Many buildings at the University of Toronto (U of T) are rumored to have a haunted past, but one of the most well-known ghost stories is the tale of a worker who was murdered by his co-worker during construction of University College in 1857-1858.
According to the legend and stories from the University of Toronto Archives, two stone masons, Ivan Reznikoff and Paul Diabolos, were completing the final cornices and gargoyles for the building.
The sculptors were in love with the same woman.
Reznikoff promised to marry her but Diabolos was planning to run away with her. Reznikoff found out and the two men confronted each other on the worksite.
Reznikoff attacked Diabolos with an axe but Diabolos had a dagger. They fought and Reznikoff backed Diabolos against a door but when he swung the axe, he missed and hit the oak door instead. The gashes are still visible in the door to this day.
The men chased each other through the unfinished tower and Diabolos ran up to the third floor and hid. When Reznikoff appeared, Diabolos stabbed him with his dagger. Some reports indicate he threw the body over the edge of the tower.
The body was not discovered until a fire in 1890 which caused significant damage to University College.
Reznikoff is said to have haunted the college for many years and people have reported hearing creaking and banging noises late at night.
But that’s not the only spot on campus with some spooky sightings.
Trinity College is another haunted building. The original building was constructed on Queen Street West in 1851. It was founded bishop Johannes Strachan, a War of 1812 hero and part of an elite influential group called the “Family Compact” which ran the college and also had a hand in the politics and economics of all of Upper Canada. He was also the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. After Strachan’s death on Nov. 1, 1867, Trinity joined U of T and later relocated. All that’s left of the original building is its gates.
The college acquired its present property on Hoskin Avenue in 1913, but construction was not completed until 1925. Delays were attributed to the First World War. The foundation stone for the new building was laid in June 1923, and the college held its formal opening on Oct. 21, 1925.
There are reports Strachan “checks in” on the college as his ghost roams the halls and grounds, especially around the anniversary of his death which coincides with All Saints’ Day.
“In the dining hall, there hangs a portrait of Bishop John Strachan, painted by George Erthron two years before Strachan’s death. If you keep your eyes on the painting and walk about the room, you may notice that his eyes seem to follow you,” states a document from the U of T Students’ History Collective. “The painter did this on purpose; he used a special technique. Little did he know how fitting it would later become.”
While the stories were written after conducting research in U of T’s archives, they are not necessarily widely known or accepted as truth, the Students’ History Collective states.
One of the most haunted areas at Trinity College is the chapel, which opened in 1955.
“The most unnerving supernatural sightings have occurred here. Some students like to play the organ at the top of the chapel. One student in particular was doing just that but kept seeing movement at the front of the chapel out of the corner of their eye. Ignoring it and continuing to play, they again saw someone or something crawling on the floor by the altar here. They also could make out a figure peeking up at them from behind a pew, then ducking back when the organ player turned to look. The student was disturbed enough to call campus police, who came to investigate and found no one else in or around the chapel.”
There have also been reports of the “Grey Lady,” a figure with a grey complexion or wearing a grey or blue dress appearing in the chapel. She has been seen sitting in the pews our waiting outside the chapel doors.
Originally, Seeley Hall was supposed to be a chapel but at the time there was not enough money in the budget to finish building it so the space was used as a library instead.
“This gives the space an eerie quality; students tend to avoid it at night, and for a good reason,” states the Students’ History Collective. “One student testifies that she had walked past the room one night and heard unmistakably the sound of a string quartet rehearsing inside. When she opened the door wider to investigate, there was no one in the room.”
Paranormal activity has also been rumored to occur in the steam tunnels that were built to connect the main Trinity building to St. Hilda’s residence across the street.
“The lights tend to flicker on and off, and this is when the sightings usually occur. There is a story of a female student walking to class in these tunnels who was chased by another male student. People have claimed they’ve seen her running through the passage. And behind a locked black door, there is this odd, mismatched patch of brick. Legend has it, a man lives behind those bricks, and he escapes long enough to snatch up students that pass through these tunnels. For each soul he captures, a brick is said to be loosened, until he has enough that he is freed from his confinement and at liberty to haunt the rest of the college.”
St. Hilda’s is also believed to be haunted with sightings of objects being tipped over and mysterious shadows lurking around the building.
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