What do an insane-asylum-turned-legislature, a haunted steakhouse with a grisly past, and a heritage site rife with poltergeists have in common? They’re all spooktacular sites in Toronto that you can actually visit—that is, if you’re brave enough to do it! With a slew of urban legends and haunted places in Toronto, the city is ripe for ghost hunting. Turns out Toronto is swarming with spirits, and not just the drinking kind.
Once the site of the largest distillery in the British Empire, Toronto’s Distillery District is a notorious hotbed for paranormal activity. A decade ago, these dilapidated Victorian-era factories were transformed into a pedestrian-only village with designer boutiques, cafes, artisan shops, galleries, and restaurants. But the renovations didn’t get rid of the ghosts. The site is known as one of the most haunted places in Toronto. There have been so many reportings there that the Toronto Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society keeps an active file on the site, documenting unexplained incidents from witnesses. Numerous workers and film crews have reported poltergeist activity on site, such as strange sounds, doors opening and closing, and flashing lights. Urban legends also say that the spirit of original factory co-owner, James Worts, still roams the buildings. After his wife died in 1834, Worts drowned himself in a well near the windmill.
At night, it feels downright creepy wandering the cobblestone streets, with the stone factories towering overhead and casting silhouettes onto the red brick pathways. For a fun ghost hunt, head to Tappo Wine Bar for late night cocktails inside the Stone Distillery, the oldest and largest building of the Distillery District complex.
Keg Mansion Steakhouse & Bar
Peering down a gloomy hallway in the Keg Mansion, you can inhale the tantalizing aroma of grilled meats. Patrons are clustered around candlelit tables, laughing and clinking cocktails, while waiters scurry about with steaming plates. At first glance, this doesn’t look like a haunted house. But The Keg Mansion has long been considered one of the most haunted places in Toronto. In 1882, it was purchased by the Massey family and was known as Euclid Hall for decades. The mansion was converted in 1976 into a restaurant serving steak and seafood. Since opening, many patrons have reported sounds of phantom children running and playing on the upper floors. Others have spotted the spirit of a maid who hanged herself after learning that her mistress Lillian Massey died. Her apparition allegedly dangles from a rope in the oval part of the main foyer.
But the most chilling spot? For years, patrons have reported paranormal activity in the second-floor women’s washroom. The story is usually the same. Freshening up in the bathroom, it suddenly feels like you’re not alone. You check the stalls, but the room is empty. Then the hair on the back of your neck prickles, as you remember the urban legends. Reports of doors unlocking and opening, items being moved, and above all, feeling an eerie presence in the room. You bolt from the room and don’t look back. Keg’s management keeps a logbook of hauntings reported by staff and patrons, so ask your waiter about it!
A chill hits as you descend into the murky tunnel, but it’s not the air conditioning you’re shivering from, it’s the fear you feel from recalling the terrifying tales about Queen’s Park. Once an insane asylum for women, the site is now dominated by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The building is among the most haunted places in Toronto, and not because of the politicians roaming the corridors. There are at least six ghosts allegedly haunting the building’s historic hallways, and even more within the pedestrian tunnels that run underground.
The most notorious ghosts are three women whom, according to urban legends, were past patients of the mental institution. A lady in a long, white robe wanders the halls, while another wears a checkered dress thrown over her face. But what’s the most terrifying? In the basement’s long tunnel, watch for a woman dangling from a hook, rumoured to have hanged herself. To visit Queen’s Park, guided tours are available year-round.