Here's a little bit of trivia for you: In Victorian days, the time of the year when people trotted out and told the old ghost stories wasn't Hallowe'en: it was Christmas. Perhaps it had to do with the long winter nights. The most famous of all the Christmas Ghost stories was, naturally, A Christmas Carol. However, they did have a few decent scary stories.
In that *ahem* spirit, here's an old one from Toronto:
Early in the Year of Our Lord 1815, the sheriff of Toronto, a man by the name of Peter Jarvis (if you've heard of Jarvis Street- that Peter Jarvis) was informed of a problem out on the harbour: apparently the light on the lighthouse on Gibraltor Point had not not been lit for some time. Sheriff Jarvis was to go and investigate.
The lighthouse is on what is now called Toronto Island, or Centre Island, but back then the Island was still connected to the mainland. It wasn't until 1855 when a storm broke through a narrow point on the eastern end of the peninsula that the peninsula became the island. So, in 1815, going to the lighthouse for Jarvis was a matter of riding his horse around and out to the tip. He arrived at the cottage of the lighthouse keeper, a Mr. Radelmuller, and entered, What he saw was to haunt him for the rest of his life, for what he found there was.... nothing.
The house was in perfect order. Everything was clean and put away as it should be. The dishes were washed, the clothes were folded. The only thing wrong was that there was no trace of Mr. Radelmuller. And, as it turned out, there never would be.
Such are the known facts of the story, or the more common version of the story, I should say. But here is where the story takes a little turn for the macabre. At the time, the peninsula was home to several little fishing villages and a small garrison of soldiers, who were stationed in a blockhouse a little to the north of the lighthouse and closer to the mouth of the harbour. The disappearance of the lighthouse keeper from their midst was a nine day wonder. Tongues began to wag and hidden secrets began to creep out. It was the people of the fishing village that told the story of what happened to Mr. Radelmuller, and it goes a little like this:
Mr. Radelmuller, they said, had a dark secret. he was not merely the lighthouse keeper,he was also a bootlegger, using his isolated position on the lake as a convenient place from which to ply his illegal trade. His largest group of patrons was, not surprisingly in the least, the soldiers just to the north of him. One cold winter night two soldiers came to his cottage and asked to buy some rum. Money changed hands the soldiers were soon on their way back to their blockhouse with a small barrel of rum.
When they arrived at their station, they eagerly opened the keg up for a good stiff drink, only to discover that the 'rum' had frozen solid. Since rum does not easily freeze, they knew that someone had watered down their alcohol, to the point that they had just paid no small sum of money for a barrel of mostly water. They headed back to the lighthouse.
They demanded Radelmuller return their money. He very unwisely refused. The conversation went from heated to violent, and Radelmuller fled to the safety of the lighthouse (which, I should mention, was made out of stone walls eight feet thick). The soldiers followed, and pushed the door open before he could barricade it. He tried to flee up the stairs, but they pursued him, caught him, and murdered him.
Their rage began to cool and they began to ponder what they had just done. They had to hide their deed. So they took Mr. Radelmuller's firewood axe, and used it to chop up his body, and then they discarded the pieces hither and yon, never to be found. They then returned to the cabin, and cleaned it and tidied up all traces of the fight, and returned back to their posts.
Such is the legend of the first Lighthouse keeper of the Gibraltor point lighthouse, and how he vanished with nary a trace in 1815. Other men followed in his footsteps, keeping the light lit well into the second half of the twentieth century. The lighthouse still stands, though it is no longer used, but the cottage is long since gone. But there are a few things still lingering even to today in this little story: every now and then, lights are seen going up and down the stairs of the lighthouse, even though the door is solidly locked and the walls are so very thick. But more disturbing than the lights is what is sometimes found in the lighthouse itself, for every now and then (the last time being in the 1980's) the caretakers of the property find something on the eighth step: blood. It is always on the same step, and always the same type, and those who find it always remember the name of Radelmuller and the legend of his grisly end.