Toronto haunted walks reveal city’s dark past

Toronto has quite a history. Deriving from the Mohawk word for “where there are trees standing in water”, Ktaronto, to Muddy York and finally to Toronto. It has rich stories of human tragedy.

This time of year is best defined by those spine tingling tales called ghost stories. There are a few ways to enjoy these stories, but “Haunted Walk” tours bring you face to face with these spooky places, separated from their ghosts by a pane of glass.

The Toronto Haunted Walk, in its second season, begins at the Hockey Hall of Fame at Front and Yonge Street for an hour and a half of history and chills. The hall, originally a Bank of Montreal, has the first ghost story about a bank teller named Dorothy. It involves betrayal and a gun.

Continuing with guide Margo MacDonald, in her thirteenth season of ghost walks, we visit the haunted King Edward hotel, built over an old jail and hanging yard. Then, we pass  St. James church, (site of a duel later named murder) and St. James Park which in 2011 saw Occupy protesters set up camp over the pit for victims of the 1883 cholera epidemic still entombed in this mass burial ground.

On to Toronto Street and the Old Courthouse, MacDonald recounts, “in 1838, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hung in front of 10,000 festive picnickers who turned it into a family outing. The ghost here is a particular art critic as the people in the restaurant in the old courthouse can attest to.”

We then proceed to Mackenzie House where a ghost liked to float over the caretaker’s wife while she was lying in bed.

Another haunted tour, the Muddy York Haunted Tour, (run for 16 years by Richard Fiennes- Clinton), begins at the Royal Ontario Museum and goes through the University of Toronto grounds. This popular tour takes the walkers through the dark history of the university and Queen’s Park .

At University College we’re shown the door with axe marks from when Ivan Reznikoff chased Paul Diablos in a jealous rage through the unfinished building. But Diablos had a dagger hidden and stabbed Reznikoff to death, dragged and hid his body in the building. A fire in later years exposed the body of a man, believed  to be Rezinkoff, whose ghost still wanders the building seeking justice.

Finally, Queen’s Park is home to three female apparitions. According to Fiennes – Clinton, “There is a white lady who wanders the halls weeping; the Maiden, a woman in a chequered dress who hides her face in her apron; and the most disturbing is the woman who hangs from a hook in a basement tunnel, simply named the Hanging Woman. These women are said to date back to the old institution built on this site around 1842, when it was the University Hospital for the Insane.”

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The Toronto Haunted Walk reservations:
(416) 238-1473, student rate $16.75

Muddy York Tours:
(416) 487-9076, or email,
group rates available.

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Toronto haunted walks reveal city’s dark past