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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The disappointment that is haunted Toronto


So far, all our Death Clicks outings to Toronto’s haunted places have turned out to be busts.

Probably the most annoying part is to realize that there’s so much talk about “haunted this” and “the ghost of that”, only to discover that nearly every single ghostly going on can be debunked.

But is it really Toronto’s fault, or just the problem of a more accurate historical record. A lot of Toronto’s history has happened during a far more illuminated age. More people could write, printing presses were around, records were being kept. Which means there’s hard proof that a lot of awesomely eerie stories are a load of old bollocks.

Sad, isn’t it.

Sir William Mackenzie’s house in TO is allegedly the most haunted. From the outside, it’s wickedly imposing. Bleak, stark, dark, looming. While the inside has the atmosphere of a ping-pong ball. Actually, that’s probably talking it up too much as I’m sure ping-pong balls are filled with toxic gas and this was just … blah.

I thought that maybe I was missing something. I skim-read the pamphlet The Haunting of Mackenzie House which seemed to promise some hard-fact hauntings, so I gleefully handed over $3, but if I’d skim-read the intro page or if the title had been more accurately rendered, I would’ve realized the awesomely researched pamphlet by Chris Raible – who previously worked at the building – was actually about the non-haunting of Mackenzie House.


And then there’s Casa Loma – which translates as Hill House, which just has to be haunted, right? Built in the early 1900s for Sir Henry Pellatt, an eccentric businessman who wanted a castle, Casa Loma is another edifice that has looming down pat. Set up like a medieval castle except without any of the common sense or practicalities that allowed medieval castles to evolve, the place is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Sir Pellatt’s wife whose deathbed scene occurred in one of the bedrooms.

Rumoured, my arse. The family fortune went tits-up and the Pellatts were forced to move out, long before Lady Pellatt died. She did however once watch Girl Guides skate from her bedroom when she was bedridden. Nope, not such a sexy story is it? Although, when she did die, she was buried in her Girl Guide uniform … hmmm, maybe sexy if you have dodgy inclinations.

Casa Loma does however have an oven large enough to cook an ox, which is a bit H H Holmesey. And while The Toronto Ghosts and Whatever Society have thoroughly debunked all the Casa Loma stories, the actual curator of the place was forced to point out to them that both staff and visitors have had some pretty uncanny experiences there.

We went for our Death Clicks visit at the end of December and it was interesting afterwards to compare notes with Pee Wee and Nigel. Both Pee Wee and I found the entire layout and dimensions of the interiors disorienting, to the point of feeling a physical discomfort. Meanwhile Nigel ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ Leng was just thinking how ‘livable’ the place was.

Various stories suggest tourists having heard horses in the tunnel that links to the stable and that tunnel is damn creepy. Although the fact that the temperature is 20 degrees lower than in the house helps create an atmosphere. That and the imperceptible rise and fall and bend of the tunnel, along with the oxidized original metalwork that runs along the walls. 

But ultimately, the scariest thing about Casa Loma is its website.

And then there was our outing to Keg Mansion. The steak was good, Barry the waiter was slightly esoteric in his enquiry of ‘and will there be anymore guests joining you?’ as the four of us sat at a table for four, hungry and disheartened by lack of ghosts, but again, the atmosphere of a ping-pong ball, although one at least that promised steak.

In the old world, fact and fantasy and folklore have been intertwined for millennia. Here, in Toronto, it’s all documented, and where there’s documentation, there’s easy proof that nothing is ever as spookily good as it first seems.

And we didn’t even get an orb.

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