To celebrate the week of Halloween, Rocket 5 went on another ghost tour- this time through our home-base, Toronto. Muddy York Walking Tours leads ghost walks through the city, and we chose one called ‘The Ghosts of the University of Toronto.’ Being a current student at U of T, I was pretty excited to hear more about the ghost stories I already knew and also to learn more of the university’s creepy secrets. It was exciting to be taking a tour of a place we were familiar with, too. While my usual inclination would be to seek out new places for research and inspiration, it was fun to play the tourist and hear about the cool stories lurking within our own city.
In the early stages of the Phantom PI, we took a lot of inspiration from famous hauntings all around the world, but were especially eager to track down local stories. Now that we’ve come so far with the game, it was really cool to go back and re-live some of that research by getting up close and personal with Toronto’s ghosts.
I’ve been asked by our tour guide not to give away too many details about the walk, so it’s still a surprise for any new tour-goers. Instead, here are a few teasers…
The campus (which has always reminded me of Hogwarts) really is the perfect place for a haunted walk, especially at night. Our caped tour guide led us by some familiar buildings and shared some not-so-familiar scary tales- I was surprised by all the campus ghost stories I’d never heard of. I definitely have my favourites of the night, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Trinity and University College both have their own ghosts (see, more and more like Hogwarts), though perhaps the more famous is UC’s Reznikoff. A disastrous love-triangle led to his murder, and his bones were discovered in the tower years later, though many students claimed the ghost came to them to explain his tragic circumstances before his remains were found. I’ve had classes in UC for nearly five years now and I’ve yet to see anything ghostly, but the building definitely has a creepy atmosphere and I wouldn’t want to be there all alone at night.
We learned a few new things about the city, including that there was once a women’s mental hospital (then called the University Lunatic Asylum) where the Ontario Legislative Building now sits. Stories of the ghosts of former patients are terrifying (with creepy names like The Maiden and The Hanging Woman), but nothing makes your skin crawl like imagining the actual conditions those women faced in the hospital.
We also talked about the Christie Mansion, which was of particular interest to me because I’d researched the ghost stories associated with the Christies quite a bit. An early character idea for the Phantom PI came out of that research, and it was very exciting to revisit those stories and hear some things that hadn’t been covered by my voracious Google searches. The internet is an awesome resource for any storyteller, but nothing compares to hearing the story in person and peeking through the windows of a supposedly haunted house, looking for ghostly activity.
Learning about Torontonian ghosts was fantastic. Visiting new places and hearing totally unfamiliar stories is great, but there’s something special about learning new secrets about a place you visit every day. The city is always a great inspiration to us, especially its lovely old buildings and sometimes creepy history, and it was cool to re-live our earlier research and learn a few new things. The Muddy York Walking Tours Company gets a Rocket 5 stamp of approval, and we hope to go on another of their many (and I mean MANY) ghost tours.
Once again, I invite you to share some creepy ghost stories in the comments, especially if they take place in Toronto or on Halloween (extra points if it happened both in Toronto AND on Halloween). I hope everyone had a terrifying Halloween, and as a bonus, here’s a picture of OUR Halloween costumes: