Tonight, I had the opportunity to see inside the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, which is very rarely open to the public. In fact, this tour wouldn't have been possible at all if the founder of Muddy York Tours hadn't spent two years pleading his case to Toronto Parks & Rec. And I wouldn't have even known there was a tour if pyrateanny hadn't been kind enough to give me the heads up.
Okay, here's some quick history (for those of you who didn't click on the Wikipedia link) before I get to the pictures. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was completed in 1808 and is the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It was originally 52 feet tall and was extended to 82 feet in 1932. The first lamp was powered using whale oil before a switch to coal was made in 1863. An electric light was installed 1916-17. The lighthouse is on the Toronto Islands -- specifically Hanlan's Point, which is not only known for the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse but the nude beach as well.
The first lighthouse keeper was J.P. Rademuller, who disappeared in 1815. He was allegedly murdered by drunken soldiers from Fort York who appeared at the lighthouse demanding some of Rademuller's bootlegged beer. After chasing the lighthouse keeper up the stairs, these soldiers supposedly knocked him unconscious and threw him out of the tower. Then, realizing that they had just committed murder, the soldiers hacked up the body and buried the parts on the land around the lighthouse. The soldiers were charged with murder, but then acquitted. A partial skeleton was found in 1893, but there was no way to tell if this was J.P. Rademuller's body. Almost two hundred years later, this is Toronto's oldest unsolved mystery.
You probably won't be surprised to hear that the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is said to be haunted. An apparition believed to be J.P. Rademuller has been seen on the lighthouse grounds, though, apparently, not in the lighthouse tower. The Parks & Rec. guide said she had heard stories of people driving past the Island Filtration Plant at night and seeing a figure in the field for no apparent reason. Uh, you have to remember that this is an island that is only accessible by ferry. Besides, if memory serves, the tour guide said this figure would vanish if anyone tried to approach it...
Hanlan's Point Ferry Docks.
Random beached boat that seemed kinda cool
Statue of Edward "Ned" Hanlan, a famous rower in the day
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Closer view of the lighthouse tower
Open door to the lighthouse!
Wooden staircase leading up the tower
Interior shot of the lighthouse
Another interior shot of the lighthouse
View from the top of the lighthouse. You can actually see the
field where that mysterious figure has appeared (behind the
big white building (e.g. the Island Filtration Plant)). That
smaller white building with the red roof used to be a
sanatorium for TB patients. Uh, you can only see part of the
building from the lighthouse, which is why it seems so small.
Despite the rain and the attack of the killer red ants (ants that climbed high enough to bite me on the arm, lower back and shoulder), I'm really happy I went on this tour. Who knows when, or even if, I might have another chance to go inside the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.