Journal: Masonic Temple|
Masonic Temple/Concert Hall (19 March 1999): Around two and a half years ago, I took my first in-depth look behind the scenes at the Masonic Temple/Concert Hall at Yonge and Davenport (Toronto). The occasion was the fifth anniversary party of
Exclaim magazine. I went for the zine show, but that turned out to be really small and pathetic so some friends and I quickly turned our attention to the very old, very lovely building we were in, which was built by the Masons many decades ago, but later became one of Toronto's main concert venues. Security was terrible, so we managed to get several floors underground to the deepest subbasements, into huge darkened concert halls, into old abandoned-looking kitchens, storage rooms and changerooms, and even through an elevator room and out onto the roof. We had a great time, even hooking up with another small group of explorers (who tried posing as security guards until they found themselves unable to keep straight faces).
On a subsequent trip (at the following year's Exclaim party), Ultraviolet and I were at first thwarted by the much improved security, but eventually stumbled upon an unlocked door. Swiftly running through some unlit rooms and up a darkened staircase, we found ourselves on the 300 level (third floor up). As we continued our ascent and began touring the 400 level, we heard loud voices behind us and began to get nervous. Some guys opened a door and when they saw us said "oh sorry", and shut the door. I immediately re-opened the door and asked them what they were doing up here, and when they sheepishly (and somewhat drunkenly) told us they were just looking around, we began to trade tips.
Our new tour guides led us up to the 600-level to show us what they called the gallery: a mezzanine looking down on a huge, sunken ceremonial hall for the masons. This place was very dimly lit and very creepy, and our guides quickly took off, telling us they were off in search of the coffins. Ultraviolet and I were fascinated by the evil feel of the place, though, and took some stairs down to get a closer look. The walls and chairs were dark, ornately carved wood, and the carpets, lighting and upholstery were all deep, blood red, creating what must've been a deliberately Satanic atmosphere. A series of tall wooden thrones rested on an elevated platform at the centre of the room, underneath the obligatory wooden carving of the eye in the pyramid. Though chilled by the atmosphere and the constant loud creaking and echoes in this part of the building, we toured behind and above the scenes by the light of a pocket flashlight, exploring old lockers that seemed to have been ransacked some time ago.
In another completely unlit area, we found what seemed to be a prop room, filled with many old props, some of which seemed to be for masonic ceremonies, such as candles, robes and lamps, and some of which can only have been for plays, such as military camouflage and costumes. We also found a sheet glued to the inside door of a wardrobe describing the positions of the different levels of masons and the decorations to which each was entitled. This floor was very creepy, so we were glad to leave it in search of the roof.
Getting onto the roof was almost too easy, we just walked up another unlit staircase, pulled back the lock on a big black iron door, and there we were, standing seven or eight storeys above Yonge and Bloor at 1:30a.m. on a Saturday night. We took pictures, and began exploring the roof, but decided to call that off when our feet started breaking through the spongy yet brittle roof surface. Not safe. Returning to the 400 level, we continued our explorations of the bizarre old storage rooms. After a bit of searching, we found the unlit staircase leading down to the subbasements and engine rooms, but decided against taking this route since it would involve traveling past backstage security on the lower levels. After a little more peeking around, took a different stairwell down to the basement and surprised the show employees by emerging from behind the curtain were they were keeping all the snacks and beer (and buckets full of un-torn beer tickets). We quickly reintegrated into the crowds and exited through a side door at about 2a.m.
In late February of this year, a reporter for the National Post e-mailed me to ask what I knew about the Masonic Temple. It turned out the reporter, Shannon Black, was a friend of the people who'd messed with my mind on my first expedition, and that she was writing an article about the Masonic Temple and how it had changed since the CTV television network bought the building. She seemed cool so I told her what I knew and then asked if she needed an assistant reporter when she went to investigate the next day. To my delight, she said she thought she could pull that off, so I met her, her cameraman, a Masonic historian named Wallace McLeod, and our official liason, the suspiciously-named Susan Mason, at the site the following afternoon.
The official part of our tour was quite tame. We visited the CTV offices, looked at the renovations that had been done to bring the building up to the fire code, and saw the set for the Mike Bullard show. While we were looking at some of the smaller rooms on the fourth floor, however, Ms. Mason (real name, I swear) realized she had to go put more money in her parking meter. I told Shannon I'd be back and quickly sprinted off towards the back stairwell.
It was good to be back. I headed up the stairs to the maintenance rooms at the top of the temple, where I found the exit and took a brief stroll out on the roof. Returning to the stairs, I skipped down seven flights to examine the boiler rooms under the basement. Many new metal supports had been added down here to make extra sure the ancient room didn't collapse in on itself. Ascending one flight, I investigated the various backstage areas in the basement and first floor, but took off when I heard Mike Bullard talking to a friend while approaching the dressing room I was investigating. I then rejoined the tour group upstairs, but the rest of the tour was more or less without surprises.
The article, "The Secrets of the Temple," ran in the 20 March edition of the National Post, together with nice colour pictures and the works. I can only guess how Susan Mason reacted to reading that she'd imported an infiltrator into her building, but about a week later I received a letter from Wallace McLeod telling me he'd enjoyed my website and would have talked to me more if he'd realized I was Ninjalicious!
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