Situated atop of the rocky waterfalls in Bracebridge, Ontario is an unassuming Victorian manor. The front of the building faces a quiet dead-end street, while the back looks over the town, parkland and falls below. If you came upon this ordinary yet beautiful building on your own, you might not have the sense that something paranormal may be stalking its halls. But many people venture to this very spot to see if they might catch a glimpse of something unseen.
For the third post in this series looking at the ghosts of cottage and camping country, we outline the many unexplained occurrences that have taken place at Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge. From the clear smell of cigar smoke wafting from the basement pub, to the cries of a distressed woman emanating from the hallways of the second floor, we look at one of the Muskoka region’s most haunted spots.
Bracebridge is located in the middle of the Muskoka cottage country heartland. It’s a short drive from Muskoka Lake and just north of Gravenhurst. Situated near the confluence of many main routes in and out of the region, the town is perfectly suited as a tourist destination. It’s prime spot in this wilderness heartland is probably one of the reasons why the house on Mahaffy Court became an Inn in 1943.
William Cosby Mahaffey – muskokaregion.com
In fact, the building that now houses the inn was intended as a private residence when it was built in the early 1870s. Seven years after its construction, it was acquired by William Crosby Mahaffy, a district judge and notable resident of the area. He lived at the residence until his death in 1911, when it briefly became an apartment house and youth home. It changed hands a few more times until it finally became a popular inn for Muskoka travelers; a function it retains to this day.
It is unclear how many spirits might be haunting Inn at the Falls, but by many accounts it’s at least four separate spirits. Some of the paranormal activity seems very clearly attached to the former residents. For example, even though the inn has long had a no smoking policy, the smell of cigar smoke is often sensed drifting through the lower floors. The fuzzy apparition of an older man wearing turn of the century clothing sometimes accompanies this scent. His face is easily identifiable and it matches that of Judge William Mahaffy, whose picture hangs on the wall of his former residence. He’s even been known to converse with some unknowing patrons.
The former master bedroom of Judge Mahaffy is also frequented by a spirit, although it’s likely not connected to him. The room is known for its very sudden temperature changes and many people describe the feeling of being watched. The form of a woman in a long dress or nightgown is often seen by people staying in this notorious room. They wake up in the middle of the night to see her form drift from one side of the room to the other, from near the doorway to the window. She gracefully takes a seat on a chair next to the window and gazes at the street below before slowly fading from view. The image of a woman seated at the same window is often noted by passersby outside, who gaze up to the second floor and see her staring down at them.
It’s likely that this same female spirit is sensed in the second floor hallway. She is often heard outside the former master bedroom crying softly. Gently treaded footsteps or shuffles are also often heard passing up and down the hall when there is clearly no one there. While the identity of the spirit is unconfirmed, many people are certain it’s the presence of Mrs. Kirk. In the 1930s, before the house became an inn, it was owned by Mr. Kirk and his young wife, who was pregnant at the time. When she was nearing full term, Mrs. Kirk was having difficulties sleeping, so she would often wander the halls of their home. During one of these strolls, she tripped and fell down the stairs and subsequently died from her injuries. A number of years later a concerned guest asked the front desk clerk about the health of the pregnant woman staying on the second floor. This guest had apparently overheard a discussion from the adjacent room about the health of their baby. However, no pregnant guests were currently staying at the hotel and the room from where she heard the voices was vacant.
Some of the other paranormal activities at the inn appear to have different yet unknown ghostly origins. Even so, many workers have even given the unknown entities nicknames to distinguish their different personalities. For example, there is “Bob”, who likes to throw fits in the kitchen. That spirit throws pots and pans and likes to cause mischief. The staff report being unafraid of the presence and believe he’s just happy to disrupt their day and cause a little fright. Other staff members have identified another mischievous spirit but are convinced it’s the entity of a child. Throughout different parts of the building, little pranks are accompanied by childish giggling.
Others believe that former owners, other than Judge Mahaffy and Mrs. Kirk, may have stayed at their beloved home. In 1975, an elderly couple purchased the inn, but shortly after the wife died in the home. Not long after, the apparition of an elderly woman was spotted walking through the halls. Employees who knew the former owner had apparently confirmed that it was her, still wandering the inn well after her death.
Regardless of what spirit is around, many people who stay at the inn are convinced that there is someone unknown watching them. The overwhelming feeling of an unseen presence has caused many people to feel discomfort in the building. However, others have noted that the presence seems friendly or even welcoming and has no sinister intentions. Nonetheless, such a concentration of activity at the inn has made it infamous in paranormal circles, even inspiring a television episode.
It is unknown why so many spirits have attached themselves to this single building. It’s rare that many different entities make their presence known at a fairly indistinguishable location. While the building has been associated with some tragedies, it’s mainly connected with the happy memories of its time as a private home and an inn. Perhaps it’s the frequent guests and changing inhabitants. Maybe it’s the fire that ripped through parts of the building in the 1950s. Or perhaps the spirits feel comfortable in this location. Whatever the reason, if you are looking for your next haunted place to stay, consider this beautiful site on the Bracebridge Falls, where you can even request to stay in the infamous room 105.
This fall join us for a Bubble Ghost Tour is Kingston, Ottawa or Toronto, Ontario!
Brittney Anne Bos, PhD
Haunted Walk Tour Guide & Host
“Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels and Other Eerie Places” by Terry Boyle