October 5, 2023
15 minutes (audio)
Erin: Welcome to the ON Parliament Podcast, where we help spread the word on Parliament.
David: I have to say, I’m really looking forward to our episode this month Erin.
Erin: I have a feeling this episode might be scary good…
David: You might even say that it’s going to be eerie-sistible…
Erin: Ooh good one! But I think we need to stop with the puns otherwise we’ll be here all day!
David: Oh alright.
Erin: In case you haven’t guessed it by now, today we’re going to be delving into some of the popular ghost stories at Ontario’s Legislative Building in honour of Halloween later this month.
David: That’s right Erin, so get ready to get in the Halloween… spirit…
Erin: Haha. Nice one. But where do all of these ghost stories come from? Well, there are a few historical factors that we should probably cover first.
David: Before the Legislative Building existed as we know it today, the current site of Queen’s Park was used for another purpose.
Erin: Acquired in 1829 by King’s College, now the University of Toronto, the site eventually became home to a residence building for the new university at the time. Fun fact: King’s College was the first higher learning institution in the colony of Upper Canada. But it wouldn’t become known as the University of Toronto until 1850.
David: After the government of the day obtained a portion of the land in the 1850s, they had plans to begin building a new Parliament Building, along with an official residence for the Lieutenant Governor, and a botanical garden.
Erin: Sadly, those plans fell through when Ottawa was chosen as the location for a national capital, and the site remained unused until 1856 when the former college residence building was converted into, “the University Asylum.”
David: The building was later turned into a grammar school for a short while before it fell into disrepair and was permanently closed.
Erin: The structure was eventually demolished in 1886 to make way for the new Parliament Building, whose plans had been finalized that same year.
David: Fun fact: some of the limestone from the original King’s College was used in the foundation of the Legislative Building. You can still see sections of it today near the southwest entrance.
Erin: And, it’s actually the limestone that may have something to do with all of the ghost stories that we hear about in the building today. Apparently, since limestone is such a soft and porous stone, it has been said that it is an ideal material for trapping energy - including ghosts and spirits.
David: Not only is the limestone important, but the function of the building from where the limestone came from is maybe even more important to our episode today.
Erin: As I mentioned before, the limestone structure was at one time used to house patients in what was called an “asylum” in the language from the time. According to historical records, some of the patients, mainly women, who were housed in the facility on Queen Street in Toronto, were moved here due to overcrowding.
David: Another element that will come into play in our episode today, has to do with a visit from a very interesting guest about 10 years ago now.
Erin: I think you should tell the people more about the visit David, since you had the opportunity to be a part of it.
David: That makes good sense to me. A little over ten years ago now, I was fortunate enough to be asked to give a psychic medium a tour of the Legislative Building to see if he was able to corroborate any of the ghost stories that we had been hearing. It was quite an experience.
Erin: I bet it was! Now before we get too deep into today’s episode, I do want to say that I’m not sure that I especially believe in ghosts myself, but I’m happy to share some of the stories that I’ve heard since coming to the Assembly.
David: Good point Erin. We’re not trying to convince anyone one way or the other, we’re just happy to share some of the more compelling tales from staff members and from the medium’s visit.
Erin: On to our first ghostly encounter; the woman in the checkered dress. One day, a former employee was waiting for the elevator on the third floor of the building. As he was standing there, the opaque figure of a woman suddenly appeared right in front of him. She seemed to be wearing an old-style of clothing, he described it as being a dress from the 19th century. She stared at him zombie-like, before approaching him. He was so shocked he couldn’t move! Even as the spirit seemed to float right through him leaving him with an icy chill.
David: Other staff members have mentioned seeing a woman in a checkered dress in the same area. Some people have even reported hearing her moan and sob.
Erin: Many believe that this woman is likely one of the former patients, keen to make her presence known even today.
David: Although the medium wasn’t able to pick up on the woman in the checkered dress during his visit, there was another female spirit that left him… uneasy to say the least.
Erin: Now this next spirit, we’ve been hearing about for years. She has definitely left an impression here at the building, that’s for sure.
Davd: You can say that again Erin. And the medium wasn’t immune to her hostilities either. Over the years, we had heard many stories about a woman in a long white dress up in the central attic above the Legislative Chamber. During the tour with the medium, I was able to take him up to the attic and he had his own run-in with the “woman in white”. As soon as we got in the space, he told us that he could sense a female presence and he could tell that she had passed on a long time ago. He suddenly pointed to a platform higher up above us between two windows and said he could see her standing and hurling some pretty colourful insults towards the men in the group. He seemed to think that her energy was very strong; strong enough to make herself seen floating past the windows. Before we left the space, the medium said that her energy was so strong that he could even pick up her name: Clarice.
Erin: Now Clarice is very well-known to some of our security team at the building. During some of their nighttime rounds, numerous officers have claimed to have had run-ins with Clarice. But one incident in particular stands out above the rest. One night, an officer was going through his nightly routine when he had to enter the centre attic. There is a really steep staircase that you need to take to enter and exit the space. That night, he said that he felt an aggressive and malicious presence as he walked up the stairs. Despite his misgivings, he didn’t see anything in the attic and started back down the stairs. That’s when it happened. He was pushed suddenly from behind, losing his balance. Luckily, he was able to catch himself before falling, but when he turned around, no one was there. Since then, he refuses to go to this part of the building alone, especially at night.
David: Other staff members, mostly men, have had similar encounters with Clarice over the years. Some have said that they have seen a ghostly figure of a woman in a white dress before experiencing an overwhelmingly negative feeling in the area. Others have said that they think she may have lost her husband and continues to look for him. That may explain why she seems to have such violent reactions towards some of our male colleagues.
Erin: Despite these troubled spirits, there have been other less malevolent stories of ghosts in the building too.
David: You know Erin, that reminds me of one of the other ghosts that the medium was able to detect during his visit.
Erin: Which one is that David?
David: Well, one of the most compelling parts of his visit for me, was when he pointed out Charles.
Erin: Ah yes. How could I forget about Charles?
David: Back to what I was saying. During the tour with the medium, at one point he indicated that he could sense a male presence. Next thing we know, he’s telling us that a man in a black outfit popped his head around the corner to look at us. I could tell that he wanted to follow the spirit to see if he could glean anything else, so we all turned the corner. The medium had a strong reaction to this spirit. He immediately said that he could tell he was holding a hat and that he could sense the year 1936 and the name Charles when he looked at the spectre. We continued to follow the medium down the hallway to a set of locked doors. He said that the spirit had disappeared through the doors and asked if we could see what was on the other side. It turns out that the doors led into the Legislative Chamber. After finding our own way in, the medium immediately pointed to one desk in particular and said that the ghost was sitting at one of the desks on the Chamber floor.
Erin: Which desk was he sitting at David?
David: The ghost seemed to be sitting at the desk that belongs to the Sergeant-at-Arms. And after some digging, I was able to piece it all together. It turns out that the spirit that the medium saw was none other than Captain Charles Rutherford. Captain Rutherford served as the Sergeant-at-Arms in Ontario from 1934 to 1940.
Erin: We actually talked about Charles Rutherford in a previous episode in honour of Remembrance Day. He received the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the First World War. Fun fact: Charles Rutherford was the last remaining Canadian holder of the Victoria Cross from the First World War.
David: I didn’t actually know that, Erin.
Erin: Always happy to help out with a fun fact or two David!
David: I was really amazed that the medium was able to pick up on a ‘Charles’ energy as soon as we started the tour…and that he actually turned out to be a very strong presence associated with an important connection to the Legislature’s history – rather mind blowing!
Erin: It is an incredible story for sure – and now we have an even greater connection to Captain Rutherford’s former service…in fact, I guess he’s still working!
David: How much do ghosts make these days?
Erin: Hmmm…not sure about that! There have actually been a couple of instances where staff members were able to identify the spirits that they saw based on their photographs or portraits. Including one very distinguished ghost in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite. A coordinator with the office glanced up and saw a gentleman in a dark suit leave the washroom before passing by the reception desk and heading into the Music Room, a space used primarily for receptions and events. She thought it might have been one of the members of the security team, as they tended to dress similarly. But after following the figure into the room, she discovered that it was empty. A few moments later, another staff member saw the same figure re-enter the washroom, but this time she got a better look at his face. She was particularly upset when she discovered the space empty, especially since she was later able to identify the spirit as that of the Honourable Louis Breithaupt – the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He died in 1960 and is buried in Kitchener, Ontario.
David: Speaking of distinguished ghostly visitors, the medium was able to pick up on one more identifiable spirit during his visit.
Erin: Do tell David.
David: Well, it was nearing the end of the tour, and we had covered most of the building already. We were heading back along the first floor when we walked past the Speaker’s Office. He stopped and said, “There! That’s him!” When I asked him who he was talking about, he pointed to a portrait on the wall and said that he could see the man in the painting in and around the area we were in. It turns out that the spirit belonged to Speaker Richard William Scott.
Erin: Wait. Wasn’t he only Speaker for something like 2 weeks?
David: You’re right Erin. He was appointed on December 7th, 1871 and he resigned his position on December 21st that same year.
Erin: Fun fact: Speaker Scott resigned after being offered the position of Commissioner of Crown Lands.
David: The curious part about the ghost of Speaker Scott was that the medium said he felt a strong presence from the spirit and could clearly see him holding a book open before he carefully marked his page, closed the book and disappeared. But the odd thing is that Speaker Scott never worked in the Legislative Building at Queen’s Park. In fact, it wasn’t even built yet when he was in the role. So why would he be here?
Erin: Did the medium have any theories?
David: Well, after looking at some floor plans, we determined that the space that is the Speaker’s Office today, actually used to be the Office of the Commissioner for Crown Lands. So, our best guess is that Mr. Scott was so invested in his job that he continues to work to this day, like Captain Rutherford.
Erin: Did the medium say whether or not Speaker Scott was an active ghost? I haven’t heard of any other specific stories about him, but I wonder since his presence is so strong and tied to the space whether the medium felt he could manifest his energy in other ways.
David: That’s a great question Erin. I was wondering the same thing during the visit and asked him something very similar. He was pretty confident in saying that Speaker Scott would likely be able to make his presence known through sound – perhaps by whispering – and by giving gentle puffs of air.
Erin: So, for everyone visiting the building, you might be able to experience an encounter with Speaker Scott!
David: You’re right Erin. And the medium had some other encounters during his visit too. But we have all of his stories, along with those of other staff members, in our Ghost Tour which is offered every October at the Legislative Building.
Erin: If you’re feeling brave, or just curious to hear more of these ghostly tales, then register for the tour this month before Halloween!
David: I can’t believe we got through this episode without scaring each other silly, Erin. Maybe we’ve convinced some people, maybe not. But telling the stories always gives me a bit of a thrill. I almost forgot! We even managed to fit in some fun facts today! How many do you think we had?
Erin: I’m glad you asked David. BY my count, we managed to sneak in 4 fun facts today.
David: Not our best showing, but there’s always next time!
Erin: Thanks for listening to the ON Parliament Podcast. Where we help spread the word on Parliament. But we’ve got to go. I think I hear the bells.
David: Bye! And Happy Halloween!
Erin: The ON Parliament podcast is produced by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Social media by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Additional research provided by the Table Research Office for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the podcast by sharing it with others and subscribing. For more fun facts about Ontario’s parliament, follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @onparleducation. Et en français : @parloneducation. Thanks again and see you next time.