This grand theatre(s) was opened 1913 and originally named Loew's Yonge Street Theatre, after Marcus Loew, head of a chain of theatres known as "Loew's Vaudeville Theatre", this grand lady(s) on Yonge St. has had enough history and reported ghostly phenomena for a few theatres!The 992 seat Winter Garden (upper theatre) was closed in 1928 and for all intents and purposes, sealed off. The 1,561 seat Elgin (lower theatre), with its high, domed ceiling served as cinema for a time where anyone over the age of thirty may remember it's shows on occasional weekends for kids but other than this, the movies shown most of the time were... well... geared to a more 'adult' audience.
I used to work at the Elgin/Wintergarden Theatre as an usher. Although the Winter Garden was as yet unopened when I was there, the Elgin was still running.The next one was also sent in by another one of our readers...
When I worked there, I heard stories from many of the staff about 4 particular ghosts.
One young lady, believed to have been an actress, has been seen leaving the 2nd floor coat check room (where the room, it has been said, had been used as a quick-change for the actors).
There's also a man that stays in and around the 2nd floor ladies washroom. Needless to say, I've never used that washroom. He's thought to have been a theatre technician.
There's also a little boy who was believed to have fallen from one of the boxes in the Elgin theatre. He's been seen in and around that box and running up and down the grand staircase from the balcony to the mezzanine level.
Then there's a female patron who was believed to have been stabbed in the Wintergarden washroom (that is now closed). She dragged herself to the elevator, where she waited for it, but no one came (it's run by ushers), there she died. A lot of ushers (including myself) have been taken up to the 5th (top) floor, where no one is around (sometimes there isn't even any show up there at the time).
Once, when no one was in the elevator, or on the 5th floor, when I was called up there, I went down to the 1st floor... to let her out. You know.... just in case.....
Seeing that I was a summer student employee (for a company that puts on productions at the theatre(s), I was given responsibilities that would normally not be bothered with. One of them included having to ensure that signage for our shows would be properly installed at the Elgin & Winter Garden.
While at the Theatre Centre, I had the opportunity to question the box office personnel about the paranormal activities there, and several of the more famous stories were confirmed by them.
The most famous ghost is of the Lavender Lady. Her ghost haunts the "Upstairs" theatre, the Winter Garden. The story goes that there was a young woman who was stabbed in the old Winter Garden Theatre washroom. Stumbling out of the washroom to look for help, she was able to make her way into the lobby and press the elevator button, but collapsed after doing so. When the elevator arrived at the Winter Garden Theatre level, the elevator attendant opened the door to discover the young woman, dead.
Today, her presence is made known more commonly through the aroma of lavender. A light breeze would cause the scent to waft into the room.
Or she is said to make herself known by an apparition. One of the box office staff apparently saw her - a woman in her mid-20s, blonde hair in a bun, but a bit dishevelled, appears to have been in a struggle.
Box office staff have strange instances with the elevator. Sometimes when there are no shows taking place at the upstairs Winter Garden, where it would be dark, the elevator button upstairs at the Winter Garden, would be pressed. The attendant would have to travel to the top, only to discover no one is there! The younger staff don't usually open the elevator door, but the older staff, as a courtesy to the Lavender Lady, open the door just to acknowledge her presence.
Another ghost is of a man in a brown suit who is sometimes seen sitting in the Elgin Theatre, usually during a rehearsal. When someone approached him or called out to him, he would disappear.
Another ghost in the Elgin is dubbed as Stan. He was a worker who helped to restore the Elgin Theatre during the 80s, but died when he fell off the Mezzanine of the theatre. He is not supposed to be a benevolent ghost. The box office staff member I was talking to said she had her own experience with "Stan." She was walking down the stairs to the lobby beneath the Elgin Theatre when she heard footsteps behind her. Looking back she didn't see anybody. She increased her speed and when the footsteps also began to increase in speed as well, until, finally she had to run down the stairs, outrunning the footsteps.
Back to the Winter Garden, there have been known instances of rows of seats slowly unfolding as if people were sitting in them. A musician's ghost haunts the theatre, as well as a young girl or boy who supposedly fell from one of the side opera boxes.
That's all I can remember of at this moment.
The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre is one of the most attractive buildings in the city of Toronto. Its interior is not only covered with rich colours and attractive finishes, but its walls are drenched in history.
The incredible story of this complex began in 1913, when over a period of eight months it was constructed on a property stretching from Yonge Street, east to Victoria Street, just north of Queen Street. The building was designed by the American architect Thomas Lamb, and was constructed as the flagship of Marcus Loew's chain of vaudeville theatres. The complex had a unique design, incorporating two theatres in one building, one stacked on top of the other. The main inspiration for building one theatre on top of another one was economical. It offered a greater amount of seating space, on a smaller amount of real estate, than two single theatres would occupy. Fewer than a dozen of this "double decker" theatres were constructed internationally. This theatre of Loew's, on Yonge Street, was the only one double decker ever built in Canada.
The bottom theatre was originally called "Loew's Yonge Street Theatre" and opened to the public on December 15th, 1913. With the capacity to seat 2,149 people, it was the larger of the two. The decor seems lavish to us now, with gilded plaster and imitation marble, but ninety years ago it was conventional for the time. The upper theatre, the Winter Garden, opened on February 16th, 1914, and had seating for 1,410 people. It had a whimsical design, decorated as it was to look like a rooftop garden in perpetual blossom. The columns of the Winter Garden were painted to look like tree trunks, the walls were covered in garden scenes, and the ceiling was hung with lanterns, blossoms and beech leaves.
Identical performances were shown on each of the two stages. A typical performance would include about ten vaudeville acts, punctuated by newsreels and a silent film. Performances would begin in the downstairs theatre, late every morning, with the show continuing all day. Meanwhile, the Winter Garden theatre would show the same performance only once, in the evening, with higher ticket prices and reserved seating. In the time period, vaudeville was the popular form of entertainment. However, within ten years another entertainment form dawned ,which drew the curtain on the vaudeville era - "talking movies" - movies with sound.
By 1930, the lower theatre was wired for movie sound, and live acts were no longer shown. The upper theatre, the Winter Garden was shut up in 1928, and abandoned for nearly six decades.
Twenty years ago, the building complex was purchased by the Ontario Heritage Foundation and completely restored. The downstairs theatre had been renamed the Elgin in 1978, and had run as a movie cinema until 1981. In the 1960s, it had been a reputable institution, showing the Toronto premieres of movies like "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz". However, the theatres reputation declined with the quality of the movies that it showed - from "B movies" and action films, to soft core pornography. The last movie shown in the Elgin was entitled "What the Swedish Butler Saw."
When it was purchased by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, though, the complex was completely restored and refurbished to its original vintage condition of the pre-First World War era. For the volunteers who went in to the Winter Garden to restore it, nearly sixty years after its closure, it was like walking into an eerie time vault. Stage scenery was left abandoned where it lay after the last act in 1928. Ticket stubs dropped by its last patrons still lay fading under the seats. In the dressing rooms, costumes lay discarded and actors notes were found, still pinned to the walls.
The fully restored theatre centre re-opened on December 15th, 1989, and has been a financially self supporting project ever since.
Special thanks to our readers for their contributions and to Richard Fiennes-Clinton for this much better write-up on these historic and wonderful theatres.