(Provincial Lunatic Asylum)(Ontario Hospital, Toronto)

999 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

Status: Former Insane Asylum, Demolished, Psychiatric Clinic


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The Original Asylum

Camh queen st.jpg

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This asylum was the first to be built in the Province of Ontario. It came from the idea that the State needed to take a large part in the care and housing of the mentally ill. Previous to this the great asylums, the mentally ill were taken care of at home or thrown in a Poor/Alm House or Prison in both British North America (Canada) and the United States.

Construction on this institution was began in 1846 on a 50 acre site – impossible to imagine in the heavily built up area on Queen Street West today. The original building began to accept patients on January 26, 1850 despite parts of it still being under construction.

The building was considered a modern marvel at the time with indoor plumbing and a mechanical heating system. In 1866 and 1870 the two wings on either side of the building were constructed creating more room for the ever increasing patient population.

Patients were expected to work at the asylum farm – without any compensation – as part of their treatment. It was supposed to be light labour but as anyone who has worked on a farm; it was anything but.

As with all of the giant asylums this one would become overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded and the treatment of the patients began to degrade. By the 1920’s the morals of kindness and humane treatment had turned into pipe dreams.

In the 1950’s – with the creation of anti-psychotic drugs - the asylum began to focus on day programs with outpatients in an effort to move its focus away from housing the mentally ill. The name of the institution was changed to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre at this time.

By the mid-1970’s demolishment of the building had already begun. The large asylums were beginning to be seen as antiquated with the focus moving to group homes and outpatient clinics.

In 2009 the old asylum building was completely torn down. Despite advocates justifiably bringing up concerns in saving the historical building there is no longer any sign that it ever existed.

All that is left now is the original retaining wall of the property that was built by the patients.


Paranormal Activity

There was/is a tremendous stigmata attached to this asylum. Parents literally threatened to send their children to 999 Queen St if they didn’t behave. This became such an issue that in its final years the asylum’s address was changed 1001 Queen St.

This stigmatism carried on long after the asylum was torn down – that fact that the neighbourhood around the hospital had degraded is even blamed on the asylum – to such a degree that it’s been very difficult even getting a history until the last few years.

The last thing anyone wants – expecting those interested in the paranormal – is a bunch of ghost stories relating to the lunatics that used to be locked up on Queen West. This makes finding any reports of paranormal activity difficult to say the least.

Here’s what we have managed to collect:

While the building stood

Ghosts of former staff and patients were seen wandering the dark halls of the asylum; phantom screams were heard coming out of the building; shadows and apparitions were seen looking out of the windows of the unused portions of the building; phantom footsteps; doors and windows opening and closing on their own; objects moving on their own; electrical issues; cold and warm spots; feelings of unease, not being alone and being watched.

After the demolition

Apparitions of nurses and doctors in dated uniforms; apparitions of patients in hospital gowns wandering the area looking lost; disembodied voices and conversations; light anomalies; electrical disturbances; time slips – some reports of the former asylum appearing at night; cold and warm spots; feelings of unease, being watched and being wanted.

There are also rumours of an old tunnel system still under the site with a few accessible points. These tunnels are said to possess large amounts of paranormal activity but are very old with no electricity, in partial collapse with the deepest tunnels filling up with water from the Lake Ontario. Stories say the worst of the worst patients were kept down here in small dark rooms.

These rumours cannot be verified but the fact that some of them come from former staff makes one wonder. Needless to stay, any entrance into the tunnel system would be exceedingly dangerous with loss of life a very real possibility.