Monday, March 22, 2010

Creepy Algoma?

I tell myself that after more than 3 score years on this planet, there aren't many things that surprise me anymore. But it seems I'm always proved wrong.

This time it involved a trip to Sault Ste Marie to research a list of things, the main one being the story of the old Bayview Hotel in Bruce Mines. A grand old hotel in it's day and a place that was . The story has been circulating since as early as the late 1800's.

Apparently when the place was operating guests would complain of hearing the cries of a baby coming from the attic.

My plan was to search through the microfilm copies of old Sault Star and the Bruce Mines newspapers, now kept in the main branch of the Sault Ste Marie Library, for any item mention of the hotel and its haunting. There wasn't much. And I was a bit deflated realizing that I might be going back home to Blind River knowing no more than when I left.

But then another group of clippings caught my attention. It included a 1903 story about a man who was killed in a gas explosion in one of the rooms at the Windsor Hotel on the 600 block of Queen Street in the Soo. The man was not identified by name, only that he was a salesman and that it was presumed that he had lit one of the cigars he was well known for smoking, in a room that had filled with gas. I remembered the Windsor Hotel because during the 1980's my wife and I stayed there a few times when we visited the Soo.

In recent years it was converted to a retirement residence. More recently the retirement home operation ceased and the building was donated to Algoma University as student apartments.

Another clipping really tweaked my interest. It seems that in the mid 1920's several people came forward claiming that the hotel was haunted. They said that the fourth floor hallway would often smell of cigar smoke even though no one was observed smoking. They also reported seeing a hazy figure of a young woman walking along the second floor hallway.

It appears that in the fall of 1911 a young woman who worked as a cleaning lady was found strangled in that hallway. A search of the files failed to reveal that incident but that does not mean it did not happen since the microfilm has months of missing newspapers, including from 1911.

As I sat pondering the information my mind went back to a remark that my wife made one one trip back home. I asked her if she was comfortable at the hotel. She said she was and that she liked the place but added, “they should really do something about the carpets in the hall or maybe check the air conditioning system ... I keep smelling smoke .. like cigars or something.”

That remark hadn't meant much to me up until that afternoon in the Sault Ste Marie Main Library.

On the way out of town, I stopped in front of the old hotel and looked up at the fourth floor. And wondered.