Spooky by Design

As legend would have it, architect Sir Francis Rattenbury haunts the halls of the Empress Hotel. Getty images photo

Come the dark, gloomy days of fall, it’s easy to imagine ghosts all around us, especially in a historic building like Victoria’s Fairmont Empress. Several spirits are said to roam its venerable halls—and one in particular.

“When you have thousands of people in a building for more than 50, 60, 100 years, with all of those collective experiences, the residue they leave behind and the wake—we all leave a wake like a boat behind us—allows the past to invade upon the present,” says Dan Aykroyd, host of the T+E show Hotel Paranormal. “At the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which opened in 1908, guests report seeing the hotel’s architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury, roaming the halls.”

Rattenbury designed some of B.C.’s most famous structures, including the Parliament Buildings. But by 1935 he was back home in England, living in disgrace with his scandalous second wife, Alma, when his chauffeur (who was her lover) beat him to death with a mallet.

He was buried in an unmarked grave in England, but has apparently chosen this hotel across the globe as his favourite haunt. So if you spot a thin, dapper, mustachioed gent swinging a cane in the vicinity of the Empress’ former lobby, chances are that’s just the ghost of “Old Ratz” checking in.

True, he designed several other hauntable buildings, but wouldn’t you choose to stay at the Empress, too?

Make the Nightmare Before Christmas Cocktail. 

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