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10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

(That You Can Stay in Tonight!)

What comes to mind when you think about Canada?”

The Province of Ontario.

This question was the subject of a YouTube video I watched the other day in which Japanese students were asked to share their thoughts on the Great White North. Aside from general things like maple syrup, cold temperatures, and wilderness, the most common answers were “Toronto”, “Niagara Falls”, and “Justin Bieber”. All three of these (to my shame as a Western Canadian) are products of Ontario.

Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, with a view of Chateau Laurier in the background.

Indeed, the province of Ontario is one of Canada’s most popular destinations. This is true for international globetrotters and Canadian tourists alike. According to Tourism Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area hosted over 43.7 million visitors in 2017- a record high. And according to Statistics Canada, Ontario alone accounted for 44% of all overnight visits in Canada in 2016. Considering all the amazing attractions the Heartland Province has to offer, from Ottawa’s Rideau Canal to Toronto’s CN Tower, this is hardly surprising.

While Ontario certainly has a knack for attracting tourists, some say that its allure is so strong that some visitors refuse to leave, even in death. Like all regions with turbulent histories, Ontario has its fair share of haunted hotels. From eerie inns to mysterious motels, these creepy accommodations are said to be occupied by spectral guests who never truly checked out. So if you’re planning on visiting Ontario this summer, choose your lodgings wisely, or you might find yourself bunking with a roommate from the great beyond.

Without further ado, here are 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario, all of which you can stay in tonight… if you dare!

 

1. Chateau Laurier

Let’s begin our tour of Ontario’s haunted hotels in Ottawa, the Capital of Canada.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

The Chateau Laurier, one of the most luxurious of the haunted hotels in Ontario.

Stompin' Tom Connors, in 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

Canadian folksinger “Stompin'” Tom Connors.

Canada’s Capital Region has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these is the Grand Hotel, situated in the town of Carleton Place about 46 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa. This establishment was an old stomping ground (pun intended) of celebrated Canadian folksinger “Stompin’” Tom Connors. Some say that the sound of Tom’s cowboy boots thumping out a rhythm on his plywood “stompin’ board” still echoes throughout the corridors.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier

One of Ottawa’s most famous haunted hotels is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a magnificent French Gothic palace overlooking the Ottawa River. This five-star castle was named in honour of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, who helped secure the site of its construction.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

The Chateau Laurier.

Over the years, the Chateau Laurier has hosted a number of famous guests, from John Lennon to Princess Diana. Countless heads of state have stayed in the hotel during their diplomatic visits to Parliament Hill, a five minute walk across Plaza Bridge. The Chateau Laurier even served as the permanent residence of Canada’s eleventh Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett. The powerful men and women who have stayed there over years, coupled with its architectural resemblance to the nearby Parliament buildings, have earned the Chateau Laurier the nickname “the third Chamber of Parliament” (the other two being the House of Commons and the House of Lords). In a skit celebrating the Chateau’s 100th anniversary in 2012, Canadian comedian Rick Mercer quipped, “I would guess more has been accomplished in the bar of this hotel than in the Parliament building.”

The Chateau Laurier. Image courtesy of Michelle. If you’d like to see more of Michelle’s photos, check out @Adventure_Dreamer on Instagram.

A Little History

Charles Melville Hays

The Chateau Laurier is said to be haunted by the ghost of Charles Melville Hays, the man who commissioned it in the early 1900’s. Hays was the president of the Grand Trunk Railway, a Montreal-based railway system which connected Eastern Canada with New England.

Canada’s Railroad Era

In the early 1900’s, settlers from all over Europe flocked to Canada to settle the Prairie Provinces. In those days, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and much of Manitoba were sparsely populated. Canada’s federal government hoped to fill this vast and wild domain with farmers and ranchers in order to discourage the United States from invading it. Accordingly, they marketed the Canadian Prairies to prospective homesteaders as the “Last Best West”.

The Canadian Pacific Railway’s “Last Spike”.

Settlement of the Canadian interior was made possible by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. European navvies and Chinese “coolies” built this enormous thoroughfare over the plains and blasted it through the mountains back in the 1880’s. The Canadian Pacific Railway effectively bridged Eastern Canada with British Columbia, allowing for a united Canada that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, the Canadian Northern Railway built the second trans-Canada railway. This line connected Quebec City with Vancouver.

The Third Trans-Canadian Railway

Charles Melville Hays dreamed of constructing a third transcontinental railway across Canada. With the help of Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, he eventually succeeded in extending the Grand Trunk Railway from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Prince Rupert, BC. This more northerly transcontinental railroad crossed the Rocky Mountains via the Yellowhead Pass, running through what is now Jasper National Park. Construction of this so-called “Grand Trunk Pacific Railway” commenced in 1905.

The Grand Railway Hotels

The Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta.

Decades earlier, the Grand Trunk’s main rivals built several luxury hotels, like the Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise, to serve their passengers. These so-called “grand railway hotels” succeeded not only in increasing the railroad traffic, but also in attracting wealthy European tourists. Following his rivals’ lead, Charles Melville Hays arranged for the construction of his own railway hotel, the Chateau Laurier.

 

The Death of Charles Melville Hays

After four years of construction, the Chateau Laurier was complete. Hays scheduled its grand opening to the public on April 26, 1912. About a month before the ceremony, the railway tycoon made a business trip to London, England. There, he attended several meetings in the Grand Trunk Railway’s head office.

Charles Melville Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway

The RMS Titanic.

Of course, Hays fully intended to return to Canada in time for his hotel’s grand opening. He wouldn’t miss it for the world. Hoping to arrive in style, he booked passage aboard an enormous new ocean liner. This magnificent craft was the largest and most luxurious ship on earth at the time. Hays, his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, his secretary, and his maid all shared a deluxe suite on the steamship’s upper deck as the RMS Titanic set out on its maiden voyage.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg about 600 kilometres south of Newfoundland. Much to the passengers’ astonishment, this seagoing colossus began to sink. In accordance with the “women and children first” protocol, a British maritime code of conduct, Hays and his male comrades chivalrously escorted their female companions into one of the Titanic’s twenty lifeboats. The gentleman remained on the sinking ship, assuring the ladies that there was plenty of time for everyone else on board to be rescued.

The sinking of the Titanic.

Tragically, Charles Melville Hays, his son-in-law, and his secretary perished that night in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. They were joined by more than 1,500 other passengers, who similarly met their ends in the icy waters. A ship called the Minia recovered Hays’ body several days later, and the railwayman’s corpse was buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

The Ghost of Charles Hays

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario.

The headmen of the Grand Trunk Railway postponed the grand opening of the Chateau Laurier to June 12, 1912, on account of Hays’ untimely death. Although the railwayman never made it to the ceremony, some say that he attended in spirit. Furthermore, a number of strange occurrences experienced by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest that Hays’ spirit still lingers in the halls of the Chateau Laurier to this very day.

Spooky Happenings

Some guests who have stayed at the Chateau Laurier claim to have felt a mysterious presence in the corridors when no one else was around.

A hallway at the Chateau Laurier. Photo courtesy of Emma Campbell. To see more of Emma’s photos, check out @Em.M.Campbell on Instagram.

One lady claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that someone was sitting on her bed. When she looked to see who it was, she found herself alone in the room.

Another woman claimed to have felt a phantom hand caressing her arm and shoulder in the bathroom of her suite. Later that night, while removing makeup in front of a large mirror, something caught her eye in the mirror’s reflection. The woman watched in horror as the closet door behind her slowly swung open on its own.

Patrick Watson’s Experience

One of the most famous spooky tales to come out of the Chateau Laurier is the experience of Patrick Watson, former chairman of the CBC (a major Canadian media company). One night in the 1980’s, while staying in one of the hotel suites, Watson awoke to a sharp crack which seemed to come from the middle of the room. Fearing that a gunman had entered his suite, Watson quietly slipped out of bed and prepared to confront the intruder. To his bewilderment, he found that the source of the sound came from a heavy glass ashtray which had inexplicably split in two.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

The lobby of the Chateau Laurier. Photo courtesy of Paul Creighton. To see more of Paul’s photos, check out @PDCreighton on Instagram.

The following night, Watson woke with a start, this time roused by a loud crash in the bathroom. His heart hammering in his chest, the media man crept over to investigate. To his surprise, he discovered that his metal shaving kit had somehow leapt from behind the sink faucet, where he had wedged it before going to bed, to the floor on the other end of the bathroom.

Watson described his creepy experience in a letter to Joan E. Rankin, author of the book Meet Me at the Chateau. “Both of these events,” he wrote, “though trivial, were inexplicable and left me quite shaken. I will never forget them.”

 

2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

Another older haunted hotel in Ottawa is the Ottawa Jail Hostel, a fortress of stone and iron which once served as the city’s main prison. Here, patrons can spend their nights in cells once occupied by thieves, murderers, and madmen. Some say that the anguished souls of bygone criminals still serve time there, carrying out their sentences from beyond the grave.

The Ottawa Jail Hostel.

Back when it was employed as a maximum security prison, the Ottawa Jail was notorious for its nightmarish living conditions. Petty offenders shared cells with hardened criminals. Cruel guards murdered prisoners they didn’t like. Tortured shrieks issued from dark, isolated oubliettes where dissidents spent months in solitary confinement, spread-eagled and chained to the floor. Considering all the suffering and death that has taken place there over the years, it is no surprise that the Ottawa Jail Hostel is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Canada.

Ghostly Criminals

A prison cell in the Ottawa Jail Hostel.

As might be expected, some of the ghosts of the Ottawa Jail are said to be far from friendly. Ghostly thieves are known to steal guests’ belongings from time to time. Staff members have reported being slapped by invisible hands. One employee even lost several of her fingers when a heavy steel door suddenly and inexplicably slammed shut on her hand.

The Tunnel

Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the sanitation situation in the Ottawa Jail was appalling, and disease ran rampant through its wings. Infected prisoners were often left to die in the Quarantine Room beside the kitchen. After they passed away, their bodies were wrapped in sheets and incinerated or buried in mass graves on prison property. Some say that on quiet nights, the howls of these tormented souls echo throughout an underground tunnel connecting the prison with the courtyard, though which their bodies passed en route to their final resting place.

The Secret Staircase

The Ottawa Jail Hostel.

Another supposedly haunted section of the Ottawa Jail is a stairway known as the “secret staircase”, which connected the prison with the home of the jail’s governor. Every once in a while, prisoners would leap to their deaths in this stairwell, preferring death to the medieval horrors of the Ottawa Jail. And in 1910, a particular group of prisoners is said to have heaved their guard over the stairwell’s railings, sending him plummeting to his death.

As a result of the violent deaths that occurred there, the secret staircase is purportedly the dwelling place of a number of restless spirits. One of these is a “vampire ghost” said to feed on the sick. This bizarre legend has its origins in a cryptic inscription found on the stairwell during renovations in 1972. The inscription reads:

“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the ninth floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”

The 9th Floor

The Ottawa Jail Hostel.

The ninth floor of the Ottawa Jail once housed the innocent wives and children of debtors who were unable to pay their dues. Guests staying on this floor today sometimes report hearing the muffled cries of children and the wailing of women in the middle of the night.

Every once in a while, visitors to the Ottawa Jail report seeing the apparition of a ghostly woman who sometimes appears wearing a hood. One tourist captured the ghostly reflection of a woman’s face in the glass of a display case with her camera. The apparition appears to be standing right beside the photographer.

Female prisoners of the Ottawa Jail.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

Patrick James Whelan.

One of the Ottawa Jail Hostel’s most famous permanent residents is said to be the spirit of Patrick James Whelan, an Irishman accused of assassinating Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a Father of Canadian Confederation.

Patrick James Whelan was born in the city of Galway on the Emerald Isle in around 1840. A tailor by trade, he came to North America when he was about 25 years old. Whelan worked various jobs in Quebec City, Buffalo, Hamilton, and Montreal, leading a somewhat transient lifestyle. Eventually, he settled in Ottawa, where he married an upper class woman thirty years his senior.

The Fenian Brotherhood

Throughout the mid 1800’s, much of the world was embroiled in a series of violent political revolutions, from the February Revolution in France to the bloody Taiping Rebellion in China. Ireland, whose Gaelic nationalists had resisted English rule for three hundred years, was by no means immune to this trend.

Many patriotic Irishmen in both the Old Country and the New World yearned for a sovereign Irish republic

The 1866 Battle of Ridgeway- a Fenian raid in Ontario.

independent of British rule. This sentiment led to a political movement known as the Fenian Rising.

In the United States, supporters of the Fenian movement formed an organization called the Fenian Brotherhood. In 1866, this Irish republican militia launched three raids on British Army forts in Canada, hoping to blackmail Great Britain into giving Ireland independence. All of these Fenian raids ultimately ended in failure.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee

One prominent political figure during this turbulent time was an Irish-Canadian immigrant named Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

In his younger years, McGee had been an Irish republican rebel. Despising British rule in Ireland, he struggled to foment a peasant revolution from which an independent Irish republic might emerge. After partaking in a failed rebellion in 1848, McGee fled to the United States, a republic that he admired greatly. McGee founded several of his own newspapers in New York City, Boston, and Buffalo, in which he wrote in favour of American expansionism and expressed his desire to see the United States absorb Canada.

Over time, life in the United States completely changed McGee’s opinions regarding democracy and republicanism. As a staunch Irish Catholic, he became especially disenchanted with Protestant America’s general disdain for Catholicism. Although British Canada was largely Protestant as well, McGee felt that it exercised significantly more tolerance towards the French and Irish Catholics under its rule. In 1857, he left the United States for Montreal, where he began to encourage Canadian devotion to the British Empire.

The Shooting

A statue of Thomas D’Arcy McGee on Parliament Hill.

In Canada, Thomas D’Arcy McGee involved himself in politics and eventually gained a significant following. He denounced the Fenian cause that he has once adhered to, and encouraged both Canada and Ireland to adopt a model of self-government within the framework of the British Empire. His speeches earned him enemies among many Irish republican radicals in Canada and the United States, who considered him a traitor to the cause.

On April 7, 1868, nearly a year after Canadian Confederation, McGee participated in a long parliamentary debate on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill which dragged on into the night. When the debate was finally finished, McGee walked back to his hotel, puffing on a cigar as he went. Just as he was about to enter the gates of the boarding house, a shot rang out from inside. McGee lurched backwards and collapsed onto the street, his jaw shattered by a .32 calibre bullet. The impact of the shot tore open the Irishman’s jugular, and Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dead within moments.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Following McGee’s assassination, Dominion Police officers arrested forty Irish-Canadians suspected of Fenian allegiance. One of these was Patrick James Whelan. Whelan had a .32 Smith & Wesson pistol on his person, each of its six chambers loaded. On April 9, the 28-year-old Irishman was considered the prime suspect in the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and charged with murder.

Whelan’s subsequent trial is considered by many to have been gravely unfair. With only circumstantial evidence against him, Whelan was ultimately convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, he proclaimed “I am held to be a murderer. I am here, standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed… I never took that man’s blood.”

The scaffold at the Ottawa Jail, upon which Patrick J. Whelan was hanged.

After the trial, Whelan was confined in a cell in the top floor of the Ottawa Jail- the prison’s death row. For ten months, he awaited his execution. All the while, he persistently and vehemently insisted that he was innocent. Whelan appealed his conviction twice, but to no avail.

On February 11, 1869, Patrick J. Whelan received his last rites and bravely mounted the scaffold at the Ottawa Jail before 5,000 witnesses. After proclaiming his innocence one last time, he said, “I humbly ask forgiveness of any to whom I may have done harm, and I forgive all those who have wronged me. God save Ireland, and God save my soul.” On these words, Patrick J. Whelan was hanged. His body was later buried in an unmarked grave on prison property- according to legend, with the hangman’s noose still around his neck.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

Legend has it that the spirit of Patrick James Whelan still haunts the Ottawa Jail Hostel to this very day, unable to rest without a proper Catholic burial. It is said that Whelan’s ghost sometimes appears to guests at night, walking straight through their cells with a Bible in his hand before vanishing before their eyes. Although the hotel is well-heated, the prison’s death row, where Whelan spent his final months, is always cold.

 

3. Hochelaga Inn

If you drive about two hours southwest of Ottawa, you’ll come to the city of Kingston, situated on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario near the head of the St. Lawrence River. Site of the tragic fire of 1840 and the birthplace of the Tragically Hip, Kingston is a place where, as reflected by the city motto, “history and innovation thrive.”

In the heart of this historic city, a hop, skip, and a jump from both the waterfront and Queen’s University, sits the historic Hochelaga Inn. Although hotel management denies that the Hochelaga is haunted, a couple of stories told by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest otherwise.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

The Hochelaga Inn in Kingston, Ontario. Image courtesy of Iris van Loon. If you’d like to see more of Iris’ photos, please check out @IrisZZ1 on Instagram.

A prominent local lawyer named John McIntyre built this elegant Victorian mansion in 1879. McIntyre studied law with Canada’s First Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, to whom he was related by marriage.

Following the death of McIntyre’s wife, Harriet, in 1903, John sold the property to the Bank of Montreal’s Hochelaga Foundation. In 1933, the Foundation sold the building to a local landlord, who converted it into an apartment complex. Fifty two years later, the building’s owners converted it into a bed and breakfast.

The front entrance of Kingston’s haunted Hochelaga Inn, courtesy of Chrissie Allison Hart. If you’d like to see more of Chrissie’s photos, please check out @Chrissie.Allison.Hart on Instagram.

The Woman in Black

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

The Hochelaga Inn, some say, is haunted by the ghost of an elderly woman wearing a black, Victorian-style dress. This phantom’s favourite haunt is said to be a chair by the hotel’s front window, in which guests can see her from time to time. This ghost is purportedly inclined to play with the fire alarms, throw objects across hotel rooms, turn the television on to scare the housekeepers, and sing lullabies in the night.

One patron who was unaware of the hotel’s haunted reputation rented a room in the basement of the Hochelaga Inn. While the innkeeper led her and her husband to the room, she quipped that they were being relegated to the “haunted basement”. “The innkeeper propped the door open,” she wrote in a review, “so [that] we could look at the room… Just as we thought we would take it, someone or something pulled the door shut in front of my very eyes.” The woman and her husband did not relish the prospect of sharing the suite with an ethereal roommate, and decided to stay somewhere else that night.

The Woman and her Daughters

The Hochelaga Inn. Image courtesy of Cindy Bolton. To see more of Cindy’s photos, please check out @19CinBolt19 on Instagram.

Another spooky story from the Hochelaga Inn took place in the summer of 2005.

One evening, a woman and her two teenage daughters checked into the hotel. They decided to stay in a two-bedroom suite, each bedroom separated from the other by a door. The mother stayed in one of the  bedrooms, while the girls shared a bed in the other.

Later that night, the woman woke up to find one of her daughters standing at the foot of her bed. “We have to get out of here right away,” the girl said.

The groggy mother assured her daughter that everything was alright, and urged her to go back to sleep. Without another sound, the girl turned around and walked back to her own room. As she drifted off to sleep, the woman vaguely wondered as to the cause for her daughter’s nocturnal visit. The girl must have been frightened, she reasoned, as she left the door between their rooms ajar.

No sooner had she fallen asleep than the woman woke up a second time, hearing quiet laughter at the foot of her bed. Yawning, she told her daughter to go back to bed, and to leave her be.

The Hochelaga Inn of Kingston, Ontario. Image courtesy of Winnie. If you’d like to see more of Winnie’s photos, please check out @WinnieOrElse on Instagram.

The Next Morning

The following morning, the woman noticed that the door separating her room from her daughters’ was closed. Even more curiously, she had to apply an unusual amount of force to open it, as if someone was holding it shut from the other side.

The woman asked her daughters why they had come into her room the previous night. Confused, both girls insisted that they had remained in bed all night long. With a chill running down her spine, the woman realized that the figure that had stood at the foot of her bed appeared as a black shadow, and that she hadn’t been able to make out any of its features in the darkness.

The Hochelaga Inn. Image courtesy of Instagrammer @Melabell .

 

4. Brockamour Manor

Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario

On the opposite end of Lake Ontario is the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, the historic capital of Upper Canada. Over the centuries, this site at the mouth of the Niagara River has witnessed a native genocide, two intercolonial battles, and a town-wide razing. Considering its rich and violent history, it is perhaps not so surprising that Niagara-On-The-Lake is considered by many to be the most haunted town in the country.

As might be expected of Canada’s most haunted town, Niagara-On-The-Lake has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these haunted hotels in Ontario is Brockamour Manor, one of the oldest residences in town. Today, this 19th Century home functions as a charming bed and breakfast.

 

Brockamour Manor in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Photo courtesy of Linda Kelly. If you’d like to see more of Linda’s photos, please check out @IAmLindaKelly on Instagram.

In order to fully appreciate the story behind the ghost of Brockamour Manor, a little historical context is required.

The War of 1812

The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, a catalyst for the War of 1812.

In the early 1800’s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British Royal Navy stationed several warships off the coast of New England. They hoped to prevent Napoleon’s France from trading with the United States. Many disaffected British sailors aboard these ships deserted their posts and defected to the United States. In order to replenish their ranks, British Naval crews impressed American sailors into service. Unsurprisingly, many of their new Shanghaied recruits similarly abandoned their posts and fled to America.

In the summer of 1807, the British Royal Navy decided to bring some of their deserters to justice. Accordingly, the crew of a particular British ship attacked and boarded an American frigate called the USS Chesapeake, on which a number of British expatriates served. Outraged at Britain’s lack of respect for American sovereignty, the United States declared war on Great Britain and prepared to invade Canadian territory. And thus the War of 1812 began.

Major-General Isaac Brock

Major-General Isaac Brock.

At that time, the British Army in Upper Canada (a British province skirting the northern shores of the Great Lakes) fell under the command a daring officer named Isaac Brock. Popular opinion at that time held that Canada would easily fall to the Americans in the upcoming war. Nevertheless, Brock was determined to do all he could to repulse the Yankee invaders. He bolstered fortifications in Quebec City, built a navy for the Great Lakes, and made a military alliance with Chief Tecumseh, the leader of a powerful Indian confederacy from the Great Lakes region.

In mid-August, 1812, Brock and Tecumseh laid siege to Detroit- at that time, an American fort situated across the Detroit River from the British settlement of Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario). By intimidating the enemy commander, they succeeded in capturing Detroit with very little bloodshed. Their stunning victory earned Brock a knighthood, as well as the nickname ‘The Hero of Canada’.

The Romance of Sir Isaac Brock and Sophia Shaw

Fort George, in Niagara-On-The-Lake

In those days, a palisaded military complex called Fort George served as the headquarters of the British Army in Canada. Fort George stood near the mouth of the Niagara River, near Newark (present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake), the former provincial capital (The town of York (present-day Toronto) served as the capital of Upper Canada after 1796). Accordingly, duty demanded that Sir Isaac Brock spend a considerable amount of time there.

According to legend, Brock fell in love with Sophia Shaw, the beautiful daughter of fellow Major-General Aeneas Shaw, an officer of the Canadian Militia. Eventually, he asked the general for his daughter’s hand. To his dismay, Shaw refused. Although Brock was a decorated military commander, Shaw, for whatever reason, did not consider him an appropriate match for his daughter.

Brockamour Manor. Photo courtesy of Jody-Ann Rowe and James Bridgeman. To see more of Jody-Ann and James’ photos, check out @JodyAnnRowe and @Jamzerino on Instagram.

Despite this setback, Brock continued to see Sophia in secret. More often than not, the couple met at the home of Sophia’s sister, Isabella. Isabella was married to Captain John Powell, an officer stationed at Fort George who had built his home a short distance from the garrison back in 1809. Whenever Brock’s duties allowed him some R&R in the Fort George area, the Powell family home was the site of many a happy rendezvous. Eventually, Major-General Brock proposed to his sweetheart, and the two became secretly engaged.

October 13, 1812

In the early morning hours of October 13, 1812, Isaac Brock awoke in his quarters at Fort George to the thunder of distant cannons. He quickly slipped on his field uniform, supplementing it with the red sash that Tecumseh had gifted him as a token of friendship, and ordered a detachment to investigate the commotion. Brock was a man of action, however, and would not content himself by waiting for the detachment’s report. The officer mounted his horse and rode south to assess the situation himself.

Legend has it that, shortly after leaving the fort, Brock made a quick visit to Captain John Powell’s house in order to see his beloved Sophia. His betrothed served him a ‘stirrup cup’ of tea and bid him a fond farewell. Sophia waved her handkerchief at the general as he galloped off towards the sounds of battle. The couple would never meet again… at least, not in this life.

The Brockamour Manor. Photo courtesy of Michelle Reid. If you’d like to see more of Michelle’s photos, please check out @Chelli_D on Instagram.

The Battle of Queenston Heights

The Battle of Queenston Heights.

After a brief ride, Isaac Brock discovered a small group of British infantrymen huddled at the foot of an escarpment known as Queenston Heights. The redcoats informed the Major-General that the long-awaited American invaders had finally arrived, and that several thousand Yankee soldiers were making their way across the Niagara River. Despite British resistance, the first wave of U.S. troops had captured a British artillery battery atop Queenston Heights.

Brock immediately sent word to Fort George for reinforcements. Rather than wait for the reinforcements to arrive, however, he decided to storm the strategically-important battery. Drawing his sabre, he led the charge uphill towards Queenston Heights.

The death of Sir Isaac Brock.

During the ascent, Isaac Brock took an American musketball to the chest. The celebrated Hero of Canada died almost instantly. Despite the loss of their commander, the British eventually regained Queenston Heights and drove back the Americans.

Sobbing Sophia

The halls of Brockamour Manor. Photo courtesy of Ursuline Bankhead. To see more of Ursuline’s photos, check out @UrseePhD in Instagram.

A heartbroken Sophia Shaw spent her remaining years living with her sister in the home of Captain Powell, now known as the Brockamour Manor. She lived a reclusive existence, and never married.

Some say that, ever since her death, Sophia’s spirit has remained in her sister’s home, where she and her beloved Isaac had shared some of their happiest moments. She makes her presence known to guests by singing near the top of the stairs, opening and closing doors in the night, and appearing near her favourite armoire. One female guest who stayed in Sophia’s old room reported waking up in the middle of the night to see the spectre of a woman in 19th Century clothing standing at the foot of her bed, admonishing her with a disapproving glare.

Legend has it that on cold autumn mornings, you can hear Sophia weeping softly in the halls of Brockamour Manor, mourning her lost love. Another, more cheerful story has it that Sophia and Sir Isaac Brock were united in death. Every once in a while, guests report seeing a vision of a red-coated Army officer and a 19th Century lady strolling arm-in-arm through the rose gardens. Whatever the case, Brockamour Manor remains shrouded in the mystery and romance that surrounds Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada’s most haunted town.

 

5. Olde Angel Inn

A ten minute walk from Brockamour Manor will bring you to another haunted hotel in Niagara-On-The-Lake, the Olde Angel Inn. There, you can rent out one of five rooms, the names of which bear testament to the establishment’s colourful history. The “General’s Quarters” and the “Governor’s Room” are spacious two-bedroom suites; the “Sweetheart’s Room” and “Captain’s Room” are cozy one-bedroom affairs; and the “Colonel’s Suite” boasts an antique “Irish Fertility Bed”, perfect for honeymooners.

The Olde Angel Inn in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.

This ancient establishment is perhaps the oldest operational hotel in Canada. Built in 1789, it was initially founded as the “Harmonious Coach House”. In 1793, after passing the Act Against Slavery (a law which made Upper Canada the first British colony to abolish slavery) the legislators celebrated the event that evening at the inn’s tavern. The same heavy oak beams that supported the tavern’s ceiling back in 1793 are still there today, scarred by scorch marks from American arsonists who burned most of the town to the ground during the War of 1812… but that’s a story for another time.

In addition to being the oldest hotel in the country, some say that the Olde Angel Inn is one of the most haunted hotels in Ontario. Indeed, some claim it is the most haunted roadhouse in the whole country. Like those of Brockamour Manor and the vintage Prince of Wales Hotel nearby, the ghost story surrounding the Olde Angel Inn has its origins in the War of 1812.

The Olde Angel Inn, the most active of all the haunted hotels in Ontario. Photo courtesy of Josee LaBelle. If you’d like to see more of Josee’s photos, check out @JoseeLaBelle63 on Instagram.

The Battle of Fort George

The Battle of York.

Following the death of Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights, Canadian military forces lacked strong leadership. Holes in Canadian defenses allowed sixteen American ships to travel from the State of New York to the town York (present-day Toronto) on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. On April 27, 1813, 1,700 American Army regulars disembarked on the shores of York, captured the Canadian capital, and burned the town to the ground.

Following the Battle of York, American troops retreated by ship to Fort Niagara, a French-turned-American military fortification on the eastern shores of the Niagara Delta. Fort Niagara stood across the Niagara River from Fort George, Britain’s martial headquarters in Canada (situated at present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake). The American soldiers spent several weeks recovering at Fort Niagara before striking out again, this time at their Canadian neighbours across the river.

A reenactment of the Battle of Fort George.

On May 25, 1813, American warships set anchor in the Niagara River off Fort George and barraged the British garrison with heated shot. After a two-day cannon bombardment, four thousand American soldiers disembarked on the shores of Lake Ontario and marched for Fort George. British infantrymen charged the Americans with their bayonets as they waded ashore. However, grapeshot fired by American ships drove them back.

American troops pushed onwards and succeeded in capturing Fort George- by this time, a smoking ruin on account of the heated shot they had pumped into it. They occupied the nearby town of Newark and built a new fortification in the ashes of the old fort.

The Ghost of Captain Swayze

The Olde Angel Inn, the most haunted hotel in Ontario. Photo courtesy of Josee LaBelle. If you’d like to see more of Josee’s photos, check out @JoseeLaBelle63 on Instagram.

Legend has it that during the Battle of Fort George, a Captain in the Canadian Militia named Colin Swayze delayed his retreat to rendezvous with his true love in the Harmonious Coach House in nearby Newark. Before the officer could steal away to join his regiment, American soldiers overran the inn. Panicking, Captain Swayze hid in a barrel in the cellar.

In an effort to root out British deserters, the American infantrymen stabbed burlap sacks, dark corners, and other potential hiding places with the bayonets attached to the ends of their muskets. One soldier threw the lid off the barrel in which Captain Swayze was hiding and plunged his bayonet into the lovesick officer. Colin Swayze quickly succumbed to his wound.

Some say that the ghost of Colin Swayze never left the cellar, and remains in the Olde Angel Inn to this very day. Guests staying in the “Colonel’s Room” report strange noises in the night. Inn staff sometimes open the dining room in the morning to find furniture mysteriously rearranged. One guest even claimed to have seen the face of the erstwhile captain in the mirror of the ladies’ washroom.

Although the Captain’s appearance may frighten some guests from time to time, local legend says that his spirit is harmless, and will remain so as long as the British flag flies over the Olde Angel Inn. To keep their resident spirit happy, the inn’s many managers have proudly displayed the Union Jack at the establishment’s front door, where it remains to this very day.

The Olde Angel Inn in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Image courtesy of Peter Marrello. To see more of Peter’s photos, please check out @PeterMarrello on Instagram.

6. Fairmont Royal York

If you leave Niagara-On-The-Lake and drive an hour and a half along Queen Elizabeth Way, you’ll come to the city of Toronto. Not only is Toronto the capital of Ontario; it is also the largest city in Canada.

In the heart of this sprawling metropolis, not far from the CN Tower and the barn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, stands a 4 star luxury hotel: the Fairmont Royal York. This Canadian Pacific Railway hotel is among the most opulent of all the haunted hotels in Ontario.

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.

The Royal York, equipped with its Royal Suite, is the hotel of choice for Queen Elizabeth II whenever the British Royal Family pays a visit to Toronto. It is also said to be preferred residence of a number of ghostly guests.

The Man in the Purple Jacket

The lobby of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

Among the most famous of the spectral residents said to walk the halls of the Royal York is a grey-haired man in a purple smoking jacket. This phantasmal gentleman is purported to appear on the hotel’s eighth floor to unwitting patrons and staff before vanishing into thin air.

Legend has it that this spectre is the spirit of a wealthy man who stayed in the hotel on his honeymoon night. That night, the man murdered his new bride before committing suicide. Consequently, his spirit remained in the hotel, doomed to haunt the vicinity of his terrible crime.

The man’s murdered bride is said to also haunt the Royal York. Her spirit supposedly resides in the room in which she lost her life. She makes herself known to guests by opening and closing the bedroom door, and by appearing as a strange light in the middle of the night.

The Employee

The Royal York Hotel.

Another ghost believed to haunt the Royal York Hotel is a former hotel employee who hanged himself from a stairwell railing on the 19th floor. It is said that guests who use the stairwell sometimes feel a malevolent presence in the area. Similarly, other stairwell users report experiencing the eerie sensation that they are being watched. And every once in a while, anguished screams are said to echo throughout the stairwell in the middle of the night. When hotel staff investigate these chilling shrieks, they find the stairwell empty.

The Children

The last group of ghosts supposed to haunt the Royal York are handful mysterious children. These youthful spirits run through the halls in the middle of the night, laughing as they go. When angry patrons step out into the hall to admonish the youngsters, the laughter stops abruptly, and the children are nowhere to be found.

The ballroom of the Fairmont Royal York, in “10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario”.

 

7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

If you drive an hour and a half north from Toronto, through the city of Barrie, Ontario, and beyond Lake Simcoe, you’ll come to a wild country of forests and lakes known as Muskoka. Colloquially referred to as “cottage country”, this quiet backwoods is a popular destination for recreational fishermen, hikers, bikers, and anyone in need of respite from the big city.

Gravenhurst

Muskoka has always been a rugged and secluded territory. For many years, settlers avoided the area, as its hard clay soil was not conducive to agriculture. In the 1860’s, its mixed forests attracted the eyes of lumbermen, who established remote logging camps deep in the Muskoka wilderness. Lumberjacks transported the timbers they harvested down Lake Muskoka using steamboats. From a wharf on the lake’s southeastern shore, they carted their lumber to southerly sawmills by way of the Muskoka Colonization Road, a rough corduroy path. This crude carriage highway was upgraded to a railway in 1875.

Gravenhurst, Ontario.

Naturally, a settlement developed at the northern terminus of this thoroughfare, which connected the logging camps of Muskoka with timber-hungry municipalities of Barrie and Toronto. This transportation hub quickly flourished into the town of Gravenhurst, earning itself the nickname “The Gateway to Muskoka”.

The Resort

On the outskirts of Gravenhurst lies the small community of Severn Bridge, on the Severn River. Just outside Severn Bridge lies the even smaller village of Port Stanton. And just outside of Port Stanton, tucked away in a little cove on Sparrow Lake, is the Bayview Wildwood Resort and Hotel.

Sparrow Lake at the Bayview Wildwood Resort. Photo courtesy of Emma Major. If you’d like to see more of Emma’s photos, please check out @MajorEmma on Instagram.

The Bayview Hotel is not really a single building, but rather a cluster of cabins and apartments. There are four main buildings- the Sparrowview House, the Walton House, the Lakeview House, and the Lakeshore House- which contain a number of large one-bedroom suites. Guests also have the option to stay in one of fifteen separate cottages of varying sizes. Last, but certainly not least, patrons have the option to stay in the historic main building, the resort’s oldest and most storied residence.

Bayview Wildwood Resort. Image courtesy of Deborah Green Drouin. If you’d like to see more of Deborah’s photos, please check out @DrouinDeborah on Instagram.

History

Captain Thomas Stanton.

This tourist attraction was first established in 1884 by a prominent local steamboat captain named Thomas Stanton and his wife Ellen. For more than 130 years, the Stanton family has diligently maintained and expanded this charming lakeside getaway. Unlike many historic (and possibly haunted) hotels in Ontario, the Bayview Wildwood Resort is as well-kept and operational as the day it was founded.

The Ghosts of the Bayview Wildwood Resort

Sparrow Lake off the Bayview Wildwood Resort. Photo courtesy of Alissa Yip. If you’d like to see more of Alissa’s photos, please check out @AlissaYip on Instagram.

The main building of the Bayview Wildwood Resort is said to be home to a number of ghostly residents. Every once in a while, guests hear mysterious footsteps on the upper floor when nobody is up there. Doors are known to open and close all by themselves. Some staff member report having seen a pair of disembodied legs walking up the building’s main stairs, only to disappear at the top.

According to an article in the Shelburne Free Press, the ghosts that haunt this building include Webster, the spirit an Ojibwa caretaker who worked at the resort before his death; the ghost of an American patron who died of a heart attack while staying in the main building; and a phantom cat who jumps up on the beds of unsuspecting guests in the middle of the night.

Bayview Wildwood Resort. Photo courtesy of Katrina Kostin. To see more of Katrina’s photos, please check out @KarinaKostin on Instagram.

 

8. Inn at the Falls

If you drive half an hour north of the Bayview Wildwood Resort, you’ll come to Bracebridge, the regional capital of Muskoka. This small town was built around a waterfall on the Muskoka River not far from the lake which shares its name. Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of this picturesque community is a Victorian-style mansion called the “Inn at the Falls”.

High Falls in Bracebridge, Ontario.

This impressive estate was first constructed by English stonemasons in the mid 1870’s, when Bracebridge was still a rough logging village. It was originally commissioned as the private residence of a man named John Adair. The house changed hands several times throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries before finally being converted into an inn in the 1930’s. Since 1988, it has been known as the “Inn at the Falls”.

A photo of Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge, Ontario, courtesy of Twin Maple Farms. equine specialists from nearby Severn Bridge. To visit the website of Twin Maple Farms, please click on this image,

The Three Official Ghosts

This charming establishment is perhaps the last place one might expect to see a ghost. Nevertheless, hotel management makes no secret about the Inn’s perpetual residents who make themselves known to patrons and staff from time to time.

The Inn at the Falls is “officially” haunted by three different spirits, whom hotel staff have fondly named Bob, Sarah, and Charlie. According to an old menu once distributed at the Inn’s Fox and the Hound Pub, “our three resident ghosts… are friendly spirits and tend to keep mostly to themselves…”

Bob

The ghost called Bob is said to haunt the Inn’s kitchen area. This mischievous spirit has never appeared to anyone, but he has displayed a penchant for hurling pots and pans across the kitchen, opening and slamming freezer doors, turning kitchen lights on and off, and generally pranking the kitchen staff.

Sometime in the 1990’s, the late Canadian writer Terry Boyle claimed to have watched an ashtray levitate, float past his face, and land beside him on another countertop in the Inn’s kitchen. A cook he was speaking with at the time assured the astonished writer that this was just Bob’s way of saying ‘hello’.

One time, an unruly patron complained to the hotel staff that someone had kicked him in the rear while he was descending the stairs. When he turned around to admonish the troublemaker, he found himself alone. The guest was none too pleased when staff member suggested, matter-of-factly, that Bob was probably the culprit.

Sarah

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

The ghost called Sarah is said to haunt the dining room at the Inn at the Falls, as well as the main hallway and the corridor leading to the pub. She typically announces her presence in the early morning. Sometimes, staff open up the dining room bright and early to find fresh candles burning, as if they had just been lit. On other occasions, they are greeted by a faint, sweet “hello”. Every once in a while, Sarah’s fragrance- a pleasant aroma of lavender and roses- lingers in the dining room several hours before breakfast.

Unlike Bob, Sarah sometimes reveals her presence by literally appearing to startled staff and guests. Usually, her apparition is only visible from the shoulders up. More rarely, her entire body materializes in vivid detail. Witnesses typically describe Sarah as a beautiful young woman with long brown hair, usually dressed in white.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

Kevin Poole’s Encounter

In the early 1990’s, a respected Ontario businessman named Kevin Poole checked in to the Inn at the Falls. One night, while sipping a beer at the Inn’s Pub, the bartender told him about Sarah’s ghost. Poole scoffed at the story. Although he entertained the possibility of the paranormal, he doubted that a ghost could materialize as vividly as the bartender claimed Sarah sometimes did.

Not long afterwards, Poole left the hotel and walked over to his car. As he fiddled with his keys, a beautiful young woman with flowing brown hair in a long white gown brushed past him. Startled, the businessman made to follow her but found that she had vanished. Poole was certain that he had encountered Sarah, and that she had appeared to him in order to prove her existence.

Charlie

Charlie, the Inn’s third “official” ghost, is said to inhabit the corridor on the second floor. He has been known to slam the emergency exit door, and to pace the hallway on the second floor, loudly discussing business with another ghostly gentleman.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

William C. Mahaffy

Many believe that “Charlie” might actually be the ghost of William Crosby Mahaffy, the estate’s second owner and first permanent resident. A young lawyer fresh out of law school, Mahaffy bought the estate off John Adair in 1877 (Adair had never actually occupied it). He moved in with his wife and three sons and opened up a law practice in town. He worked his way up the legal ladder until, in 1888, he was appointed Muskoka’s first District Judge. The Mahaffy family home subsequently became the hub of Bracebridge’s social and commercial activity.

In the summer of 1912, William Mahaffy travelled to London, England, to undergo a surgery. He died there on the operating table, and his family subsequently sold the Bracebridge estate.

The Judge’s Ghost

Although William C. Mahaffy gave up the ghost on the other side of the world, some say that his spirit returned to haunt his home. Over the years, several staff members of the Inn at the Falls have reported seeing the spectre of a gentleman in Victorian attire in the pub and in the parlour on the main floor. The phantom’s facial features allegedly corresponded with Judge Mahaffy’s, whose portrait once hung in the main hall. Every once in a while, phantom cigar smoke hangs heavily in the Inn’s parlour, where Mahaffy used to relax after a long day in the courtroom.

The parlour at Inn at the Falls. Image courtesy of Trenton Moore. To see more of Trenton’s photos, check out @TrentonMoore01 on Instagram.

The ghost of Judge Mahaffy apparently has strong opinions on how things ought to be in his home. In the spring of 1998, for example, one of the hotel managers was about to turn off the lights in a small room beside the pub when a man’s voice barked “Don’t turn the lights out!” The manager was the only one in the Inn at the time. On another occasion, some mysterious force repeatedly repositioned the sofa and turned up the heat in the parlour when no one was looking. This performance continued until one of the mangers entered the room and shouted “that’s enough!”

The Spectral Lady of Room 105

It is said that the most haunted room in the Inn at the Falls is Room 105, the historic master bedroom on the second floor. This apartment is allegedly the domain of a ghostly woman whom some have conflated with Sarah.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

The spectral lady of Room 105 is most often seen in an armchair, gazing out the window. Some claim to have seen her through the window while looking up at the Inn from the street. One hotel guest even walked in on her while she was lounging in her favourite chair. Instinctively, he apologized for his intrusion and backed into the hallway, only to realize that 105 was indeed where he was staying. When he went back inside, the woman was gone.

Some guests sleeping in Room 105 have claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night to see the lady glide across the room, settle into her chair, and vanish. Others have seen her smiling face in the reflection of the room’s television. Others still have noticed the imprint of her body on the bed, or have felt her gentle hand caress their back at night as if in an effort to help them sleep.

Creepy Cavorting

Like Bob, the woman from Room 105 seems to enjoy playing tricks on the living. She appears to have a predilection for hiding room keys and TV remotes, and sometimes plays with the lights and the shower. Oftentimes, people staying in Room 105 find that electronic equipment fails on them unexpectedly.

Room 105 is also said to undergo dramatic and unexplained temperature fluctuations. “You can feel a presence in here,” general manger Krista Havenaar said of the place, “and sometimes it gets so cold you can see your breath.”

The Lady of the Stairs

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

Another phantom said to haunt the second floor is the ghost of a pregnant woman, whom some have associated with Sarah and the spectral lady of Room 105. This ghost has been heard shuffling about the hallway near the staircase and weeping as if in distress. Sometimes, the voice of a man, whom some believe might be the spirit of her husband, can be heard comforting her.

Many of the hotel staff believe that the pregnant woman is the ghost of the wife of Edward Kirk, a businessman from Toronto who purchased the mansion in the 1930’s. Shortly after moving into the house, Kirk’s wife learned, to her delight, that she was pregnant.

One night, near the baby’s due date, Mrs. Kirk slipped from her bedroom and began wandering throughout the house, unable to sleep. Tragically, she tripped down the stairs, killing both herself and her unborn child in the process. Some say that her tormented spirit has haunted the Inn’s staircase ever since.

The Children

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

Every once in a while, guests staying at the Inn at the Falls report hearing the sound of children playing in the main hallway and the corridor on the second floor. Some have claimed to have heard the giggling of a little girl in Room 105. Others have reported being greeted by an invisible child in the pub. One time, the son of the front desk clerk returned from the hotel’s basement inquiring about the little girl he had met down there.

There have been few ideas put forth as to the identities of these shadowy children. Some have suggested that one of them- perhaps the little girl- might be the spirit of Mrs. Kirk’s unborn baby, enjoying an otherworldly childhood in the home she never lived to grow up in.

Jackie Niven

Haunted Hotels in Ontario

Another spirit said to haunt the Inn at the Falls is that of Jackie Niven, whose husband, Jim, bought the building in 1975. Jackie passed away in the house later that decade, succumbing to cancer. Some say her spirit never left.

One morning in the 1980’s, hotel employee Cathy Morrow claimed to have encountered Jackie’s ghost near the pub. “It was so vivid,” she said, “I could describe everything she was wearing. She had on blue jeans and a red and white striped shirt. She was a small woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair. [The woman] would have been in her 40s. I just looked at her an in seconds she vanished into thin air.” Cathy later told her tale to the housekeeper, who had worked in the building for many years. “You have just described Jackie Niven,” the housekeeper informed her.

The Inn at the Falls seems to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. Perhaps, as Canadian writer Andrew Hind suggested, this is because the Inn is built on the site of an old Ojibwa burial ground. Maybe certain tragic events, like Mrs. Kirk’s untimely death, have anchored spirits into the stone walls of the establishment. Or perhaps the Inn is simply so lovely that its former occupants can’t bear to part with it. Whatever the case, the Inn at the Falls is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Muskoka.

 

9. Windermere House

Half an hour north of Bracebridge, on the eastern shores of Lake Rosseau, lies the tiny community of Windermere, Ontario. This backcountry settlement is dominated by a magnificent historic hotel called Windermere House.

Windermere House.

The Story of Windermere House

Like most of our haunted hotels of Ontario, the Windermere House has a rich and colourful history.

Thomas Aitken

Thomas Aitken.

Back in 1860, a 28-year-old Scotsman named Thomas Aitken left the Shetland Isles for the New World. The previous year, his beloved wife and first child both died in childbirth. Hoping to start fresh, the heartbroken Shetlander boarded a steamer for Canada.

A series of odd jobs drew Aitken northwest to the Ontario frontier. After securing a land grant from the Canadian government, he built a homestead on the shores of the Rosseau River and carved out a living for himself from the wilderness. Eventually, Aitken remarried and started a family.

In the early 1870’s, enterprising businessmen introduced steamships to the lakes of Muskoka Country. This development opened up the region to a whole new type of industry: ecotourism. Soon, the rough lumberjacks who plied their trade in the Muskoka forests found themselves rubbing shoulders with wealthy European sportsmen.

A steam ship on Muskoka Lake.

The gentleman hunters and fishermen who flocked to Muskoka required lodging. Out of courtesy, many homesteaders invited these wealthy European visitors to share their cottages. Sensing an opportunity to make a little money, Thomas Aitken built several additions to his own cabin and rented rooms out to outdoor adventurers. And thus, the Windermere House was born.

Expansion

Over the years, demand for accommodation in the Windermere area grew. The Windermere House expanded accordingly. After the railway was built connecting Gravehurst with the cities down south, the Muskoka tourism industry exploded. So did business at the Windermere House. To keep up with the increasing demand for quality service and comfortable surroundings, the Windermere House gradually evolved into an elegant 56-room Victorian boarding house- one of Muskoka’s great steamship hotels, complete with a tennis court, a croquet field, and a lawn bowling green.

Windermere House.

The Fire

In February 1996, during the filming of The Long Kiss Goodnight (a Hollywood movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis), the Windermere House caught fire and burned to the ground. Undaunted, the owners of the property rebuilt the historic hotel in exactly the same style as the original. Square-headed nails from the original

Windermere House in December.

building were hammered back into the structure. In addition, a piece of timber salvaged from the sunroom was worked into a time capsule, and intended to be opened in 2096, a century after the construction of the new Windermere House.

The Ghosts of the Windermere House

Legend has it that the Windermere House is haunted by the ghost of its founder, Thomas Aitken. Phantom footsteps, strange whispers, mysterious knocks on the door, and inanimate objects moving as if on their own accord have all been attributed to Aitken’s spirit.

Another phantom said to haunt the Windermere House is the ghost of a mysterious little girl. Every once in a while, patrons awake in the middle of the night to find a little girl standing beside their beds. Before they can rub their eyes to ensure that they’re not dreaming, the little girl disappears.

 

10. Albion Hotel

The last stop on our tour of haunted hotels in Ontario is somewhat off the beaten path. On the southeastern shores of Lake Huron lies the municipality of Bluewater, an amalgamation of five small rural communities. One of these is the village of Bayfield.

Bayfield, Ontario, is home to several historic inns. The most famous is the Little Inn, a classy brick stagecoach stop that has welcomed guest since the mid 1800’s. Another is the Albion Hotel, a Georgian-style colonial roadhouse built in the early 1840’s. According to a legend born from first-hand accounts of hotel patrons and staff, this heritage building might just be haunted.

The Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario. Image courtesy of the Albion Hotel. To see more photos from the Albion Hotel, check out @AlbionHotelBayfield on Instagram.

Note: The Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, is not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in Guelph, Ontario- a former hotel associated with a great ghost story involving American gangster Al Capone and Sleeman beer.

The Shooting of Harvey Elliott

On November 8, 1897, the Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, was the site of a murder.

At that time, the hotel was owned by the Elliott family- a local clan which some said was cursed. Maria, the family’s matriarch, had raised five boys and two girls. By 1895, three of her sons were dead and buried. In 1896, her husband, Edward, passed away as well. In 1897, the only men remaining in Maria’s life were her sons Fred and Harvey, who helped her run the Albion Hotel along with her two daughters.

The Albion Hotel, courtesy of the hotel itself. To see more photos from the Albion Hotel, check out @AlbionHotelBayfield on Instagram.

On that fateful evening, after closing up the hotel bar for the evening, Fred and Harvey got into a heated argument

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

on the verandah. 23-year-old Harvey was roaring drunk, and was beginning to bet belligerent. He started swearing at 19-year-old Fred, and would have struck him in the face had a friend not restrained him.

“Keep him away from me,” warned Fred, drawing his revolver, “or I’ll shoot him.”

Suddenly, Harvey broke from his restraints and lunged at his brother. Fred raised his gun and shot Harvey point blank in the throat. The elder Elliott brother crumpled to the floor.

With tears in his eyes, Fred dropped his gun and helped his big brother inside, but it was too late; Harvey Elliott died at the bar of the Albion Hotel, his blood staining the unvarnished wooden floor.

The Ghosts of Albion Hotel

Fred Elliott was tried for the murder of his brother. Ultimately, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years of hard labour in the Kingston Penitentiary. He was released early on account of poor health, and died on September 13, 1905, at the age of 28.

The Ghost of Harvey Elliott

Beer taps at the Albion Hotel. Image courtesy of the hotel itself. To see more photos from the Albion Hotel, please check out @AlbionHotelBayfield on Instagram.

As for Harvey Elliott, however, it is said that his spirit remains at the Albion Hotel to this very day. Harvey’s favourite haunt appears to be the hotel bar. Every once in a while, the bar light will turn on after the hotel has closed for the night. Beer taps sometimes mysteriously turn on by themselves, and glasses are thrown off the bar rack by unseen hands. Death, it seems, has not quelled Elliott’s appetite for hooch. Alternatively, perhaps Harvey simply makes his presence known at the site at which he spent his last living moments. Whatever the case, the ghost of Harvey Elliott is as much a fixture of the Albion Hotel as the bar in which he resides- a permanent resident whom hotel staff fondly refers to as their “rent free guest”.

The Farmer’s Wife

The Albion Hotel is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a farmer’s wife who once lived in what is now the hotel’s common room. She has been known to caress guests’ faces in the night, change the channel on TV, and to call out for her husband John.

One New Years’ Eve, Mike Parkinson, the hotel chef, noticed a husky, long-haired brunette woman sitting on the staircase of the Albion Hotel. In the blink of an eye, the woman disappeared into thin air. Is it possible that Parkinson had a run-in with the ghost of the farmer’s wife?

Molly

Haunted Hotels in Ontario.

A third ghost, whom hotel staff refer to as Molly, is believed to haunt the office adjacent to the common room. Molly apparently has a penchant for opening and closing doors, and for pulling books off bookshelves.

Room 4

If you’re looking to have a ghostly experience in the Albion Hotel, management suggests that you book Room 4. A couple staying in this room reportedly heard guitar music on the main floor. When they inquired as to the identity of the musician the following morning, staff members informed them that there had been no one else in the building at the time.

One guest staying in Room 4 reported hearing disembodied footsteps in the hallway outside. Another claimed that, at one point in the night, her bed began to shake.

 

Tell Us Your Stories!

And that’s the end of our tour of 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario. If you’re brave enough to visit one of these spooky places and happen to have a ghostly experience of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to share your own ghost stories with us in the Comments section below.

 

Sources

1. Chateau Laurier

2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

  • Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places (1998), by Terry Boyle
  • Creepy Capital (2016), by Mark Leslie
  • Season 1, Episode 1 of the TV series Creepy Canada

3. Hochelaga Inn

4. Brockamour Manor

5. Olde Angel Inn

6. Fairmont Royal York

7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

8. Windermere House

9. Inn at the Falls

10. Albion Hotel

 

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I'm a Western Canadian writer, carver, and fiddler who has a special place in his heart for history and the unexplained.

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