Friday, October 28, 2016

It Is The Season For Tall Tales Of The Unexplainable--Two Old Hotels And Two Famous Ladies

It's that time of year again, the month of October. The moment in the calendar when the warmth from the light of day begins to sell out and the cool from the dark of night begins to cash in. Yet, the chill you feel brushing over your skin as the sun disappears into the blackening shadows of the fading day may be more than a change in the temperature. It's the perfect environment for telling tall tales dealing in the unexplainable and old hotels with storied pasts provide the best material. Let's check into two North American hotels where the promise of a sleepless night is a selling point.

Just an oyster toss form Charleston and located in Asheville, NC, the Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913. In the decades to follow, it has become one of the South's most famous and highly venerated resorts with a long tradition of exceptional service and hospitality. Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton and Barack H. Obama along with notable personages, such as Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison to name a couple, have crossed its threshold along with many other visitors who came to bask in the spectacular views and revel in its lush amenities. One of those visitors, a young woman, who arrived one evening many years ago, has never left. She has become known as The Pink Lady by the Inn's staff.

It was the early 1920's--the decade of jazz music, speakeasies, flappers, and a dance craze called "The Charleston". The retreating sun's orange and red rays were filtering through the ghostly haze of the Blue Ridge Mountains and settling on the tree tops of Asheville just below the granite clad Grove Park Inn.

A young woman entered the Inn's Great Hall, secured a room at the lobby desk, and checked into room 545 where she put on a pink ball gown and waited for her love interest to arrive. Shortly thereafter, a message was delivered. The elegantly dressed lady left the room, positioned herself at the fifth floor balcony overlooking the Palm Court atrium, and flung herself over the rails ending her life. As the story tells, this was not an ordinary rendezvous. Her lover was a married man who decided to call an end to their affair that fateful night.

That account is just one version of the story. According to the Asheville Paranormal Society, the young woman, named Katie, was pushed from the upper floor of the Inn onto the stones of the Palm Court atrium. It seems she was a servant in a wealthy aristocratic household and her lover was the master of the house who had a reputation to protect. Katie had become an inconvenience. She was pregnant.

Picture courtesy of Ghost Hunters of Asheville
Whatever the case may be, since that tragic night the young woman has been seen by staff and guests in the form of a pink mist, or sometimes as a full-fledged apparition appearing in a pink ball gown throughout the Grove Park Inn, but with a particular attachment to room 545.

The apparition of the Pink Lady is also said to enjoy playing small pranks. She's been blamed for lights, air conditioners, and other electrical devices turning on and off by themselves. She seems to enjoy rearranging objects in the rooms. It's also been said that she will occasionally wake up a sleeping guest with a good tickling on the feet.

The Grove Park Inn has dedicated a drink to their ghost resident rightfully called The Pink Lady. A spectral mix of vodka, acai and pomegranate juices, and pistachio simple syrup.

For our next tale from the dark side, we head across continent to Vancouver, Canada. The first Hotel Vancouver was a five-story, brick structure that looked and functioned much like a farmhouse. The second, started in 1912 and completed in 1916, was built in a grand Italianate revival style, and was considered one of the great hotels of the British Empire. It was turned into a government administration building during World War II and torn down in 1949. The present Hotel Vancouver, at a cost of $12 million, took 11 years to build and opened in May of 1939, in time for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The towering Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is also known as "The Castle in the City".

Back in the 1940s, the very elegant Jennie Pearl Cox was a regular at the Fairmont Hotel's ballroom. Then, one calamitous evening in 1944, she was killed in a car crash just outside of the hotel. She was wearing her favorite red dress. From that moment, she took up residence in the hotel and became known as The Lady in Red. She has been seen passing through elevator doors on the 1st and 14th floors.

The Hotel was originally built with eight elevator shafts to accommodate the large number of guests. However, budget problems forced builders to install only six elevators, leaving two shafts empty. Porters, employees, and guests have all claimed to catch this mysterious woman after rounding the corner on the mezzanine level, just as she opens the door to get on or off the elevator. But here's the catch: the shaft is empty--there is no elevator or even a door.

It would seem one of these empty shafts is reportedly home to The Lady in Red, but her floor of choice is the 14th. She has also been seen in rooms and the Hotel's bellmen have claimed to witness her entering rooms just as they are checking in hotel guests. Her presence has been embraced by the Hotel and she is considered by many to be the nicest ghost in the city.

Notch 8
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver's highly celebrated restaurant located in its lobby, Notch 8, honors The Lady in Red with a drink of its own called the Lavender Corpse Reviver 15. It is concocted with a eerily superb blend of Hendricks Gin, Fresh Lemon, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and Lavender Mist. Lavender enhances the natural botanicals in the gin.