Friday, October 7, 2016

Ghost Story.

"Where are we staying in Muskoka again?"
"The Inn on the Falls, in Bracebridge."
"Thank you!"
(Is she going to Google it? I hope she doesn’t Google it...)
"Honey?  Why is our hotel listed on"
It’s a beautiful October afternoon as we pull into the parking lot of the Inn on the Falls, located in Bracebridge, Ontario. Autumn is perhaps the best time to visit Muskoka, and the leaves have just nicely started on their annual display of colour. We’re here for a couple of nights while I give Karli a quick overview of my childhood:  my parent's house, the original family settlement, the high school that I attended, and so on, along with just a general tour of the region. 

I’ve always liked the Inn on the Falls for its classic old-fashioned feel - the main building was built by stonemason John Adair in 1876, and the current owners have elected to maintain its traditional decor with antique furniture and paintings.  It's a bit worn around the edges, but it's a far more interesting location to stay at than one of the more modern hotels in the town.

Perhaps too interesting.  In addition to its other charms, the Inn on the Falls is haunted.

Popular culture has introduced a standardized set of horror tropes that are instantly recognizable, and the concept of the "poisoned hotel" is one of the standard slasher movie memes, as typified by the Bates Motel, the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, or the eponymous Hostel.  (The unfortunate typo on our reservation confirmation  - "The Maim Inn" -  sounds like an acceptable title for a new franchise for this list.)

The Inn on the Falls has been the site of a wide variety of ghostly sightings and mysterious events over its lifetime.  It's home to three ghosts, known as Bob, Sarah and Charlie,* who haunt different parts of the building, and Judge William Mahaffey, who purchased the house from Adair in 1877, has been seen walking six inches in the air over the floor of the pub.**

Radios have been known to play without even being plugged in, guests and staff have experienced cold spots in various locations around the inn, and people sleeping in Room 105 have smelled a wet dog in the night - and claimed to have felt its weight on the bed.

Fortunately, that's not the room that we have booked, but our two-level suite seems to have been designed for paranoia:  the closets extend far too far past their doors, with odd panels in them that seal inexplicable openings, and the stairwell to our bedroom is an ideal venue for glowing spectral manifestations in the middle of the night.

After checking in, we spend the rest of the day walking around town, and then visit my brother Harold and his wife Sue for dinner, returning to the inn at about ten.  It's a small business, and as such there's no front desk staff after 5:00, so we let ourselves in through the locked front door.

The Inn is completely silent. There are other cars in the lot, but the site includes a variety of outbuildings and extensions, so there may well not be anyone else staying in the main building with us. The dining room is dark, and the sitting room is lit by a single lamp in the front window.

After we go to our room, I slip downstairs to take some pictures of the foyer and the sitting room.  To my surprise, I'm a bit apprehensive, and the hair on my neck rises.  I feel as if I'm one of those movie characters who suddenly sees movement in a mirror only to turn around and see nothing behind them, nothing at all. I glance over my shoulder for a moment, then finish shooting and go back upstairs.

Oddly enough, the alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning - eerie in the context of previous ghostly behaviour, but I'm still more likely to attribute it to previous guests than ghostly fingers.  I turn it off, and the phenomenon is not repeated - apparently ghosts do not choose to act as snooze buttons.

On the second night, Karli wakes up for a few minutes, and hears distant screaming in the night - or is it a dream?

As we pull away from the parking lot after checking out, Karli comments, "I'm looking forward to getting a good night's sleep tonight - I kept thinking about the ghosts..." 

I'm surprised by this (and a bit remorseful.) As I've said before, I'm a complete sceptic when it comes to the paranormal due to the complete lack of solid evidence.  Supernatural visits always seem to be a bit circumstantial - it's one thing to read that an employee has seen the spirit of a judge who's been dead for 104 years floating in the air over the flagstone floor, but it's not the same as showing me a picture of the magistrate on their iPhone. 

Hearing something go bump in the night is all very well and good, but I'd like to see what actually went bump.
- Sid

P.S. for more paranormal information on the Inn at the Falls, visit The Haunting Group website for the details of their investigation.

* One gathers that these are nicknames rather than the results of communication with the spirits via medium, Ouija board, or some similar means of contacting the afterlife.

** It's assumed that the judge is walking at the height of the original wood flooring which was removed during renovations at some point in time.

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