On Campus

Ghost-hunter falls to death at 'spooky' university building

"It's a regular U of T building," says university spokesperson

The death of a woman who may have been looking for ghosts in a Gothic-style building where a professor was murdered several years ago is a tragedy that should serve as a warning to all thrill seekers, a paranormal investigator said Thursday.

Police were called after the 29-year-old woman fell several storeys during the early hours at the University of Toronto building.

“The general public has a lot of misperceptions,” said Sue Durroch, co-founder of the Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society.

“Because of the Hollywood-ization of ghost stories and fictional ghost stories, people get these impressions that a spooky looking building must be haunted or if there’s a tragedy associated with it, it must be haunted. Of course, that’s absolutely incorrect.”

Early in the day, Toronto police Sgt. Dave Vickers was reported as saying the woman and a 34-year-old male friend were in the building because they thought it was haunted.

Const. Wendy Drummond later refused to confirm any ghostly connections, saying only that the pair was trespassing and exploring the roof-top area.

The man crossed from one roof to the other, but a wire the woman was holding onto gave way and she plunged to her death, Drummond said.

In January 2001, 50-year-old artist and lecturer David Buller was found stabbed to death in his studio in the building at 1 Spadina Crescent.

The unsolved killing may have fed rumours that the building, erected in 1875, is visited by ghosts.

The building contains the University of Toronto’s art department, office space, some classrooms as well as the Eye Bank of Canada.

“It’s a regular U of T building,” said university spokeswoman Laurie Stephens, adding the school was unaware anyone considered it haunted.

Ghost tours do take place at other university buildings but 1 Spadina Crescent is not among them, said Richard Fiennes-Clinton, a guide with Muddy York Walking Tours.

He said he had never been able to unearth ghost stories related to the structure but said he could understand why some might believe otherwise given the building’s imposing style.

The ghost research society, which has had a website for almost 13 years, also said it had never had any reports or even queries related to paranormal activity at the building.

“Because it’s kind of a Gothic looking building, maybe they were under the impression somehow it was haunted. It looks kind of eerie,” Durroch said.

“You can enjoy ghosts and hauntings, you can do so safely without breaking any laws or trespassing. Thankfully, this is an isolated case in Canada but there have been several similar incidents in the United States where tragic circumstances were the outcome.”

Fiennes-Clinton stressed there are safe and legal ways to explore supposedly haunted places.

The school said it appeared neither the man nor woman were students.

Police have called the woman’s death “suspicious” but said they had no reason to suspect foul play. An autopsy and toxicology tests were pending.

They said they had no reason to release any names.

– The Canadian Press