If you were to cruise through the island waterways of Toronto’s island this Halloween night, you might feel a chill creep down your spine as you approached the silhouette of a vacant stone light-house with a vibrant red roof shrouded behind the foliage that stretches down to the shore’s edge.
As you first approach the lonesome structure sitting on the western tip of the Toronto Islands from the waterways, you might notice that the 82 foot lighthouse uncharacteristically sits just barely above the treeline with the odd tree stretching well above it. The overgrowth of vegetation giving the lighthouse an obstructed view is a clear indication that the structure has gone unused for several decades. In fact, it has been over half a century since the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1958.
Completed in 1808, this is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes and the oldest standing structure in Toronto. Before it was retired, it was Toronto’s oldest landmark that was used for its original purpose. The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is full of history…mystery… and the first unsolved murder in Toronto.
Look closely and you just might see a light shining mysteriously in the lantern room or an apparition of a man slowly climbing the staircase towards the beacon of the lighthouse. Survey the grounds beneath the lighthouse tower and you may see a spectre of a man encircling the grounds of the lighthouse tower in search of his missing limbs. Listen closely and you may hear the sound of moaning. These are just a few of the common sightings and occurrences that have been reported over the years, giving rise to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse’s reputation as one of the most haunted buildings in Toronto.
Local legend has it that the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse tower is haunted by its first lighthouse keeper, J.P. Rademuller, after his gruesome murder on January 2nd, 1815.
Many stories have circulated over the years as to the motivation behind Rademuller’s murder. The common belief is that two soldiers from Fort York had come to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in search of Rademuller’s famous bootleg beer late one night. A dispute soon followed which led to the two soldiers viciously attacking the lighthouse keeper and ultimately killing him. In an attempt to hide their crime, the soldiers dismembered his body and buried his parts in different locations around the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.
The soliders were later charged with Rademuller’s murder, however they were ultimately acquitted due to the lack of evidence. At that point, the body of Rademuller had not been found. There was no actual proof that he had been murdered other than some blood stains. All that was certain was that he had mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.
In 1893, 78 years later, new evidence surfaced which seemed to corroborate the rumour of Rademuller’s murder and mutilation. George Durnan, the lighthouse’s 3rd Light Keeper, found a coffin buried in the sand nearby that contained a jawbone. As forensic science was not used back in the day, there has never been any conclusive way to determine whether the jaw bone was in fact part of the remains of Rademuller.
Other discoveries have been made more recently. In the early 1980’s it was reported that a park employee uncovered a human femur bone while doing some maintenance around the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It is uncertain whether the discovery was an elaborate prank however, as the bone mysteriously disappeared, when they returned the next day with the police to investigate.
To this day, the disappearance of Gibraltar Point Lighthouse’s first lighthouse keeper remains an unsolved-mystery. While it is hard to separate the fact from fiction, the common tales told of Rademuller’s death and dismemberment at the hands of the two malicious soldiers, continue to be told and believed by locals and visitors.
As for the ghost sightings and paranormal activity, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether those reports are true or not. Nevertheless, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse tower lives on unused, under the guard of Metro Parks and the watchful eyes of visitors and residents of the Toronto Islands.