Nostalgia Tripping: A ghost at Christie Mansion
On Halloween two years ago, I took a group of friends on a ghost tour of downtown Toronto, organized by the Campbell House Museum. As someone who's been interested in the history of the city for quite some time, I was familiar with most of the ghost stories. I am usually dismissive of stories of alleged supernatural activities in historical buildings, partly because I feel that they often overshadow the factual history behind the origins of structures, as is the case with 1 Spadina Crescent. It is also appears that Gothic Victorian architecture is by default associated with ghosts.
But there are always exceptions. Prior to the tour, I had't been aware of the legend of Robert Christie's mistress, but the tale of her fate remained on my mind for some time after Halloween.
William Mellis Christie, Robert Christie's father, was a Scottish immigrant and a baker, who earned a considerable fortune through his company, Christie, Brown and Company. After his death in 1900, it passed into the hands of Robert Christie.
In Haunted Toronto, John Robert Colombo notes that the former Christie residence has been a source of numerous outlandish tales for a long time. He also stresses that the story of Christie's mistress is merely that - a story.
She apparently lived in an apartment consisting of a bedroom and a bathroom. There were two points of entrance to where she lived. One of them was by a carved panel in the library and the other was through one of the wooden panels in the hallway.
The mistress lived in the apartment for years and years and never set foot outside. The only people to visit her were Christie and his servant, who brought her food. However, over time, Christie came to see her less and less frequently. As a result, she grew lonely and jealous, despairing that he had become weary of her. Her depressed state of mind, combined with her long confinement, is said to have driven her mad, and she eventually hung herself. After her death, Christie and the servant removed her body secretly at night. Some accounts claim that they buried her body in the area surrounding Queen's Park.
In the aftermath, competing versions of the events arose. For example, some accounts state that the apartment of the unfortunate mistress was in the basement, while others believe that her ghost haunts the attic. Moreover, some sources claim that Christie died of cancer and others that he died of guilt over the death of his mistress.
This floor plan of the mansion shows a small room connected to the library, which was used as a study room when the mansion served as a residence for female students of St. Michael's College.
Beyond the details in the legend, not much is known about Christie. The names of Robert Christie and his wife often appeared on the so-called pages social pages in the Toronto Daily Star. For example, the February 25, 1904 edition notes their departure to Europe.
The tale involves all the necessary elements of a scandalous story of the early twentieth-century high society celebrities: love, lust, money, and madness. Is it all accurate? Certainly not, but it is Halloween, after all.
Images from the City of Toronto Archives and Wikimedia Commons.
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