Custodians of a Ghostly Campus Legacy
A pair of talented stonemasons with a murderous feud gave Toronto’s oldest university its hauntingly intricate architecture—and its first grisly ghost story. A century and a half later, late-night janitors report an abundance of eerie encounters.
It was 1856 when two stonemasons, the Russian, Ivan Reznikoff, and the Greek, Paul Diabolos, were hired to carve the delicate reliefs of University College, the Norman Romanesque building at the heart of the University of Toronto. Reznikoff was an enormous and imposing man, coarse and rugged. Diabolos, a slight and pale fellow, was described as “young, handsome, and of a subtle nature” by Douglas Richardson in “A Not Unsightly Building: University College and Its History.”
As the story goes, the relationship between the two carvers was acerbic, beset by acrimony, bile, and relentless chiseling, of every kind. Diabolos taunted Reznikoff by carving baboon-faced Gargoyles in his likeness. Reznikoff, the inferior carver, plodded on, drunkenly etching pocked and grotesque visages of his own.
Reznikoff, simple and hardworking, had carefully amassed a nest egg to start a life with his fiancé. Diabolos, however, loved the same woman, and through a series of trysts, he convinced her to elope, ta…