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Haunted hotel

Fort Garry makes website's spooky destinations list

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You can adorn your front lawn with tombstones, skeletons and black cats but if you're looking to get into the Halloween spirit, spend a night at the Fort Garry Hotel.

And if you're looking for an out-of-this-world experience, book Room 202.

The 99-year-old luxury hotel has been named one of Canada's "most haunted" destinations by FlightNetwork.com, a travel website.

The Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alta., topped the list for the second year in a row with 29.3 per cent of about 300 respondents to an online poll believing it was haunted.

The HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, a former prison in downtown Ottawa, placed second with 12 per cent. The Fort Garry Hotel tied with the Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria for third place with 10.4 per cent.

Jamil Al Jabri, marketing manager at FlightNetwork.com, said the legend of a woman hanging herself in Room 202 at the Fort Garry many years ago after learning her husband had been killed in a car accident was the biggest driver of the hotel's haunted reputation.

"Ever since then, cleaners have seen blood staining the walls, windows shattered and bloody footprints on the bed," he said. "It's hard to imagine these things happening but this is what the cleaning crews heard and saw."

Al Jabri said with many of these destinations, the haunted element is part of the attraction.

He'll get no argument from Sherraine Christopherson, director of sales and marketing at the Fort Garry. She said some guests will specifically ask to stay in Room 202 while others will make sure they're as far away as possible.

She said guests have heard silverware rattling in cabinets, scratching in dresser drawers and one housekeeper claimed to have seen a ghost of a girl in a dressing gown walking down the hallway.

By the time the housekeeper caught up with her around the corner, she had vanished, and no doors had been opened.

A few years ago, a young boy in town with his family on a "Make-a-Wish" trip wanted to go in Room 202. He took some pictures with his non-digital camera and was fascinated by the whole thing. A couple of months later, Christopherson spoke with his mother, who told her the pictures taken in and outside of Room 202 didn't turn out. The other shots on the roll of film, however, did.

"His mother thought he would be very upset but he felt spirits in the room and thought they didn't want their faces to show up. When she told me that, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. That made me a believer," she said.

Former Ontario Liberal MP Brenda Chamberlain created headlines when she claimed to have been awakened by spirits during a visit to the Fort Garry about eight years ago. Rumour has it she twice thought somebody else was trying to get into her bed, even though she was staying alone.

"She was in the lobby in her housecoat and she was very upset. She wouldn't go back into the room; we had to move her into another one," Christopherson said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2012 A2

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