As we continue on with our “Abandoned Spaces” series, we thought for the fall edition we’d change it up, and put a spooky spin on things! I don’t know about you, but there’s something about a haunted hotel that creeps me out even more than a haunted house. It was probably watching “The Shining” many years ago that created this strange preference of mine. So after some digging, I found out that there’s actually quite a few “rumoured-to-be” haunted hotels right here in Ontario. Likely the most famous of them would be the French Gothic palace known as Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, with its many stories of ghostly sightings over hundreds of years. Likely these are just some long-dead politicians who just can’t bear to let go of the political life!
Windermere House, a magnificent historic hotel just north of Bracebridge on Lake Rosseau, is long rumoured to be haunted by none other than its founder, Thomas Aitken. Whispers, strange footsteps, and the classic “things moving by themselves” are all attributed to Mr. Aitken’s ghost.
So digging further, I found out there’s a few spooky inns located right here in Dufferin, Wellington and Peel! So with that in mind, let me tell you about a historic old 19th century hotel that’s rumoured to be haunted by the spurned mistress of the infamous mobster/bootlegger Al Capone…
In 1856, The Albion Hotel in Guelph, ON, opened its doors for business. Operating as a hotel and bar, its 1913 room rate was $1.50 per day, including cigars, liquor, or wine. But what made this hotel truly unique, were a set of tunnels in the basement that led up to Catholic Hill, under the Church of Our Lady Immaculate.
Long since collapsed and boarded up, it’s believed that during the prohibition era, one tunnel served to bring water up to the hotel from a spring under the church, while the other transported kegs of hotel-brewed beer to bootleggers who had brought their trucks around to the back of the church. Interesting note; to this day, the Albion’s liquor license still permits them to brew their own beer!
So with all that beer-running business going on, the hotel became a popular social meeting spot for the bootleggers. It was during this time that a woman was found to have hanged herself in her top floor room. As no guest books or records were kept, her true identity remained a mystery but many believed her to be the one-time jilted mistress of none other than Al Capone. “The Lady in White”, as her ghost is known, is said to haunt the hotel to this day, with several staff and patrons saying they’ve had encounters with her. She most often shows up in the form of a nudge on the shoulder, a rush of cold air, and the sound of her high heels clicking by!
And she may not be alone. Rumour has it that two workers, killed in a fire that burned down the Albion stables in 1871, just won’t leave and their spirits tend to roam around in the basement to this day.
But whether or not these ghosts still ply their trade at the hotel today, The Albion remains a true Guelph landmark, beautifully restored to preserve its historic features, and currently operates as a cozy, funky, bar and retro eatery. Its second floor now serves as an event space, hosting local and international artist performances and charity fundraisers.
I think I’m going to check out the Albion soon, and see if I get the ghostly vibes while I’m there. And that Windermere House sounds interesting too, as it still operates as a large hotel and resort, so if I really wanted to feel “The Shining”, I’d make sure to book myself into room 237.
Written by: Kelli M. Maddocks