John Howard, original owner of High Park's Colborne Lodge, left explicit instructions for his funeral.
"He requested to be well sealed within his coffin under the tomb," Cheryl Hart, Colborne Lodge museum coordinator, told The Villager. "It's our assumption it was because there was the issue of grave robbing in the Victorian era."
As part of its annual Haunted High Park event, Colborne Lodge will be aglow by only candlelight while staff recount myths and legends associated with Howard, his wife Jemima, and their property, High Park.
"We know from newspaper accounts how John's coffin was laid out and draped," Hart said . "We also have a reproduction of a poem he wrote about the tomb."
And so, a replica flag-draped casket will be set up as it would have been for his funeral while every mirror in the house will be covered - as was the tradition during the period, a reference to bodies crossing over into the afterlife. The clocks would have been stopped at the exact moment of his death and not restarted again until after he was buried.
"People really seem to latch onto the Victorian attitudes and cultural traditions," said Hart of those who attend the popular Halloween event.
In the Victorian era, people were "very aware" and willing to accept that death was a reality, said Colborne Lodge historical interpreter James McRae. They would wear a broach - made with their dead loved one's hair - over their heart.
"It was a little gruesome," McRae said.
Not only would they make broaches, but also hair wreaths from the deceased's hair.
The Haunted High Park event provides visitors with the opportunity to experience Colborne Lodge as it originally was without electricity and includes an oil lantern-led walk out to the Howards' tomb. This is an event for adults 18 years and older and takes place Friday, Oct. 24, Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Oct. 31 at 7 to 8:30 p.m. There is a similar event for families and children, Saturday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. (not recommended for children under eight years). Pre-registration is required. Call 416-392-6916.
If Haunted High Park is not your cup of tea, there are several other ways to celebrate Halloween in the neighbourhood.
The 15th Annual Night of Dread takes place Saturday, Oct. 25 in Dufferin Grove Park. Night of Dread is Clay & Paper Theatre's invitation to the community to parade their private and collective fears through the darkened streets of Toronto. Adults, youth, and courageous children are invited to help build masks, puppets, imagery and shrines, which will be paraded through the streets during the event. Participation is free, and there is no experience necessary. Visit www.facebook.com/clayandpaper for details.
The Junction Business Improvement Area (BIA) hosts its annual Pumpkin Fest Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Junction train platform, Dundas Street West at Pacific Avenue. There will be pumpkin carving from 2 to 6 p.m. and pumpkin-themed activities and treats at participating businesses all day. Visit www.junctionbia.ca for details.
The Bloor West Village BIA, in support of St. Joseph's Health Centre, hosts the Toronto West Halloween Fest, Sunday, Oct. 26. This event takes place in Bloor West Village between Armadale Avenue and Runnymede Road from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes a costume parade and street festival with a live performance by singer/songwriter Jully Black. Dress up and take part in the festivities and treats in support of the hospital's Just for Kids Clinic.
Visit torontowesthalloweenfest.ca for details.
The 19th annual Twilight Pumpkin Float in High Park takes place Sunday, Oct. 26 from 4 to 6 p.m. Meet at the wading pool in the northwest corner of High Park, just west of the main High Park entrance at Bloor Street West and High Park Avenue. A minimum donation of $2.50 to carve a pumpkin and set it afloat. Proceeds will send a class from a high needs school on a field trip to the High Park Nature Centre this fall. Contact highparknature.com for further details.
Caption: Kids and adults set their jack-o-lanterns sailing over the water during the High Park's pumpkin float - taking place this year on Sunday, Oct. 26.
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