Haunted, Hoax, Or Wishful Thinking........
Mackenzie House is arguably the most infamous structure in Toronto if not Canada that is reportedly haunted. Pararesearchers has recently (April 2003) visited the house located at 82 Bond Street and examined the reports and independent investigations of others in regards to William Lyon Mackenzie's former home. The results follow:
Who was William Lyon Mackenzie?
For those not familiar with Toronto's history, W. L Mackenzie (1795-1861) was a controversial newspaper editor, leader of the failed 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion of which he was convicted of high treason, and Toronto's First Mayor. He was also grandfather of W.L Mackenzie King, Canada's 10th Prime Minister (1921 to 1948). The house at 82 Bond St. was purchased for Mackenzie and his family by friends and supporters following his return from exile (10 years) in the United States.
Mackenzie House is a museum located at 82 Bond street, nearest intersection Yonge/Dundas. In the 1940's a private foundation was set-up to preserve the house and it was opened to the public as a museum in 1950. It is now operated by Museum and Heritage Services, Culture Division, City of Toronto. .
It is one of the few locations within the province that are quite open about their ghost stories - in fact selling ghost-related books, bags and tee-shirts.
The Ghost Reports:
1960's - 1970's
- A short frock-coated man whose detailed description seems to match William Lyon Mackenzie seen on third floor
- Long haired woman reported on second and third floors
- Mackenzie's printing press heard operating - despite being locked
- Antique piano heard playing after the house has been closed to visitors and no one about
- Phantom footsteps on stairs
- apparition of "grey lady" also reported to have slapped a caretakers wife leaving welt's on her cheek
1970's - 2003
Reports limited to strange feelings, phantom touching, orb photographs, visions. Please see addendum to this article.
As can be evidenced by the above the most intriguing of the reports have all occurred prior to the 1980's. Let us examine these first:
Strange sounds such as the footsteps, the printing press, and piano (neither belonging to the family) can be discounted to a lessor extant as there is no documentation to suggest that anyone actually sought the source. Through previous investigations (see Fort George) we have seen examples as they were occurring of witnesses mistaking natural sounds for "ghost" activity particularly when they were aware of a ghost story attached to a particular dwelling.
The reports of apparitions (including possible physical assault) are more compelling in that by description they tend to fit William Lyon and his wife Isabel Mackenzie's description. However, at least two of the witnesses (caretakers) have recanted their stories. It is now a matter for the reader to decide if the reports (all/any) hold merit.
Another strange report (circa 1962) involves workmen whom claimed to have discovered a noose hanging over the stairwell. It seems logical to assume this was a prank based on the history as opposed to “paranormal” phenomena. Why, would the “ghost” of Mackenzie fashion a noose within his own home? I’m sorry, but this sounds more like a B horror movie plot than actual recorded anomalies.
On the surface there seems to be no reason to question the sincerity of the reporters, however we would be remiss not to point out that at the initial surfacing of these reports the original funding for the museum was nearly exhausted. The reports fueled the imagination of many, were publicized in local newspaper accounts and in turn increased public interest in the museum itself. As a result some believe that the reports were nothing more than a publicity stunt. This in fact is NOT an accusation on the part of ParaResearchers, but an observation.
We will also point out that there are no documented reports of ghostly activity prior to 1960 - nearly 100 hundred years after Mackenzies death nor is any of the furnishings etc original to the location.
The reports examined from 1980 through 2003 are numerous, but not compelling. Orb photography has been clearly explained by several researchers including our sister organization as being of mundane origin.
Feelings of strangeness, fear and dizziness can be readily explained by the severely uneven floors, coupled with poor lighting. The writer personally experienced the same in the main floor hall and the second floor hallway - in particular outside of bedroom one. These locations match the areas most frequently reported. This loss of equilibrium and in turn anxiety may also produce feelings of being touched.
Visions or the experience of seeing an apparition solely within one's mind is a matter of belief.
In our opinion there is little evidence to suggest an active haunting is occurring at Mackenzie House. Historically, this may or may not have been the case, however in comparison with other locations found within Ontario and indeed across the world Mackenzie House does not offer the investigator much to go on.
Ghosts or no ghosts please DO visit this museum as it offers a glimpse into a most fascinating man and an equally fascinating part of Toronto's history. To be quite honest the writer has far more enjoyed learning the history of William Lyon Mackenzie than the ghost stories surrounding his former residence.
Sources - Recommended Reading:
Toronto Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society
The Haunting Of Mackenzie House
By Chris Rabile - (c) 1998 (Heritage Toronto)
By John Robert Columbo - (c) 1988 Doubleday Canada
Secrets Of The Supernatural
By Joe Nickell - (c) 1988 Promentheus Press
In July 2004 we received an email from a witness to an unusual event at Mackenzie House. The name and personal information of the witness has been removed for their privacy. Permission to reprint their experience on the Pararesearchers website has been granted.
"I have seen the "lady" up close and she scared me so much that I couldn't walk up darkened stairs for most of my life. I am now 29, and my sighting took place when I was 9 years old in December of 1983. She appeared old, had long hair and seemed to be hanging suspended on the landing of the stairs as I looked up from the front hallway. She looked right into my eyes and I screamed so loud the staff and my mother and sister came running. I went back one more time with a school trip the following year, and all of my friends worried that it might happen again. Of course, it didn't. I'm not too sure why ghosts appear or why they appear to whom they do, but I would take a lie detector to prove this occurrence actually happened to me. I have had two other occurrences since in other locations, but nothing as scary as seeing a full figure, see-through white woman looking right through me. I hope this has convinced someone, I know my friends and family members are too scared to even visit the house.
I cannot be certain of what era the "apparition" I saw came from, but I do remember the clothing appearing to be of another century, perhaps 18th century. She wore a long dress, with a lot of ruffles from what I can recall. I have no idea if she was related to MacKenzie, but I would guess her costume was from over 100 years ago at the very least. I can still somewhat see her in my mind, even though I've tried to forget.
I guess I just really want people out there to know what I saw, and I wonder if others have witnessed the same sight as myself."
We would like to thank the witness for sharing this experience with our readers. While we do stand by the original article (this is the first email in response to this particular article that takes a different viewpoint. Current and former staff members have contacted us including the present curator approving of the article) perhaps there is more going on at this location then at first surmised.
Mackenzie Heritage Printery Museum
On May 31st Matthew Didier, Jennifer Krutila, and Elizabeth of the TGHRS, along with myself visited the Mackenzie Heritage Printery Museum in Queenston Niagara.
This location is rumoured to be haunted" as well, however we do not have any particulars to share with the reader at this time.
If the hypothesis that "haunts" occur in locations where the emotional impact would be greatest on the surviving consciousness, then this location would be far more plausible than the one in Toronto.
As Mackenzie wrote in 1854, "Thirty years ago, I published at Queenston, on the 18th of May, 1824, the first number of a public newspaper, voluntarily established to promote justice and equity in a sparsely populated, badly governed colony. To commemorate the day that had transformed a quiet, peaceful obscure trader into an ardent colonial politician and public censor, I then planted in front of my dwelling a row of acacia or locust trees, and a grape vine and had the pleasure last week of seeing them growing luxuriously." Two of these trees to this day still stand as a memorial it would seem to one of Canada's greatest political activists.
"In 1823 he moved his family to the beautiful, stately home at the foot of the escarpment at "Queenstown" (Queenston) and opened a country store. His dislike for the malpractice of the Family Compact, as the ruling political clique of the time was called, led him to cast aside his mercantile pursuits for that of publishing and politics, in an effort to right these political wrongs.
Accordingly, on Tuesday, May 18, 1824, the first issue of "The Colonial Advocate and Journal of Agriculture, Manufacture and Commerce" was published. The newspaper carried agricultural advice, poems, anecdotes, classified advertising, current events and most importantly, Mackenzie’s own fiery political commentary. It was published weekly (each Tuesday) at the cost of five pence a copy or 15 pounds sterling, Halifax currency for an annual subscription. Mackenzie liked to refer to his "Colonial Advocate," as the western-most newspaper in His Majesty’s dominion.
Mackenzie’s ideas, criticisms and denunciations of the ruling Family Compact through his newspaper did not sit well with the politicians of the day. At the time of Colonial Advocate’s first issues, work had just begun on the monument to General Brock. During a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone, a bottle containing a copy of the Colonial Advocate was placed in the foundation stone. When Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada and head of the Family Compact heard of this, he ordered construction on the monument stopped, and a large quantity of the newly-erected masonry pulled down in order to remove what he called a "colonial rag."
So as the reader can already ascertain this location (the birthplace of the Colonial Advocate - such an intregal part of the shaping of our country's future) is indeed a location that would hold strong emotional ties for William Lyon Mackenzie.
It is also home to much Mackenzie memorabilia including his printing press.
Definitely worth a visit if you are planning a trip to the Niagara region!
Sources - Recommended Reading:
Muddy York Mud - Scandal and Scurrility in Upper Canada - By Chris Raible (c) 1992