From the street, the Red Coach Inn looks cute, quaint, and adorably cozy. The sky may be an ominous blue-gray, but the 93-year-old, English Tudor-style inn, with a red-bricked first floor, black wrought iron gates, and deep-steeped roof, appears warm and welcoming. You can almost picture a fire roasting inside. Outside, there’s a large covered seating area where several guests are munching away on appetizers and sipping wine. And, just a few paces across the road, visitors can spy a gorgeous view of Niagara’s upper falls.
So you’d never guess that a young woman was murdered on the inn’s third floor.
Hotels in this story
Niagara Falls, New York gained popularity as a honeymoon destination in the 1800s, when the upper class and famous folks (basically the only ones with the means to travel) flocked to the area’s rushing falls and scenic parks, eager to partake in its air of romanticism. By the early 1900s, Niagara Falls was being formally touted and marketed as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” It was during this time that the Red Coach Inn was built, opening its doors to the honeymooner boom on August 30, 1923, unaware that just four years later it would check in its most famous couple.
How the Haunted History Begins
The story goes that a newlywed couple checked in around midnight on the first night of their honeymoon. They were given the Victoria Suite on the third floor, a large, multi-room suite with fantastic views. By morning, the bride was found bludgeoned to death on the master bed; her face crushed on one side, beaten in with a candlestick her husband had grabbed off the mantle.
Ever since the brutal murder, staff and guests have reported seeing a woman wearing an old-fashioned, lace white dress roaming the hotel; they’ve heard things they can’t explain, seen things they can’t believe — and most attribute them to the apparition. On an episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories,” Barry Kopell (who starred in “The Loveboat” TV series) recounts once seeing a young woman wearing a wedding dress glide through the wall into the hallway here. “She stops, turns towards Earl and me, and you could see,” he says, “the face was not…a whole face. It was a face that had been mutilated; the whole face was caved in.” He goes on to say that the woman then walked towards the two of them “with a look of anger and accusation,” as if they were to blame.
Checking Into a Suite
I’ve got keys to the Windermere Suite, a ground-floor one-bedroom suite with period decor and floorboards that creak on cue through the carpet. The haunted Victoria Suite is two flights up. But I can’t go into the latter; the suite is occupied for the weekend by group of young women celebrating a bachelorette party. I wonder if they know the haunted history of their rooms, or just booked the 1,100-square-foot suite for its sheer size. I cross paths with them a few times as I explore the hotel, but I keep my mouth shut. Maybe the brooding late bride will enjoy their company.
While I wait for a table for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, I needle the two receptionists, Leana and Heidi, for ghastly tales. Leana admits she wasn’t a believer until one night when a coworker called to her from behind the bar, frightfully pointing at a usually stubbornly sticky cabinet that had effortlessly swung open on its own accord. “Do you believe me now?” the bartender asked Leana. I peek my head into the dimly light bar off reception as I listen to her story, trying to picture the scene.
More Ghastly Stories Revealed
“We’ve got two ghosts, officially/unofficially,” Leana confesses. “A bride and a four-year-old girl.” This is a surprise. I’ve only ever heard about the disgruntled bride. Later, I’ll learn about how, before its life as an inn, the property was home to horse stables. A massive fire destroyed everything, and a little girl was found burnt to a crisp in one of the charred stables. But for now, I listen to some of the strange things Red Coach guests have encountered while staying at the inn, half wishing that I’ll get to experience them, too — and half praying that I don’t.
There’s the purse lying in the middle of the table that gets thrown onto the floor; the man who felt something rubbing on his body even though no one else was around; the pictures that had to be removed because the eyes followed horrified guests around their rooms; the general manager’s experience with the alarm’s motion detector going off, repeatedly, when he was the only one in the building.
Why did I come here alone, again?
Next I talk to Alanna. She’s a believer. Why? Because in the four years she’s worked at Red Coach Inn, she’s collected quite a library of paranormal experiences. Lucky for me, she’s more than willing to share. One particular one sticks with me as the hostess seats me in front of the stunning double-wide hearth of the restaurant’s fireplace. It’s only October so there’s no fire, but Alanna’s story took place during winter, when the fire is blazing.
“My family usually comes to visit in the winter,” she explains. “One year, two of my little nephews came. They entered the restaurant on the side by the fireplace.” One of her nephews looked into the fire and casually asked, “Aunt Lannie, who’s that man in the fire? Why is he in the fire?”
When I Decide to Explore
After dinner, with the stories still fresh in my head, I decide to explore. Unlike the last time I dared stay in a haunted hotel, this time I stick to one app that turns my phone into an EMF meter. No boards, no bells, no whistles — I want the spirits to speak for themselves.
I flip the meter on as I pass the old ship’s bell — Leana and Alanna both told me it’s been known to ring loudly without anyone striking it — and head up the winding stairs between the restaurant and reception. A “normal” reading is anywhere between 40 and 60, and I’ve yet to bounce out of that range.
I walk through the hall, the meeting room, and a bathroom. Nothing. Then, I try the reception area, the bar, the restaurant. Nothing. It’s closing time and I hear no ship bell toll as I make my way out the front door and down the sidewalk. The little black gate screeches as I push it open. I jump, but quickly shake it off.
I’m fumbling for my keys to open the big wooden door that leads to the small section of suites on this side of the building — the section of suites that houses my suite, as well as the Victoria Suite. Once inside, I drop my things off in my room, making a quick sweep that reads nothing but “normal” on my reader. I then head for the door, determined to make a visit to the infamous suite where the bride was found murdered so long ago. Well, this is it, I tell myself. If I find anything, it’s gonna happen now.
As I start to make my ascent up the stairs, it is dead quiet and feels like I’m the only person in the entire building. The stairs add to the ambience, creaking with every other step. The light bulbs flicker just enough for me to notice — but subtly enough for me to wonder if they’re not actually, and it’s all just in my head.
I look down and the EMF reader is in the 70s, spiking slightly higher with each step. By the time I reach the third floor, it’s into the 90s. I’m caught between wanting to believe it’s real and writing it off as a fluke. I walk up to the cream door marked “Victoria Suite.”
Maybe ghosts are real, maybe they’re not, but the EMF reader shoots up to 124 as soon as it’s in front of the door. My heart is racing. I move my phone away from the door and the meter drops down to the 70s. Back against the door and it spikes into the 120s. I wave it in front of the neighboring suite’s door, just in case it’s something mechanical in the door causing the spikes. Nothing; it drops to 43.
I hit the stairs, scurrying back to my room. Once safely inside, with the door shut, I sit on the couch in front of the fire, waiting for a spoon or pencil or something to fly across the room. But then I remember that the ladies at reception said nothing’s ever been reported from my room, and I settle for an episode of “Ghost Hunters” on TV.
The next morning I see a woman in the hallway and I can’t help but ask her if she’s part of the bachelorette party. “Yeah,” she says. “I hope we didn’t keep you up last night.”
“No,” I reply. “But I was curious if you knew your room was haunted.” She looks at me like I’m crazy. “A woman was murdered on her wedding night,” I push. “Is that why you booked it?”
“No, I had no idea,” she laughs. “If there are any ghosts in there, they weren’t there last night.” Then she winks, “Maybe we were lucky.”
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