On Saturday night, my mom, sister and I went on the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & Grange Walk ghost tour. We had talked about going on a ghost walk before this, but never seemed to get around to it, so this year I was determined to make it happen. After doing a search online, I stumbled across the website for A Taste of the World Tours. Then, after consulting with my mom and sister, I sent off an email to book the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & Grange Walk ghost tour. By pure dumb luck, we ended up with our own private tour. Well, it was probably less dumb luck and more people cancelling or not reserving spots on this particular walk. Anyway, I was afraid it might be awkward, but it didn't take long for us to feel relaxed with our guide, Shirley. It probably helped that one of our first stops was a coffee shop.
This was the first ghost tour I'd been on that included snacks as part of the deal, so my sister and I had hot chocolate while Mom and Shirley drank cocoa. Oh, and Shirley bought these delicious little chocolate croissants. As we sat in the coffee shop, Shirley explained a bit about Feng Shui and told us a couple of stories about haunted restaurants in the area. I was impressed that she had a binder with photocopies of old newspaper clippings. It gave us some extra background on what we would be seeing and helped put things into context. In fact, I learned quite a bit about Toronto and Chinese culture that I didn't know. For example, Chinese vampires have fangs that protrude out of the front of their mouths like rabbits and they even hop around. This is apparently why some buildings (like Chinese restaurants) have barriers in front of them -- to trip these bouncy vampires. Oh, and unlike western vampires, Chinese vampires can suck out souls if they get close enough to their victims. We also learned to spot ba gua mirrors, little octagon-shaped mirrors that are placed above the doors of some houses and buildings (especially ones with a 4 in the address) to create good fortune and ward off bad energy.
I liked Shirley's approach to revealing haunted locations: she would wait to see if we sensed anything ourselves. She noticed that my sister seemed distracted at one point. When she asked my sister about it, E admitted that she couldn't take her eyes off the house we were standing in front of. My sister even thought she might have seen a face in the one darkened window on the top floor. Of course, the house was haunted. When we were walking through the residential section of Huron Street, Shirley told us that if we thought a particular house seemed creepy, or gave us a weird vibe, we should try to remember the number. I might have been imagining things, but I thought I felt something when we passed 154. While Shirley didn't know of any stories about 154, we were almost directly across the street from a house that was supposed to be very haunted. I did a little better when we reached the end of the street. When Shirley asked if anything around us seemed odd, I looked around and pointed to a house that immediately caught my attention because it just seemed spooky. I was expecting Shirley to tell me that it was the house next door, or that I wasn't even close. However, she surprised me by saying that I had pretty much got it bang on.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was seeing the houses on Draper Street. Most of them dated back to the 1880s and had historical plaques listing the professions of the first occupants. These fascinating houses were extremely well-preserved, and I felt like we had stepped back in time. When we visited St. George the Martyr, it seemed like we'd gone even further back. My eyes instantly flew to the church tower as we walked towards Grange Park. In the darkness, it looked like something out of a Gothic novel or maybe even a horror film. Even when we were in the charming walled garden, the tower loomed over us almost menacingly. As it turns out, part of the tower is actually missing. Shirley showed us a 1955 newspaper clipping reporting a "tragic fire" in which the church spire had been destroyed. As the article describes the fire as being "tragic," Shirley assumes that someone must have died. However, anyone she has spoken to (from ministers to older members of the congregation) has clammed up whenever she's brought up the subject.
We ended the tour by walking through Grange Park. Shirley made the mistake of mentioning that bats sometimes fly out of the trees. As my sister is scared of bats, she gripped my arm tightly and didn't let go until we were clear of the danger. Personally, I found it spookier that, as Shirley predicted, the temperature grew colder the further we walked down the path. Apparently, this is something she experiences every time she's in Grange Park, even on the hottest days. Anyway, we eventually stopped a short distance away from The Grange, a manor built in 1817 that is now a part of the Art Gallery of Ontario. As we stood gazing at the building, Shirley told us about a Korean girl she had on one tour who spotted a little girl in one of the windows in The Grange. The Korean girl described this other girl as having ringlets and wearing what sounded like Victorian dress. One of the museum curators supposedly saw a much more menacing ghost -- a lady dressed all in black. Shirley showed us a picture of an austere woman in black that might be the ghost in question. This Victorian woman looked exactly like the Wicked Witch of the West.
I think the tour was definitely worth the wait, and I'd definitely recommend any of the Tasty Tours. In fact, I'm playing with the idea of going on this year's Halloween ghost walk.
On a bit of a side-note, I ended up being in pretty much the same area as the ghost walk the following day. It was jackycomelately's birthday, so we decided to spend the day shopping on Queen Street West with our friend, EA. It was strange to see the same setting on a bright sunny day -- strange but also reassuring! *g*