We had an enjoyable Friday evening out with a forensic psychologist by the name of Julian. The young bespectacled and brunette PhD fellow, appearing late thirties, is originally from South Africa. The ghost tour he leads is from a skeptic’s point of view, debunking ghost tales at some of Toronto’s landmarks. Julian works with many cases revolving murderers and psychopaths, and on his spare time, he leads a ghost tour that is based on facts and research he personally has done himself.
This tour was engaging because of Julian’s knowledge, and the tour touched on history and murders that occurred. Although I believe in ghosts, I am scientific-based. I don’t believe in every single story and hearsay. My own ghost experience as a child is something I know happened and is very real and unexplainable, and I know science can’t explain everything. Only my parents and I can know about our experience in our former home was indeed real. Even Julian can’t explain what my dad experienced. However, science can account for a lot of things, and a lot of ghost stories can be debunked — which is the whole point of this ghost tour with Julian.
I won’t go into all of the details of the tour, but some of the pictures make for good show-and-tell. Starting at the Old City Hall in downtown Toronto, the building was erected in the late 1800s. It is relatively new but dubbed as the old hall because the new one took its place in modern glass facade.
Julian told us three ghost stories about the place. After he explained his take on it, I half agreed and half disagreed with his professional explanation and debunking experiment — simply because one of his experiments did not have a control to compare side by side. So far the beginning of the tour started slightly on a wrong foot for me, but because I liked Julian’s profession and science background, I was willing to give it a chance. And I’m glad I did because it became one of my favorite ‘ghost’ tours we’ve been on.
Moving on from Opera Atelier, a typical theater with its ghost stories, we headed to an alley soon to be famous.
Sometime this year, Martin Scorsese’s movie based on a true story and true crime book by Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City, starring Leonardo Dicaprio will be released. The story retells the infamous murders by serial killer Dr H. Holmes, who opened a hotel in 1893 during Chicago’s World Fair and killed guests in their room.
The picture below is a current alley and parking lot. In the late 1800s, it was a residential area with houses. Holmes had a rental house at this location seen in the picture, which he killed two girls and buried them in the cellar. The girls’ bodies were found at the spot where the truck is observed in the photo. If you watch the movie, Julian said this location is in the film. Already, people who know about this have ventured out to see this site.
Pictured below, the house on the right behind the lamppost is Toronto’s oldest building. It was formerly a mayor’s house, who was not so popular. Again, Julian debunks the ghost stories told in the house and which I believe him.
One of the interesting locations towards the end of our tour was at St. Michael’s Cathedral. There was a cholera breakout which had killed many people. Toronto has 16 swamp pits from that time, and two of them still have people buried from that time. This location is one of them, and the city still finds bones from the dead from time to time. It’s not a surprise because they were only buried two feet underground, and with Toronto’s dumping rain, those bones get unearthed. During one of Julian’s tours, he found a femur bone which a little girl had kicked thinking it was just a stick. It was a bit uncanny to stand on top of the burial ground knowing the cholera C strain is still infectious and deadly.
The tour ends at Ryerson University with more stories, which we had a great time speaking with Julian at the end. This ghost tour was not a typical ghost tour, but we appreciated and found interesting. Out of the many ghost tours we’ve been on, there have only been two in the past that we appreciated: Old Town San Diego and Queen Mary. This one with Julian now makes the count to three.