Jason Kucherawy, co-founder of TourGuys.ca, is putting a skeptical twist on the city's spookiest haunts this year. Those who go on the company's Toronto Ghost Tour will get their share of scary details, but they'll also be getting some science to go along with it. "At each location we talk about the history, then we talk about the ghost stories, the hauntings, the reports that have come out of that location. Then we talk about some of the possible explanations for people experiencing the paranormal," he says. That's not to say he's out to rob people of a ghoulish good time. "I'm very skeptical, but I've been in places where I've felt creeped out," he says. With Halloween just around the corner, Mr. Kucherawy gave The Globe the graveyard dirt on some of Toronto scariest sites.
1. The Keg Mansion, 515 Jarvis St.
Haunted history: Legend has it that back when it was the Massey mansion, one of the family's servants hanged herself in the front foyer after Lillian, the Masseys' only daughter, died, Mr. Kucherawy says. "The underlying legend is that she hanged herself not just out of grief, but because Lillian Massey was actually protecting her from a dark secret [getting out]" he adds. There are also reports that the second floor women's washroom is haunted.
Fright factor: Throw "dark secrets" into the mix and the hairs on your neck will surely be up. The only thing to calm those nerves is a stiff drink and a T-bone. Thankfully, you're in the right place.
2. Ryerson University Theatre School, 43 Gerrard St. E.
Haunted history: Originally opened as the Ontario School of Pharmacy, legend has it that students used to work on cadavers on the building's third floor. "People have said if you're alone there at night you'll hear your name being called," Mr. Kucherawy says. There have also been reports of people hearing the piano playing, going to look, and finding no one in the room.
Fright factor: Cadavers? Pfffft.Your name being called by ghosts? Ho hum.Theatre students!?! Run! Run as fast as you can!
3. Mackenzie House, 82 Bond St.
Haunted history: Formerly the home of William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of Toronto, this is arguably the most haunted house in Toronto, Mr. Kucherawy says. "People have seen strange lights up on the third floor. They've seen the ghost of Mackenzie at a writing desk … the printing press in the museum at the back of the house has been known to start up and stop by itself," he says. The ghost of an older woman with white hair has also been seen in the house.
Fright factor: Oooooh! An old-timey printing press is running! Even Scooby-Doo wouldn't be scared of that. That white-haired ghost, on the other hand, would scare Shaggy senseless.
4. St. Michael's Hospital, 30 Bond St.
Haunted history: Sister Vincenza, an elderly nun who passed away in the 1950s, is said to haunt the hospital, which was once run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. "Patients have described being visited by a nun in full habit, but her face is always in shadow. Vinnie [as she's known]seems to come in and turn the lights on or off for people. There was one patient who said a nun came in to her room and put a blanket on her," Mr. Kucherway says.
Fright factor: The best ghosts are the ones who bring you cozy stuff and then hit the lights when it's bedtime. Terrifying.
5. Elgin And Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St.
Haunted history: The elevators, which normally require an operator, have been known to run on their own, perhaps summoned by the ghost of a woman who was stabbed to death in the early days of the theatre. "She crawled, bleeding, to the elevator, figuring that the elevator operator could help her. The elevator wasn't there and she died," Mr. Kucherawy says.
Fright factor: Perhaps the scariest part of this story is that the elevators still require an operator. What century is this?
6. Old City Hall, 60 Queen St. W.
Haunted history: "In Courtroom 33, judges have said they've felt people tugging on their robes. There's a stairwell near that room where judges have felt hands on their back as though someone's trying to push them down the stairs," Mr. Kucherawy says. Some believe the room and stairwell are haunted by the ghosts of Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas, the last two men to hang in Canada.
Fright factor: Scarier than Mary Walsh and a This Hour Has 22 Minutes crew storming you in your driveway.
7. Hockey Hall Of Fame, 30 Yonge St.
Haunted history: Before it became a shrine to the best game you can name, it was a Bank of Montreal built in 1885. It's haunted by a ghost named Dorothy, Mr. Kucherawy says. "She was a teller spurned by the bank manager. One night she took her own life in the bank with the manager's pistol," he says. "People have said they've heard the sound of a woman crying and they've gone looking for the source but couldn't find it."
Fright factor: That sound of crying in the Hockey Hall of Fame? It's probably coming from a Leafs fan.