The Hilarious House of Frightenstien

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A fresh fall of snow overnight left us with white trees which are always beautiful, even as we look forward to getting some warm weather.  One of the great places to view something like this is the Doris McCarthy Trail in Scarborough.  This trail follows Gates Gully down the side of the Scarborough Bluffs and gives you access to the lake.  Just to the west of here a cottage is slowly slipping over the edge and it was time to have a look and see what was left of it.  I parked on Ravine Drive just off of Kingston Road and made way down the side of what was once Doris McCarthy’s property.


The ravine, like the Leslie Street Spit,  is a migratory route for over 100 species of birds but today there were only cardinals and a few robins.


At the bottom of the gully is a sculpture designed to look like the rib cage of a fish or canoe.  Perhaps it looks more like eye lashes from this angle.


The water in Lake Ontario was very calm as you look toward the east and the sunken wreckage of The Alexandria.


Belamy Ravine Creek drops 90 metres as it follows Gates Gully to the lake below.  In several places blocks of armour stone have been added to the creek bed to slow down erosion.  The Doris McCarthy Trail runs along the lake in both directions.  We turned to the west and crossed the creek and carried on along the beach.  The trail through here was very muddy and partially under water that was running off the bluffs in a few places.  I was glad for my winter boots, now serving as my mud boots.


Keep an eye on the top of the bluffs as you walk along.  Not only might you see some wildlife but you may also notice man made objects that are in the process of being sucked over the edge as the sand is carried away from underneath them.  Here a wall is being broken away, section by section.


On a previous visit only the top portion of this pipe stood out of the sand.  Since that time four more sections of corrugated steel pipe have been exposed.  I’m interested to see what is in there.


If you grew up in Ontario in the 1970’s you likely remember The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein.  The comedy show was aimed at children and featured short educational skits as well as comedy.  All 130 episodes were filmed at CHCH in Hamilton in 1971.  Toronto comedian Billy Van won the lead part as Count Frightenstein.  He also played eight other recurring characters and several minor ones.


Billy Van owned a cottage on lakefront property on the former McCowan estate which looked out from on top of the Scarborough Bluffs.  At one time this blue cottage sat a good distance back from the edge of the bluffs but by 2008 it was starting to fall over.  Most of the cottage has collapsed now and wood and doors fill a small ravine below the house.  Inside, the concrete blocks in the basement are exposed and have been cracked in several places.  Billy Van’s cottage is one of the last original homes along this stretch of the bluffs.  This is The (not so) Hilarious House Of Frightenstein.


Several times I heard the rumble of the sand as additional parts of the bluffs broke away in the ongoing erosion.  Ground water seeps out of the sand and flows across the beach carrying more of it away and destabilizing the rest.  In the picture below, a fresh slide has covered over last the fresh snow from last night.  A previous blog looked at the effects of weather and water on the bluffs and shoreline at the Cathedral Bluffs.


The full magnitude of the Scarborough Bluffs is a wonder to behold at any time of the year.  With the fresh snow on the trees above and the slopes below it was well worth the kilometre hike down the hill and back.  Geologists  around the globe recognize them as one of the most valuable records of glacial sedimentation available.  More of the geology of the Bluffs can be found in our story Sand Castles.


The fourteen kilometre stretch of bluffs will continue to be interesting for generations to come because of the change it represents and the constant reminder that we really don’t control everything.  Places where the shoreline has been hardened with armour stone or construction rubble only serve to separate the lake from the bluffs.  They continue to recede at their own pace anyway.


When we last visited this cottage in May 2016 for our post Gates Gully the walls were still standing at the back of the house.  Trevor Harris owned the cottage in 2002 at which time he was able to drive a lawn mover in front of it however the city decided that demolition was unsafe and made Harris fence the area off and post it.  Later that year he lost 10 feet of property in a single drop and it looks like one more event like that and the whole thing will be gone.


The escarpment is ever changing, even in places like this where there is a fairly wide beach and the water never impacts the base of the bluffs.  However, the Scarborough Bluffs were eroding for thousands of years before Elizabeth Simcoe named them on August 4, 1793.

Google Maps Link: Gates Gully

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9 thoughts on “The Hilarious House of Frightenstien

  1. Mitch Markowitz

    Kudos to the writer for posting this story. I am one of the producers who created Frightenstein and as such am always pleased to see Billy mentioned and his work on our show honoured.
    Thank you and best regards,
    Mitch Markowitz

    1. hikingthegta Post author

      It’s Super Hippy! And Kudos to you too Mitch for creating something special that is still enjoyed today.

    2. Annette

      I loved your show I was 8 when it aired. Looked forward to it every weekend. I was mesmerized by Vincent Price as a kid, I think it was his voice. That show was great and so where all the characters, thanks for the memories. Cheers

  2. S Dimitrakopoulos

    Well done article. Sad to see the little house at this stage of its existence, but many wonderful memories shared there.

  3. Pingback: The Scarborough Bluffs | Hiking the GTA

  4. Linda McNeil

    Hey Mitch.
    I grew up in South Etobicoke and loved everything about the show. However, the quirkiness and Vincent Price were the best!

  5. Pingback: Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails | Hiking the GTA

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