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The Empress: A Haunted Hotel

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Visit The Empress and you might see a ghost!

The Fairmont Empress is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Victoria. The hotel was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada due to its national significance. The Empress is located in downtown Victoria on Government Street facing the Inner Harbour. It was built between 1904 and 1908, opening for service in that year. Additional wings were added between 1909 and 1914, and in 1928. During this time, The Empress, as it was known then, played hostess to kings, queens, movie stars and many famous people.

There is a local legend that The Empress is haunted. The apparition of thin mustached man walking the halls with a cane is thought to be of the building’s architect, Francis Rattenbury. A maid is seen on the sixth floor still cleaning after her death. A little girl who is often seen by guests haunts one room. During the 1960s, a construction worker working on the west tower’s top floor saw a shadowy form swinging from the ceiling; apparently another worker hung himself there a year earlier. Guests have reported an elderly woman in pajamas knocking on their door. When guests try to help her find her room she leads them toward the elevator before vanishing. She is believed to be a ghost that once haunted one room after dying of natural causes, but that room was demolished to make room for more elevators, hence, her journey to the elevator.


26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amy #

    The building was huge I though… Thanks for sharing the stories!

    June 8, 2013
    • It is a gorgeous building and well worth a visit.

      Lunch on the Veranda at The Empress is a treat!

      June 12, 2013
  2. A lot of Canadian Fairmont Hotels have stories about being haunted, the Banff Springs is apparently home to a bride who died on her wedding night after tripping down a flight of stairs..!

    June 8, 2013
    • Yes they do. I’ve heard of the story of the bride at the Banff Springs Hotel. The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton, Alberta has a few ghosts too!

      June 12, 2013
  3. My wife and I stayed at the hotel for 3 days and 2 nights on a Canadian vacation two years ago. We did not know of any ghost stories or sightings prior to staying at the hotel so we were not predisposed to any ideas. The first night we stayed (I believe Room 260), the room felt usually cold and to make matters worse the thermostat was not working. Later that night right before we went to bed, I felt this uneasy feeling of being watched. I didn’t tell my wife because I didn’t want to scare her. We fell asleep with no incident but in the morning my wife did see a figure right next to our bed. I did not see it as I was still asleep but she is not one for imagining things. It disappeared almost as quick as it appeared. My wife only saw a side profile and it seemed to fit the description of the hotel architect.

    The following night, we changed rooms down the hall. For those of you familiar with the layout, this room was near the elevator and the afternoon Tea Room. As we slept during the late night, there was a constant knocking on the walls behind our bed. It was non-stop during the evening. I really thought someone was playing a joke on us so I got up to check the outside of our door. Our bed was against a wall which was the opposite side of the hallway. No one! Went back to bed, the knocking started again! This was constant! On this night, it felt a bit creepy but I think we were more annoyed and frustrated than scared. Was this the spirit of the old lady looking for her room? The staff assured us there was no piping or plumbing in those walls so it remained perplexing to what was causing this noise.

    For you ghost fans, I think it’s a great place to stay. A part of me was definitely intrigued by what was going on. However, the other part was just plan angry from not getting any sleep! We mentioned this to the hotel staff and, though reluctant at first, they eventually admitted the Hotel has had many instances of paranormal occurrences in the past. I believe the hotel is 100 years old!

    By the way, the story behind the architect was that he was bludgeoned to death by his wife’s younger lover. The wife committed suicide shortly thereafter but the ex-lover continued to live a long life. Yikes!

    March 3, 2014
    • Vince, thank you for sharing your spooky story. How horrible for the architect and his wife. My guess is the elderly lady was knocking on your wall. How spooky!

      Please let me know what happens on your next visit to the Empress.

      March 4, 2014
  4. Sean Flahaven #

    I just posted this in a forum:

    When I was in 7th grade my family and I went together on a vacation/business trip all payed for by my dads work. We went to British Columbia which is an island like province of Canada and stayed at The Fairmont Empress. I live in Chicago and had never been outside of the U.S. before. We stayed in what is known as a golden suite and if I am remembering correctly it had a sign at the door entrance to the room that said “Bob Marley Suite”. So it was my two siblings my mom and my dad and the second night we stayed there I woke up at around 3am and looked over to see a small young girl who looked like she was from the late 1800’s early 1900’s or something wearing like weird typical clothes they would wear back then. She had a little hat on and just stared at me. I looked at her for about 3 seconds and immediately put my head under the covers and could not move. I was frozen awake under the covers. I was so scared and in shock I could not even look up again. After being in a paralyzed state for 10 minutes im assuming I fell back asleep. I woke up the next morning and told my family and they all kinda laughed it off as if I just had a weird dream or something. Not the kinda kid that would lie about something like that and I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything paranormal, but that was one of the most real freaked out experiences I have ever had. I can still remember her face and her little grey coat and hat. The worst part was I had to stay at that place 2 more nights. Never saw her again.

    June 30, 2014
    • Sean, that sounds likes an amazing experience. I hope you have an opportunity to visit Victoria again. Perhaps you’ll stay at The Empress and will see the young girl again. Thank you for sharing your story.

      July 2, 2014
    • justine #

      British Columbia is a province and Vancouver Island is the island you stayed on within that province. Just clearing that up!

      November 1, 2015
  5. It does look a bit creepy! All those vines 🙂

    July 23, 2014
    • Hi Jo, thanks for dropping by. You are right, the hotel does look creepy with the vines.

      July 24, 2014
  6. Amy #

    Just wanted to correct something to Sean Flahaven’s post…. British Columbia is the name of the entire Province on the west coast of Canada. Vancouver Island is where the Empress hotel is located. Specifically in the city of Victoria which was once the capital of BC.

    My husband, three children and I are currently staying at the Empress hotel on a mini vacation from the mainland. It’s a really historical hotel but we’ve not experienced any kind of paranormal activity in our room thus far (knock on wood). Having said that, the hallways are incredible creepy. Dim lighting, strange old paintings that seem to follow you with their eyes… my kids were quite spooked. I didn’t tell them about the haunted history of the hotel because that may have ended the trip right there. All in all it was a pleasant experience and definitely worth checking out.

    April 17, 2015
    • Thanks Amy, I am glad you liked the Empress. It is a grand old hotel.

      April 18, 2015
    • “Specifically in the city of Victoria which was once the capital of BC.”
      It is still the capital of British Columbia.

      May 24, 2015
  7. On our Christmas 2011 vacation at the Fairmont Empress, Victoria, a 20yo guy also on our tour witnessed the apparition of a man with a moustache, dressed in old fashioned clothing, possibly 1800’s, standing next to his bed early one morning. He rubbed his eyes and the apparition was still there. He then swore at it and tried to punch the figure. His hand went right through him. The ghost didn’t flinch, just adjusted his tie and vanished. Could this have been the ghost of Francis Mawson Rattenbury? This young Australian tourist knew nothing about the building’s history and didn’t believe in ghosts. He was quite embarrassed to admit he saw it, yet that is the only way he could describe the unnerving experience. Don’t remember what room he was in though.

    May 31, 2015
    • Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story. Perhaps he did see Rattenbury. Let me know if you see the ghost on your next visit to the Empress.

      June 2, 2015
  8. sarah #

    I am a local of Victoria so I have heard of all these strange occurances..i have never stayed at the hotel but personally everytime i have been there something unusual has happened..I was about 14 or 15 at the time..but me and my friends (5 of us in total) were watching the santa truck parade which is something the island does every christmas..but us being teenagers got super bored..and we all really needed to we decided to head over to the closest open building at the time which happened to be the usual the building had decorations up with all the different attractions for tourists with merchandise and even charity events..well to say the least we ran to go to the washroom..but when i came out it was suddenly very dead..i mean very quiet..almost unsettling as it was the holidays which ends up being one of the busiest times for the hotel..(keep in mind we literally just walked in no employees stopped us) when i excited the bathroom the elevator in front of me began to open, close and go to random floors..but the lights to indicate the floors and the dial to point at them werent flashing and didnt move..right there it was clear something was going on..after everyone left the bathroom the elevator decided to do it one more time then stopped just as suddenly as it moved..weirded out and confused we just brushed it off as electrical problems..and countinued on our way..we decided to check out some hallways being dumbass kids but instantly everyone knew something was off..and just as we proceeded to leave i saw the faint but clear outline of a child in an elevated stance by a large group off people..creeped out i proceeded to usher everyone out..none of them saw it but me..the second i went with my mom and did the same thing less then a year later and the same thing happened again with the elevator..not as creepy as some of these stories but i just wanted to see if anyone had a similar experience with that.

    September 30, 2015
  9. Mildred Carter #

    I was attending a conference at the Empress and checked in for three nights. I take my dog with me whenever I can and I was going up to my room to check on him and take him out for walks. Every time I came in the room my dog was under the bed. I brought his bed which he loved but didn’t use it at the hotel. On the last night I was there I got off the elevator and soon noticed there was quite a tall man following me. It’s quite a big hotel and I was a long way from the elevator. Every turn I took I looked back and he was still walking behind me. I was getting a little scared as I was nearing my room at the end of the hall. I put the key card in and turned around and he walked past me. The scary thing is when I looked the other way to make sure he was past me before opening my door, he was gone. I was the last room at the end of the hallway….

    October 28, 2015
  10. Kathy #

    Does anyone no which rooms are the most haunted at the Empress Hotel? My sister and I would love to experience some of these activities that have been occurring.
    Thank you

    February 6, 2016
    • Sorry, I don’t know which rooms are haunted. Enjoy your visit to Victoria.

      February 16, 2016
  11. Zoe Fero #

    My husband and I spent one night July 6, 2107 in the gold fairmont room above the tea room and fairly close to the old elevators that hesitate to open and then both of them open. We never read anything about it being haunted prior to going there. We noticed that the hallways were very creepy with it reminding me of the haunted mansion at Walt Disney World. I took some pictures of my husband walking down the hallway and of the huge hallways of the gold floor. Today while looking at my photos I noticed there were multiple orbs in one of the pictures.
    Well getting back to the original reason I decided to write this was the fact that I was awoken out of a sound sleep to a man’s voice saying you are so pretty… I sat up on one elbow and said to my husband thank you but he was sound asleep. I was so tired I went right back to sleep. The following morning while my husband was in the shower a man’s voice said good morning to me. I walked into the bathroom and said to my husband “did you say something to me?” but he said “no”. I was creeped out and told him about both incidents. I also heard a women’s voice call me a “whore” while I was putting on my makeup. I said no I’m not…I’m with my husband and wearing makeup doesn’t make one a whore in this day and age.

    July 10, 2017
    • Zoe Fero #

      This is a continuation of the previous blog…. I can’t believe I forgot to mention that the lights on either side of the bed were dimming and flashing off and on when we were first checked in to this hotel room, also the counter above the empty refrigerator was very hot as was the refrigerator, so I opened the cupboard to cool it off. My husband who is a contractor said there might be an electrical problem. I called down to the front desk to report this and was put on hold so we left the room while this was going on, after turning out the lights. We went down to the lounge to have a drink and got into an argument (which is highly unusual). I think this is all related to the haunted hotel/room.

      July 10, 2017
  12. samuel200818 #

    I wish I was there to see activity

    January 7, 2019

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Haunted Locations of Victoria, Vancouver Island | Living Library
  2. 10 Places to Spot a Ghost on Vancouver Island - Vancouver Island View
  3. The Real Ghost Maid of the Empress Hotel – Updating History

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