TORONTO, ONTARIO -- From what I've read about Toronto's first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie he would probably roll his eyes, and then roll in his grave, if he knew his home had become a Halloween destination.
Then again, it's possible the legendary politician isn't as close to his grave as we think he his. That's if you believe the creepy stories that have oozed out of this house over the years and trust me, there have been many.
Mackenzie House is where the legendary, no-nonsense politician and journalist lived until his death in 1861. Mackenzie emigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1820, started a store but quickly moved into journalism and the political theatre.
In 1824 he founded a newspaper called the Colonial Advocate and by 1834 was elected to the Toronto City Council and appointed mayor, the city's first. He was a leader during the Rebellion of 1837 in what was then Upper Canada and when that uprising failed, Mackenzie and his family had to flee to the United States, where he remained in exile for 12 years before being granted amnesty by the British government.
After it was safe to come home, he returned to Toronto and his life in newspapers and politics. Mackenzie died in the bedroom on the second floor of the house, and some believe he never left. That's why today this house just south of busy Dundas Street is such a magnificent Halloween draw.
Danielle Urquhart, a program officer at Mackenzie House, has worked within these walls for 12 years and while she hasn't actually seen a ghost, she is aware of the stories.
"A lot of people feel the house is haunted. Former caretakers who have worked here in the late 50′s and early 60′s say they would hear footsteps going up and down the stairs at night when there was no one else in the house," says Urquhart. "They also claim to have heard the piano in the parlour playing on its own. One set of caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Edmands said they saw the ghost of Mackenzie in his bedroom. They also say they saw the ghost walking down the pathway to Bond Street. The most dramatic story we know from the house is that Mrs. Edmands claims that while she was asleep in her bed she was awoken by a tap on her shoulder and when she opened her eyes she said there was a lady with long dark hair and a pale, narrow face bending over the bed, who then vanished."
Urquhart explained that the same thing happened a few weeks later, but this time the ghostly lady drew back her hand and hit Mrs. Edmands in the face and then vanished. She doesn't know who this might be - William Lyon Mackenzie did die in the house but his wife Isabel did not. After the Mackenzie's left it was a rooming house, so a lot of people lived and died here.
"In the early 1960′s there was an exorcism performed by a deacon from Trinity Church and filmed by the CBC Broadcasting and it ended up on TV, which made the stories famous," says Urquhart. "But there has never been anything odd reported after that exorcism, so most of the really interesting ghost stories happened about a half century ago."
Be that as it may, it hasn't stopped this house from being a magnet for ghost tours, adventurers and just those who are interested in the unexplained. So are there spirits roaming around in this house? I wouldn't know and I don't want to know. If you appreciate honesty in a man, then here it comes -- I would be the first one out the door if I got wind of an actual ghost. You think Usain Bolt has wheels? Wait till you get a load of me. The last person in the world I want to see tonight in any way, shape or form is William Lyon Mackenzie.