One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
Remember that Grand Union Hotel about which I wrote a few weeks ago?
It’s now 4:30 a.m., and I’m sitting in its dusty, haunted basement.
When hotel owner Glenn Martin approached us about researching and writing about the Union ghosts, Athabasca Advocate reporter Bobby Roy and I got it in our heads that sleeping in here would be a great idea. Despite fire code violations and generally eeriness, here we are.
Only in Athabasca would they actually let us do something like that.
Some of you are probably smirking lightly right now, scoffing at the idea of ghosts. But the people working here don’t.
Some refuse to come into the basement by themselves, knees quivering at the idea that a cool white light could pass by.
One woman claims she once saw a man sitting at a table after she had already locked up the restaurant. She asked him what he was doing, as she’d already closed the restaurant. He apologized and picked up his bowler hat off the table. When she turned her head back to him, he had disappeared.
Bobby and I were told that the motion sensors on the top floor are always going off, even if no one is around.
“When you’re here by yourself, it always feels like someone’s watching you,” the bar manager said.
“It’s not a malicious ghost,” the owner commented, as the maintenance guy chimed in.
“It’s just a presence.”
Indeed, upon further research we have heard a couple of different stories that could lead to the presence of unrested souls within these walls.
One article, which we found today in the March 16, 1912 edition of The Northern News, tells the story of a drunken employee at the hotel across the street (which was demolished). He and his wife lived in the hotel and worked there as a chef and waitress for three weeks. On March 9 of that year, he got upset with his wife, called her to his room and drank carbolic acid right in front of her. Half an hour later, he died.
An anonymous source told me another story of romance and betrayal.
Two brothers – one a townsman and the other a trapper – both fancied the same pretty widow.
A big event was scheduled in the Grand Union Hotel’s Buffalo Room – the place to be, in those days. The townsman wanted to go to see the widow’s pretty face. The trapper, just having arrived from the trap lines, asked his brother if he could borrow clothes and money to go to the event as well. The townsman, recognizing his brother’s motives, refused to lend.
Both brothers showed up at the event in the end.
“Words led to words led to much worse,” my source said. “So two people died, apparently. I think anybody who’s seen the ghost will tell you that some of them see a man, and some of them see a woman.
“It was never clear to me whether it was the trapper or the brother, but one was definitely the widow.”
So here I am, sitting in the Buffalo Room.
In the dark.
Bobby’s sleeping like a baby, but I’ll be awake for a while yet.