12 Jan The Banff Springs Hotel
The town of Banff, Alberta is one of the most popular tourist spots in Western Canada. Situated in the gorgeous Banff National Park, the idyllic small town is the gateway to the park’s beautiful forests, hiking trails, and hot springs. It is also home to the Banff Springs Hotel, one of the most haunted locations Canada has to offer. The 130-year-old hotel has a long, sordid history and is home to a ton of ghosts, from a bride who burned to death on her wedding day to an entire family that was murdered in their hotel room.
The Banff Springs Hotel was originally built in 1888 by a man named William Van Horne, who correctly surmised that the spot where it stands would be perfect for tourists coming through the area to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Mountains. All was well until 1926 when the wooden structure burned to the ground. After the fire, Van Horne decided that he wanted to build something sturdier, and had the structure rebuilt from solid stone. This rebuilt structure is what still stands today, and many refer to it as the “Castle of the Rockies” for its towering silhouette.
Oddly, the architects who built the original wooden structure included a windowless, doorless “secret room” in the plans. The room was apparently empty and remained unused until the 1926 fire when the room was discovered. There are numerous reports that there are strange noises and even weird figures seen around the area where the secret room would have been, though the cause of these hauntings is unknown.
The most famous ghostly resident of the Banff Springs Hotel is an apparition referred to as “The Burning Bride.” According to the legends, a young bride emerged from her room in her wedding gown and was coming down the hotel’s grand staircase when misfortune befell her. The train of her gown caught fire on candles lining the staircase, and the poor girl fell down the stairs in her panic, dying from her injuries. Shortly after this accident, reports started coming in of people seeing an apparition in a wedding dress moving up and down the staircase. She’s also occasionally spotted in the ballroom, waiting for the first dance that she will never have.
Another ghostly resident is that of Sam Macauley - he was the head bellman through the 60s and 70s, and is believed to have hung around the hotel since passing away in 1975. Delightfully, Sam is known to be incredibly friendly, and many guests have stated that he’s helped them with small predicaments around the hotel. One of the more well-known tales is that of two elderly women who were having trouble with the key to their room. They called the front desk for assistance, but the man who was working wasn’t available for over 15 minutes. When he arrived at the room, he discovered that the room had already been opened. The women said that an older man wearing a checkered jacket had helped them; this is assumed to have been Sam. Other guests have seen him in his old room, which is now available to guests.
While other ghostly residents have the run of the hotel, there’s one room that contains ghosts all its own. Room 873 is rumoured to be the site of the murder of an entire family. While it’s uncertain whether this murder actually happened, the story is that a couple and their young daughter were all killed inside the room. Some say that it was a murder-suicide perpetrated by the father, while others believe they were killed by a yet-uncaught maniac. After the police left, hotel staff found that they couldn’t clean the girl’s handprints off the bathroom mirror. Guests who stayed in the room after the murders reported hearing disembodied screams in the middle of the night. Eventually, the hotel decided that it was best to block off Room 873 entirely; the door was even wallpapered over.
The Banff Springs Hotel is still open for business to this day, though it’s more of a resort at this point. It’s a premier luxury hotel, and thus rooms are anywhere from $630 to $830 CAD per night. There are an on-site spa and golf course, as well as a whole host of world-class restaurants. If you’re curious about the ghostly side of things, the hotel hosts a Ghostly Tour every Halloween, and Discover Banff offers a walking ghost tour of the town as well.
If you want a souvenir of the Banff Springs Hotel’s ghostly side, the Royal Canadian Mint released a collection of stamps and collectible coins commemorating some of Canada’s most famous ghost stories. Included in this collection are stamps and a coin depicting the hotel’s very own Burning Bride.