The Mys­ter­ies of the Fair­mont Banff Springs Ho­tel (Al­berta)

From Ghost Sto­ries to Lost Rooms

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents - BY DEN­NIS BE­GIN

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.


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.


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!

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