Thursday, July 18, 2019

HGB Ep. 303 - Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Moment in Oddity - The Tree with Matchmaking Powers
Suggested by: Ariel Facey

There are some lonely hearts out there that turn to online dating sites and newspaper personal ads to find love. There is a city named Eutin along the Baltic Sea in northern Germany and it is home to Br√§utigamseiche, which in English means Bridegroom’s Oak. This tree is believed to be 500 years old and it is the only tree in Europe with its own mailing address. And why would a tree need a mailing address? Because there are people, dozens every day, who hope to use its magical powers to their benefit. And what magic power does the tree have? It apparently is a matchmaker. A mailman named Karl Heinz Martens has been delivering these letters for 20 years and what he does is puts the letters into a small knothole in the trunk. Then lonely hearts come from all around and reach into the hole, hoping to find a match. The story behind the tree is that a young woman fell in love with a chocolate maker in 1890 and her father did not approve. The couple sent secret messages to each other at this tree by leaving letters in the knot hole. Eventually, her father realized that the love was good and he hosted their wedding under the canopy of the tree. By 1927, the tree was so overwhelmed with mail, the post office decided to give it its own address. The rules about the letters is that you must write to the letter sender or place the letter back in the tree. And many couples have found love this way and gone on to marry. Some have carved their initials on the branches of the tree. The Bridegroom's Oak has ropes holding parts of it together and many branches have been removed due to fungus, but it still stands and matches lonely hearts to this day. An old tree playing matchmaker, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Percy Shelley Drowns

In the month of July, on the 8th, in 1822 poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Bay of Spezia. Percy Shelley was born in 1792 into a family of not only means, but also political position. He stood to inherit his grandfather's estate and seat in Parliament. He attended Eton College and moved onto Oxford from which he was summarily expelled for voicing his atheistic views. His father broke ties with him over this as well and this left him in dire straits for a while. Shelley believed in free love. He married a sixteen-year-old girl named Harriet in 1811, but by 1814 he had fallen in love with Mary Godwin and he abandoned a pregnant Harriet. Mary would become pregnant too, but lost the baby. She would later give birth to a son the couple named William. Eventually, Harriet would commit suicide and Percy would marry Mary who went on to write Frankenstein. Percy became most well known for his poetry with his best work being Prometheus Unbound in 1820. Percy had a schooner named Don Juan and he took it out to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia in Italy in July of 1822. A storm erupted and Percy went overboard and drowned. At least that is according to one story. Conspiracy theories claim pirates may have attacked to rob him or that creditors had him killed. The boat was found with a huge gash in its side like it had been rammed. Percy was cremated and a story claims that Mary kept his desiccated heart in her desk for 30 years. There are modern-day theories that believe it was actually his liver as it would have been waterlogged and not cremated, while the heart would have burned up quickly.

Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Keg Mansion Steakhouse in Toronto, Canada is considered Canada's most infamous and haunted restaurant. The Steakhouse is the former home to a radio station and the Bombay Bicycle Club, but for many of its years, it was a home to some very well-known Torontonians. Several family members died here as well as a staff member. Many have claimed to have unexplained experiences at the steakhouse. Could these be caused by spirits of the family? Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Keg Mansion Steakhouse.

Toronto has been the setting for many films like The Shape of Water and Suicide Squad and for television productions like The Handmaid’s Tale, Orphan Black, American Gods and one of my favorites, Umbrella Academy. This is a great city for productions as it is a financial center and large with a population close to three million. But this was originally the domain of the First Nations, first the Wyandot People and then the Iroquois. The first European settlement here was a French trading fort known as Fort Rouille and it was established in 1750. A Frenchman named Etienne Brule was the first to explore the area in 1615 and that is why the French would be the first Europeans to settle. The Seven Years War started in 1756 and when it finished, all of Canada would be British ruled. A man named John Graves Simcoe would become governor of Upper Canada and in 1793 he founded the town of York named for the Duke of York. It would be the capital of Upper Canada. The first post office opened here in 1833 and the following year the town changed its name to Toronto and was incorporated. Gas street lights were added in 1841 and the city grew and flourished The railroad would come as well as horse drawn streetcars that eventually were electrified. In 1867, Toronto became the capital of Ontario. The city would suffer its own great fire in 1904 and the Depression would hit it hard, but following World War II, the city rose to prominence.

Some early prominent families in Toronto were the McMaster Family and the Massey Family and both would have connections to the Keg Mansion. William McMaster came to Toronto in 1833 and was the founder of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and McMaster University and he served in the Senate of Canada from 1867 to 1887. He had  made most of his money running a wholesale dry goods company and eventually partnered with his nephews, one of whom was Arthur McMaster. Arthur would build the mansion that is today Keg Mansion. The Massey Family is said to be arguably the most prominent family in Toronto. The Masseys are most known for manufacturing farm equipment and for being patrons of the arts in Canada. One of the bigger contributions was the concert hall, Massey Hall, built by Hart Massey in 1894. The Massey Foundation, which was formed by Hart's sons Chester and Vincent after he died and donated most of his estate for the building of public insititutions, is responsible for the construction of many landmarks in Toronto. These include the Massey Memorial Pipe Organ, Hart House Theater and Hart House. Vincent Jr. would go on to be Governor General of Canada in 1952 and another grandson named Raymond would become an actor most well known for his performance as Abe Lincoln in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." Americans were not happy that a Canadian had been given the role, but his wonderful performance silenced the critics and got him an Oscar nod. *Fun Fact: A friend of Raymond said, "Raymond wouldn’t feel his Lincoln impersonation is complete until getting assassinated."*

During Victorian times, Jarvis Street in Toronto was once the pinnacle of society. This is where the wealthy built their mansions. One of these stately homes that still stands today is the Keg Mansion. Arthur McMaster built the house in 1867. The mansion is unique in its look and was built in the Baronial Gothic style. This style is Scottish and inspired many of the Disney castles for its whimsical flair. These include the round towers, lancet windows and gothic spires. The mansion originally had twenty six rooms and seventeen fireplaces. There was also a stable and large brick carriage house in the back.

Hart Massey had moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a while, but when he returned to Toronto, he bought the McMaster's former mansion. This was in 1881. The Masseys renovated the house and added a turret with a red tile roof, verandah, and greenhouse. Edward James Lennox was an architect who embarked on his solo career in 1881. He was immediately hired by Hart Massey to supervise alterations to Euclid Hall. He would later design the family's Massey Mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is a magnificent structure! Hart also added a secret tunnel under the house that connected directly to the Wellesley Hospital building. There is a legend that claims that the tunnel was used so that Hart's son Frederick Victor could be secretly whisked away to the hospital. He ended up dying when he was only twenty-three. Tragically, Hart had lost another son named Charles, six years earlier. Another son had died in infancy, so at this point, he had lost three sons. He eventually died in 1896 and his daughter Lillian would take over ownership of the house and the family interests. She was a strong woman and she needed to be because a woman as the head of the family was just not done at this time. Lillian had loved their time in Cleveland and she officially named the manion Euclid Hall after the street they had lived on in Cleveland. Lillian demanded respect, but she was a wonderful employer and her staff adored her. When she died in 1915, they took it very hard, especially her personal maid. Stories claim that the woman hanged herself in the foyer over her grief. After Lillian's death, the house was given to the Victoria College and it became the first home of radio station CFRB, now Newstalk 1010. Later an art gallery would take over and then finally the Keg company bought it in 1976 to house one of their steakhouses.

Inside, the lobby has a marble checkerboard floor. A women's restroom is located on the second floor with an oval vestibule that overlooks the lobby. Columns and a gorgeous wooden archway open up into the main lobby area. There are only two booths in the restaurant and they are located in the library, which is not the original library. The library had been outside the kitchen, but a fire caused the redesign to occur. A beautiful carved wood staircase leads to the second floor and the bar is nestled underneath. I hear the food here is amazing. The other thing I've heard is that this place is full of haunting stories. Staff and patrons have seen many spirits. The reports date back to the 1950s.

As I mentioned, there is a story that claims the maid hanged herself in the house. Based on many people's experiences, I think the story is probably true. The oval vestibule is the scene of this death and many people have seen a residual scene of the maid hanging there. A girl named Mia T. shared the following experience, "This was my first time inside the Keg Mansion. What an amazing place! I had a wonderful dinner with my fianc√©. I knew about the woman in the washroom and kids on the stairs. Even knew about the hanging maid. We took an impromptu tour after dinner and ended up at the second floor ladies room. I was in there alone, but it felt like someone was with me the entire time. I came out and looked to the stairs. A woman dressed in a dark, beautiful old fashion dress looked at me. I assumed she was a Keg worker, maybe someone made to look old fashion. Sounds weird now, but made sense to me that night. I even said “Hi” to her when walking past and down the stairs. Felt weird about it, so I asked the host. He said it was only four male servers that night, no waitresses and definitely no one in an old fashion dress."

The Travel Geek reported this story as told by a waitress, "The one that stuck out in her mind was that of a father and daughter who came to the restaurant after a gymnastics competition in the city. The two were from out of town and knew nothing about the restaurant before stopping by “The Keg” for a meal. The girl was 10-years old and went to the washroom at some point during the meal. A while later she came back to the table crying. She told her father that while standing by the oval vestibule outside the washroom, someone tried to push her over the edge of the railing. When she turned around, no one was there. It was only after talking to the waitress did they learn that this is where Lillian Massey’s maid committed suicide shortly after the death of her employer." 

Children died in the home and their spirits seem to still be here, especially a little boy. The children's rooms were upstairs when the Masseys lived in the house. The disembodied running footsteps of little kids that are excited can be heard running on the second floor and when people go up to investigate, the footsteps stop. The little boy is seen on the main staircase often and there are a few stories about this staircase that may or may not necessarily be connected to the boy. He is not residual, but intelligent as many times he will look directly at diners and glance into rooms with a curious look on his face. One account said, "I went upstairs to wait in the Keg Mansion bar for a table to open up. At the top I saw a dark haired boy playing on the stair. Strange because I knew kids are not allowed in there at night. Walked passed him towards the bar, looking back again to see the boy was gone. There again in 2014, I went up to the second floor bar with a friend. Talking, we both heard it at the same time… the sound of kids running down the stairs. We looked over without a word to see no children at all."

Another experience on the staircase involves a wooden spindle. Several years ago, one of the wooden spindles under the bannister on the third floor landing came loose and fell straight down onto the bar top below during a busy Saturday night. Amazingly, no one was hurt. Scared the crap out of the bartender though. The manager went upstairs to see where it came from and wrote it down in a logbook. The spindle was repaired. One year, to the day, the exact same spindle fell down onto the bar again. People wondered after this if the spindle had something to do with the little boy on the stairs and his death. Had he fallen and this was a reason why and was that date the date of his death? The spindle was again found to be sticking out some time later and had to be repaired again. Pretty freaky! The little boy is seen often just sitting on the stairs watching people eat. Kids see him most often and several have claimed he is playing with a train set.

The Women's Bathroom is a center of activity. People describe the woman who haunts this area as creepy, but that seems weird to me because many people believe the woman is Lillian Massey. One woman said that she went into the bathroom and she saw what she thought was another woman in a stall because she could see the feet under the door. She entered the stall next to this one and heard the other toilet flush. As she opened her stall door, she heard the other one open and expected to see a woman step out, but no one stepped out. She glanced into the stall and no one was in there. She came out of the bathroom with a look of utter terror on her face and after verifying from someone standing there that no one had come out, she told them her story. Another woman entered the bathroom and instantly felt like someone else was there. She looked in the stalls and knew that she was alone, but she couldn't shake the feeling. She went into the stall to do her business and heard the lock start moving. It unlocked and the stall door swung open, but no one was on the other side. I'm not sure how she reacted, but I would have immediately been done doing whatever I was doing.

Another woman asked her husband to wait for her while she ran to the bathroom. She had bought a bottle of wine and it was in a bag that she carried in with her. She hung it on the hook on the stall door. She heard the plastic of the bag rustling as she did her business and looked up to see the bag off the hook and in mid-air. She closed her eyes preparing to hear a huge crash on the floor. She didn't hear anything and when she opened her eyes the bag was sitting on the floor by her feet with no damage to the wine bottle.

Melanie Elaraby had an experience here while dining with her husband. She believes she had interactions with two different spirits. She describes it as follows, "While at the Keg Mansion on a Friday evening, my husband and I encountered two different spirits. We arrived at about 5:45 pm for our first visit to the Keg Mansion. As soon as I entered a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiety, my heart fluttered in my chest. Maybe I was really excited because I knew the place was haunted, and was so happy to finally visit. My husband and I were alone in the India room. I soon felt a light coldness leading to goose-bumps on my arm. After our waitress took the orders, I needed to use the ladies room upstairs. Nothing happened (unfortunately), just continued anxiety. At our table the coldness and goose bumps returned, continuing through our meal. It escalated to a light wispy touch on my fingers, centered near my engagement ring. I thought maybe a fly, looked down to see nothing.
I moved my hand off the table, and the feeling stopped. Back on the table and it returned. I told my husband, who was surprised but said he felt nothing odd. Later on I once again felt the touch, but this time on my neck. Then a flash across my mind of a woman. She was young, blonde hair with a wide face and blue eyes. She wore her hair swept up and wore a light colored blouse with a high neck, and a long light colored skirt. In the flash, she was standing behind me, as if shy around my husband. All during our evening the gentle, shy presence remained near me, except one moment. I went back to the woman’s washroom a second time, and again she was gone. Maybe my husband wasn’t the only one she feared."

There is a lot of activity in this beautiful steakhouse. They even keep a ghost log behind the bar upstairs. I'm so glad the Keg company goes around and gives these old historic locations new life. Are the renovations they do somehow awakening the spirits and making them more active? Is the energy of having all these people in the restaurant fueling the paranormal activity? Is the Keg Mansion Steakhouse haunted? That is for you to decide!

*Fun Fact: Some episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were filmed here!*

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