Formerly and popularly known as the Banff Springs Hotel, the chateau-style Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel sits pretty in the Banff National Park, the oldest national park of Canada, located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, around 128 km (80 miles) west of Calgary and 58 km (36 miles) east of Lake Louise. It was opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railways, as one of the earliest of Canada’s grand railway hotels to encourage tourism and sell train tickets.
However, the original wooden structure of the hotel was completely gutted by a devastating fire in 1926 and was replaced two years later with a grand building resembling a Scottish castle. Complete with its signature stone walls, turrets and majestic winding staircases, it represented an elegant and ancient castle with all the possible amenities. Surrounded by pristine wilderness, snow-capped mountains and magical lakes, the Banff Springs enjoyed an upsurge of popularity in the 1930s, when royalty, politicians and celebrities like Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe began flocking to the luxury hotel and it became famous as the Castle of the Rockies.
Since its inception more than 130 years ago, millions of guests have checked in the Banff Springs to enjoy life, but a few of them have never checked out. It is alleged that in the past several horrific murders, suicides and terrible accidents took place in the popular Alberta vacation spot and it is believed by many that even today, the spirits of those unfortunate boarders still roam in the halls of the iconic castle in the Rockies.
While some are sceptical, many claim to have witnessed the enactment of some horrible incident of the past. However, like the other ghost stories retold hundreds of times, the uncanny stories about the hideous incidents at the Banff Springs gradually became decorated and embellished with exaggeration and today, it has become difficult to find out the truth behind them.
Among several stories of spirits or apparitions roaming around freely in the Fairmont Banff Springs, perhaps the most famous is the story of a newlywed woman, dates back to 1932, who even appeared on postal stamps and coins. It is said that on her wedding day, while the young bride, decked in her wedding gown, was descending the marble staircase leading to the reception hall, along with her husband, something startled her, causing her to trip and she fall down the long staircase and sadly died instantly.
According to another version of the story, she tripped as her heel caught in the hem of her dress, while others maintain that somehow her gown brushed up against the flames of some candles illuminating the staircase and her dress caught fire. As she struggled in haste to put the flames out, she stumbled and fell to her death down the long marble stairs. Soon after the tragic incident, the hotel staff and the guests alike, even the new guests who never had any idea about the incident, reported about seeing a young woman in a white wedding gown walking down the stairs and disappearing into the reception hall. Some saw her inflamed on the stairs and suddenly disappearing into a cloud of thin smoke, leaving a cold chill in the air and others saw the faint image of a bride in her wedding gown dancing alone in the ballroom or heard her sobbing uncontrollably.
There is also the strange story about a dead bellman, Sam McCauley, roaming around the hotel since his death in 1975. According to his fellow bellman David Moberg, Sam really loved the hotel and after retiring from his service several times, he always returned to work. It is said that before his death, he promised to haunt the hotel from beyond. He kept his word and in one incident, he helped two women, who were desperately calling the bell desk for assistance as they found the key to their room was not working. As the regular bellman was preoccupied, he could not attend their call for 15 minutes, but when he arrived at the particular door, he was reported that an older bellman in an old-fashioned uniform, exactly matching Sam’s description, helped them to unlock the door. Another guest reported his eerie experience of seeing an old bellman matching Sam’s features walk right through a wall. Other stories, including the guests and the staff alike, seeing Sam hauls his old office on the mezzanine floor as well as on the sixth, seventh or ninth floors of the hotel.
Another unexplained mystery of the hotel is centred around room no 873, which does not exist anymore. It is apparent that after years of boarders claiming that they were terrorized in the suit, the hotel management permanently sealed the room. The story started when a family of three, a couple and their little daughter, checked into the room. However, due to reasons unknown, one night the man went crazy and killed himself after brutally murdering his beloved two. Nevertheless, after the police investigation, the hotel authority refurbished the room and put it back in service. But soon it appeared that the murdered woman and her little one never left the room as the guests in room 873 reported to be terrorized by violent screams in the middle of the night. Awakened by the screams as the startled guests turn the light on, they found bloody handprints on the walls and on the mirror, which disappear before the hotel staff appears in the room to clean them. Finally, apparently after a year, the room was sealed to save the hotel from being tagged as haunted.
Nevertheless, although several horrible things might have occurred within the stately walls of the hotel and although the staff of the hotel always firmly claims that no unpleasant incident ever took place in the premises of the hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel still stands prominently as one of the highlights of travelling in Canada.