Features / Tales of historical hauntings

Slain soldiers of the past haunt Toronto's Fort York

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Underground in the heart of Toronto, the bodies of solders killed two centuries ago surround Fort York—which could be why it’s reputed to be the most haunted place in the city.

Matthew Didier, director of the Toronto and Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society, says his group gets more reports sightings and ghostly activities at Fort York than anywhere else.

“It has a very troubled past,” he said.

One hundred eighty one British and American soldiers, native warriors and local militiamen died in the Battle of York in 1813, many in an explosion of ammunition at Fort York. Hundreds of dead bodies were buried in shallow graves around the fort.

Solider in green?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the “sightings” at Fort York feature soldiers.

One of Didier’s favourite reports came from a woman who said she didn’t believe what she saw.

“It was one of the colder days, and there weren’t a lot of people in and about,” said Didier. “And she said, ‘I saw this fellow, I’m sure he was a soldier. He had the funny hat, but he was dressed in dark green—not in red, which I know is the British, or dark blue, which I know is the Americans—so it made no sense.”

“She saw this fellow by a tree, and she looked back and he’d vanished,” he said.

Didier told her a little about the history of Old Fort York—which includes the York Militia who wore rifle green uniforms with red facings and Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles who wore rifle green uniforms with black facings.

“What made it interesting for me is she dismissed it because it didn’t match what she expected,” he said. “If she wanted to see a ghost she would have seen a red coat if she had manufactured one. But she saw someone we’re led to believe she didn’t know about, and that makes it very tantalizing.”

Another well-known sighting came from staff member at the fort, said Didier.

Phantom dinner party?

“She was closing up the Fort after an event and saw a light was on and people were moving around in the dining area,” he said. “She doubled back to see what was happening. She swears she heard what sounded like people talking, plates rattling and what sounded like a dinner party—but as she got closer it faded and got darker and by the time she got there it was dark and there was no one there.”

Many of the sightings are far less dramatic from mysterious—from doors slamming to soldiers who disappear leaving no footprints in the snow. Didier himself has experienced something strange.

“I went into the officers quarters once with my wife,” he said. “There was a very strange situation where the door handle jiggled, now it was much but it was enough to have the whole group kind of go, well that shouldn’t be happening.”

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