Peering into the Ghost Hole

Toronto’s annual haunted art show , GHOST HOLE IV takes place at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Saturday, October 27, 2012 from 2pm until the witching hour (i.e. midnight). Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at Soundscapes, 572 College St. All proceeds from event go to funding participating artists and supporting local not-for-profit arts organizations.

By Christopher McKinnon

Curator and Ghost Hole organizer Vanessa Rieger, dressed for last year's event.

Curator and Ghost Hole organizer Vanessa Rieger, dressed up for last year's event.

When Toronto-based curator Vanessa Rieger first developed the idea for Ghost Hole —an annual haunted art show and party—she had a very specific location in mind. A friend who had just moved to a new apartment near Wallace and Lansdowne discovered a secret room in the attic. “The wallpaper was outdated, the light switches were old…” says Rieger. “Everything about this room just seemed as if, for some reason, 50 years ago the owners decided to board it all up and leave no trace that it had even existed.”

To get into the room, you had to climb through a small hole and the haunted feeling of the space inspired her and her friends to dub it a ghost hole. Rieger imagined pulling together an art exhibition around a Halloween theme. “I thought it would be really great,” Rieger says, “if people could climb through the hole with a flashlight and look at the artwork.” In the end, the show never happened, but the idea stayed with her.

A couple years later, in 2009, Rieger joined the White House Studio Project, which at the time was located in a house at College and Lansdowne. “It kind of just dawned on me,” said Rieger. “I can do Ghost Hole here, with the whole house!” Members of the collective were enthusiastic and the interactive Halloween-inspired art party was born.

Since then, the event has grown bigger and bigger. Last year, the event filled three days and a large outdoor space spilling into the backyard of El Gordo’s Fine Foods in Kensington Market.

This year’s event shifts locales and expands again, moving the event to Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands and incorporating an artist residency. “It’s part of the curatorial mandate to use spaces that aren’t typical for showing art,” says Rieger. “And, Artscape Gibraltar Point is already a ghost hole.” Over 30 artists are participating in the event, many of them making use of the residency to work collaboratively to produce site-specific installations that explore the haunted nature of the space.

Halloween revellers and art seekers converge at last year's Ghost Hole in El Gordo's backyard.

“This is the first time that we have a residency component to the event,” says Rieger, “which is really excellent because it gives the artists a chance to get to know the space more.”

The artists have been finding inspiration in both the building itself and in its history. Island residents and former staff of the Island School have been sharing their stories—stories both ghostly and terrifying. Evidence of “ghost holes” abound: whispering in the hallways, doors that open and close on their own, sounds of long-gone children singing in the east room, a discomforting presence in the boys washroom.

“Then, of course, there’s the urban legend,” Rieger recounts, “of the girls getting lost in the tunnels underneath the building.” When Jimmy Jones, who was the Island School’s custodian for 35 years beginning in 1936, recounted the story, shivers ran down spines. One night, a group of schoolgirls thought it would be fun to sneak into the boys’ dorm. They climbed down into the tunnels under the school and quickly became lost. Their terrified and blood-curdling screams rose through the floorboards and echoed throughout the building. Jimmy eventually had to go down with a flashlight to rescue them.

As much as the stories are told to scare, they are also inspiring creative and artistic work. Writer and performer Lo Bil, for instance, is preparing a series of historical walking tours. During Ghost Hole, she’ll take visitors and party-goers on an exploration of the haunted building’s rooms and the grounds.

Other projects being prepared for Ghost Hole IV run the gamut, from the irreverent to the deadly serious. “There are pieces that are quite fun, in the Halloween spirit of being silly, of being corny and kitschy, with that kind of haunted house vibe,” says Rieger. “And then there are some pieces that are quite subtle [...] quite touching.”

Artist Morris Fox builds a psychomanteum.

Morris Fox, who usually works primarily in paint, will be assembling an interactive sculptural piece based on the ancient Greek idea of the psychomanteum. Click here to read an interview with Fox and curator Vanessa Rieger.

An Impromptu Song and Dance w/ Maylee Todd from REYNARD LI on Vimeo.

Among the more touching projects, Rieger points out artist Marlaina Read’s video piece in rememberance of late uncle. “The piece will act in itself as a eulogy,” says Rieger. Others, like integrated media artist David Hanes, are using Ghost Hole IV as an opportunity to keep push and plumb the “hauntedness” of the old school building and its environs. Hanes’s installation and performance on the beach will use fire and sound, including a massive bass amp, to create something dark and ritualistic.

But art isn’t all there is to Ghost Hole. Rieger has also invited a who’s who of performances round out the night’s haunted ambience and spooky feel. Musical performances include the soulful psychedelics of Maylee Todd (a.k.a. MALOO), kraut rock from Cell Memory and Castle If, stand-up comedy from Nick Flanagan, and plenty more. Click here to view the complete artist list.


GHOST HOLE IV takes place at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Saturday, October 27, 2012 from 2pm until the witching hour (i.e. midnight).

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at Soundscapes, 572 College St. All proceeds from event go to funding participating artists and supporting local not-for-profit arts organizations.

For more about the event, visit Ghost Hole IV

The tickets for GHOST HOLE were lovingly designed by Jesjit Gill and printed by



Artscape Gibraltar Point
443 Lakeshore Ave., Toronto Island Toronto, ON
43° 36' 46.44" N, 79° 23' 2.436" W