Abandoned places make excellent settings for books. Personally, I like them for a couple of reasons: It automatically sets a tone, usually an ominous one. There is room for creative freedom in describing the setting. There aren’t any unnecessary bystanders to get in the way of the action. There are lots of ways to use abandoned places, and they are used frequently. It could be a building, an empty field, or even an entire city. The possibilities are abounding.
Even more interesting is that there are people who explore these abandoned places for fun, who are often referred to as Urban Explorers. Some people might call this breaking and entering, but that depends on where you are and how you look at it. Either way, it brings to light many of the fables that lie within the walls of these abandoned places through blogs, websites and social media.
Since Demons at the Doorstep is a story based in the real world, I wanted to use a real place when the characters enter an abandoned setting. That was when I stumbled upon St. James Church. This is a church that, at one time, was abandoned and left to ruin in Toronto, Ontario. Like many of the best abandoned places, it comes with a history.
Supposedly, there was a researcher from the University of Toronto who used to volunteer as an accountant for the church. In what could be a huge coincidence, the church happened to catch fire on the same day that the researcher disappeared. In addition to his disappearance, his research files on a potential ‘big break-through’ were missing and his partner was found dead on one of the cadaver slabs. To make things a little bit more interesting, the church’s funds were discovered to be fake when the church was demolished a few years later. The researcher himself eventually was found, dead in an apparent car accident near the Scarborough bluffs.
Now, take this story with a grain of salt. There are limited resources on this urban legend, and there is no way of telling if there is any truth to the story. Like many abandoned places, however, it is a story that seems to have gotten around. It’s no Alcatraz, but many buildings carry interesting, if not spooky, historical stories within their walls. Those histories serve as inspiration for new stories, and the legends are passed on in many different forms.
The legend of Christ Church St. James doesn't have a role in Demons at the Doorstep, but I was very excited to be able to base the token abandoned place on a real location. While the church may not stand anymore, the story behind it still does