Banner photo is Centre St, north from Christopher St, in 1907. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.
In keeping with the Halloween spirit, I have a terrifying tale of old Toronto for you. You may want to turn down the lights for this one. But don’t worry, I’m right here if it gets too scary.
On February 11th, 1884, the Toronto Daily Mail printed – in all seriousness – a family’s terrifying account of living in, what could only be, a haunted house. Let’s take a look:
Oh dear, this doesn’t bode well. Not only is it possible we’re dealing with ghosts or goblins, but someone has also mysteriously discovered blood. As opposed to, say, discovering mysterious blood.
So these two Irish families, the Wallaces and the Hannas, take up residence together at 120 Centre St and all sorts of shenanigans start happening. And though they are respectable and intelligent, never before believing in silly ghost stories, they now just don’t know what to think. Whereas you might be thinking “Centre St?”
Now called Centre Ave, it is a fairly short street that runs north from Osgoode to Edward – one block east of University – though it once stretched almost to College. When the Wallaces and Hannas lived there their little home happened to be at the NW corner of Centre and … Elm St.
Of course it’s not until after they move in and start being terrorized that all the helpful neighbours and friends come forth and say “Oh jeez, we didn’t know you were moving into that house … coulda told you it was haunted.”
So what kind of things were going on in the house?
Ugh. Cold dread – that’s what I’d have felt if I was poor Mrs. Wallace waiting as someone or “spirit sans body” climbed the stairs.
I’ve never connected a heavy tread with being in stocking feet, but who am I to say. At least things appear to have calmed downed on Centre St. … or had they?
Poor Wallace is polite enough to open the door for the, uh, thing and gets a sleepless night for his troubles.
Now that we’ve heard about the blood, it seems less like a portentous event and more like a “huh, how’d that get here” moment. But the flying knife and the banging pot? I’d be out of there faster than you could say “Is it likely we have goblins in Toronto?”
As for the Wallaces and Hannas, they most certainly did move out soon after these events. And, interestingly enough, the next recorded resident of 120 Centre St was a Mr. Bates …
Today, the stretch of Centre St where the troubled house sat is gone – lopped off long ago and replaced by the Hospital for Sick Children. As for the meddlesome spirits, who knows – but I for one wouldn’t dawdle in the bowels of the hospital.