Urban Legend: Murder at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

In my last blog post, I shared a local urban legend that I’d heard while growing up in suburbia about the old Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

But that isn’t the only urban legend to haunt Toronto’s city streets.

When I started to do a little poking around online, a number of familiar stories came up pretty quickly. The one I’m going to share today has it all – murder, mystery and purported ghosts!

By I, Padraic Ryan, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6632948

Murder at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

People unfamiliar with Toronto may not know that we do, indeed, have a series of small islands just offshore from the mainland. While there is an entire community who lives there year-round, there is also a ghostly legend that lingers to this day.

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was built in the early 1800’s but after only 7 years, the supposed grisly murder of it’s original keeper is how the legend was born.

John Paul Radelmüller was the keeper at the time. As the story goes, a number of soldiers from the garrison at Fort York (in downtown Toronto) went in search of a cache of beer Radelmüller was said to have in his possession. A fight supposedly broke out between the men, resulting in Radelmüller’s death. It has been said the soldiers then chopped up the body and bury the remains to conceal their crime.

Almost 80 years later, another lighthouse keeper by the name of George Durnan went in search of Radelmüller’s body. He purportedly found part of a jawbone and fragments of a coffin. Two soldiers were later charged with his murder but later acquitted. Further investigation could not prove the more salacious details of the original lighthouse keeper’s death.

But Is it Haunted?

As for the rumors of the lighthouse being haunted, various local groups have undertaken their own investigations with varying results. Tales of eerie moaning, lights burning at the long-defunct beacon; darting shadows; even glimpses of Radelmüller’s ghost have all been reported over the years.  A park employee also reported discovering a leg bone while doing repairs, which he found had disappeared when he showed up the next day with the police.

Maybe it’s the fact that the lighthouse now stands dark, like a sentry standing guard in the shadows. Perhaps it’s the belief that murdered souls continue to wander the earth seeking justice. Or at the very least to be seen or felt by the living.

Whichever you believe, it couldn’t hurt to take the ferry to Hanlon’s Point and see the historic structure for yourself. One of the oldest buildings in Toronto, and the oldest standing lighthouse in the Great Lakes, it may very well inspire something in you.

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