Toronto, the Haunted City

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Did you used to love ghost stories around a campfire? Did your babysitter scare you with spooky stories at bedtime? Do you love the creepy nature of Hallowe’en even more than the candy?

The spook factor doesn’t entice only kids, and many of us don’t outgrow the thrill of a good ghost or haunted house. If that includes you, you’re in luck, because it turns out that Toronto, although a fairly young city, has enough murder and mystery to lay claim as  a rather decent Spooksville in its own right.

We at Plenty aren’t above a little terrifying titillation, and gladly/warily accepted an invitation by The Haunted Walk to attend a ghost tour. Of their Toronto offerings, “Ghosts and Spirits of the Distillery” was an easy choice. The collection of old buildings in one of Toronto’s most interesting districts lends itself to ghost stories, but on a more personal note I once lived a block away from the distillery before it became a destination, and I wanted to know who might have been my ethereal neighbours.

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Image courtesy of Haunted Walk

It turns out that James Worts Sr., of Gooderham and Worts Distillery, was and perhaps still is such a neighbour. The story goes that just a few years after his arrival in Toronto from England in the 1830’s, Worts lost his wife to childbirth. His grief led him to commit suicide by throwing himself into a well on the premises. His wandering ghost is apparently a common sighting on the grounds.

I won’t give away the whole tour, but I will say that walking about on a dark, chilly night through the cobblestoned Distillery provides excellent backdrop for a haunted tour, and that I will never look at a certain chandelier there quite the same way again.

Just a little research reveals that the Distillery Historic District is but one of many landmark sites in Toronto with a ghostly past. Other haunted destinations include Casa Loma, MacKenzie House, the ROM, Historic Fort York, a whole slew of theatres and University of Toronto buildings, and many more. They’re everywhere.

They’re here.

In fact, we have so many ghosts that we boast our very own Ghosts and Hauntings Research Group, a not-for-profit that studies ghostly or haunted events in Toronto “within the confines of history, folklore, reported experiences, and scientific investigation of the phenomena”. It’s a great starting point for the curious, with synopses of eerie events according to building and location in Toronto, as well as other parts of Ontario. Uncovering your neighbourhood wraith couldn’t be much easier, and you’ll have a better sense of why it is on some quiet nights you inexplicably find yourself glancing over your shoulder, and who it might be looking back at you.

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Many thanks to The Haunted Walk for the night tour of the Distillery District, and sharing with us the stories of the spirits that linger there.

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