Ghostly Tales of the Banff Springs Hotel
Perhaps the most famous of all the luxury Canadian railway hotels is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, located in the town of Banff, Alberta. Initially marketed towards European sportsmen and tourists seeking a luxury wilderness experience, the aptly-dubbed “Castle of the Rockies” was built at the behest of CPR president William Van Horne in 1888. Since its grand opening to the public, countless guests from all over the world- among them Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth II and Helen Keller- have checked in to the hotel. According to a number of legends ostensibly born from the first-hand accounts of hotel patrons and staff, some these guests never checked out.
The Banff Springs Hotel is home to a number of ghost stories, all of which the hotel officially denies. At least one of the Banff Springs’ supposed ghostly guests is said to haunt the missing room 873 on the eighth floor. According to hotel lore, a man, while staying with his wife and young daughter in room 873, murdered his family before committing suicide. As the story goes, the spirit of the young girl- and, in some versions, the spirit of her
mother- never left the room. Guests who stayed in the room after the subsequent investigation and cleanup reported being awoken in the night by violent shrieks, and chambermaids who routinely cleaned the room would report finding bloody fingerprints on the bathroom mirror that could not be washed off. In response to the disturbing reports, hotel management sealed off the room. In spite of this, some say, the ghost (or ghosts) of room 873 still haunts the vicinity of the room to this day.
Another of the permanent residents purported to walk the halls of the Banff Springs is the ghost of Sam McCauley (or McAuley), a beloved Scottish bellman who, before his death in the mid-late 1970’s, swore to posthumously return to haunt his workplace. Incidents involving mysterious phantom lights, elevator doors opening and closing at random and hotel guests being helped by an elderly Scottish bellman in an antiquated uniform have been attributed to Sam’s ghost.
Some other alleged hotel spectres include a ghostly bartender who encourages inebriated patrons to go to bed, and a headless man who, despite his obvious handicap, somehow manages to play the bagpipes.
Of all the ghost stories associated with the Banff Springs Hotel, perhaps the most iconic and well-known is the tale of the phantom bride. According to the legend, a young couple was married in Banff sometime in the early 1930’s. It was arranged for their wedding banquet to be held in the Banff Springs Hotel, where the couple was renting the bridal suite. Before the beginning of the banquet, the newlywed bride ascended a marble staircase up to the Cascade Ballroom to join her husband, who was waiting at the top. As she did so, her wedding gown brushed against one of the candles that lined the curved staircase and caught fire. In the panic that ensued, the bride tripped over her wedding dress, fell down the flight of marble stairs, broke her neck and died.
It is said that her ghost has haunted the hotel ever since. Over the years, various hotel patrons and staff have reported seeing a phantasmal bride dancing alone in the Cascade Ballroom, or ascending the marble staircase on which the tragic incident is rumored to have taken place. Others have heard strange noises emanating from the bridal suite when the room was not in use. True or not, the tale of the ghostly bride of the Banff Springs Hotel is surrounded in an aura of mystery and romance and has become entrenched in the folklore of Canada’s Rocky Mountains.