October 27, 1932
I miss Gilbert so very much. I wait uneasily for him to arrive. He promised me he would be here today, but so far…nothing.
I inquired downstairs at the front desk to see if they had heard anything. All they could tell me was that the train was presumably delayed. The weather has changed for the worse and a light snow has begun to fall. Gilbert told me that if it snowed before he arrived I was to light a fire, sip some cocoa and dream of his love for me. All I desire is to cry. The ring he placed on my finger shines brightly as the flames of the fire flicker through out the room.
When he asked for my hand then slid the ring upon my finger, all I could do was let out a little gasp of joy. He seemed to go into shock and thought I was going to say no, I would never have done that to him…I could never have done that to him…I love him so. When Father threw Gilbert out into the street, he severed all ties with me as Father and Daughter. It will serve him right when Gilbert and I exchange our vows. It was Gilbert’s idea to marry here, I must say that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I hope our eloping strikes at Father, deep into his heart…I…hope…it…kills him. Oh my…there’s a knock on my door…Oh please…let it be…it must be my Gilbert……
Chapter 1 The Mistake
Joseph Flanster was in awe. Never had his eyes taken in such beauty. All his friends had told him that this area in Canada was amazing, but who would have believed it could be so true… He stood before one of Canada’s prize possessions, a castle in the wilderness. The majesty of it all…was breathtaking. It was as if it were… a dream. Built in 1888, the Banff Springs Hotel was still a masterpiece of workmanship, even after a hundred and six years. Joseph stood in the courtyard gazing around at the hotel, the Conference Centre and the Manor, which surrounded the courtyard. Why in the world would they build something like this in the middle of nowhere? He found his way to the lobby overlooking a majestic view of the Canadian Rockies.
“May I help you sir?”
Joseph spun around to find a young man dressed in a Scottish Kilt.
“May I help you sir?”
“Yes…yes…of course. I am trying to check in.”
The bellman was quite helpful. He lifted Joseph’s bags and led him to the registration desk.
“Here you are sir.”
He held out his hand anticipating Joseph to place some cash in it. Joseph reached into his pocket and pulled out a five-dollar bill and handed it to the bellman.
“Thank you, sir.”
He pocketed the money and disappeared in a flash. Joseph glanced around the lobby taking in the ambiance. Above the doors were stuffed animal heads including a beautiful bull elk. To his left he could see various shops just beyond the bell desk. People were mulling about and the hotel staff was bustling around performing their tasks. At the reservation desk he was given a single room on the third floor of the main building directly above the Riverview Lounge. Another bellman led him to the elevators and guided him to his room. As they stood in the elevator Joseph asked the bellman how long he had been employed at the hotel.
“Just over four years, sir.”
“You must like it then?”
“Oh yes, sir. I get to ski in the winter, hike and climb during the summer. It’s the best job in the world. Plus I get to meet all sorts of celebrities. Just last week I carried the bags for Brooke Shields. What a babe. Last year I met the Prime Minister and I understand that next week the Rolling Stones are supposed to stay here. Love that Mick.”
He would never have stopped talking if the elevator had not reached the third floor. He moved quickly down the hall to room 386 and unlocked the door. He stood back a good five feet as Joseph approached the room. At the very moment that Joseph reached the door he felt a light breeze brush past him and into the hall. Surprised he turned to the bellman and asked,
“Did you feel that?”
“Feel what, Sir?”
“It felt as if…”
The bellman glanced at Joseph with a very certain look that bestowed upon Joseph the feeling that the bellman knew exactly what he was speaking of. The bellman spoke cautiously and slowly.
“I believe it…may have been…a draft, sir.”
“A draft? Does this mean that I have a drafty room?”
“Oh no, sir. A window must have been left open. Let me check.”
He scurried around the room in search of any open window. He stopped at one and said,
“Here’s the problem sir.”
Joseph was positive he heard the window open just a touch before it was closed but he couldn’t be to sure. The bellman then placed the luggage at the end of the bed and proceeded to show Joseph the room. Joseph handed him a five then asked in a rather profound way,
“Where is the best place to get a drink here at the Hotel?”
“Well, sir, may I suggest the Whiskey Creek Saloon over at the Conference Centre. I believe it will suit your self quite fine.”
The bellman gave him a nod and closed the door after him as he left. Joseph moved into the room and the first item he observed was a picture of a woman in a wedding dress. The picture was tilted at an angle and when Joseph reached to straighten it, it fell into his hands. The woman was absolutely beautiful and Joseph wondered whom it might have been. He flipped the frame over and adhered to the back was the following inscription in softly faded ink.
To my Gilbert,
With all my love, for the times we may be apart.
Your True Love, Abigail
Down in the right hand lower corner was a date. It had been smeared and he needed to turn on a light to study it further. He searched for a light switch and finally realized that the lighting in this room was gas. That was strange. He turned a handle and the flame flickered higher filling the room with natural light.
“That’s pretty cool.” He muttered.
He placed the frame closer to the lamp and squinted his eyes to read the date.
“October 27, 1932. Wow…”
He returned the portrait to its resting place. The door was slightly ajar, an inch or so. Joseph stepped over to close it. Once again he felt a rush of wind sweep past him. He closed the door and turned back into the room. This was cool being in a room that spoke directly from the past. What year was he in? He turned his head towards the bed and felt it must have been his imagination, but… he had this uneasy feeling that he wasn’t alone. The concept lasted only a moment then he dismissed the thought as a silly notion.
The General Manager sat at his desk in his plush velveteen chair and glanced up at the reservation clerk with disgust.
“How long have you worked here?”
The clerk thought for a moment then spoke with a quiet tone.
“About seven years.”
“And in those seven years how many times have we ever placed a guest in room 386?”
The clerk did not answer. The General Manager stood and paced behind his desk.
“I asked you a question, how many times?”
The clerk sheepishly looked up towards him.
“NEVER! That is correct. And do you know why?”
The clerk shook his head.
“I’ll tell you why. No one is to go into that room, EVER! NO ONE, EVER! Do you understand? If you ever put someone in there again, you will be dismissed. Understand?”
The clerk answered a light ‘Yes’.
“Get out of here…NOW!”
The clerk spun around and dashed from the room. The General Manager wasn’t normally a tough man to deal with, but to have a guest in room 386 was unheard of. In 1932 the room had been closed and only once a year was it ever cleaned in order to keep it orderly…the way…the way…she would have wanted it. Now came the task of moving the guest to another room. He turned to his computer and began to inspect the reservations and the availability. To his dismay, there were, by no means, not one at all and there wouldn’t be one for another week.
“Damn.” He thought, “What to do now.”
Instead of putting his clothes away, Joseph decided it was time for a drink. He left his room and found his way down to the Mezzanine Level. From the Elevators he turned right and went towards the Rob Roy Dining Room. However, dinner was not being served, so for the time being…it was shut down. He turned around and went into the lobby. At the concierge desk he asked where the Whiskey Creek Saloon was located and was told that it was across the courtyard in the Conference Centre. As he began to head outside he noted the bellman that had delivered him to his room rushing towards him.
“Excuse me, sir…”
Joseph stopped in his tracks.
“Excuse me, sir.”
Excuse me, sir, but the General Manager would like to have a word with you. Do you have the time, sir?"
This seemed to be out of the ordinary.
“I’m not quite sure, sir, but it does seem to be important.”
Joseph thanked the bellman and proceeded to where he had been directed. He knocked on the office door and heard a voice beckoning him to enter. The General Manager stood at the window gazing out in thought when Joseph entered the room. He slowly rotated towards Joseph.
“Mr. Flanster, Thank-you for coming to see me. My name is Rob Hoyster. Please, close the door and have a seat.”
“What is this all about?”
“Well Mr. Flanster…”
He took a deep breath then spoke slowly. “This is an extraordinary story and I’ve never been put in this type of situation to explain it to a guest, please bear with me.
In 1932, a couple was to be married here at the hotel. Her name was Miss. Abigail Florence. His name was…”
“Yes, how did you know?”
Joseph shrugged the question away.
“Anyway…Mr. Flanster…They were to be wed. The afternoon of the wedding, as everyone waited for Miss. Abigail to proceed down the stairs towards her groom, the skies were slowly growing into a dark and ferocious gale.”
“You seem to be adding just a little bit of color to your story, I think,” Said Joseph.
“Mr. Flanster, I am sixty-eight years old and in 1932 I was six years old. I remember the events precisely…because… I was there. I was terrified of the violent thunder and lightning that pounded and flashed around the hotel. The lights went out through the hotel and candles were lit to continue the wedding. I had heard some of the staff saying that the wedding should be called off, but…Miss. Abigail would hear nothing of it. The wedding was to proceed. All the guests of the hotel were assembled in what is now the Rob Roy Dining Room. She was going to proceed down the circular staircase that came down from the Oval Room at the end of the Riverview Lounge. Candles were placed along the banister and the flickering of the flames played along the walls and ceiling. Mr. Gilbert Rolantz, the intended groom, stood at the bottom of the stairs awaiting his bride.
I stood nearby with a pillow carrying the rings. Yes, I was the ring boy. The light conversations came to a halt when the traditional wedding march began. Miss Abigail was eloping so none of her friends were there. She slowly began to descend to her groom. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, or probably ever will. Her gown had been bought in a Bridal Boutique in Banff and from the looks of it had to have cost her a pretty penny. It flowed to the floor like the waves of the ocean. Her veil came just below her eyes and you could see the beauty of them from where I stood below. Her train wasn’t all that long but followed behind her a for a few feet. Her groom stood with a forever-lasting smile of contentment.
Just as she stepped…down…onto the first step…her train snagged a nail…maybe. Her head jerked backwards and she seemed to lose her footing. She pulled her head forward and the train ripped, but she had already lost her balance. She tried to grab onto the banister or the wall to stop her, but her momentum was picking up speed. Her left hand nicked one of the candles and it fell into her dress. I don’t know what that dress was made of, but she went up in flames in a matter of seconds. I can still hear her screams. Over and over she yelled…‘HELP ME…HELP ME…’ Mr. Gilbert Rolantz tried to help. He couldn’t get close to her as she tumbled down the stairs engulfed in flames. I’ll never forget the sound of the thud as she landed at the bottom of the stairs. There wasn’t a sound accept the crackling of the flames. I hoped then, as I still do now, that when she reached the bottom…that…she was dead…only because of the pain she must have gone through. They finally doused her with buckets of water, but it didn’t matter any more. Her beauty was gone…forever. We all witnessed her charred remains. You couldn’t even make out if she had ever been a woman. Her hair was sizzling and the skeleton of her body was all that remained. God…it was horrifying. Mr. Rolantz wept over her and turned to us all and asked, ‘WHY?’ over and over. The crowd remained in awe by what they had seen. I didn’t know what to do. My mother finally pulled me away and ushered me back to our room. I couldn’t sleep that night.
The next day I overheard two bellmen discussing what had happened. They said that Mr. Rolantz would not allow anyone to enter her room. He had slept there that night under heavy medication given to him by the hotel doctor. For days no one saw him and on the fourth day after the tragedy, he appeared and went to the General Manager. He paid to have her room locked up and never to be used…ever again. We do, however clean it once a year in order to display our respect for the dead.
Joseph gazed at him with a look of dissatisfaction
“Do you mind telling me what this is all about and how this affects me?”
Mr. Hoyster let out a sigh then rose and moved to the window looking out towards Sulfer Mountain. He stood that way for quite a while and Joseph was beginning to fidget. What could this be he wondered. Mr. Hoyster turned and spoke slowly, firmly, but with a bit of fright.
“Miss Abigail has been seen every year…at the same time we clean her room.”
“What do you mean…she’s been seen?”
“Every year…guests have been startled by the appearance of Miss. Abigail climbing back up the stairs that she fell down.”
Oh, come now…that’s hogwash."
“No Sir…it is not. The funny thing is that we covered up the stairs in the oval room, so… from the Rob Roy Dining Room the stairs lead to nowhere.”
“And she’s been seen climbing up those stairs?”
“And you believe this?”
Mr. Hoyster turned his back to Joseph and once again stared out the window. In a light voice he replied,
“You’re out of your mind.”
“I would be if I just went by those stories, but…I’ve…I’ve…seen her too.”
“If you’ll excuse me…I think I’ll be on my way.”
He began to stand, but Mr. Hoyster spun around and motioned for Joseph to remain seated.
“Mr. Flanster…Ten years ago…while I was dining in the Rob Roy Dining Room…She stood before my table and ran her hand through my hair. She had done that the morning of her death. Then she…floated…to the stairs and began to ascend them. With each step I swore I could hear her saying ‘Help Me…Help Me.’ She then disappeared through the floor…or the ceiling, I guess you could say.”
“You’re full of it…you know that?”
“No, Mr. Flanster I’m not. If you don’t believe me…you can see for yourself.”
“You’ve let her out…or should I say…we helped in letting her out.” “What in the hell are you talking about?”
“By mistake we booked you into her room, and that is why I’m speaking to you now. You see, the hotel can’t allow you to stay in that room. I am going to have to move you to another.”
Joseph’s imagination began to soar. What if he could see her?
“Hey…wait a minute. Now…I don’t want to leave that room.
Mr. Hoyster moved over to directly in front of Joseph. He bent over and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You don’t seem to understand. The hotel cannot allow it…due to Mr. Rolantz’s wishes. He paid the hotel an enormous amount to keep her room private. I’m sorry but you will have to be moved.”
No, I think I’ll stay right where I am."
Joseph now stood pushing the General Managers hand from his shoulder.
“Listen here. Have you ever thought that this little mishap might be for a reason? I mean whom is it going to hurt, Miss Abigail or Gilbert Rolantz? I don’t think so. Besides…you don’t want me to bring legal action against you? Do you? I’ll stay put.”
The General Manager was between a rock and hard place. This Hotel had been sued once before for something very much like this and The Springs had lost that case. He was frustrated now to say the least.
“Mr. Flanster…If…If mind you…I let you stay…you must promise me not to touch any of Miss. Abigail’s belongings. Everything she brought to the Hotel is still in that room. It would be disrespectful for them to be handled in any way.”
“How long is your stay?”
“One week. Beyond my better judgment…Okay…You may stay.”
Joseph smiled then asked him,
“You said I would see for myself…what did you mean by that?”
“She’ll be in the dining room tonight. She’s in the Hotel now,
A Novel of Suspense, Horror and Love