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Casa Loma

 

The most famous castle in North America stands as either a beautiful landmark at the north end of Spadina Avenue, or in some peoples' opinion, a huge eyesore at the south end of Spadina Road.

Either way, Sir Henry Pellat's castle is as grand as any Europe has to offer, and is a tremendous tourist draw. I have always thought that the "Castle on the Hill" was one of the more inspirational sites in Toronto, and I guess that is backed up by the number of weddings and events held there, but is it haunted? Apparently not.

Sir Henry and his wife never truly lived in the castle, as the Pellats went bankrupt during the building of the place. Still, when I was a kid growing up not far from this imposing edifice, rumour had it that the elevators had "minds of their own" and that Sir Henry had been seen in his indoor gardens and at his desk. There were also reports that when the building lay unoccupied, it was the scene of ritualistic rapes and murders. All of these claims seem unfounded, even though the one area left unmended by the Kiwanis Club (which took the place over in order to refurbish it and run it as a tourist attraction) does have a distinctly "creepy" feeling, as do the long underground tunnels leading from the castle to the garages.

We don't list our 'criteria' for a reportable story (to avoid possible hoaxers sending in bogus stories) but we can say that all the Casa Loma ghost reports to date have been unsubstantiated using our guidelines thus far.

Sadly, it seems that our city's castle, to quote John Colombo, "lacks a ghost to call it's own."

Granted, one thing we've learned over the past years is that one should never say never and if there's enough reports and they do meet our standards, we will put it up post haste!

To learn more about Casa Loma or to plan a visit check with the Casa Loma website

Sources:

Communications with specific staff members, 1998

Author John Robert Columbo

A Story of Old Toronto by Austin Seton Thomson



Update: April 2003

It looks like, after some study, that we do have a couple of corrections to make to some folks that have asked about Casa Loma.

Although we still do not have a "firm" ghost report from the site, we do need to recognize a couple of facts...

It seems that the FIRST Lady Pellat did in fact die within the walls of Casa Loma and it's deeds were in her name. She and Sir Henry really spent their way out of financial stability leading to the castle being handed back over to the city after her death.

The confusion comes from the fact that there was a second Lady Pellat (who was the granddaughter of William Hamilton Merritt of Oak Hill fame) that survived the auctioning of the building and it's assets by the city thus, indeed, we now have one confirmed passing of someone intimately related to the castle.

Also, contrary to other reports, the tunnel between the castle and the stable/garage was indeed on occasion used by horses as well as people. Sir Henry was not happy about not being able to gain proprietary access to the local streets and not wishing to allow his prized horses to be "on display" to the masses amongst other reasons, occasionally used the tunnel to transport horses from site to site for a ride... so the occasional report we've had about horses IN the tunnel that we, mistakenly said was not probable is indeed, probable. We apologise for this mistake.

Still, as said above, we do not YET have a good, relate-able report on this imposing place but with our new information (gleaned from Austin Seton Thompson's book, Spadina: a Story of Old Toronto) we are now re-looking into some of the past reports sent in to us a little more closely.


Update: January 2008

One of our readers adds: Hi there, as a relative of Lady Mary Pellatt, I thought I should let you know that the info on your site about Lady Mary dying in Casa Loma is incorrect. Sir Henry and Lady Mary left Casa Loma and were living around St. Clair and Heath Street in North Toronto at the time of her death. So no Pellatt's died at the castle, although their son Reg did live in the 'Hunting Lodge" across from Casa Loma and Sir Henry's coffin did rest there for a day or two before his funeral - although I have never heard of any Pellatt or other ghosts at the castle.

Lady Mary died in the home they bought when they left Casa Loma on Spadina Gardens from a heart attack. Lady Mary had diabetes and had been unwell for years, and the stress (and some said shame) of having to move out of Casa Loma was likely not a help. Joan the curator at Casa Loma would know this, and knows me as I've donated some items to them.

I have found Lady Mary Pellatt's death certificate. Lady Mary and Sir Henry moved out of Casa Loma and were living at 3 Spadina Gdns, Toronto. Her date of death was April 15th, 1924, I believe they were out of Casa Loma about a year at this point, but I maybe wrong on the exact date they left, although it was widely said Lady Mary died of embarrassment at being forced to leave and have their items auctioned away.

Our thanks for this information.

 


 

Update: January 2009

We were pleasantly surprised to hear from the curator of Casa Loma in January 2009 with the following amendmennts:

1. Sir Henry and Lady Mary Pellatt did live in Casa Loma- they moved in in the winter of 1913 and moved out to Mary Lake, their country home in King Township, in 1923.  During this period, they also had a large apartment in town (as one of your contributors notes).

2. The Pellatt's did not get into debt building Casa Loma.  Three things conspired to cause Pellatt's financial difficulties- firstly, there was a depression after the end of WW1, and most of Pellatt's money was tied up in real estate (nobody was buying at this time). Secondly,  the Home Bank of Canada, which had bankrolled much of Pellatt's business ventures declared bankruptcy in the early 1920's- this put additional financial strain on Pellatt. Lastly, in 1920, the City of Toronto decided to raise property taxes- the Estate went from having taxes of $600 per annum, to $1,000 per month- a huge sum in 1920.  Pellatt decided to leave this property in 1923 (but was still quite well off) and tried to operate the house as a luxury apartment hotel. The Casa Loma Hotel operated between c.1927-29 after which time it failed. The house then sat vacant and was turned over to the City by Pellatt for non-payment of property taxes in 1934.

3. The tunnels were constructed for Pellatt not because he didn't like others to see his horses (in fact, Pellatt was the opposite- he loved to showcase them and often arranged for groups to see the horses being put through their paces on the Estate), but to unite his buildings.

When Pellatt purchased the land on which his Estate was constructed, Austin Terrace already bisected the property. Shortly thereafter, he petitioned the City to close the road, and to link the upper and lower portions of Spadina Road by constructing a new road through the parkette to the east of the Estate (between Casa Loma and Spadina).  City Council rejected his petition, citing the objection of one anonymous neighbour.  I suspect that the objection came from Albert Austin (or his family) who lived in Spadina and did not want a road built right outside their garden wall.  Regardless, Pellatt then had the tunnel constructed to unite his property- it connects the Stables, Garage, Hunting Lodge and Greenhouses to the main building, Casa Loma.

Whoever wrote that Pellatt used the tunnels to move his horses around the Estate probably never visited the site, for they would have seen that the only way to the tunnel from the Stables is down a number of narrow flights of wooden and concrete stairs (even a small horse could not navigate these stairs). If he did succeeded in getting his large driving and saddle horses through the narrow (and low) tunnels, how did he get the horses out into the fresh air again? Up the big flight of stairs into the house and then out the front door?

Contrary to what is recorded on your site, many Casa Loma staff do believe that there is substantial 'activity' here.

Joan E. Crosbie
Curator
Casa Loma

Our thanks go out to Joan for these amendments, and we will be following up on this in the very near future.



Update September 2009 one of our readers writes:

On my first ever visit to Casa Loma several years ago, I had an experience in the tunnel between the house and the stable. I had at the time never heard any stories of hauntings or paranormal activity there.


I was walking through that tunnel and heard as clearly as if they were in the same room, what sounded like one or more horses walking. The sounds of hooves, reins/bridles and horses snorting and neighing was so clear I thought they must be very close by. My husband was walking ahead of me and I called out to him "Where are those horses?" He turned and looked at me, then around the tunnel obviously puzzled. He gave me a strange look and asked "What horses?" I was very surprised that he had not heard it, because it had been very loud. I dismissed it as "nothing" when I realized that I was the only one that had heard anything. It was years afterward that I heard that this has happened to other people there. You can add me to the list!


Our thanks to our reader for sharing this experience with us.


If you have anything to add or have had an experience at Casa Loma please e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Update: October 2009

 

We've had some people inquire into stories related to and about Casa Loma that do not appear on this site.


We are aware of "new" reports via hear-say and through members of our staff visiting the castle on tours (including the recent ghost tours), but must work with the information that is and has been sent in to us by neutral sources as well as our own endeavours when they can be verified... and to be honest, what we have is what we have since this site and groups' formation in 1997.


Although there are now statements of multiple sightings from staff and visitors, these have not been verified through any normal sources we have at our disposal and e-mailed (and other) reports sent in to us have not been forthcoming about the "tales told". These newer  must be taken with a 'grain of salt' as they seem to have only emerged as part of the ghost tours now operating from the site.


We have visited the castle on three occasions prior to the tours and were unable to find any journal or files related to ghost reports from the castle from staff... and on a recent visit by one of our volunteers, when the request was made to see any type of journal or log about paranormal events experienced in the castle, they were told that there was none available.


We also know that the tours are scripted (most ghost tours are, mind you,) so again, information is seemingly coming from sources which cannot be properly verified at this time.


Current management do say that the castle has many reports of phenomena... we did point out that we'd had precious few ourselves... and when speaking to staff on initial visits prior to these newer tours, we were told quite openly that there were no "hard and fast" accounts and the discussion of ghosts was quickly dismissed. This was not only being our own findings, but that of author John Robert Colombo (on different occasions) as well.


After being "corrected" on this we also had concerns given to us from the site's management about our historical accounts which we have clearly listed on these pages... and these do seem to stand up to scrutiny.


We also have three reports from people working for the site dating from literally years prior to these new tours where all three requested anonymity as they were worried the revelation of what they experienced might affect their standing with the site... which does not seem to be the current viewpoint of management as we now know it.


For the record, all three reports were from different people and featured different "types" of phenomena in different parts of the building(s)... and although valid reports, we were unable to offer any veracity to these reports through added third-party witnesses. None were of any apparitions ("seen" ghosts) of any sort.


While we cannot and would not say Casa Loma truly isn't haunted and doesn't have a resident ghost, (though the "horses in the tunnels" is a recurring witness testimony we've received and is backed up somewhat historically as we do know the stables were built - tunnel in place - prior to the castle's construction and Pellat did use the tunnel to go from the stables to the gardens prior, again, to the completion of his house on the hill... whether he went with horses, we don't know, but since the stairs probably weren't an issue back then, the story has legs, so to speak...) we can say it's odd that these seemingly new reports were not known to us, were never communicated to us, and even kept out of the hands of Mr. Colombo for his many books on the subject... they appear to have been "unearthed" now for ghost tours.


It's not unusual for some sites, especially around Halloween, to market ghost tours and stories... often mixing folkloric tales with reports... often they are embellished a bit to make them more entertaining... and although we would never say that this is the case, we do want to show people a "yellow flag" in a sense to say that these reports should be taken with the aforementioned 'grain of salt'... as should all cases... and that these sites and museums are marvellous and wonderful places to visit, with or without a ghostly tale to liven them up.


Truth is very often far more interesting to fiction for most, but obviously not for all... and a little "spicing up" can be seen as necessary to some... but our own work, enquiries, and general research seems to suggest that any reports that one hears on certain tours should be balanced with the knowledge that they really only came to light as these new ghost tours, and media appearances came into being.


As with anything, please always remember: Caveat Emptor.