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Ghostly Tales of the Banff Springs Hotel

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Ghostly Tales of the Banff Springs Hotel


The Banff Springs Hotel.

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 hotel lobby.

The hotel lobby.

A suit of armour in the Banff Springs' Alahambra Room.

A suit of armour in the Banff Springs’ Alahambra Room.

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

A creepy tapestry hanging on the walls of the Banff Springs Hotel.

A creepy tapestry hanging on the walls of the Banff Springs Hotel.

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.

A spooky painting in the Banff Springs Hotel.

A spooky painting in the Banff Springs Hotel.

One of the hotel's many hallways.

One of the hotel’s many hallways.

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.

Banff Springs' spooky Alahambra Room.

Banff Springs’ Alahambra Room.

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.

A creepy painting in the hotel.

A creepy hotel painting.

The Ghost Bride of the Canada Post's "Haunted Canada" stamp series.

The Ghost Bride of the Canada Post’s “Haunted Canada” stamp series.

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.

The marble staircase on which the tragic incident is said to have taken place.

The marble staircase on which the tragic incident is said to have taken place.

A picture, taken from within the Cascade Ballroom, of the famous Ghost Bride staircase.

A picture, taken near the Cascade Ballroom, of the famous Ghost Bride staircase.

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.

"The Castle of the Rockies."

“The Castle of the Rockies.”

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40 comments… add one
  • Donald McAuley October 23, 2015, 7:02 pm

    Get your facts straight, and do your research, the spelling of Sams last name is McAuley and he died May 1975

    • Hammerson Peters October 23, 2015, 9:40 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Donald!

      To be honest, I think I might have done a little too much research on this; I came up with a couple different spellings of Sam’s surname, and a couple of different death dates. That’s why I used the brackets, and the ambiguous dates.

      If I may ask, where do you get your information from? Are you related to Sam?

      • SSmith February 5, 2018, 6:35 pm

        Donald could have been much more civilized – Is that a family trait?

    • William McCauley July 22, 2017, 5:16 pm

      Sometimes the spelling of surnames do change. When my family came from Ireland those settling in the states retained the two “C” spelling while a Great Aunt in Saskatchewan became McAuley. I don’t know why but I suspect that changes occurred during the immigration process. Just enjoy the stories and don’t get entangled in small details. We could all be related…who knows.

      • Jade October 4, 2017, 7:44 pm

        While that’s true a man named Kevin who is sams grandson has confirmed the stelling and requested it to be spelled the way it was intended. 🙂

  • Melina January 1, 2016, 8:04 am

    What camera was used here?

    • Hammerson Peters January 1, 2016, 8:22 am

      These pictures are screenshots of videos I took with my video camera. One of these days, if I sell enough books or carvings, I’ll get myself a real camera.

  • Ddk February 11, 2016, 7:46 pm

    Do you really have to be that rude?

    “Donald McAuley October 23, 2015, 7:02 pm
    Get your facts straight, and do your research, the spelling of Sams last name is McAuley and he died May 1975”

    • Jacqueline Court September 28, 2016, 8:38 pm

      Totally agree! There was no need to be rude about the spelling. Especially when teh commenter clearly didn’t read the annotation properly.

      • Sherlock January 14, 2017, 11:42 am

        I get testy when individuals spell peoples names & genealogical information incorrectly. So I dont blame Donald for being rubbed the wrong way on these family facts.

        • PJ May 6, 2017, 1:39 am

          Because there aren’t more than one way to spell things? Even within a family. On her birth certificate and soc. sec. docs, my mother’s middle name is spelt ‘Anne’. She never used the ‘e’ in her life.

          As far as I can tell, there’s no evidence that Donald is any relation except by surname.

    • Lisa Frankenfeld April 3, 2017, 12:40 am


  • Det March 3, 2016, 6:56 pm

    Hi. I’m heading to Banff soon and was wondering if they hotel is agreeable to taking pictures even if you aren’t a guest of the hotel. I have superb camera equipment and am looking forward to taking some photographs of the areas that you mentioned.

    • Hammerson Peters March 3, 2016, 7:38 pm

      Hi Det,
      I’m jealous! Banff is such a great place.
      Of course, I can’t give you an official answer on behalf of the hotel, but I don’t think you’ll have a problem. When I was there, I was snapping pictures all over the place and never got a second look. Banff is a tourist town, and tourists have cameras. I’m sure you’ll be fine.
      Have fun in Banff!

      • patrick August 9, 2016, 12:41 am

        The staircase you show is not where the tragedy happened. The hotel was renovated and the old staircase is gone. I worked at BSH in 1981-83. The staircase was inside the dining room and it ended at the ceiling. The stairs were closed off to the honeymoon suite after the tragedy. It was creepy in there at night, with that staircase ending at the ceiling of the dining room. Many people reported hearing laughter, crying, screaming from this area when I worked there. As employees we were told not to tell guests anaything about this “ghost” situation.

        • Hammerson Peters August 9, 2016, 6:45 pm

          Very cool! Thanks for the info.

        • Enma January 4, 2017, 8:53 pm

          I am actually currently in the Banff hotel, and I was curious about this stuff and I came across this website. I saw the picture of the Phantom bride staircase and it’s actually still in the hotel.

        • Nancy March 31, 2017, 4:04 am

          It seems to me that I remember reading something about that original staircase being bricked up at the top. The story of the ghost bride changed, because I believe that I recall reading years ago, that the incident happened earlier than 1930 (but I could be wrong about that). I also recall reading that the original staircase was removed. Also, why don’t we know who the bride was?

  • Annacox March 29, 2016, 8:07 am

    So as you travel across our great country make sure to make a pit stop at the Fairmont Banff Springs, maybe you ll get to the bottom of this creepy mystery!

  • Tianna June 6, 2016, 12:29 am

    Tell us more

  • Alprazolam July 13, 2016, 7:19 pm

    Leading up to Halloween, the Banff Springs has created two haunted hotel-themed packages, one which includes the ghost tour and the other the gala event on Halloween night.

  • Bianca October 26, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Wow!! Very good info. i am doing a presentation on this and i already have half of the information after only reading this little booklet (online booklet)

    Thanks 🙂

  • Tawana October 30, 2016, 11:08 am

    So as you travel across our great country make sure to make a pit stop at the Fairmont Banff Springs, maybe you ll get to the bottom of this creepy mystery!

  • LB November 19, 2016, 8:45 pm

    Hi….. Once or twice a year I stay at this hotel. When I was there about 3 months ago I saw this girl and and a lady walking in the hallway and when I looked at them agin they where not there. Also at night in the hall it was about 1:30 am I heard a man laughing and then it just stopped….. It was pretty creepy, but I always love going there it is a place to go its amazing but the halls are long and creepy.

  • julie of cardiff December 17, 2016, 10:35 am

    Stayed at this hotel 2006, new nothing about any ghost tales but woke while laying on the bed having an afternoon nap when the room felt cold and something grabbed my foot. Not experienced anything like this before or since.
    julie Davies

  • Nicole December 19, 2016, 7:01 am

    First thing, the pictures labeled Alhambra are incorrect. That is Mt Stephan hallway. Second 873, not haunted. When they did the renovations of the floors 875 was too small to be able to put a bathroom in so they knocked out the wall between 875 and 873. Where the ” border up door” is, the bed for 875 is right behind it. 875 is a beautiful suite room. People will say the staff have to deny it. Which is not true. If a murder or death happened they are obligated to share that information. Sorry but no ghosts there. Just some renovations.

  • Candace February 21, 2017, 7:10 am

    My dad worked at the Banff Springs in the mid to late 30s as a bell hop. He mentioned that a movie star staying the committed suicide by jumping off an outside balcony. Is this true or him making a story?

  • Ruby March 21, 2017, 10:41 am

    I stayed there last Christmas and i really enjoyed my stay there especially with all the ghosts around, Sam really likes to help with the elevators. I’m going again this year.

  • Dell Marie Lamb July 9, 2017, 10:01 pm

    We stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel many times. One time, had a room with a fireplace, on a return trip, asked for that room and were told no rooms with fireplaces. I have our pic.s taken in front of the fireplace, but was told no their were no rooms with a fireplace. A ghost room…..

    • Hammerson Peters July 10, 2017, 5:42 am

      WHAT?! Very spooky.

    • Katherine July 16, 2018, 6:17 am

      Wow! What an honor for you! Too bad you didn’t realize it at the time, eh?

  • Bella December 3, 2017, 8:29 pm

    I was just at Fairmont a couple of days ago. We went for supper at Castelos (sorry if I spelt that wrong). After my family and I were taking pictures in the hall outside of the restaurant, during this I had felt something tugging on my dress but no one was behind me and it was not possible for it to be stuck there. So I don’t know if this could have been a ghost but I thought it was pretty cool!

  • Jan December 22, 2017, 10:11 pm

    This is all very interesting; I wish I had the means to go to this hotel and experience it for myself. For you people that were unlucky to have any experience with ghosts; maybe that’s because you don’t believe.

  • Lily March 1, 2018, 3:04 pm

    I’ve never been to this hotel, but I would love to! I’m currently doing a project on the hotel and I would loooove to visit!

  • Christopher Scott March 11, 2018, 7:39 pm

    My friend, she has visited a few times..and she told me about The Banff Hotel, It has Intrgued me. I hope to visit sometime and have a good chat with Sam..;)
    Cheers M8 ! Thanks for your Outstanding Service all these years .

  • Elizabeth Bernier August 6, 2018, 12:23 pm

    Is the identity of the ghost bride known? It should be in the hotel archives.

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