The Festival of Bizarre Toronto History

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The Festival of Bizarre Toronto History

Strange history for curious people — a week of online lectures, Zoom panels and walking tours by some of Toronto's greatest storytellers

By Adam Bunch

When and where

Date and time

April 3 · 5pm - April 9 · 12pm PDT



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About this event

  • 5 days 19 hours
  • Mobile eTicket

The Festival of Bizarre Toronto History is dedicated to exploring strange stories from our city's past — a week filled with online lectures, panels, interviews, and walking tours featuring some of Toronto's greatest storytellers.

We’ll spend seven days digging into the weirdest tales our city has to offer, whether it's the peculiar story of how Toronto’s founding dog nearly got eaten, the mysterious disappearance of a famous millionaire, or the ridiculous regulations that sparked a war over an iconic culinary delight.

The Schedule

The festival takes place April 3–9.

From Monday to Friday, there will be a nightly lecture or panel. They'll happen over Zoom, and will all be recorded so you can watch them whenever you like.

Then on the weekend, we’ll head out into the city for a couple of very strange walking tours.

Here's the full schedule so far...

The Mysterious Disappearance of Ambrose Small (Monday, April 3)

A little more than 100 years ago, a celebrated theatre mogul sold off his empire, deposited a cheque for a million dollars, and then vanished off the face of the earth. We'll kick off The Festival of Bizarre Toronto History by searching for clues into one of the city's greatest mysteries with two of the leading experts on the case.

Katie Daubs is a journalist with The Toronto Star and the author of The Missing Millionaire, a finalist for The Toronto Book Award in 2020. Geordie Telfer is the creator of the Hogtown Empire podcast and the author of Hogtown Empire: The Disappearance of Ambrose Small.

— 8pm on Zoom —

Fighting The Patty Wars (Wednesday, April 5)

In the winter of 1985, the Canadian government took aim at Jamaican patty vendors. The owners were threatened with massive fines if they kept calling their patties "patties" — an absurd campaign that would become known as The Patty Wars. The vendors fought back, led by the Kensington Patty Palace's Michael Davidson, fighting for a comprise that is still celebrated in Toronto every year with own very own Jamaican Patty Day.

I'm incredibly excited to have Davidson joining us to talk about his own memories of the patty wars — along with Chris Strikes, the director of the wonderful documentary that has helped popularize the story, Patty Vs. Patty, which is nominated for Best Short Documentary at this year's Canadian Screen Awards!

— 8pm on Zoom —

The Toronto Circus Riot (Friday, April 7)

A true tale of sex, violence, corruption and clowns. The strangest riot in Toronto history broke out in the summer of 1855, sparked by a brawl at a King Street brothel. When some rowdy clowns picked a fight with a battle-hardened crew of firefighters, they would quickly learn they'd made a terrible mistake. The circus performers found themselves facing off against Toronto's powerful Orange Order in a bloody clash that revealed the fault lines that once violently divided our city.

The talk will be presented by Adam Bunch, author of The Toronto Book of the Dead and The Toronto Book of Love, the host of the Canadiana documentary series, and the creator of the Festival of Bizarre Toronto History.

— 8pm on Zoom —

A Bizarre Tour of Mount Pleasant Cemetery (Saturday, April 8)

There are strange secrets hidden among the gravestones of Mount Pleasant Cemetery. We'll spend the Saturday afternoon of the festival roaming among them with one of the city's most riveting tour guides. We'll dig up tales about everything from the prime minister who spoke with the dead to grisly murders and infamous disasters in a fascinating walk led by Chantal Morris, creator of the wildly popular Toronto Cemetery Tours.

— 2pm —

A Tour of Weird Queen West (Sunday, April 9)

Queen Street is one of our city's most iconic thoroughfares, and over the centuries it's been home to some truly odd tales. We'll bring the festival to a close with a walking tour dedicated to hunting down those strange stories, from the folk music legend who claimed his wife was possessed by a demon, to the subterranean relics of a bygone age. And what better way to end the week than by visiting a spectacular mural dedicated to some of Toronto's most recent bizarre history.

The tour will be led by Jason Kucherawy (president of the Tourist Guide Association of Toronto and owner of Tour Guys, Canada's leading walking tour company) and Adam Bunch (author of The Toronto Book of the Dead and The Toronto Book of Love, host of the Canadiana documentary series and creator of the festival).


One ticket gets you into all the events, including the weekend walking tours.

You'll be sent a Zoom link before the festival begins so you can attend all the online lectures, panels and interviews.

And once the festival starts, you'll be sent a link to a private YouTube playlist so you can watch the recordings of all the online events whenever you like — in case you can't watch them live.

Who We Are

The festival is organized by Adam Bunch, author of The Toronto Book of the Dead and The Toronto Book of Love, host of the Canadiana documentary series, and creator of The Toronto History Weekly newsletter.


You can find more information about the Festival of Bizarre Toronto History at:

And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

About the organizer

Organized by
Adam Bunch