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Ghost Walks for Families

Our tour guide Shirley Lum, owner of Taste of the World Tours, addressed our little sidewalk group with a well known fact. “Toronto means meeting place,” she said. Then she threw in the kicker. “But is it a meeting place for the living—or for the dead?” The participants looked at each other with a smile. We were off to find both on her new Haunted Kensington and Chinatown walk. During the next two hours, we would hear about a ghost who cooked chicken soup in the basement of her Kensington Ave. home, see a suspected haunted abandoned Church tower, and listen to tales of ghostly figures who walked the subway tracks or haunted the elevator of a famous Toronto costume shop. Even if you didn’t believe in ghosts, by the time you were seated in the park at The Grange, bats swooping overhead, you could sense the possibilities.

Ghost walks are all the rage these days. In London, England, the Jack the Ripper Walks led by cloaked actors along foggy streets, are hugely popular tourist attractions. Certain nighttime ramblings are famous for being terrifying such as the Edinburgh ghost walks or the Into the Dead of Night walks in that witches’ town of Salem, Massachusetts. Even our local Ontario provincial parks host ghosts among the evergreens. At McGregor Point Provincial Park one summer, our family joined others as night fell to follow a cast of lakeside figures. They told tales of sea-faring pioneers who disappeared in the swells and widows who saw their deceased fishermen husbands coming up from the deep. We were particularly surprised after coming upon a lumberjack-type “ghost” cooking real baked beans in an open iron pot in a forest clearing.

As Hallowe’en approaches, it begs the question: Should kids be taken along on these ghostly jaunts? And even if your child loves scary stories, will he or she have nightmares for weeks afterward?

“That’s my most frequently asked question,” says Glen Shackleton, owner and tour guide for The Haunted Walk of Kingston (Ontario) and The Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Modelling his walks on the historic ghost treks he enjoyed in England, Shackleton includes funny stories, historical anecdotes, and ghost folklore much like Shirley Lum. Yes the guides wear black cloaks and carry lanterns but no one jumps out at you from dark bushes. Kids won’t hear recorded oooohing sounds. Rather, it’s a lighhearted outing that’s appreciated on many levels. “There’s no one who doesn’t enjoy ghost stories,” he says.

So is answer a definite Yes? Well, you have to know your child. Some of them will be bored silly as they traipse around town listening to historical tales of long ago. Others will be entranced by the very idea. And still others, who will no doubt be out on Hallowe’en night in a costume that might scare the local toughs, will claim that these stories have nothing on the Goosebump books. What’s a couple of old ghosts compared to Stephen King? In fact,” sometimes the adults become more frightened than the kids,” Shackleton says. Of course, children should be accompanied by an adult. Those ten and over will get more from the history of the place, but even younger ones may enjoy a walk in the dark.

Most of these walks take place entirely outdoors—you don’t actually go into the buildings to encounter the ghosts—thank goodness—so dress warmly, wear comfy shoes (there is quite a bit of walking), and bring along a sense of humour as well as an open mind. Although ghost sightings are never guaranteed, you just never know what you’ll find... For those brave enough to venture forth, here are a few possibilities:

A TASTE OF THE WORLD offers three Ghost Walks starting at $15 for adults and $9 for kids under 12 for a two-hour, 15-minute tour as well as a Haunted Toronto Bike tour for $45 adults, $40 youth, and $30 child including bike rental and helmet. Call 416-923-6813 or visit www.Toronto WalksBikes.com. Year-round.

HAUNTED WALKS are presenting special Hallowe’en outings in Ottawa and Kingston including a rare trip into Chateau Laurier and a visit to Old Fort Henry. Adults are $15, students $10, while kids 10 and under are free. Call 613-549-6366 or visit www.hauntedwalk.com. The regular city walks take place between May and October; groups of 10 and over (maybe a family reunion activity?) by appointment throughout the winter.

CULLEN GARDENS & MINIATURE VILLAGE is hosting GHOSTVILLE for little ones who couldn’t possibly walk for a couple of hours for a ghost fix. Spooky-looking ghosts will hang about the trees in Cottage Country while those who embark on the HALLOWE’EN WALK OF FAME may encounter the Headless Horseman or Dracula as well as friendly Caspar the Ghost and his friends. Oct. 29 and 30, 5:30 to 8:30, $7.99 each. Call 905-686-1600 or visit www.cullengardens.com.

THE ORIGINAL LONDON WALKS in London, England offer over 100 scheduled walks each week including Ghosts of the Old City and Jack the Ripper Haunts. Walks cost L4.50 for adults and students. Kids under 15 are free if a parent accompanies. Call 0171-624-3978 or visit www.walks.com or http://london.walks.com





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