The following is an excerpt from the book, Haunted Ontario — Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places by Terry Boyle. Haunted Ontario is published by Dundurn press and can be found in local bookstores or online at dundurn.com.
Image of courtesy of Terry Boyle
Tiffany and Ken Bol operated the hotel as the Bala Bay Inn from the 1990s to 2004. In the summer, rooms were available for guests and in winter only the restaurant was open. In all seasons they offered the same hospitality that was there with the Sutton family.
In 1996 I entered the front doors of the 32-room hotel. I could sense the history of the building. The first thing to catch my eye was the elaborate staircase leading from the main lobby to the second floor; a set of doors to the left led to a lounge with a central stone fireplace. Here, the Suttons entertained guests and held festive dances on Saturday nights. At the back of the hotel was the original dining room, where E.B. Sutton lay in state. On the right was the doorway to the bar where once there were rooms for rent. The back section of this bar area had been family quarters for the Suttons.
Tiffany and the staff openly shared their personal experiences with me. They agreed that “stuff” happens, but theories abound concerning numbers and identities of the spirits. Is it Thomas Burgess, E.B. Sutton, old hotel guests, someone simply in love with Bala?
Tiffany was a skeptic in the beginning, “I didn’t believe in that at all. A month ago I arrived at work with my 18-month-old son, Shayne. My office is located on the second floor of the building at the top of the stairs. When I reached my office door I suddenly realized that I had left my keys downstairs. I remember trying the door, just in case. Sure enough, it was locked. I left Shayne by the office door and rushed downstairs to get the keys. When I returned, to my amazement, the door was open and Shayne was in the office in the toy box. Who opened the door and took him into the office and set him in the box? I shuddered in disbelief. Was it a ghost?”
Near the entranceway to the Sutton’s former quarters people often see something. Tiffany clarified this, “People see shadows in one particular spot in the kitchen. You can actually see the form of a person.”
“Activity” in the building can be felt or heard in several different areas, including a number of hotel rooms. In room 319, the room in which E.B. Sutton died, the housekeeping staff always have problems. The television can be heard when no one is occupying the suite. The staff turn the television off, but in a few minutes it’s back on again. The room is often disturbed by some unseen hand. Tiffany was working one afternoon in the room when she heard the rattle of a bag in the hallway. “I thought it was another worker so I yelled, ‘Hello,’ but no one answered.” It’s not uncommon for the staff to clean the room and return later to find their work undone. The curtain gets pulled halfway across the rod. Sometimes when the door is closed you can hear the curtain moving back and forth.
Who lives in this room? As I walked around the room I tried to sense some presence but was unable to detect anything. The room seemed vacant and like any other.
This was not the case when an unsuspecting family rented room 312. They were the only guests on the third floor. All but the father went out.
He was alone in the room when he decided to have a cigarette on the fire escape right next door. On the fire escape he heard a rumble coming from the room and then the door to room 312 began to rattle. As soon as he put his hand on the doorknob, it stopped. He returned to his cigarette. Again the rumble and the doorknob began to rattle. This time he fled down the fire escape to the ground floor.
During the winter of 1993-94, when air conditioning units were being removed from rooms, a staff member entered room 312. He found the television set on. He tried to turn if off but the switch would not work. He leaned over to unplug it and to his dismay — it was not plugged in!