9.7 Jane's Walk

I love it when a plan comes together. It’s all about timing.

Ever since I released my first novel, I’ve wanted to participate in the Jane’s Walk Festival and lead my very own walk. After all, my book is called The Walking Man. When the incredible Erin Kang started working for the organization as the Toronto Festival Coordinator this year, she got in touch. Our conversation went something like this (I am paraphrasing).

EK: Paul, do you want to lead a walk?
PD: Yes!
EK: You’re amazing!
PD: No, you’re amazing!

And so on.

Jane’s Walk strives to activate the ideas of Jane Jacobs by supporting a community-based approach to city building through citizen-led walking tours that make space for people to observe, reflect, share, question and collectively reimagine the places in which they live, work and play. It encourages people to share their stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities and use walking as a way to connect to their neighbours. Jane Jacobs was a writer, urbanist and activist who championed the voices of everyday people in neighbourhood planning and city-building.

Okay, so I’m onboard to lead a Jane’s Walk. But, where should we go?

Two of my favourite things are ghost stories and walking. A few years ago, a couple of friends and I wanted to take a ghost tour in the Distillery District during the Door’s Open Festival. The tours were all sold out and I suggested we just do the ghost tour ourselves. Thus, Dore’s Open Ghost Tours was born. I did all the research into the rich ghost history of the neighbourhood and off we went. We didn’t see any ghosts during that tour, but maybe next time.

The second Dore’s Open Ghost Tour was held on the Toronto Islands. When we arrived via ferry, the sun was out and the skies were clear. As we progressed through the tour, dark clouds approached. Now, I’m not saying we summoned dark spirits, but halfway through we found ourselves in an intense hail storm. We soldiered through and at the end, the clouds were gone, leaving only the blue sky.

Next was High Park the day before Halloween. Have you ever been in High Park at night? It’s dark. Very dark. Led by my lantern and sporting my boiler hat, we walked through the woods, hearing and seeing things that are too scary to write about here.

The Dore’s Open Hauntings of High Park was so successful that I’m bringing it back for Jane’s Walk. Don’t worry, the walk is happening in the afternoon, so we won’t have to battle the evil forces that come out during the night.

The walk will include historic information about the high amount of supernatural activity in the park. Rooted in facts, some of the stories will contain some rather grisly details - so be forewarned! Here are some of the expected highlights:

The Graveyard of Trees in the southern area of the park is a major stop for soldiers during the war of 1812. Things did not go well. Colborne Lodge looks like an idyllic place to relax during a warm summer evening. Except for the poltergeist roaming the area. Lots of people fish in Grenadier Pond in the summer and skate on it during the winter. So do the ghost soldiers seen peeking out from the trees. Finally, there is the elderly gentleman stuck in time near the Howard Park streetcar loop. He’ll tip his hat to you, but that’s not all.

Update: The Jane's Walk version of the Hauntings in High Park went really well. A good crowd of people turned out and the weather cooperated perfectly. I did have to censor a few things because there were kids in the group (I did not think about that!), but otherwise, we had a great time. I even learned from one of the participants a new story about a severed leg found in a duck pond. Made my day.

Information on Jane's Walk: website and Facebook.
Hauntings of High Park, Jane's Walk Edition on Facebook.
When: Saturday, May 5th, from 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm.
Meeting place: Jamie Bell Adventure Playground.

Paul Dore