The Mysteries of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Alberta)
From Ghost Stories to Lost Rooms
On my first visit to Banff National Park as a teenager, I was told a charming story of how the Banff Springs Hotel had lost a guest room. At that time, swimming in the Cave and Basin Hot Springs seemed far more interesting. However, with age comes an appreciation of history, and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and its very mysterious past drew me back.
CPR HOTEL – CANADA’S CASTLE IN THE ROCKIES
When the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) was completed in 1885, the company needed to make the railroad profitable. William Cornelius Van Horne, the General Manager, realized that tourism was good business. Van Horne reasoned that “... since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourist”. His decision resulted in the construction of ten hotels across Canada, from the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City to the Empress in Victoria. Over the years, the Banff Springs Hotel has been redesigned, expanded, refurbished, renovated again and again, as well as winterized in 1968 to become a year-round resort. Today this stately hotel, or castle, has fifteen floors, 768 guest rooms, a golf course, eleven restaurants and 1,200 employees. It has an ambiance that can be best described as majestic, with a view of Mount Rundle and the Bow Valley. Over the years many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, numerous Prime Ministers and Queen Elizabeth II. For the record, the original hotel cost a mere $250,000 to build and a room cost only $3.50 a night. The hotel is now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
THE LOST ROOM
There appears to be a number of versions of this story, but they all center on a missing guest room somewhere in the hotel. It is not as if the staff had an extra set of keys and were constantly looking for the lost room. When the hotel was opened in 1888, the contractor Bruce Price, appears to have misread the architectural plans and built the entire hotel facing backwards. It is therefore conceivable that the construction crew either built an extra room, which never had an outside window, or boarded up the room and never inserted the door. Embarrassed by the mistake, Price preferred to leave the room lost instead of admitting another mistake. Besides, the staff had 200 other rooms to keep them busy.
It would not be until the fire of 1926 that management discovered the lost room on the eighth floor, which of course never had a number. Over the years, conflicting details have emerged about the lost room from the hotel staff and visitors, along with paranormal events in other parts of the hotel.
With the passage of time and people passing through the hotel, many ghost stories have emerged, such as Sam McCauley-the Bellman, the Dancing Bride and Room 873. Sam the Bellman makes frequent appearances to help with the luggage, although he has been dead since 1975. The Dancing Bride fell down the spiral staircase on her wedding night and died, but her ghost has frequently been seen dancing alone in the Cascade Ballroom. Room 873 is the epitome of ghostly tales.
The mystery of Room 873 begins with that destructive fire in 1926 requiring extensive hotel renovations. Shortly after re-opening the hotel in 1928, a gruesome murder took place in Room 873, with a husband killing his wife and daughter. From that point on, the room produced strange sounds, screams and shadows, along with a repeating bloody handprint of the little girl on the mirror. As a result of the complaints from the guests, management finally had the room sealed and blended into the hallway. Hotel staff and visitors, however, continued to report apparitions walking the hallway. Room 873 was haunted!
There is plenty of evidence that Room 873 still exists behind the brick and drywall. There are rooms ending with 73 on both the 7th and 9th floors, but not on the 8th floor. The baseboard in the hallway has been cut to fit the width of a door. Knocking on the wall produces a hollow sound behind the drywall. Lastly, the hallway light is still located where a door should be, but there is no Room 873!
The official position of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is that the Lost Room and Room 873 are one in the same and the mass murder never happened. During various renovations, smaller rooms were often enlarged with doors and lights relocated. The ghost stories connected with the Lost Room have become, over decades, an urban myth or legend. Hotel management does acknowledge other historical ghosts, such
The Banff Springs Hotel has been referred to as the most haunted structure in Alberta, Canada — stay if you dare...
as the Dancing Bride, the Bellman, the Headless Piper, the Hallway of Mirrors and haunted bathrooms. A couple of good ghost stories are definitely great for business. The hotel even offers Halloween Heritage Ghost Tour Packages as well as a Haunted Hotel Gala Affair, along with a night at the hotel. When you register, and if you have the nerve…ask for Room 873!