By Diana Condolo
Do you like spooky experiences or do you like to have the living daylights scared out of you? Do you love the island? Is your interest piqued? If so, head to Harbourfront for Spooky Lagoon presents: Toronto Island Stories – Murder at the Lighthouse. They usher you on a charming Tiki Taxi boat and take you on a really cool ride – a ride I absolutely loved even though I’ve been to the islands over a hundred times.
The group casually cruises across the lake while listening to true island tales as told by an 87-year-old island resident, Jimmy Jones, who is the “Unofficial Mayor of Toronto Island.” Traveling across the lake to the island, we journeyed through the lagoon. It was an aspect of the island I’ve never seen: such startling beauty. I couldn’t believe we were in Toronto anymore, the views were just so different than the ones I’ve ever seen. The full moon peeked through the trees, giving us glimpses of what is out there, and left other spots in darkness for us to imagine what mysteries are hidden there. The moody clouds and the soundtrack added to the fairy-tale aura of the night.
On our ride there, we heard true stories of Babe Ruth, Hurricane Hazel, diving horses, and the decline of the island’s unique community. It was like a history tour, but with an eerie edge.
The really scary part starts when we arrive on the island and are guided by the storyteller dressed all in black and carrying a lantern. She tells us a legendary tale of the murder of John Paul Radelmüller, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse’s most famous keeper. She guides us to the lighthouse and to the site where it is said Radelmüller’s remains were found. And then things got chilling.
Fortunately, we all got off the island safely and enjoyed fantastic views of the Toronto skyline on our return trip.
When we returned to mainland, we chatted with Jimmy, who has lived on the island since 1932. Jones operated a water taxi service and later worked at the island school. He gave us a personalized story of the time when Hanlan’s Point was known as Canada’s Coney Island – a time when there where hotels, baths, and many more residences than there are now on the islands. Many prominent Toronto families maintained summer homes on Centre Island.
I recommend this bone-chilling, haunted Halloween-themed tour that explores Toronto Island’s dark past, especially since the views are to die for.
The 55-minute trip includes time on the island. We were lucky that it was a warm evening, but do bring an extra layer with you as it gets chilly on the boat. Spooky Lagoon runs every weekend in October, with boats departing every 10 minutes.
Tickets for Spooky Lagoon: Toronto Island Stories are $25 and can be purchased online. Dates include October 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31, 2017.