Banff, Alberta, Canada
The city of Banff and its famous hotel were named after the first European settler in this region, William Davidson, a native of Banff, Scotland.
The concept of the “Scottish Castle of the Rockies”, later to become known as the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada, was born by Cornelius Van Horne, General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne’s concept was to tap into the tourist potential of west Canada and increase traffic on the railway by building a series of luxury high end resorts along the rail line which wound through the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains.
The massive hotel in Banff was to be situated at the convergence of the Bow and Spray rivers and construction began in 1887. After its opening in 1888, the Fairmont Banff Springs gained immediate and immense popularity, which was only increased when it was designated as one of the top three mountain getaways in North America. The wealthy were attracted to the new luxurious destination, and over its 131-year run, the hotel has hosted such prestigious visitors as Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Keller, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill.
In 1926, a devastating fire destroyed most of the hotel’s wooden infrastructure. With its popularity still intact, despite the Great Depression, the tragedy was used as an opportunity to rebuild the hotel larger and grander, and the result is what stands today.
World War II took a toll on the hotel’s business. Travel restrictions placed on North Americans and Europeans forced the hotel to close its doors in 1942, and they did not reopen until the war ended in 1945.
The hotel has been loved over the decades not only by those able to enjoy its amenities; a particular employee is said to have been so dedicated to his work there that it continues to this day, 44 years after his death.
Elderly Scottish head bellman Sam McCauley was well liked during his tenure at the hotel during the 1960s and 70s. Today, Sam is widely known as an amiable and helpful sort of spirit, still eager to assist staff and guests. Two women reported an incident where they contacted the front desk upon finding that their door key would not work. By the time the staff member arrived at their door fifteen minutes later, he found it unlocked. The women said an older bellman in a plaid jacket, exactly matching Sam’s description, had unlocked their door for them. Sam is said to still occupy his old office on the mezzanine floor which is now a guest room, which most recognize as fleeting cold spots and rearranged possessions.
The most infamous spirit at the hotel, and arguably tied for the most tragic, is the Ghost Bride, whose story dates back to the late 1920s. The young bride, dressed for her wedding day, was descending one of the hotel’s back staircases adorned by candlelight. It is said that she caught her heel in her hem and as she fell, breaking her neck on the marble stairs, her long dress caught fire off one of the candles. Within seconds, she was engulfed in flames, dead.
Both staff members and guests have for years claimed to see the veiled specter of the young bride, dressed in her wedding gown and slowly repeating her descent down the staircase where she died. Some reports have even claimed that billowing flames could be seen on the back of her long white dress; others claim to have seen her dancing alone in the ballroom where she was to be wed. The Ghost Bride of Banff Springs has become so famous that her own postage stamp and collector coin were issued in 2014.
Sam the Bellman and the Ghost Bride are not the only spirits reported to have remained in the hotel, however. Controversy surrounds the stories of the doomed family that stayed in Room 873. Legend tells that a man murdered his wife and young daughter before committing suicide there. Hotel representatives contend that no such crime ever occurred at the hotel and that Room 873 does not exist.
Findings from amateur sleuths determined to prove that Room 873 did in fact exist are curious: on all floors, there are rooms ending in the numbers “73”, except on the eighth floor. The baseboard in the hallway where the entrance to Room 873 would have been is cut, as if there had once been a door there, and there is a corresponding light on the ceiling that now seems misplaced. An uninterrupted stretch of drywall seems at odds with the rest of the design.
The theory is that the paranormal activity in this tragic room was so intense that the hotel closed off access or identity from the hallway and incorporated the room into the one next door, creating a large suite. This doesn’t seem to have abated the negative energy trapped in the room, however. Some who have stayed in the converted suite claim to have heard horrible disembodied shrieks and screams in the middle of the night. Bloody handprints were said to appear on the bathroom mirror, unable to be scrubbed away by maids but eventually disappearing on their own.
General reports of cold spots and moving shadows are regularly reported throughout the hotel. Crying has been reported in some of the more remote bathrooms, although no one ever emerges. Pillows have been yanked from beneath the sleeping heads of guests. The winding hallways and past-era elegance of the sprawling Fairmont Banff Springs certainly must make these intimate encounters feel plausible to all guests, even to those who didn’t get to experience them first hand.