If you’re in the Toronto area and looking to get yourself in the Halloween mood this week, the On-Foot app has a spectacularly spooky set of ghost tours that’ll chill you to the bone. Developer Pop Sandbox Productions has mixed ghost tales and AR technology, creating a highly immersive experience in the form of the On-Foot mobile app.
I have always had a deep fascination with the paranormal. Seeing Toronto has such a rich history, and no shortage of reported haunting, I leapt at the opportunity to discover what the app had to offer. On-Foot has taken those high-esteemed, recognized stories and packed them into four guided tours, utilizing the AR technology baked into your mobile device. The selection available included a Distillery Ghost Tour, taking you through the eastern area of the city, West Queen Ghost Tour, Downtown Ghost Tour, and Old Toronto Ghost Tour. I decided to choose the Downtown Ghost Tour, not only because it was convenient for my locations, but Toronto’s downtown core has so much original architecture standing, I knew there had to be fascinating stories behind them.
The guided tour took me through 13 locations, all within a reasonable distance. The app itself suggests you bring a pair of headphones and I can attest, that you should indeed come prepared. If you’re unable to use headphones or choose not to, all stories have a text version, which you can read through at your leisure. Seeing as though the app capitalizes on the haunting and creepy, it’s best to venture the streets during the evening or night to intensify that immersive experience. It’s worth noting that while you can do the tour on your own, I do encourage users to pair up or make it a group event. Talking about the stories and interacting with the AR components is a lot more fun with a group of people.
My tour began at the infamously haunted Mackenzie House. The narration of each story is incredibly insightful and descriptive. As this is a self-guided tour through an app, the speed and quickness of the entire tour are evenly paced. On-Foot indicates most of the tours to last around 90 minutes. I think that’s a bit generous. The Downtown Ghost Tour took my group roughly an hour. If you’re taking your time to walk between destinations and find yourself really diving into the supplemental photo galleries, that runtime could be extended to reach the proposed 90 minutes.
The hook of the experience outside of the narration is the AR component. Using an Apple or Android device capable of using AR, you’re able to bring up a menu that will allow you to place a spooky apparition on your screen. You can then take a picture of it and share it, or gaze upon the hair-raising entity as you listen in on the narrative. I found the AR component a bit finicky. The brightness in your surrounds can impact the effectiveness of scanning the ground. The scale of the apparition could appear too large or too small on occasion.
Otherwise, I think it’s a really thoughtful take of incorporating AR technology into the division historic tours. Many museums and attractions will offer attendees the use of pre-recorded guides to give consumers a chance to explore and learn at their own pace. Seeing as the ghost tours take place outside and incorporate various venues, the ability to have the tour on your personal device and use AR tech to amplify the experience is a really nice touch. Due to the number of historical locations incorporated in the tours, you’ll often find that you’re unable to explore the interiors of the location. On-Foot took that into consideration and applied 360-degree photographs of the various venues as part of the virtual tour.
Toronto is an ever-changing city. Many structures have retained their original foundation, while some exteriors have changed and some have been taken down over the years. On-Foot includes a pretty substantial image gallery of the various locations that include photographs taken over a hundred years ago. The Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre, for instance, is still operational, but had changed its name from Loew’s Theatre and has seen major facelifts since opening in 1913. Illustrator Nick Marinkovich highlights many details through the use of haunting black and white drawings, incorporated throughout the tour as well.
I was fascinated by the history and tales involved in my On-Foot experience. Having been on another ghost tour during the Halloween season a few years ago, I did stumble upon a few repeats, but it didn’t detract from the experience. Truth be told, I actually prefer this method of storytelling as I was able to block out distractions and go at my own pace.
You can find the On-Foot app on the App Store and Google Play. The app does have the Old Toronto tour and a supplemental, graffiti-centric tour available for free. The remaining tours each cost between $1.99 and $5.99 CAD.
[A promotional code for the app was provided for preview purposes.]