Just call it a haunting experience.
The chills start when you descend through the clutter and junk into the damp vault.
Something invisible hangs in the air. You expect a clawlike skeletal hand to reach out and tap you on the shoulder.
It sends shivers down your spine.
We're in the "vaults" at Queen's Park -- a sinister and little known part of the building -- definitely not on the itinerary for tourists.
My guide is Speaker Steve Peters. He has his own apartment in this 115-year-old rambling neo-gothic building and knows most of its nooks and crannies.
This being the season of ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, he's giving me and Sun photographer Ernest Doroszuk a tour of these hallowed, haunted halls. There are reportedly four -- and maybe five -- spirit inhabitants.
Deep in the bowels of the building, the vaults are ground zero for wraiths. This was once the place where movies were stored before they were screened by provincial censors, but it's not porn ghosts or forbidden movie sex romps that haunt the place. This is where an asylum for psychiatric patients was located, before it was demolished to make way for the Legislative building.
The hauntings go back to that time, says Peters.
"One of these stories is that of the three women ghosts, one of them has supposedly been witnessed in this area, out in the hallway, hanging on a coat hook," he explains.
"We have no real physical evidence, but for many people it is synonymous with the early days of the asylum and the three women ghosts who are reputedly inhabiting us here at Queen's Park," he explained.
Three women -- former inmates -- are said to haunt the building. One of them has long white hair, while another has a checked dress thrown over her head. A third hanged herself in the basement.
The most recent ghost sighting was in the Lieutenant Governor's suite.
There were two independent sightings of that spectre.
In 2006, an aide to then Lt.-Gov. James Bartleman saw a man leave the vice-regal washroom, walk past a reception desk and into the historic Music Room. What makes the sighting all the spookier is that months later, a cleaner -- who speaks very little English and was unaware of the earlier sighting -- saw a man in a swallow-tail suit in the same part of the L-G's suite.
The cleaner was able to identify the ghost from one of many portraits of former lieutenant governors that hang in the suite, although the Lt.-Gov's office has been reluctant to identify which one.
The vice-regal suite is currently under renovation, but Peters was able to sneak us in for a brief glimpse. Our footsteps echoed eerily through the vast elegant emptiness.
Peters points out these rooms were not originally occupied by the Lt.Gov. In 1937, former premier Mitch Hepburn sold Government House -- also known as Chorley Park-- and the Lt.Gov took over these rooms which had previously been used by the Speaker. The Speaker moved to an apartment one floor up.
"The most recent ghost sighting was within the quarters of the Lt.-Gov's suite and reference was made that it was a man dressed in red," points out Peters. And that, he says, ties in with another ghost legend around here.
A military man in red is said to haunt the main staircase.
He has appeared several times, scowling and frowning.
"We are not sure of the origins of the individual, but there have been a number of reported sightings of this soldier, dressed in red, coming down the main staircase here," says Peters.
Many of the portraits of former Lt.-Govs. depict individuals dressed in red uniforms, points out the MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
Staff who've been around here a long time are familiar with the stories. A surprising number of them have encountered the ghosts of Queen's Park -- although they are reluctant to talk on the record about the apparitions.
Even some journalists -- often here late at night -- have felt the presence of supernatural beings.
Then again, it could just be the ghosts of political careers they've encountered. I'll pass on the movie review board, but certainly hope I encounter the spirit of that other provincial agency -- the LCBO -- this evening. Martini, anyone?
Originally published by the Owen Sun Times with the headline It's not just current politicians haunting Queen's Park By Christina Blizzard November 3rd 2008