Tuesday, October 18
Ghost Stories of the Canadian Rockies
Ghost Stories of the Canadian Rockies
Sir William Cornelius Van Horne (1843-1915) was the man largely responsible for completing the railway that links Canada from coast to coast. Van Horne was also our country’s original marketing guru. When he first set eyes on the majestic Rocky Mountains, he declared, “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists.” Van Horne’s idea was extra canny because those tourists would have to travel to the mountains on the newly completed railway.
Once the train had dropped the travellers off amid the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the tourists would, of course, need to a place to stay. Van Horne had another innovative idea, and construction on the Banff Springs Hotel began in 1887. A year later, the hotel welcomed its first guests. The original building was humble compared to today’s palatial resort, but it was enormously popular nevertheless.
The Banff Springs Hotel has since been rebuilt and renovated many times, but the lavish hotel still stands nestled at the base of Sulphur Mountain, tucked in the coniferous forest of Banff National Park in Alberta. Even today, some fortunate people stay for prolonged visits, as was the custom more than a hundred years ago. Others never leave. And who can blame them? What a magnificent place to spend eternity.
The Dancing Bride is one of the hotel’s best-known ghosts. Late at night, when the lights have dimmed and most of the guests have gone to their luxurious rooms, a vaporous column of mist occasionally forms at the base of grandly curving staircase. Some witnesses say that the mist disappears again in the blink of an eye; others maintain that as the moments pass, the cloud becomes more solid until they realize they are staring at the unmistakable image of a young woman dressed in a long flowing white bridal gown. She seems to be hovering just above the floor, and she glides effortlessly in a three-step pattern that repeats itself over and over again, until finally that glistening speckles of white light disperse, and the spectre vanishes completely—until the next time.
In life, the bride and her groom chose the Banff Springs Hotel as the perfect setting for their fairy-tale wedding. The bride made her entrance at the top of a curving staircase with each stair subtly lit by the glow of a small candle. The effect could not have been more romantic. But then disaster struck. The long, flowing train of the bride’s gown brushed up against one of those candles, and the delicate material caught fire. When she realized what had happened, the bride panicked, lost her balance, and fell to the bottom of the staircase. She died instantly, but her spirit has lingered for many decades. People who have seen the image say she appears to be made of glistening speckles of white light. She glides along repeating the same three-step pattern over and over again. It seems that the bride’s ethereal, slightly transparent image eternally dances the wedding waltz that she wasn’t able to enjoy life.
And then there’s the ghost of Sam Macauley. Sam emigrated from Scotland and worked as bellman at the Banff Springs Hotel for some forty years. Sam always said that, when he died, he would come back to haunt the hotel; according to many eyewitness accounts, he has done exactly that. One of the devoted soul’s most famous appearances occurred back in the late 1970s, when a family checked into the hotel late in the evening. They were tired from their travels and thankful when a n older man dressed in an old-fashioned uniform heled carry their luggage to their room.
The next morning, they realized that they had all been so tired the night before that non of them had thought to tip the kindly man with the distinctive brogue. Before they went out for their first day of exploring, they stopped at the front desk and asked about the dignified older bellman.
The clerk at the desk looked puzzled and told the family there wasn’t a bellman at the Banff Springs over the age of thirty. Then it was the guests’ turn to look puzzled. They insisted that the man who had helped them the previous evening was considerably older than thirty. They added that he was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform and spoke with a Scottish brogue.
The clerk’s face went pale. They were describing Sam Macauley, and he had been dead for more than a year.
Sam’s spirit is an active one. Staff members blame him for elevators that go up and down when no one’s in them. It’s thought that Sam is checking on the cache of tip money that he was rumoured to have hidden away somewhere in the hotel. True to form, during a reception to launch a television series about haunted placed in Canada in the 1990’s the elevators closet to reception room were active all evening – and none was near them.
There are also other, less well-known, spirits haunting the Banff Springs Hotel. One is an apparition of a little girl bouncing a ball in a corridor. The child funs toward the end of the hallway only to vanish just as she reaches the end. No one knows who she was in life or why her ghost haunts this particular corridor, but that’s the thing about ghosts: they defy human logic. There’s also a ghostly bartender who admonished patrons who have had too much to drink! Seeing him should scare almost anyone sober.
Happily, in addition to the resort’s other fine qualities, the Banff Springs Hotel embraces its status as one of Canada’s most haunted places. If you visit Banff, don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy this haunted castle in the woods.