Thursday, 29 October 2015




As anyone working with the public in a historic house will tell you, it is always a good idea to have a juicy ghost story up your sleeve. Hint that your site is haunted by an established figure in the historical record and, BAM, instant intrigue!

While it may come as no surprise that ghosts and heritage go so well together, they do so because both are based on modern attempts to understand the past. Since our knowledge of the past is necessarily partial, there is room for other interpretations, including the existence of ghosts.

The popularity of supernatural claims irks some cultural institutions though, especially when these claims come into conflict with historical evidence. On the other hand, others freely participate in “ghost tourism” by hosting macabre walking tours and ghoulish live performances.

Getting in touch with haunted heritage. Source.

If being a ‘ghost tourist’ appeals to you, join MUSSA in free haunted walking tour of Old Toronto on Saturday, October 31 at 2pm! Click here for more information.

For this edition of Throwback Thursday, we look back at the haunted heritage of three of Toronto's museums.


The ROM's east-facing facade built in 1933. Source

As Canada’s largest public largest museum, it seems only fitting that two different ghosts should haunt the ROM. One is credited to be the spectre of its first director of archaeology, Charles Currelly, who in his day brought in substantial collections to the museum. Although he retired in 1946, some say he never left with his ghost continuing to wander the first floor East Asian collections. The other ghost is that of a little girl aptly named Celeste who is said to sit and watch the shows in the now closed McLaughin Planetarium.


Delaying the American advance on Fort York. Source.

Having witnessed to so much death at the Battle of York in 1813 alone, it’s not out of the question to imagine young militiamen haunting the fort. In addition, one the site’s more popular sightings, is that of a woman who strolls about the centre blockhouse and officer’s quarters.


A spooky view of one of Toronto's most significant historic homes. Source.

The home of John and Jemina Howard, the original owners of High Park, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Jemina, who passed away in 1877 after a long battle with breast cancer and mental illness. In a documented case in 1969, a police officer was patrolling the park when he saw a woman through the building's second story window. After investigating, no one was found in the house. The second floor - where Jemina was literally locked up in her bedroom in the years preceding her death - is still reported to give people the creeps.

Ever experience something eerie at a museum where you worked? 

Sources Consulted:
Boyle, T. (2013). Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places. Toronto: Dundurn.
Hanks, M. (2015). Haunted Heritage: The Cultural Politics of Ghost Tourism, Populism, and the Past. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this timely selection of museums, Jocelyn! I regret missing the haunted tours / walks that ran out of Colborne Lodge this spooky season. My internship host institution - the Bytown Museum in Ottawa - did have a reputation for harbouring unsettled spirits, but I never experienced anything during my 3 months there. However, at the Brant Museum and Archives where I volunteered one summer, I have never felt so strange as I did in the attic storage space there. You could feel the unsettled energy pulsing all around you, as if the objects were breathing. Needless to say, I only went up there twice and staff kept it locked up all other times!