It’s October which means the air is cooler, the days are shorter, and things are getting spooky around here. With Halloween approaching, we’re sure you’re exploring the pumpkin patches around Guelph, warming up with ciders or pumpkin spice treats, and choosing a costume that works equally well on Zoom and while trick or treating.
But there’s nothing that screams “Halloween” quite like a good old fashioned ghost story. We had a few questions for Greg Taylor of Ghost Walk Guelph about why people love local ghost stories and the spookiest things that have happened to him on a tour.
What do you think draws people to ghost tours?
I look at it like this: when you go to a movie, it’s escapism, you enjoy it, but you’re just a witness. When you go to a baseball game or a concert, it’s very real and you’re experiencing it. A ghost walk is somewhere in between. We can dive into “Is it real, is it not real?” but the bottom line is that it’s entertainment, but it’s different than your normal nights out.
What about your tours helps us better understand Guelph and our history?
There’s a few ways to answer that. I usually say on my walks, “Yes this is a night out, but it’s also a chance to look around.” How many times do you drive past The Armoury and not even notice it’s there? It’s a good opportunity to explore the city. When I travel with my wife, we always try and find a ghost tour. Ghost stories and tours are a good way to orient yourself in a city you’re unfamiliar with.
There are also situations like Baker Street right now. Guelph isn’t alone in this. There are parking lots covering cemeteries or burial grounds across Canada. There’s a grocery store parking lot in Scarborough that covered a cemetery. These stories weave Guelph into a tapestry that’s a part of a larger maybe darker conversation.
What building would people be surprised to know has a good ghost story?
I don’t think anyone would be surprised about any buildings on my tour, but people share stories on walks sometimes. In regular conversations, they might not be so ready to share these things, but two years ago I had a couple on my walk who said they were in the Arboretum at the University of Guelph in an area by themselves when they saw two ghostly apparitions that followed them about 20ft behind. At a certain point they felt really threatened, and bolted for their car. Once they got off the grass and on to the path, that feeling stopped. And those kinds of stories even give me the creeps.
How do you uncover ghost stories?
When I first started this years ago, I touched base with the city and different areas and saw there were opportunities for this sort of tour. So then the first thing I did was walk into the library, and say “You might think I’m crazy, but is there anything you could do to help me with this?”
I waited for five minutes and they came back with a manila envelope of news clippings of unexplained stories from the past. Some stories come from that envelope, but I also read books, go through the news, and a lot of them now are from people. The stories evolve over time.
Has anything super spooky happened while on a tour to you or any of your guests?
One building has had two things happen that still, to this day, mess with me a little bit. Three years ago I was doing a walk. Some people like to take pictures, some people don’t. On this walk, there were lots of picture takers. Pictures, pictures! This particular building is always empty, locked up, and dark. A few blocks later, they’re looking through their pictures and say “Greg, look at this!” The pictures they had on their phones had the building completely lit up – every window – even though seconds before it was completely dark.
In the same building on another walk, a woman wasn’t really paying attention to what I was saying and was looking up at the top of the building. We move along and she walks up to me and apologizes for not listening but it was because she saw the curtains of one window suddenly draw back. Not in a fluttering or windy sort of way, but a sharp tug that left the window open. And there was a face staring down at me. Make of it what you will, but that’s what she said!
Are there any spots in Guelph that you’ve heard a tale or two about?
One spot that I’ve read about in the newspapers and have seen stories about was a tanning salon in the north end. I’m not sure if it’s still there – it was in a mall or a strip mall or something. It was an old bank originally, that had been there for a very long time until the tanning salon came in. Then, every day at 3pm the lock would slowly lock itself. This kept happening every day until they taped it closed. The thing about it being a bank before … their hours would have had them close at 3pm. There were talks of sightings as well, but the lock thing I’ve heard a few times.
Want to know more?
Want to learn more? Join Greg on one of his tours! He’ll be running them every Friday and Saturday through October with a few Thursdays and Sundays and an extra-long one on Halloween!
Upcoming Ghost Tour Dates
Friday October 15 – 7pm
Saturday October 16 – 7pm and 8:30pm
Sunday October 17 – 8:30pm
👻 WANT MORE GHOST STORIES?
Check out this blog post: Guelph Ghost Stories.