Monsters, Memento Mori, and Magic

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Monsters, Memento Mori, and Magic

Where to find the monstrous, the macabre, and beguiling artistic bonbons in museums, exhibits, and public spaces. Experience a memento mori roomette, relive when monsters roamed the earth, see murals with spooky images, visit an eerie memorial, and enjoy magic.

Art Gallery of Ontario: Memento Mori Roomette

Art Gallery of Ontario image

317 Dundas Street West
Neighbourhood: Chinatown

On the first floor, in the gallery to the left, a collection of display cases show various European memento mori objects. Fashionable during the 17thcentury, these objects incorporate images of death as a way to remember that life is fleeting and we all must die. Also check out the Inuit bone carving sculptures elsewhere in the museum.

Royal Ontario Museum: When Monsters Roamed the Earth

Albertosaurs fossil

100 Queen’s Park
Neighbourhood: Bloor Street Culture Corridor

Dinosaurs remind us of a time when real-life monsters roamed the earth. Specimens at ROM represent life during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, grouped within the themes: Life on Land, Life on Sea, and Life in the Air. You’ll see all of your favourites, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. The museum also sponsors a self-guided, family-friendly tour titled “Myths, Monsters, and Magic.”

Graffiti Alley: Images of Horror

Mural in Graffiti Alley

Neighbourhood: Queen Street West

Public murals abound throughout Toronto. One of the best concentrations is Graffiti Alley, a three-block collection of alleys bounded by Spadina Avenue, Queen Street West, Richmond Street, and Portland Street. Some of the murals incorporate macabre elements. Even without the horror connection, these murals are well worth a visit.

Ireland Park: An Eerie Memorial to the Dead

Ireland Park statue

Bathurst Quay at Queens Quay West
Neighbourhood: Harbourfront

The park serves as a memorial marking the spot where 38,000 Irish immigrants arrived in Toronto during the famine of 1847. Massive columns of Kilkenny limestone are engraved with the names of immigrants who died upon or shortly after arriving. This spot is a bit on the spooky side, especially at night, owing to the abandoned Canada Malting silos towering over the park and the eerie bronze statues by Rowan Gillespie that represent the arriving Irish, emaciated and on the verge of death.

Magicana: The Art of Magic



Based in Toronto, Magicana has been building a body of work for years that forwards and advances the art of magic. Many of the exhibits and films such as “The Devil’s Playthings” are curated online so you can enjoy them virtually. But the organization also sponsors events and performances around town. Starting in February 2020, the Art Gallery of Ontario will host an exhibit on the Golden Age of Magic.


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