Thursday, October 27, 2011

Growing Up in Toronto: The Mad Hatter

"When people who grew up in Toronto in the ’80s talk about their childhoods, one thing inevitably comes up: The Mad Hatter. “Did you go there? Was it real?” And when people who were not children in 1980s Toronto overhear us talking about the place, they always think we’re making it up. Yet even those of us who went to parties at The Mad Hatter wonder if it wasn’t actually some collective hallucination."

via The Grid

I read a Grid article this morning called "Down the Rabbit Hole" on The Mad Hatter, a birthday-party venue in North Toronto that was... for lack of a better word... dismal. Have you read it? If not, do yourself a favour. It's written by Sheila Heti, who is probably Toronto's best current author, and it's made up almost entirely of quotes from people our age who went there and remember it better than I do. It's so, so funny.

As soon as I saw the bizarre, ominous mural that adorned this place, something clicked inside me. This vivid memory came into my consciousness that I hadn't thought about for years, and I really hoped that I wasn't just making it up, influenced by the article and jealous of the experiences I'd read about.

I was in a dark room with at least 10 other kids and there was a strobe light on. I remember this really well because that was my first experience with the in-out-out of vision strobe effect that I still get whenever I'm high. The door was locked from the outside and we couldn't get out. There was a huge pillow fight going on. I was not having fun—in fact I was terrified. Someone hit me in the face with a pillow, and I tasted blood. I remember wondering if I was going to die. This was probably also my first experience with anxiety.

I emailed my childhood best friend with this memory and a link to the article, and she confirmed not only that we were there but that it was her birthday party. They fed us boiled hotdogs on lunch trays (though, to be fair, this probably happened at the Bathurst Bowlerama as well) and a chocolate McCain's cake.

According to the article this place closed in the early '90s, which must have made me under the age of 5 when I was there. Does anyone else remember this place? I am fascinated and would love to hear more stories.


  1. holy crap, that place sounds like my nightmare. do not want, guys. do. not. want.

  2. It was an absolute nightmare! I totally agree with the guy who said, "I’m stunned nobody was killed. I’m stunned no one was sued."

  3. This place sounds horrible! I can't believe it went on for as long as it did.


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