Victoria Plaza Hotel: A Ghost Story

Photo: Creative RF / ilbusca / Getty Images

OLD HOTELS REVERBERATE with the echoes of their past. Their walls are painted in layers of drama, absorbing an imprint of each passing guest's life with all its romance, joy, sadness, and danger. It's no wonder so many hotels are haunted.

George knows this first-hand, having worked for years at one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Its basement -- an old speakeasy -- seems to be the focal point of the haunting, where George felt distinctly unwelcome. This is George's story....

I work in an old hotel which has stood for 100 years here in the still virgin frontier of the Pacific Northwest of Canada. The hotel lives in the midst of this modern city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, a city that still has many historic buildings with its old garrison fortress, Craigdarrock Castle, and the world famous Fairmont Empress Hotel. The whole city is homage to Queen Victoria and the long-ago British Empire.

The hotel at which I work -- the Victoria Plaza Hotel -- has seen many owners and many ages, and while 100 years might not seem very old out here on the frontier, all the other wooden structures have faded away. And this building still has its two-foot-thick giant Douglas fir wooden beams still holding it up.

I am an honest person who does not have any interest in fantasy simply because it is not real, but I have seen several ghosts in this old hotel. I would simply not believe it until I saw it for myself.

And the beauty of it is that the conditions under which I have experienced these ghosts have been perfect, pure conditions, scientifically. And these experiences have been further confirmed by the singular and group experiences of many other staff in other encounters here.

I am writing down all my experiences here while they are still fresh in my memory.

They have occurred over the last six years, the last direct experience being about six months ago. The day-to-day reality here is that I can feel their presence most of the time, because most of the time I am alone doing security patrols in the middle of the night or early morning. I saw, heard and felt these ghosts through direct perception, with my eyes, ears, and self-defense instincts.

MANY VOICES, GHOSTLY LAUGHTER

My first experience here was when I was starting up this old hotel on behalf of the new owners. Although they had already been running the hotel for ten years, they had never paid much attention to the hotel part or to the old basement, with its 80-year-old speakeasy nightclub, long abandoned and gathering dust down below.

Although some of the rooms were rented and in various stages of disrepair, their emphasis had always been on the nightclub bar they ran down on the street level. My duties were to do security by patrolling the whole building, day and night, as well as janitor and maintenance.

When I first arrived on the job, I began the day by doing a security check of all the rooms, starting up on the third floor and working my way down to the first. The first thing I noticed was my own innate self-defense instinct, which would start to crawl with trepidation, my skin crawling with a keen sense of dread as I was dutifully aware that it was time to take the old elevator down to the basement.

Few people ever went down there, of course, except to change the pop syrup bottles for the bar drinks. Later in the day, the occasional maintenance man would come and go. But as security at 7:00 a.m. with the whole building dead quiet and sound asleep, I would begin my rounds.

The next thing I noticed, early in the quiet morning, as the old elevator would slowly creak down to the basement, was that when it would stop, arriving at the basement with a thud, that for a few seconds I would hear many voices, all chattering gaily, as if at a wonderful party. At first I thought it was the sound of customers who had stayed up all night partying from the night club upstairs, perhaps staff and a number of friends keeping the party going.

But when I opened the door, there was no one there. And each time, after two or three seconds, the laughter would suddenly stop with my arrival, as if the party guests heard my elevator arrive and had all stopped in mid-conversation and had turned to look in my direction.

I, the uninvited guest. I, the bothersome, unwelcome newcomer at the old 1920s flapper nightclub.

Next page: The Man Behind the Door

THE MAN BEHIND THE DOOR

Each morning I would do this, and with each passing day I became ever more intrigued. I would walk across the first floor and into the elevator as silently as possible, so as to make the quickest descent possible, so as to catch them by surprise, hoping to hear more. I would arrive, crashing the party with a bang, then holding my breath, standing dead still, listening, and they would always be talking.

Then they would always stop, as usual, offended and angry, for it was me again.

The sense I got was that the men were always be angry and defensive, but then the women would always tell the men to stop being angry and leave me alone, for I meant them no harm. It had been many, many years since anyone had ever come to the basement so early in the morning.

But the most unnerving part was always that moment when I would arrive, feeling all of them staring at me. Worst of all was the feeling that there was always a man standing right on the other side of the door, menacing, waiting for me to open it. He was waiting, I felt, hovering at the door, looking at me, trying to get at me, the unwelcome living human!

It's true that I didn't see them then, but I heard their voices many times, laughing, speaking to each other with wit, joy, and flirtatious mirth. The tinkling of glasses, the excitement, the rustle of material of costly dresses and starched tuxedos, the energy of a full-blown party of what I estimated to be approximately 80 people, men and women.

FEELING THEIR GAZES, THEIR ANGER

Just as powerfully, I could feel them, their gazes upon me, the anger, the upset and fear as they realized that my arrival signaled not only the end of the party, but of their mortality. The creepiest of all was the feeling of the doorman, just on the other side of the door, but three feet away as he leaned against the door, waiting for me.

I could feel his presence, feel his gaze on me through the little three-inch hole in the door, almost feel his cold skin cold sweating in his tux, while my skin was already covered with goosebumps, my whole system alarmed at the situation!

Then I would always quietly prepare myself while they would wait for me on the other side of the door. With a strong grip, I would fling the door open with all possible speed, hoping to catch a glimpse. But the door would always break the spell and the world of the living would take command, unquestioned, and they would be gone, back into the night, back into the past. Their time was over as they waited for the next night's party.

I still try to catch sight of the ghosts. I still go down every morning, but you see times have changed, and there are maids now on earlier shifts and many more people living and working here. There are many more living partiers disturbing the other guests, and the ghosts are wise to the situation and simply make sure they leave before we arrive.

WHERE WILL THE GHOSTS GO?

In six months they are going to tear down this wonderful old place. A major corporation has bought it and is going to dig out the old speakeasy and put in a 32-car garage and erect a big new building of glass and steel, filled with expensive condos, retail shops, and an elegant, high brow restaurant with polished steel tables.

The old speakeasy will be gone, along with its tiled, mosaic Romanesque floor, each piece painstakingly inlaid by the hands of craftsmen 80 years ago. Gone will be its beautiful, graceful wooden columns along the sides of the enormous dance floor, and the old paneled wooden walls, perhaps hiding behind them undiscovered treasures from Al Capone's time. God, too will be the fireplace, the hearth that heated many a romance.

It's no surprise that people, when they die, sometimes return to the places where they had the most love, joy, and fun. Naturally, they want to revisit the wonderful nightclub and dance the night away, young again! So this first experience was perceived through my ears and alerted nervous system. The next experience I will tell will be an experience I had that was perceived through my eyes.

I saw the ghost directly, right in front of me for two or three seconds!

We'll be looking for that story, George.