Bloor West Villager
There have long been stories of ghosts lurking on the grounds of Exhibition Place - accounts by staff of books falling off shelves, seeing apparitions out of the corners of their eyes and feelings they weren't alone.
And according to Richard Palmisano, a paranormal activity investigator, these aren't just tall tales.
After a 13-month investigation of the Exhibition grounds, Palmisano said he has confirmed the presence of many ghosts there.
Roaming the buildings is a ghost who communicates using bells and maracas. Palmisano said he believes the ghost was a show clown when he was alive.
Then there is Michael, an electrician who worked in the general services building when it was a hydro facility and was electrocuted when he knelt on a live line.
"He is looking after people. Subconsciously he gets people to do things like post warning signs or put a gate up," Palmisano said.
Palmisano's favourite spirit, he said, has to be Jenny, a young girl who lives on the first floor in Stanley Barracks.
"Jenny is looking for her cat," he said. "She died in an accident, her scarf got tangled and she was strangled. But she is there and her father is there looking after her."
In his latest book, Ghosts of the Canadian National Exhibition, Palmisano chronicles his team's 13-month investigation of the grounds and buildings of Exhibition Place.
The research for this book began during the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in 2009.
"They were doing these ghost walks and I heard about it and went down because I grew up around the CNE and loved going down there every year," he said. "So I went down and looked at their ghost walks and then I wrote them a letter requesting to do a full investigation."
Palmisano said the archivists at the CNE came on board and they started a full investigation in October 2009.
Each chapter of the book details investigations into buildings like the Stanley Barracks, the Horse Palace, the Press Building and Scadding Cabin.
"There were some buildings that had less activity, for example the Press Building," Palmisano said. "But there is not one building that didn't have (ghosts)."
Although Palmisano said the activities of ghosts don't often frighten him, Stanley Barracks was probably the scariest of the investigations his team conducted.
"There are two individuals that gravitate to the basement (at Stanley Barracks). Nasty people," Palmisano said. "One is named Bob and his buddy Dave or David and they terrorize the other spirits actually."
Palmisano has been investigating the paranormal for 32 years. His interest in the subject began when he was a child living in the area of Dufferin and Bloor streets.
"It was a very haunted house," Palmisano said. "I used to hear people walking and talking down the hallways when there was no one there and I used to get coat hangers scraping on the back of the closet door in the middle of the night and stuff like that."
As scary as that was for him, Palmisano said it piqued an interest and a curiosity about ghosts that has never quite been satisfied.
Palmisano, who lives in South Etobicoke, now owns and operates two companies dedicated to the study and advancement of paranormal research: The Searcher Group, which currently has 21 members from investigators and researchers to technicians, mediums and scientists; and The Canadian Institute of Parapsychology, which provides education and public assistance.
He has also developed what he calls the Memory Matrix theory, which looks at why ghosts are here.
"When I formed the Searcher Group, we started looking at old theories and developing new theories that actually make sense," Palmisano said, "because there really hasn't been a lot of advancement in what we do over the last 150 years."
During their investigations, Palmisano and his team use electronic voice phenomena (EVP), mediums and an array of devices that test electromagnetic and static fields.
Spirits, Palmisano said, are social and often talk to each other. Sometimes through this communication they use each other's names, which can be helpful in his investigations.
"The backbone of our investigative work is surveillance. We use audio video surveillance," he said. "If we think there is activity in a particular hallway or a room we drop a unit in the room and then block it off so people can't get in there."
Those audio and video recordings are where Palmisano said the team gets most of its information.
During the 2011 CNE, Palmisano will conduct some lectures, do book signings and lead a virtual tour based on the book. For more information on events planned with Palmisano during the CNE, visit www.cnearchives.com
Beginning this fall, Palmisano and The Canadian Institute of Parapsychology will offer courses in paranormal investigation.
Ghosts of the Canadian National Exhibition, published by Dundurn Press, was released July 18. This is the fourth book that Palmisano has written and he is working on a fifth book about an old investigation, which he said was the scariest experience he has had in his career.
"There are things out there that people shouldn't deal with," Palmisano said. "They aren't ghosts. They are beyond ghosts; some people would call them demonic."