The balcony overlooking the old Museum entrance. Currelly’s office is on the right.

Waiting for Currelly

“I have a complaint.”

It was 7:08 in the morning, and I had spent the last 17 hours at the Museum for our latest sleepover. The lights had just completed their slow fade to brightness and my eyes were still adjusting. Hearing this statement before I had even completed my “good mornings” raised my anxiety level dramatically. I was not prepared.

“I have a complaint,” she repeated, “this is our sixth sleepover and I still haven’t seen Currelly.”

“Wait, wha…” and then it clicked and a wave of relief drifted over me.

“The ghost of Currelly!” She continued, “You think after all of these years we would have seen him walk past.”

***

During life, Charles Trick Currelly was known as a man who loved the Museum. He had championed the creation of it, and roamed the world’s great archaeological sites to bring the ages home and build a new collection. As the first director in 1914, Currelly oversaw several great expansions of the Museum and created the basis of what we see today.

Currelly’s love of the Museum went so far as to put his office overtop the Museum’s beautiful rotunda entrance so he could watch his staff and visitors interact with his galleries. Currelly worked tirelessly for his new institution, staying late into the night- often enough that he had a cot installed in his office and a pair of pyjamas always available. With his tasks complete, Currelly would don his night coat, turn up his radio, leave his office door wide, and walk his galleries lit by nothing but moon light. Currelly loved his Museum.

Retiring in 1946 and dying 11 years later, Currelly’s presence did not diminish- the old European amour room was renamed the Currelly Gallery in his honour. But more importantly, Currelly seemed to move right back into his old habits. Reports of a man in pyjamas wandering the galleries at night, and the sound of music floating through the evening air became common. Visitors would report seeing a man leaning over the balcony of the Rotunda, or walking across it, even though access to the space had been removed..

In the early 1990s, Gayle Gibson, one of the Museum’s most famous teachers and Egyptologists, was startled by a man in pyjamas strolling past her office one night. Speaking of it to one of her coworkers later, he replied “oh that’s just Currelly, checking up on us.”

Not only is Currelly known by Museum staff for haunting the building, but also by the rest of the city. He would go on to become one Toronto’s most well-known spirits, referenced in books, and highlighting ghost walks of the city.

Even in death Currelly would not leave behind the museum he loved so much.

***

This was the family’s last shot at glimpsing Currelly. Over the previous years they had set up their sleeping bags in the middle of the Currelly Gallery. With her kids too old to attend a sleepover again, she had held hope that on their last visit they would see the first director.

“You tell all these stories at the Sleepover but never tell the story of Currelly. Why?”

“I’ve certainly thought about it but I don’t wanna scare anyone with ghost stories before they go to sleep here.”

“Maybe you should. People need to know how much he loved this place.”