How on earth did The Shining, a film with no jump scares, manage to become a horror icon? Slowly. The film builds tension and atmosphere slowly so that the audience isn’t aware it’s happening. All they know is that they feel uneasy; their skin starts to prickle or they feel squirmy, something in the back of their mind is scratching at their consciousness to let them know that something isn’t right. Is it because that hallway shouldn’t be there? Or is it because a hotel without any people is intrinsically eerie? Even with people in them, hotels are strange spaces in limbo between here and there. Not quite home but home for now.
Grand hotels are special topics of fascination for urban legend enthusiasts. The opulent, cavernous spaces have plenty dark corners for apparitions to hide and their usual historic standing means they have likely seen guests pass away on the property. It’s no coincidence that so many ghost stories and hauntings take place in hotels—but one Canadian hotel in particular stands out as the ultimate haunted spot. So much so that they actually acknowledge their ghosts in the history section of their website.
The Algonquin Resort has been open for over a century, and just by looking at it, it screams haunted. The pointed red roofs like castle turrets and the white and black Tudor façade is dramatic and imposing—perfect for containing a legend within. Or, in this case, several.
When it was built in the 1800s it was one of a string of elegant hotels popping up around the country capitalizing on the booming economy and prime coastal location in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick. One of the hotel’s first advertising slogans was “an incomparable resting place.” They probably didn’t mean for people to take it so far, though.
While the ghosts of staff may stay out of an old-fashioned sense of moral obligation to their job, the stories of guests are darker.
Unlike the Overlook Hotel of The Shining, nothing horrific happened at the Algonquin (although there were some tragedies). A fire in 1914 almost destroyed the entirety of the original wooden structure but somehow the blaze spared the painter and kitchen wings, and the now iconic tower where mysterious lights are seen flashing. The figure of a ghostly woman in a white dress also makes an appearance in the towers window from time to time.
Most of the ghosts that wander the hotel’s hallways were not murdered or unhappy. Instead, they enjoyed the hotel so much they wanted to remain there forever. One of the most famous of the Algonquin’s ghosts is the bellboy who shows people to their rooms and tells them about the property, only to evaporate before he can accept his tip. Guests are encouraged to leave a small gratuity for him on the bell desk so he can collect the next time he appears. A night watchman can be heard making his rounds, keeping the hotel safe even in the afterlife. People know it’s him by the sound of his footsteps pacing and jangling of his keys. There is also an apparition of a senior staff woman setting and rearranging tables in the dining room.
While the ghosts of staff may stay out of an old-fashioned sense of moral obligation to their job, the stories of guests are darker. A phantom bride who is said to live in room 473 can be heard weeping and many have speculated the cause. The saddest of theories is that her fiancé was lost at sea with no way to send word that he would not be able to make their wedding day and as a result she died of a broken heart, or worse. “When guests claim to ‘never want to leave’, we take them seriously,” reads a line in the Algonquin’s history.
There is also a story of a child who chased a ball out of the 3rd floor window and can now be seen and heard eternally playing in the halls. The ghostly repertoire of the hotel is extensive with disturbances reported in rooms 308 and 373, objects temporarily disappearing from the 4th floor, doorknobs that turn by themselves on the 2nd floor, and staff receiving phone calls from deadlines and empty rooms.
Despite the tragic origins of some of the supernatural guests and the hijinks, the hotel assures that all of the spirits are friendly, if slightly jarring. They even offer daily tours of the haunted areas and tell the stories of the countless run-ins that guests and staff have had with the ghosts over the years—none of them overly negative or dangerous. As it turns out, even Canadian ghosts have a reputation for being respectful and kind.