Features / Tales of historical hauntings

Hotel's founder may be link to Chateau Laurier's 100-year-old haunting

Ghostly singing in a winding stairwell and a presence that moves objects in the rooms are some of the spectral phenomenon witnessed at the Chateau Laurier hotel in the past 100 years, says Haunted Walk guide Fraser MacKay.

"We were approached by a couple a few years ago who hadn't heard any of our stories," said MacKay, a University of Ottawa history student, "but they left the hotel quite convinced it was haunted."

After the couple checked in, the woman was alone in the suite and felt uneasy, MacKay notes. Something unseen seemed to keep brushing up against her arm, he said. "Then, one night, she's sitting in front of the mirror by the dresser taking off her makeup and in the reflection sees the closet door behind her slowly swing open."

What spooked her most was when she was in the shower the next morning and distinctly felt a hand press up against her shoulder blade, MacKay said. It wasn't her husband's.

Eerie events in the hotel have taken place either on or around the same floor where the Charles Melville Hays memorial suite is located. There are quite a few who speculate it's the ghost of Hays himself. Hays was President of the Grant Trunk Railway, and heeded Sir Wilfred Laurier's call in 1899 to help make Ottawa the Washington of the north with a railway hotel — the Chateau Laurier.

To pay for the hotel, which was set to open April 26, 1912, including a rail yard and workshops that he planned for the town of Prescott, Hays had to travel to England to secure funding. With money in hand, he was ready to return home and open his latest achievement.

Securing a rooms aboard the RMS Titanic from friend and chairman of the White Star Line of steamships J. Bruce Ismay, Hays traveled with his wife, his daughter, his daughter's maid and private secretary as well as his son-in-law.

At dinner on April 14, 1912, Hays was overheard saying the race to build bigger and faster steamships was only going to end in disaster. "Only a few hours later the RMS Titanic struck the infamous iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and went down taking with it Mr. Hays, his son-in-law and his private secretary," MacKay said.

The hotel eventually opened in June, but it was a much more sombre affair.

In the 1980s, then CEO of the CBC, Patrick Watson, stayed in a suite and was awoken one the night by a loud shot in his living room. There he found a heavy ashtray had been broken cleanly in half.

The very next night, he was resting and heard a thud from the washroom. Investigating, found his shaving kit, which he had lodged securely behind the taps, had been thrown to the ground. The experiences, he said, "were inexplicable and left me quite shaken.”

To see the haunted hotel for yourself Haunted Walk tours are available daily from from 6 to 10 p.m.

More on Metronews.ca