friends.  But, ghosts are the most fascinating part of Halloween because nobody really knows if they exist.  For this reason, we have compiled stories haunted places in Toronto that anyone can visit this Saturday night, anyone with a good strong heart that is.  –SM 

University College

By Sarah Michaelis

Within the hallowed halls of U of T’s University College, lurks a hot-tempered phantom with a taste for loose women and a god bottle of scotch.  Legend is in the mid-19th century, a rival killed a stone mason named Ivan Reznikoff over a girl.  Reznikoff was a large man, with dark features and a full black beard.  His immense hands and fingers made him appear clumsy as a mason.  His fierce temper caused many to fear him, but the did have a soft spot — women.  However, the woman Reznikoff considered the love of his life did not return the sentiment.  This nameless pink-faced beauty was being secretly charmed by the young and handsome Paul Diabolos.

At the time, University College was more a construction site than the awe-inspiring building it is today.  Both Reznikoff and Diabolos are credited for the frightening gargoyles that fix their stony glare on students from their perches on the outside walls.   Diabolos, who considered Reznikoff an oaf, bragged that he carved one of these gargoyles in Reznikoff’s likeness.

Diabolos used the construction site to woo Reznikoff’s girl.  The couple went there every night and between kisses perfected their plan to steal Reznikoff’s money and run away.  Reznikoff discovered his love’s infidelity and swore he’d get revenge.

The next evening, Reznikoff confronted Diabolos armed with an axe.  Reznikoff swung the axe but missed Diabolos.  The axe buried itself in a heavy oak door leaving a mark that can still be seen today.  Diabolos ran and hid in the college’s bell tower.  When Reznikoff approached, Diabolos fatally stabbed him with a dagger.  Diabolos dropped the body down the 60-foot well over which the tower’s spiral staircase now stands.

Twenty years later, a law student named John Smith was approached by a large man with a black beard in front of University College’s bell tower.  The man’s soft felt hat covered his eyes and his clothes were filthy with mud.  For some reason, Smith invited this strange man back to his room for a drink.  They drank Loch Katrine scotch and the man told his tale.  He claimed to be the ghost of Ivan Reznikoff.  John Smith awoke the next morning thinking it was all a dream.  But on the other side of the room, two chairs faced one another and in the middle was a bottle of scotch and two glasses.

Many believe his ghost still lurks in the bell tower of University College.  Some claim that they’ve caught a glimpse of a large burly man, with a black beard, and a muddy felt hat, walking up the stairs to the tower late at night.

The Keg Mansion

By Sarah Michaelis

If you like a good scare during your steak dinner then the Keg Mansion is the place to be.  There are two ghosts competing for spooking-time in the restaurant, and they have become a popular commodity.  Both the CBC and Global have done TV specials on the hauntings, and psychics have come from all over trying to tame the poltergeists.

One of the ghosts is the maid of Lillian Massey.  Apparently, the maid was so grief-stricken by the death of Mrs. Massey that she hung herself in the oval vestibule above the foyer.  The vestibule is still there today, and people claim to have seen her hanging body on several occasions.

Sean Mackinnon, a waiter at the mansion, says the most haunted spot is the women’s washroom.  The washrooms were built where the maid’s room used to be, and the maid isn’t’ happy.  Sometimes she’s mischievous and turns the taps on and off right in front of people.  But other times her sinister side makes an appearance.

One afternoon, two female employees were getting ready for work in the washroom when they got the fright of their lives.  The women tried to open the door, but couldn’t.  Someone or something was holding the door shut from the other side.  After a few terrifying minutes, the door flew open and nobody was there.  The only other person in the house was the assistant manager, and he was in another part of the building.  This story has become a legend among the staff at the Keg.  They all claim entering the washrooms in an unnerving experience.

The other ghost who calls the mansion its home is that of a little boy who died after falling down the stairs.  He has been seen running up and down the stairs, and he is quite the favourite among visiting psychics.

Several guests have encountered the devilish little guy running around the mansion late at night.  One night, a small group of people having a party were the last guests in the building, and all of them claim to have seen a little boy running around in the room.  They thought it was unusual for such a young boy to be up late at night, and his parents were nowhere to be found.  The guests went to get a staff member, but when they returned, the boy was gone.

The Auld Spot Pub

By Jennifer Schmidt

The Auld Spot Pub, at 347 Danforth Ave., is a trendy bar and restaurant with a history.  Past owners say the building was a speakeasy in the ‘20s.  It was also the scene of murder.

No one knows much about the murder now but judging from recent events, there might be some truth to the rumour.

Six months ago, Scott McMaster, a chef for the pub was walking by the walk-in freezer in the basement kitchen with his arms full.  The door to the freezer suddenly slammed shut just as he passed by.  He nearly dropped his load from the shock.  The freezer door has a special latch on the outside that requires a great deal of strength and momentum to make it completely close.  McMaster assumed it was one of the co-owners, and fully expected to find someone inside the freezer when he opened it a moment later.  No one was inside and no one else was in the basement with him.

Another strange incident occurred four weeks ago, McMaster was once again in the basement kitchen, standing near the stove, when he noticed a treelike shadow moving on the wall adjoining the walk-in-freezer although there was nothing moving in the kitchen.

Toronto Island Lighthouse

By Jennifer Schmidt

On a cold, miserable fall day, I wait for the ferry bound for the lighthouse at Hanlan’s Point.  I’m a little nervous.  Word is the lighthouse was the scene of murder and is now haunted.  As planned, I meet Joe Padovani, an Island Parks and Recreation worker.

On the way to the lighthouse, Padovani tells me about the murder of the first keeper, J.P. Rademuller, in 1815.  One night, so the tale goes, Rademuller was beaten to death because he refused to share hooch with two drunken soldiers.

The rumours of Rademuller’s vicious murder and the haunting of the lighthouse became legend after the lighthouse’s third keeper, James Durnan, found human bones at a nearby trout pond.

Padovani says a psychic read the lighthouse a few Halloweens ago.  The psychic concluded the murder of the lighthouse’s first keeper occurred not inside the structure but outside it.

The lighthouse looks a little shabby.  It’s isolated and closely surrounded by trees and foliage.  The lighthouse has narrow staircase that twists quickly out of sight as it ascends.  Beside the stairs is a pulley hidden by a circular wooden structure.  This pulley turns the light at the top of the lighthouse on and off.  It’s rarely used now, except to scare the kids of the island’s grade school.  “We’d turn the lights off and tell the kids it was Rademuller,” Padovani laughs.  The old-fashioned metal key, and its heavy metal chain are also for the benefit of the kids as are the broken chair and abandoned shoe hidden in a closet beside the light pulley.

Padovani has one more eerie story dating back to his second or third year on the job.  He and a now retired co-worker, Lionel, were doing a routine check at the lighthouse.  Lionel was snooping around when eh stumbled upon what appeared to be a human bone.  Padovani was slightly unnerved by this find, and convinced Lionel to leave it where he found it.  The next day, they went to show their find to another co-worker, but the bone was gone.

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