When one thinks of a haunted hotel in Canada the first name on their tongue is usually the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, or just The Royal York. Whether this hotel is actually haunted is quite contested but the hotel is one of the oldest and grandest in Canada. It is a beautiful and breathtaking site, inside and out. It is an icon and it is a large part of the history of Toronto.
The Royal York was originally a small, brick hotel called Ontario Terrace. It was made by Thomas Dick, a lake-boat captain, in 1843. After which, ownership, name and shape changed several times until Captain Dick repurchased it in 1862 and named it Queen’s Hotel. Sometime after, it was bought again by Thomas McGraw and Henry Winett, who were both well-established hoteliers. For sixty-seven years it was a major part of the now booming city. It was so much a part of Toronto that when it was set to be demolished by the Canadian Pacific Railroad there was a massive protest. No one wanted to see it go.
McGraw had passed away in 1901 and Winett in 1925. Winett’s state sold Queen’s Hotel to the Canadian Pacific Railroad who had seen the opportunity of constructing a magnificent hotel across from Toronto’s Union Station. It was a perfect idea for a railway company, so they demolished Queen’s Hotel and created The Royal York with construction beginning in 1927. Construction finished in 1929 and it stood as the largest hotel in the British Commonwealth at the time. Even now it is a breathtaking sight. At the time of its opening it boasted twenty-eight floors, 1,000 guestrooms with radios and private baths (a real luxury at this time), a 12, 000 book library, ten elevators, one and a half acres of public rooms, thirty-five telephone operators for a sixty-six-foot switchboard, a golf course, a twelve bed hospital, its own bank and the largest kitchen in all of Toronto. It was fabulous and grand and the first person to ever be registered as a guest was Lord Willington, the Governor General of Canada at that time.
Over the years many renovations have been made. New wings have been added, increasing the ability to hold more guests. A health centre and a pool have also been added. It has held a great deal of famous people such as Tina Turner, Eartha Kitt, Ray Charles, Liberace and so many more. And of course Queen Elizabeth II and others from the Royal Family have stayed at the Royal York.
So, what is it that makes people believe this hotel is haunted?
Well, anything with a significant amount of history will find things attracted to it. Rumours, gossip, legends, stories and sometimes even spirits.
One of the most common spirits seen are a man and his wife. On their wedding night, after the festivities, the two of them went to their room on the eighth floor where the man proceeded to bloodily murder his wife while she slept. After, he killed himself. He is said to be seen wandering the halls of the eighth floor and some staircases, while she is stuck, tragically, haunting the room she was murdered in.
Another spirit that is commonly seen is a former employee of the Royal York who hung himself in a stairway connecting to electrical and maintenance. Sometimes when he is seen, he does not appear to have any legs and people are left wondering – what exactly happened to his legs?
There are times when the ballroom is a flurry of activity, even with no one inside it. Spirits are said to be dancing, twirling around their partners and having a lovely evening. Sometimes guests, whose rooms are close to the ballroom, will complain of the festivities. They hear loud music and partying, but, there was no event happening at the time.
When the SS Noronic went up in flames in 1949 The Royal York’s hospital was utilized as so many people were injured and there was not enough room in the nearby hospital. Taxis from the hotel became makeshift ambulances, hurrying victims to the hotel’s hospital and the regular hospital to be treated. It is said that about 139-160 people died in this devastating fire and many who did not die were left injured. It is also assumed that after this time more spirits had begun to be reported. Children are heard running up and down the halls, laughing and playing. Author, Christopher Heard, noted this during his time living at the hotel. Although no one has seen a full body apparition of a child, they just tend to be quite noisy.
The Royal York Hotel has had its fair share of tragedy. It has held death as accidents, murder and suicide. It is said that when a life is taken suddenly and in such a devastating way, their spirits linger with so much unfinished business. Since they are no longer living, they cannot finish their business and are stuck to haunt or relive the same moment over and over. While it remains an icon and a beautiful landmark in Toronto, it is also considered one of the most haunted places in the city.
Fairmont Royal York. “Hotel History.” 2019. Accessed March 24, 2019. https://www.fairmont.com/royal-york-toronto/hotelhistory/
Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Fairmont Royal York: History.” 2019. Accessed March 24, 2019. www.historichotelsworldwide.com/hotels-resorts/fairmont-royal-york/history.php
Maritime History of the Great Lakes. “160 Die in Ship Fire in Toronto Harbour.” In The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto, Ontario, September 17, 1949. image.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/7542/data?n=1
McLennan, Susan. “The Noronic Fire – Toronto’s Greatest Disaster with the Greatest Loss of Life.” In reimaginepr. Accessed March 24, 2019. www.reimaginepr.com/the-noronic-fire-torontos-disaster-with-the-greatest-loss-of-life/
Sutherland, Joel A. “Hotel Hell.” In Haunted Canada 5: Terrifying True Stories, 1095-1139. Toronto, Ontario: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2015. Amazon Kindle ebook edition.
Toronto & Ontario Ghosts and Hauntins Research Societ. “The Royal York Hotel.” 2015. Accessed March 24, 2019. www.torotoghosts.org/index.php/the-city-of-toronto/public-building/111-the-royal-york-hotel-
Wikipedia. “Fairmont Royal York.” Accessed March 24, 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairmont_Royal_York