For as long as I can remember, Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, one of the best parts was our tradition of visiting a local fine-dining restaurant located in an old lumber baron’s home built in 1885. But we didn’t go there for the food. We went there to celebrate its famous resident ghost. Every Halloween, the restaurant hosted a big party in honor of the original owner who still haunts the building by appearing in mirrors, moving objects, and even operating the elevator when no humans are around.
Since moving to the mountains, I’ve found these kind of stories are all over the place. Before they were home to your favorite moguls run, tree skiing or back-bowl adventuring, many ski resorts were mining towns, rich in history—and the occasional ghost story.
In the spirit of the upcoming Halloween holiday, we thought we’d share some of the spookiest happenings across ski country including hotel hauntings, “ghost towns,” ghost tours and more.
Banff, Alberta — Known as “Canada’s Castle in the Rockies” the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has a storied history that dates back 125+ years. It has hosted its fair share of heads of state, royalty, celebrities and ski travelers, but its resident ghosts deserve the most notoriety.
Two ghosts in particular—a doomed bride and an old bellman who once worked in the hotel—are its most famous fixtures. In the early 1930s, the young bride was set to be wed in the Cascade Ballroom and upon descending down the stairs, brushed her dress against the open flame of a candle, causing her to become startled and fall down the stairs to her demise. Guests have reported seeing her apparition throughout the hotel, still wearing her white lace wedding dress.
Then there is the ghost of Sam Macauley, the former Head Bellman of the hotel. His first reported sighting was when two elderly women couldn’t get into their room one cold, fall evening. They had called the front desk for help and by the time the night bellman reached the ninth floor elevator foyer, he observed they had made it into their room. When he asked how they got in, they described the friendly, white-haired old bellman who had appeared out of nowhere, key in hand, to let them in. There was no one on the bellman staff with that description or age and since then, the front desk and guests services still receive calls and comments from guests mentioning that Sam assisted them.
Park City, Utah — This former mining town is littered with the ghosts of lost souls who met untimely deaths whether at the hand of another or in the mining shafts. Take a stroll through Park City’s haunted past with Park City Ghost Tours and you’ll learn about the miner who fell 600 feet to his death and still haunts his favorite bar – the No Name Saloon (formerly known as the Alamo). Or there’s the story of Lizzy, the young woman shot by her husband while laying asleep with her lover and whose ghost still haunts the upstairs of the Imperial Hotel. Costumed guides will take you to various locations from Miner’s Park to lower Daly Avenue, making stops along the way and sharing the tales of murders and mysterious deaths in Park City’s haunted past.
Revelstoke, British Columbia — Located outside of Revelstoke, 3 Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town is home to more than 25 rescued and restored historical buildings from various parts of British Columbia. The guided Ghost Town tour takes you through a 19th century bar, the three-story Hotel Bellevue, a general store, barber shop, school, blacksmith shop, tobacco store, trapper’s cabin, jail and more.
Vail, Colorado — Located outside of Vail and Beaver Creek, Gilman is an abandoned mining town originally founded in 1886 during the Colorado Silver Boom. Due to toxic contamination in 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered it to be shut down immediately. Residents fled, some leaving cars in garages and even place settings on tables. Though it sits on private land and is considered strictly off limits, rumor has it Halloween brings out curious visitors due to its “weird vibe.”
Breckenridge, Colorado — As the home to the largest historic district in Colorado with more than 350 building listed in the National Historic Registry, Breckenridge was bound to have a ghost story or two lurking in its past. And boy does it.
First, there’s the story of The Brown Hotel and the ghost of a woman shot there who will slam doors, empty water glasses and other antics to get guests’ attention. Then there is the Country Boy Mine. Located 900 feet below ground, the Country Boy Mine consists of 2,000 feet of pitch-black tunnels. which the Summit Daily News reported has had numerous ghost encounters. Multiple visitors have reported fog-like human figures showing up in photos while tour guides have reported occurrences including one guide being pushed even though he was alone. In fact, dating as far back as 1936, there were stories of ghostly encounters in an area of the mine appropriately called the “Ghost Stope,” where some individuals would refuse to work.
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado — Located just 11 miles from Aspen, Ashcroft was once home to 2,000 residents, two newspapers, sawmills, 20 saloons, a school, private homes and more before it went bust. The silver mines turned out to be shallow deposits, promised rail links to Crested Butte never happened and investors and workers were soon lured away to nearby Aspen. Visit Ashcroft now and you’ll find the eerie remains of the Blue Mirror Saloon, a post office and other various buildings including an outhouse.
Another ghastly Aspen attraction includes the Aspen DarkSide Tour. As the Aspen Times describes the tour– “Ghosts abound. Screams fill the air. Blood flows across bar room floors. Amazingly, those images come to life at night on Aspen’s DarkSide.” This 90-minute tour through town will raise the hair on your arms with its stories of murder, mayhem and ghosts from Aspen’s past. On your tour you’ll learn about what really happened in the Old City Bell Tower, where the Jungles of Durant are and who haunts the Red Onion…
North Lake Tahoe, CA/NV — Located near Squaw Valley and Northstar in North Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Calif. has its fair share of haunted happenings. Perhaps the most notorious come from the Truckee Hotel, which experienced a deadly fire in 1909. From the ghost of a little girl murdered in a fourth floor bathroom running through the halls and impressions of ghost bodies on beds to creaking floorboards, the sounds of walking down hallways, and showers turning on and off by themselves, the Truckee Hotel has no shortage of eerie activity.
Various newspapers have reported on additional ghost sightings at the the C.B. White House (where ghosts turn lights and water on and off) and the cemetery, as well as along the streets of the historic downtown. In fact, a team from Haunted and Paranormal Investigations of Sacramento visited Truckee in 2009 for their own Ghost Hunt and documented multiple occurrences and activities.
Every October, Truckee hosts their Annual Historical Haunted Walking Tour, where costumed guides combine stories of unsolved mysteries and spooky legends during the two-hour tour through town. Popular stops and stories have included the Richardson House, where the ghost of Maggie Richardson, the first wife of the house, remains—tormented by the death of her son.
Perhaps some of Tahoe’s most iconic haunted stories come from the famous Cal Neva Resort and Casino – once owned by Frank Sinatra – and a favorite gathering place for mobsters and celebrities including Judy Garland, the Kennedys, the Rat Pack and more. It is rumored the underground tunnels built by Sinatra are haunted by Marilyn Monroe herself, whose ghost will turn on and off one particular light (that has no switch and has been checked by electrical engineers for issues) in the tunnel on any given night. The cabins of both Monroe and Sinatra have had countless “ghost hunter” visitors who report high levels of paranormal activity within their walls. Apparitions, including one caught on film by an employee, have been said to appear on the stage in the Sinatra Showroom.
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.