Ghosts of Windermere House in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

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What is it about historic hotels and hauntings? There sure seem to be a lot of them. I'm guessing that if the average haunted house had a lot more foot traffic, we'd hear more about ghosts in them. This might be why it seems like there are so many haunted hotels. There's really no shortage of them around the world, and most of them have a history ripe for paranormal activity.

In the Muskoka region of Canada, there's an old Victorian-style home named Windermere House with its own share of spirited tales. The place is affectionately known as "The Lady of the Lake" by locals, as it's situated on the shores of Lake Rosseau.

Stepping onto the property is like walking into another era, a place where history and folklore blur against the backdrop of the wild Canadian wilderness. Let's take a look at Windermere House, its history, and ghostly tales.

Windermere House...Not That Windermere

There's another "Windermere" in British Columbia, known for its scenic beauty amidst the Rocky Mountains. However, it's different from Windermere House, a luxury resort on the shores of Lake Rosseau in Ontario, approximately 3,300 kilometers (about 2,050 miles) away. While both share the name, Windermere Valley offers natural beauty, while Windermere House provides upscale accommodations in the picturesque setting of Ontario's Muskoka region, complete with wandering ghosts.

Where is the Windermere House?

A little over a two-hour drive north of Toronto, you'll find the Windermere House. As I mentioned above, it's on the shores of Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka region of Ontario.

Map showing the location of Windermere House in Muskoka, Ontario, marked with a red pin, north of Toronto and northwest of New York City.
Windermere House is about a 2.5-hour drive north of downtown Toronto.

Muskoka is known by some as the "Hamptons of the North." It's a beloved summer haven for Ontarians and international visitors, blending upscale living with a more rustic landscape. Lake Rosseau is one of the three large lakes in the region, along with Lake Muskoka and Lake Joseph. There are 77 other lakes in Muskoka, along with plenty of historic cottages and modern retreats and a wealth of activities like boating, swimming, fishing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and, of course, ghost hunting.

A serene view of Lake Muskoka featuring a rocky shoreline partially covered with moss and illuminated by a soft, bluish light. Gentle waves lap against the rocks and sandy beach, creating a tranquil atmosphere. In the distance, a lush, tree-covered island basks in the warm sunlight under a clear blue sky. The scene captures the natural beauty and calmness of the lake.
Lake Muskoka. Ghosts. Ghosts as far as the eye can see.

The Muskoka region is part of the vast Canadian Shield, one of the largest geological shields known for mineral deposits. If you're familiar with the various theories about ghost phenomena, then you might know about the Stone Tape Theory, which I wrote a little about in Restless Spirits in the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Given the abundant mineral deposits of the Canadian Shield, the Stone Tape Theory might fit why places like Windermere House seem so "active" with paranormal activity.

geological shield

A geological shield is a large, stable area of exposed Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks that form the ancient core of continents. Shields are characterized by their old age, typically billions of years, and minimal geological activity, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. They are often rich in minerals and cover large portions of continents, like the Canadian Shield in North America, the Baltic Shield in Scandinavia, and the Brazilian Shield in South America. These regions have undergone extensive erosion, revealing the deep, ancient rocks beneath the Earth's surface.

Muskoka was first inhabited by Ojibwa tribes, and European activity was pretty limited until the late 18th century. The British began developing the region after the American War of Independence, and early settlers faced challenges due to rocky terrain, but logging and the Muskoka Colonization Road in the 1860s spurred growth.

Adirondack vs. Muskoka Chairs

Did you know that Adirondack and Muskoka chairs are practically the same? Both feature the iconic design of wide armrests, a sloped seat, and a high, slatted back tailored for outdoor relaxation. The difference primarily lies in their regional names and subtle variations in design.

The Adirondack chair originated in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 1903, designed by Thomas Lee and initially called the "Westport chair." The Muskoka chair, meanwhile, takes its name from the Muskoka District in Ontario, Canada, where it's a staple in cottages and backyards.

While traditionally made from wood, modern versions are available in various materials, including plastic and metal. Although similarly crafted, Muskoka chairs sometimes feature a deeper seat and higher back, reflecting slight regional preferences—mostly for ghosts, of course.

The Free Grants and Homestead Act of 1868 brought more settlers, and steamships in the late 19th century boosted tourism and logging. The introduction of automobiles in the early 20th century turned Muskoka into a tourist hotspot. Among the now-iconic establishments created from this era is Windermere House—a historic hotel that might also be home to several ghosts.

History of the Windermere House

The Windermere House opened its doors in 1870 as a boarding house. It was originally built as a private residence but expanded into an inn after the owner, Thomas Aitken, relocated to Scotland. The house stayed in the family's possession until 1981 when it was acquired by an investment group.

Historical black and white photo of Windermere House, showing the large, multi-story hotel with ornate balconies and a distinctive tower overlooking a bustling dock scene with groups of people in early 20th-century attire.
Old photo of Windermere House.

On February 27, 1996, after standing for over a hundred years, the Windermere House burned to the ground, leaving only a charred stone verandah. (I'm spelling "verandah" with an "h" at the end so we can all pretend we're in a Jane Austen novel. Be sure to say it aloud with extra emphasis on "ah.") The fire happened while filming a movie called "The Long Kiss Goodnight." As far as I could find, there's no clear answer on what exactly caused the fire, but it seems likely that it was a simple short circuit or possibly film lightning. Luckily, the fire didn't spread beyond the building.

Exterior view of Windermere House in Muskoka, Ontario, showcasing its white facade with red-trimmed windows and a Canadian flag flying atop, set against a backdrop of blue sky and autumn-colored trees.
Windermere House.

The Windermere House, along with the boathouse and marina, was rebuilt in 1997. It now features over 50 guest rooms, several restaurants, a pub, and even a private cottage.

It does make one wonder, though, if the ghost stories began before or after the place burned to the ground. No one died during the fire, but there are some tales of houses that supposedly have their own personality or if the old house is haunting the new house? A house haunted a haunted house? 🤔 Haunted house-ception? 🧐

Houses with Personality

Here are a few (real) haunted houses famous for having their own "consciousness":

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California: Known for its labyrinthine design and reportedly guided by spirits.

The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts: Immortalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, where the house itself seems to possess a malevolent will.

The Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York: Famous for the Lutz family's accounts of supernatural phenomena suggesting a sinister presence.

That's not even mentioning the incredibly famous Stanley Hotel, immortalized in horror fiction as The Overlook Hotel by Stephen King.

Ghostly Tales of the Windermere House

Okay, so, supposedly, no one except the house itself died in that fire. And I couldn't find any specific references of anyone dying on the property at all. However, with over a hundred years of history at Windermere House, it's easy to imagine that at least a few people have died there. But let's pretend for the purposes of this section that no one ever died there. So...

Visitors and staff at Windermere House have reported repeated encounters with these absolutely baffling and unexplainable ghosts haunting Windermere House:

  1. A woman dressed in Victorian clothing roams the property, often near stairs and sometimes gazing out at the lake. Guests have mistaken her for another visitor, perhaps cosplaying, until she vanishes right in front of them.
  2. A child who laughs in the hallways at night, sometimes running up and down the hall and occasionally bouncing a ball along the way.
  3. Rocking chairs that rock themselves on the verandah even when there's no wind.
  4. Random knocking on room doors when there is no one outside.
  5. Phone calls come into the front desk from a third floor of the building that no longer exists as it was destroyed in the fire.
  6. Thomas Aitken himself, in the spectral flesh, walking the empty halls at night.
  7. Belongings get flung around their rooms at night, particularly shoes and clothing.
  8. Guests sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and find a young girl standing beside their bed. A moment later, she vanishes.
Brace yourself for this story. Heather Langevin worked events and weddings at Windermere House, and so was often at the resort late into the night. Her managers always warned her never to go into the basement alone, but truth be told she tried desperately to never go down there at all. Heather's hand was forced one night; she not only had to go into the basement, but alone. She hadn't been there long when suddenly a tabletop lamp turned on by itself. Heather's skin tingled with terror as she raced upstairs.

After sputtering out what had just happened, a co-worker agreed to accompany Heather back into the basement. The light was off again. That's when they discovered something that froze Heather's heart with sudden dread: there was no bulb in the lamp and its cord was unplugged and tied up!


Okay...wait...HOLD UP! We're still pretending that no one ever died there, right? Because that's a hell of a lot of ghostly activity for there to be no ghosts on the property. It's possible that at least Thomas Aitken and family might have died somewhere on the property, and perhaps some guests at some point simply because Windermere House (in one form or another) has been there for over a hundred years.



What if no one ever died there?

What would that mean?

What's the origin of all this ghostly activity?



Personally, I'm going with the idea that the house itself died there and is now haunting the new house. I have heard some stories of unexplained (i.e., no one died) poltergeist activity in various places, but honestly, that's a pretty unsatisfactory answer to me. But if neither explanation is correct, what else could it be?

If you find yourself in the Muskoka region, check out the Windermere House and see if you encounter any ghosts or strange activity. If nothing else, you're bound to have a great stay.

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