(The Old Don)
(Henneck Bridgeport Hospital)
550 Gerrard Street East
Status: Former Jail; Heritage Building; Former Hospital; Healthcare Office
The original Don Goal was built between 1858 and 1864 including the Renaissance façade and a House of Refuge for vagrants, the dissolute and idiots. It is one of the oldest pre-Confederation intact buildings left in Toronto.
The jail was designed for short term stays while prisoners awaited arraignment for trial. It was originally called the “Palace for Prisoners” conditions were so good. As time went on waits began to get longer and the stays became 90 days or longer and the number of prisoners began to increase as the courts got more and more backed up.
Conditions became so deplorable judges began giving a credit of 3 days per 1 day spent there – as opposed to the normal 2 for 1 in Ontario at the time – toward their sentences and probation. In the end the jail was not even meeting the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners required by the United Nations.
Before the abolishment of Capital Punishment in Canada 60 people were executed by hanging at the jail. From 1908 all hangings took place inside – in a converted bathroom. After the British beat the French in the Seven Years War in 1759 hanging was the only means of execution used in British North America (Pre-Confederation) and then Canada.
The executed, and the others who died while in the jail, were buried in unmarked graves on the site. In 2007 an archeological dig on site found human remains and moved them to a proper cemetery.
The original Don Jail was closed in 1977 but the East Wing remained open as a jail December 31, 2013.
Bridgeport Health took over the building even before the East Wing was closed. They demolished the Riverdale Hospital on site which was for patients needing long term care and with chronic illnesses. They replaced with a 10 storey modern rehabilitation facility. They also occupied the old jail and used it as administration offices.
About 20% of the original jail’s interior has been saved including the punishment and death row cells as well as the gallows tower. These remain normally remain behind locked doors but are opened for special events like Open Doors Toronto. The gallows themselves were destroyed in 1977 by a government official; yah, not sketchy at all.
The preserved cells in the basement and the main rotunda in the building’s entrance are open to the public.
When the East Wing was vacated Bridgeport demolished it and turned it into green space.
Reported Activity – most of which dates back to when the jail was still open – most commonly the phantom sounds of chains clanking – it happened so often when the jail was open that the guards searched the building seeing if any of the prisoners were out of their cells; a female prisoner who hung herself in her cell still screams in pain and horror which can be heard throughout the building.
Less commonly is the apparition of a guard still going about his checks on the graveyard shift; apparitions of former prisoners; unexplained knocking sounds; disembodied voices; phantom footsteps; light anomalies; empathic sensations of fear and loneliness and the feeling of not being alone and being watched.
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This mansion was originally built by Arthur McMaster – nephew of the founder of the McMaster University in Hamilton – in 1867. At the time Jarvis Street was home to the city’s wealthiest citizens and lined with mansions like this one. The house was set back from the street – as it is today – but surrounded by gardens not a parking lot.
The original mansion had 26 rooms and 16 fireplaces.
In 1882 Hart Massey bought the mansion and lived there with his wife, Lillian, who named the house Euclid Manor. They added the verandah, turret and greenhouse. The Massey’s became one of Toronto’s most prominent families founding buildings like Massey Hall; Canada’s first concert hall.
They moved in 1915 – after gifting the house to the University of Toronto’s Victoria College – when the area began to become more commercial.
The mansion became the home of the radio station CFRB – now 1010 Talk Radio – and then home to an art gallery. In the 1960’s it was bought by Jules Fine and became known as Julie’s Mansion. After she suffered a stroke, the grounds were sold off and the greenhouse was demolished; a gas station was built on the corner.
In 1976 Keg Restaurants (a Canadian steakhouse restaurant chain know for buying up old disused properties and converting them into restaurants) bought the house and grounds and turned it into a Keg Restaurant.
The Massey’s had one daughter, Lillian, who died of natural causes in the house.
There used to be a tunnel between the house and Wellesley Hospital to move Lillian while she was sick and dying so the public didn’t see her. Many believe the people who died in the hospital traveled through the tunnel into the house.
The apparition of Lillian is seen throughout the house.
When Lillian’s maid found out about the death she went to the oval vestibule above the main staircase – where the second floor women’s washroom is today – she put a noose around her neck and tied to the wooden staircase before jumping over the edge.
The staff found her hanging in the front foyer.
Most believe her death was due to grief for her mistress. There is, however, a theory that she was involved in an affair with a married member of the Massey Family and somehow Lillian’s death would have revealed the secret.
Employees locking the front door for the night have reported seeing the maid hanging from her noose swinging slowly over the grand staircase. She is only visible for a second out of the corner of their eyes.
The maid is said to haunt the second story women’s bathroom – which is located where she jumped from – where all the stall doors have been reported as unlocking on their own and all the toilets will suddenly flush together. Women and staff also report a strong feeling of being watched in the bathroom.
There are also stories of seeing feet in stalls – stalls that are ultimately are found empty – and one story of the ghost catching a bottle of wine falling off the coat hook in a stall.
A young boy fell down the stairs to his death. His ghost is seen playing on those same stairs.
The phantom sounds of children playing in the upper hallway are heard.
A strong male presence who is not fond of women has been felt in the library.
There are numerous reviews of this restaurant on line that mention the paranormal activity.
Other Reported Activity: apparitions; disembodied voices; light anomalies and unexplained sounds.
This site was built in 1888 and opened in January of 1889 as the Mimico Asylum. It was built to alleviate overcrowding at the 999 Queen St W asylum. This site was built specifically to house those patients considered incurable; that would spend their entire lives in an institution.
The campus was designed not to feel like an institution, with cottages and gardens, rather than a massive imposing gothic building. This facility was the first asylum based on the cottage formula built in Canada.
As was becoming the norm for asylums, the patients worked – putting up some of the buildings, tending the landscaping etc – and were not paid for their labour as it was seen as therapeutic and part of their treatment.
Cottages 1 – 5 in the south end of the institution were for female patients. Cottages A – E were for the male patients.
In the early part of the 20th century overcrowding became an issue at all of the asylums; with the worst being during the 1930’s in the Great Depression. Funding also began to drop off which, combined with overcrowding, lead to a steady decline in patient care.
This also led to a steady increase in violence in the asylum.
In 1959 forced patient labour was ended and the path toward de-institutionalization began.
In 1964 the site was renamed the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.
On September 1, 1979 the hospital was shut down with a promise of outpatient clinics at the Queen St location that never materialized. Ultimately, the decision to close the hospital was a monetary one; the site needed extensive work to modernize it and the government wasn’t willing to spend the money.
In truth most of the patient population suddenly released from the psychiatric hospital would become part of the homeless problem that still plagues the Toronto area.
The site remained abandoned until 1991 when Humber College signed a 99 year lease and converted the dilapidated buildings into its Lakeshore Campus.
Humber College is not friendly about the haunting and will not discuss it or allow any investigations.
Many people report a feeling of heaviness and/or negativity and fear over the site.
The apparition of a former nurse has been reported in the tunnels under the complex. She is reported as moving much faster than any human could – this happens most often when she rounds a corner or is otherwise out of sight briefly. Generally, she is seen only from behind but those few lucky to see her facing towards say she has no face.
The ghost of a female patient in Building F – where the morgue once was – is said to announce her presence with the phantom smell of flowers. She is also said to be friendly.
Many apparitions have been seen in the buildings – often looking out the windows. When the buildings were being converted into classrooms there are a number of stories by security going into buildings they saw someone in only to find it empty when there was no possibility of leaving without being seen.
Our team did have a chance to do a series of investigations on the grounds and in buildings not yet renovated. What follows is a list of what we experienced:
Misty apparitions moving quickly in the buildings.
Phantom footsteps in the building including one incident where the footsteps seemingly responded to the ringing of a bell the police used to use to bring in patients. In this case the footsteps stopped just inside the door – we were outside and it was locked – and then banged repeatedly on the door from the inside. The building was confirmed empty at the time.
A cloud of mist that seemed to come through a window above an investigator who was looking in.
Unexplained noises such as disembodied voices, phantom laughter, loud bangs, sighs, breathing and whispers.
Faces appearing in windows both looking out from inside and in from outside.
Feelings of being watched and not being wanted as well as a certain heaviness at times.
One of the most alarming episodes – which may or may not have been a coincidence – was glass from a window falling from the upper story and nearly hitting an investigator. There was a loud noise that sounded like a scream causing us all the look up. The glass fell from the top window and shattered on the ground alarmingly close to an investigator.
Other Activity Reported by Third Parties: apparitions of both former staff and patients; objects moving on their own; disembodied voices; unexplained noises; light anomalies; shadow figures; misty forms; cold spots; touches by unseen entities and feelings of being watched, not being alone and not being wanted.
Bloor Street East
Status: Vehicle/Subway/Pedestrian Truss Arch Bridge; Suicide Site
The construction of this bridge was debated in Toronto between 1910 and 1913; in 1912 it was voted down by 59 votes but in 1913 it was for by 9,236 votes. It was completed in 1918 for a cost of $2,480,000 ($39.5 million 2021 dollars).
It was named after Prince Edward the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII.
The bridge spans 494 metres (1,6200 feet) and is 40 metres (131 feet) above the Don Valley.
Originally the upper deck was for street cars and the lower deck – which almost wasn’t built because of the high cost – was used as a rail road. Constructing the lower deck would save the city millions of dollars in 1966 when the Bloor-Danforth Subway was built and took over the railroad tracks.
The Bridge became the most popular place in Canada to commit suicide – second in all of North America after the Golden Gate Bridge – with almost 500 suicides by 2003. At it’s worst – in 1997 – the suicide rate was one person for every 22 days.
At one point it was the third most popular place in the world to end your life after 1) Suicide Forest in Japan, 2) Golden Gate Bridge, California.
A nun and 18 other people fell to their death while the bridge was being constructed.
A screen preventing anyone from jumping – or falling – from the bridge was approved by the Toronto City Council in 1998. However, construction was delayed due to the cost. It was finally built in 2003 and called the Luminous Veil but it is estimated that between 48 to 60 suicides happened while construction was delayed.
Does the Luminous Veil work? Yes and no. Since it was installed only 1 person has managed to climb over it and jump. That being said the suicide rate in the City of Toronto has not decreased; the victims have just found other ways to do it including jumping in front of subways.
The most commonly reported paranormal activity is a strong feeling of unease as well as sensations of not being alone and being watched.
People have also seen someone falling from the bridge only to see them disappear before hitting the ground. This often followed by the sound of something heavy hit the ground but nothing can be found.
Previous to the Luminous Veil they are a few reports of apparitions looking very real sitting on the fence apparently getting ready to jump. Some even had conversations with these ghosts before the faded from sight.
Other Reported Activity: phantom screams; cold spots both in the forest below and on the bridge and unexplained mists.
(Provincial Lunatic Asylum)(Ontario Hospital, Toronto)
999 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario M6J 2W2
Status: Former Insane Asylum, Demolished, Psychiatric Clinic
The Original Asylum
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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.
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.
This cemetery was opened in the 1850’s to replace Potter’s Field/Stranger’s Burying Ground as the city of Toronto grew. Potter’s Field was located at 50 Bloor Street between Bay and Yonge Streets in what is now the high-end retail and residential neighbourhood of Yorkville.
The Necropolis is a non-denominational cemetery and as the burial ground it replaced the vagrants and homeless with no one to claim were buried here when it first opened.
The cemetery is located in the Cabbagetown section of the city north of the Riverdale Farm and just east of the Don Valley.
The cemetery is the location of the first crematorium in Toronto.
Several famous Canadians are buried in this cemetery including Toronto’s first mayor – William Lyon McKenzie, George A Romero – father of the modern zombie movie and Jack Layton – former Leader of the Canada’s Federal New Democratic Party.
The cemetery is also the resting place of the hundreds of children who were struck down far too young by countless childhood diseases in the days before vaccinations. In the late 19th century children would account for 40% of in the deaths city wide.
The cemetery is owned by the non-profit Mt Pleasant Group of Cemeteries. Their official stance on hauntings is neither denial or affirmation out of respect for the families who have loved ones buried in their cemeteries.
Apparitions in Victorian clothing are seen on the meandering paths through the gothic tombstones. Many have claimed to have captured these apparitions on film.
There are numerous – too numerous to dismiss – reports of people being touched by disembodied misty hands that reach out of thin air.
Other Activity: cold spots; feelings of unease and of being watched; electrical disturbances; disembodied voices including full conversations and light anomalies.
This cemetery sits in the middle of the most haunted section of the city of Toronto including: Kensington Apartments, St James Cemetery, Prince Edward Viaduct (see above), Rosedale Valley Road and the Old Don Jail all of which will be covered in future articles.