The sites discussed in this article relate to both music and ghosts: Massey Hall, St. Mary Magdalene Church, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the former Ben McPeek Recording Studio.
Massey Hall, at 178 Victoria Street, opened in 1894. It was built and donated to the city by industrialist Hart Massey. Massey Hall was Toronto’s principal concert hall prior to the completion of Roy Thomson Hall in 1983. The backstage area of Massey Hall is haunted by a male apparition in old-fashioned clothes. The building is also haunted by “The Diva,” a former opera singer who sits in the audience and creates a loud noise when a soprano is on stage.
St. Mary Magdalene Church, located at 477 Manning Avenue, is an Anglican church that was built between 1888 and 1908. The church and grounds are haunted by an elderly lady dressed in grey. Healey Willan (1880-1968), the world-renowned composer and organist-choirmaster, was one of several people to have seen “The Grey Lady. The following quote from Willan appears in F.R.C. Clarke’s biography, Healey Willan: Life and Music: “Ghosts are quite common. We have one at St. Mary’s – an old girl who used to be the charlady ... I’ve seen her frequently in the church when I have gone in to practise at night. She doesn’t bother me, so I don’t bother her. As a matter of fact, I’m rather fond of her, you know – I believe she likes plainchant.” Willan also believed that his home on Inglewood Drive was haunted.
McMaster Hall, located at 273 Bloor Street, was built in 1881 to house the Toronto Baptist College. In 1887, the Toronto Baptist College became part of McMaster University, named after Senator William McMaster. McMaster University moved to Hamilton in 1930, and the building was sold to the Ontario government. The Royal Conservatory of Music bought McMaster Hall in 1963. The second and third floors are said to be haunted by a woman in red.
Ben McPeek was a well-known composer of radio and television jingles. In 1969, he converted the basement at 131 Hazelton Lane into a recording studio. The ghost of an old woman in a long, flowing dress looks out the second-floor window. She is believed to be one of the two sisters who lived in the building during the Second World War.
Clarke, F.R.C. Healey Willan: Life and Music. Toronto: UT Press, 1983.
Colombo, John Robert. Haunted Toronto. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1996.
Hauck, Dennis William. The International Directory of Haunted Places: Ghostly Abodes, Sacred Sites, and Other Supernatural Locations. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society. http://www.torontoghosts.org
David van Hout, 2012