House For Sale...Ghosts Included

nationalpost - Martha Rixten had admired the old Catholic rectory house on Wolfe Island for a very long time before she bought it 30 years ago. She'd grown up on the island, a 15-minute free ferry ride from downtown Kingston, and dreamed one day of owning the home.

From the first day she walked through the front door, the owner says, "I felt I wasn't alone here. I felt surrounded by a loving energy, I heard footsteps. When my son was a little boy, he would walk past the bathroom door and close it. I asked him why. He said, 'because there are three ladies in there.'"

Ms. Rixten believes her 1901-era home is haunted. Occasionally, she'll hear what sounds like someone in work boots on the third floor, or a heavy object being dropped, when she knows she's alone.

But that's not why she and husband Rod McDonald -- a fervent non-believer in the spirit world -- are selling (it's listed for $1.89-million).

After operating Wolfe Manor for the past six years as a bed and breakfast, they feel it's time to take life easier, and plan to build a smaller home down the road.

When Ms. Rixten bought the 8,000-square-foot home, it was a "shambles," she says. She spent the next quarter-century gutting the interior and rebuilding it to her high standard. She met Mr. McDonald and they built a 1,600-sq.-ft. west wing to live in, and opened the adjacent old rectory as a seasonal B&B.

Mr. McDonald says Wolfe Manor could continue as a B&B, but the possibilities are endless -- perhaps it could become an artist's studio, spa or family compound.

"The island needs a seasonal high-quality restaurant. This place is fitted for a restaurant," Mr. McDonald says of the newer wing, pointing to the upgraded electrical service and roughed-in plumbing for additional toilets.

Listing agent Scott Stren of Harvey Kalles Real Estate says Wolfe Manor would be a "turnkey operation" for anyone interested in taking over the bed and breakfast. It even has reservations for its spring opening. With the separate smaller home next to the rectory, Mr. Stren says, "it would also offer privacy to the parents of a large family or it could be an ideal corporate retreat."

The rectory's main floor consists of one ensuite bedroom, open-concept eat-in kitchen and lounge with wood-burning fireplace, library and 14-foot ceilings. The other three ensuite guest suites on the second floor are reached by a refinished hardwood staircase. One suite consists of adjoining bedrooms. There are two additional fireplaces.

The third floor is a large open room dominated by a billiard table that had to be lifted into place by crane. The table stays, Ms. Rixten insists.

Stairs from this level lead up to a partially enclosed widow's walk, offering 360-degree views of the woodland and fields, Lake Ontario and Kingston beyond. The rectory features decks and verandahs on three sides, with gardens and woods. There are two garden fountains and a path that

leads to the still-in-use Roman Catholic church next door.

The eight-acre property is zoned commercial and annual taxes are $7,500. Nearby is a wind farm, income from which has helped to keep the island's property taxes down, says Mr. McDonald.

Mr. Stren says there are more than 80 windmills on Wolfe Island. "They're close enough to see, but not close enough to hear," he points out.

As you turn off the street at the edge of the island village of Marysville, a winding, tree-lined laneway leads to the main house. The laneway is one of Mr. McDonald's favourite features. "You turn the curve in the driveway and all of a sudden you see the house. What a sight!"

The main house retains its original hardwood doors, floors and mouldings. Finishes from its days as a rectory remain, including decorative windows and a cross high above the main entranceway. "There are a lot of traditional aspects to the home," says Mr. Stren. "Updates keep to the period the house was built."

The addition, reached from the rectory by way of an attached deck, has an open-concept main level and two-bedroom, two-bath second level. There is also a nearby carriage house.

The island boasts many seasonal homes and the permanent population of 1,500 doubles during the summer. There are 40 operating farms and 70 home-based businesses. The Kingston ferry runs year-round and while it is shut down from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., someone is always on call for emergencies. There is a privately run toll ferry to Cape Vincent, N.Y., during the summer.

Ms. Rixten admits to mixed feelings about selling. "It's been a happy house, a place with a good feeling about it. There's a lot of love in the house."

Guests who hear about Wolfe Manor's friendly ghosts often come hoping for an experience, she says. "Some say they feel something, but if you're not sensitive to these sorts of things, you're not going to feel anything here."

Mr. McDonald insists he does not believe in haunted houses. Yet when attempts to reach a reporter by phone one clear, calm morning result in static and several dropped calls, he is asked whether he thinks the spirits might be having fun. Mr. McDonald forces a laugh. "Well ... maybe," he says.


The property became a family home in 1980 when Rod and Martha purchased it. Previous to this, Martha remembers going on treks to see the "old haunted house" as her and her sister peered through the nearby forest trying to get a glimpse of the grand edifice. The priest who lived in the rectory for 15 years before Rod and Martha came in was Father M. Farrell. He wasn't that popular amongst the islanders and this is when the rumours of the house being haunted surfaced as he was known to nail everything shut from the inside as if he was afraid that something or someone was going to come in.

Rod and Martha knew immediately that they weren't alone from the moment they stepped foot inside the home. The place was just filled with energy that they both could sense. According to Martha, "it's a very loving energy" and their "home is like a haven. Spirits stuck in purgatory would go there to get sent home - the god of their knowing was not that forgiving."

Sometimes Rod and Martha can hear the sound of footsteps walking upstairs when no one else is in the home, as if someone was wearing heavy, work boots, dragging their feet. The occasional door opens on its own or a light turns on right after Rod had made sure to switch it off. One evening, exactly at 12 midnight, Martha was awoken by a large crash at the main entrance on the first floor. She ran to see what happened an noticed that a delicate angel decoration that was securely hung to the wall with several large screws fell off the wall, but oddly enough, didn't have one chip or scratch on it. Events like this don't bug them anymore however. Both Rod and Martha have become used to the spirits in their home that they rarely pay attention anymore to the strange things that occur. Unless of course it's hard not to notice like the time their friends were visiting and decided to enjoy the scenery and spend the night under the stars in the backyard. They were just drifting off to sleep when all of the sudden their camper began to rock back and forth, rather aggressively. It was a very calm and still night with no wind so there is no explanation for what happened.

Their son has not only sensed but also saw things right from the time he was a young child. At a birthday party taking place at the house some kids attending came out of the bathroom saying that there were 3 nuns in there with them. Martha senses that the nuns like to follow their son around to protect him. There is also said to be the spirit of a little boy that likes to sit on the stairs with his head resting in his hands. The nuns like to keep him safe too.

There is a very old cemetery near the property of their home behind some bushes and might very well be the oldest cemetery on the island. When sitting inside the "Widow's Walk" at the very top of the house, you can enjoy the spectacular view and see almost the entire island. On occasion, Rod and Martha have seen very strange lights flickering at night in the dark cemetery.


After chatting with Rod and Martha for close to two hours and hearing all of great history and spooky stories, we were really intrigued and curious to see if anything cool would happen to us during our stay! We thanked them for their time and headed up the old wooden staircase to our suite. The first thing we did was use some of our tools around the room to see if we got anything interesting. The divining rods were really active and pointed out several spots in the room. Even some pictures we took produced some questionable "orb" shots that we can't explain.

After all the investigating, we decided to get comfy and enjoy our suite. Rob had brought us some wood to burn in the fireplace so we lit that and got comfy. After taking a lot hot bubble bath and warming up in our cozy pajamas, we crawled under the huge duvet covers and talked about our day. Being the "scaredy cat" that I am (yes, Stephanie the invincible ghost investigator), I was a bit timid after all of the stories that were told so I asked Dan if w could leave one of the two lights on either side of the bed on. Dan agreed and in a matter of seconds, we both drifted off to sleep with the soothing sound and warmth of the fireplace crackling in the background.

About an hour later I opened my eyes and peered at the alarm clock that read 11:46 p.m. An intense ice storm had hit around that time too so I could hear the ice pellets belting across the window panes that surrounded our bed. Something was different. I couldn't put my finger on it until I sat up and tried to look around the room. The only problem was that I couldn't see anything as the room was enveloped in complete darkness. I hastily began pushing Dan in his side and awoke him from his slumber. "Dan, Dan, the lights have all gone out… even the fireplace too!"

I began freaking out as I knew that we both agreed to leave one of the lamps on for the entire night. Dan sat up and wondered what had happened. At first, we thought perhaps the electricity went out due to the storm outside, but looked at the alarm clock and realized that was still fine. We turned the lamps on quickly and eyed the room for anything or anyone! We pulled out the camcorder and tried using our night vision feature to capture a spirit or entity that was obviously in the room as we both felt this incredible amount of energy right there with us. After 10 minutes of filming the clock turned to midnight. We listened to see if anything strange would happen as it does so frequently to Martha at this exact time. Nothing happened and we were really tired so we decided we were going to go back to bed. That was until I asked Dan to leave the lights on again. Before we went to sleep, we decided to conduct a little experiment, one that we wont' soon forget!

We shut one lamp off and kept the other one all the way up (they were dimmer lamps). We asked out loud, "if there is a spirit here, please show us a sign" and at that very second the lamp that was on began to dim. Darker, darker, and darker it went until there was almost no light in the entire room. I started freaking out and grabbed ahold of Dan. After taking a few deep breaths, we turned the light up again to it's brightest setting and asked out loud, "if there is a spirit here, please show us another sign that you're here". At that moment again, the light began to dim, but then quickly lit up and them dimmed again… going back and forth, light to dark! We decided to leave it at that as this was freaking us out too much. Dan went to the bathroom and turned on a lamp that was in there. We shut the two beside our bed off and went to sleep. We awoke the next morning with the bright winter light shining on our faces and talked about the previous night's events.



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