Three dark tales of the Forest City

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: DYLAN CHARETTE
It's said the ghost of Ambrose J. Small still haunts the Grand Theatre to this day.

London, Ont. has a surprisingly darker history than you may initially think. Although the city is by far not as dark and scary as it used to be, its history makes it a unique city. From numerous allegedly haunted places to gruesome murders, London has no shortage of scary stories. Halloween is approaching, so what better time to reflect on the tales of terror that loom in London’s dark past.

The haunting of the Grand Theatre

It’s no surprise there are theories of London’s oldest theatre being haunted. There is one particular supernatural visitor that is often said to be roaming the theatre and viewing performances.

Navigator. Londons student lifestyles magazine.

Exactly one century ago, Ambrose J. Small was a rich businessman from Toronto. He was also the original owner of the Grand Theatre. Small decided to sell the theatre for an estimated price of $750,000 (adjusted for inflation). However, he would never claim the money.

On Dec. 2, 1919, Small disappeared. Police could not find any evidence of assault, murder, suicide or simply running away. It’s believed that Small’s spirit haunts the Grand Theatre and is often seen in the balcony. To this day no one knows what actually happened to Small, but theories around his disappearance still leave people questioning.

Jack the Ripper could have been a doctor in London (Ontario)

There are so many theories swirling around the mystery that is Jack the Ripper. One particularly compelling theory is that Jack was actually a practising doctor in London Ont. before moving to the better-known London across the pond. According to the London Free Press, Thomas Neill Cream, a McGill University- trained doctor, was hanged in England in 1892 after murdering four prostitutes. Before this, Cream worked as a doctor on Dundas Street, where he was widely known for performing abortions.

One suspected victim was a patient named Kate Gardner. Londoners believed he was responsible for her death, causing Cream to move to Chicago and eventually, London England. It should be noted he was convicted in Chicago for overdosing a patient but his wealthy brother paid a handsome fee to free him.

After Cream was convicted of killing four prostitutes in England, he was sentenced to be hung. Cream’s last words were “I am Jack…” before being cut off but the executioner. Although there is no definitive proof that Cream was in fact Jack the Ripper, there is plenty of evidence leaning towards that conclusion.

The Victoria Day Disaster

Victoria Day is often an enjoyable holiday, as it is a good excuse for a barbecue and to see a great fireworks show. However in 1881, tragedy in Thames River tainted the day.

Boat rides on a steamboat named the SS Victoria were offered to Londoners. The Victoria was designed to carry 400 passengers, but by the time it pulled out from the Springbank pavilion at 5 p.m. it carried 650.

People on board were excited and ran from one side to the other. Soon after the boat capsized and the boiler took out the main supports. Women drowned due to the weight of their dresses and many didn’t know how to swim.

One man, who, having realized his family did not make it after he got out of the water, had to be restrained from jumping back in. Although around 200 deaths were reported, it is widely agreed there were more causalities unaccounted for. Bodies recovered from the scene were stacked onto the decks of another steamer. That night many Londoners spent the evening identifying loved ones. It was considered one of the largest maritime disasters of its time.