You may have seen them – cloaked figures darting around the darkened streets of Toronto at night, clutching eerily lit lanterns as if to beckon souls from beyond to join the living and reveal their stories. These figures also beckon a crowd of living people to follow and learn about the dark history of Toronto’s well-worn streets and see what troubled spirits lie within. Gearing up for Halloween, The Haunted Walk of Toronto has a busy fall season with nightly walking tours through the streets.
Toronto is a remarkable city but it has a dark and sordid past. And there is no better way to learn about the history than to walk the streets and learn of what was over a hundred years ago. The Haunted Walk offers tours that take approximately an hour and a half sans washroom break (so it’s best to use the facilities before departure) ending where the tour begins. The multiple stops along the tour allow for photography and the absorption of information from the highly informed guides of the evening – those black-cloaked beings bearing lanterns. Safety of everyone participating in the tour is paramount – as we don’t want to add to the number of ghosts in the city, our guide dutifully reminds us – so being cautious of traffic and crossing the street only at designated pedestrian crossings is imperative.
The Haunted Walk offers a few different tours – one concentrating on the Distillery District and another focusing on the University of Toronto campus – plenty of ghosts to learn about in both locations, but the Original Haunted Walk of Toronto casts a much wider net looking at known haunted locales in places many Torontonians frequent regularly. From The Keg Mansion at Wellesley St and Jarvis St to Massey Hall at Victoria St and Shuter St, from St Michael’s Hospital to St James Cathedral – all of these familiar places hold a dark and unnerving past, with restless spirits that are still seen today.
The Original Haunted Walk explores the most haunted location in Toronto – Mackenzie House, the historic final home of the city’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, who passed away within its walls. The tour also stops at Courthouse Square at 10 Court St, the location of Toronto’s first courthouse and, not far from it, Toronto’s first gallows where public executions occurred regularly.
A young man named James was our tour guide for the evening and he did a commendable job relaying the histories and ghost stories throughout the tour – commendable as there is undeniably a lot of information to relay to the crowd in a way that is lively, entertaining, and attention grabbing. I found that the stories focused more on the dark pasts of these locations and the ghosts seemed secondary. There were a few times during the tour where I wished that the stops were closer to the locations they were detailing so as to increase the impact of the tale being told. But the tour as a whole was quite enjoyable, especially for those with a fascination with local history, like me. I learned in passing that James is not a native to Toronto so I give him due respect for memorizing so much text to convey in an hour and a half.
Embarking on a Haunted Walk is one of the best ways to explore and learn more about the city and if a restless spirit decides to make themselves known… well, wouldn’t that just make for the perfect tale to tell come Halloween? Tickets for the Haunted Walk are $19.75 for adults, $17.75 for students of any age with valid student ID, $15.75 for youth ages 10-14, and free for children under the age of 10 with an accompanying adult. Tickets can be purchased online in advance.
Review and Select Photos by Samantha Wu