On October 20th, 2013, we were invited by the owners of the Auditorium Hotel in Nanton, Alberta, to conduct an investigation. Some of the claims of activity include:
– chairs in the dining room being moved
– voices in the kitchen area
– silverware being moved on tables in the cafe area
– apparition of a former hotel tenant
Attending investigators: Robyn, Trevor, Shae, Megan, Holly
In 1903, the village of Nanton was born. The village was named after Sir Augustus Meredith Nanton (1860-1925), a Winnipeg-based stockbroker whose company financed farms and ranches throughout western Canada. In 1907, Nanton achieved the status of “town”, and became known as “Tap Town” after gaining fame for providing passing motorists with free water gathered from the foothills from a stand tap on the northbound highway.
The Auditorium Hotel was built in 1902 by W.J. Brown, who came out west from Beaverton, Ontario in 1889. The hotel consisted of ten sleeping rooms, a bar, a restaurant/dining room, a kitchen, an office, and a sitting room. It served as a lay-over point between Lethbridge and Calgary, and by 1912, the hotel was so popular that another 25 rooms were added, bringing the total to 35 rooms on three floors.
In 1983, a boiler on the second floor exploded, gutting part of that floor, and completely gutting the third floor, reducing the number of useable rooms to the original ten. Thankfully, no one died.
In 1993, Barb and Larry Wynnyk purchased the historic building, and with help from the Alberta Main Street program, they restored the interior back to its classic 1912 appearance. The only original ice house in Canada is still standing, outside and in the back of the building.
There are several different stories of hauntings in this hotel, the most well-known being that of a ghost named Rex Irwin. Irwin was a local ranch hand who lived in the hotel and allegedly had a taste for whiskey. Stories say that he died in his room – Room 3 – some time in the 1940’s, and though his body is long buried, his spirit continues to roam the building. Movement of furniture late at night, long after the doors have been closed and locked for the night, has been attributed to him. It’s even said that if you leave a shot of whiskey on the back stairs for him, it will be gone by morning.
Another story involves a young woman named Lily Bhoutan. She waitressed in the cafe during the 1920’s and was, apparently, quite popular with the customers. A framed photograph of her leaning out a window and waving at people in a parade in front of the hotel hangs in the cafe. Barb says Lily’s story is well-known, but we have not yet been able to find any information about her through normal means, nor has any paranormal activity been attributed to her.
The walls and shelves of the dining room/tavern contain everything from pieces of very old farm equipment, to stag heads, cougars, and other animals stuffed by a taxidermist. A carpet of old, grey insulation stuck to the ceiling dims down an already-dim wagon-wheel lighting fixture, giving the entire main floor an eerie feel that Robyn calls a “creep factor.”
In the main dining area, some of the tables have been pulled back to make way for a small but functional dance area. Along the back wall, a corner stage, complete with large speakers and a mic stand, is set up for musicians. Across from the dining room and dance area is a gaming area. A few video lottery machines sit against the walls, and a large pool table sits directly in the center of the area.
There are two basements. One is accessed from the cafe, and the other is accessed from the back of the dining room, near the stage. One basement contains the compressors for the beer and pop taps, a freezer, and two rooms filled with all manner of old items ranging from lamps to dishes. The other basement contains the furnace, boiler, renovation materials, and some of the original materials used when the hotel was first built. Both basements have very low ceilings, and the steam pipes, which hang from the joists, are very low; we all had to duck our heads to get past them.
The second and third floors are accessible via a stairway between the bar and dining room, and the cafe. Between the stairway leading to the third floor, there are four rooms – two rooms on each side. The flooring is warped with age, giving one an impression of walking on waves. At the base of the stairway leading to the third floor, fire damage to the back of the second floor is obvious, and extensive. The area on either side of the stairs is littered with brick, mortar, wood, and other debris that resulted from the 1983 fire.
The third floor is completely gutted, and littered with debris. Nails poke out of some of the wall studs, so extreme caution is needed when moving around. Barb and Larry have slowly been rebuilding the third floor, but the debris field is extensive and must be monitored. An old, brown, four-drawer dresser with an attached mirror sits in one “room”. Over the years, people have written various messages in the dust, and as time has gone on, those messages have been covered up. But one message sits in front of all the previous writings, as if it was etched in the dust only a week ago: “Rex Irwin lives here.” Barb and Larry told us that was written a couple of years earlier, and that unlike the ones behind it, that one never seems to accumulate dust…
We arrived at the hotel a couple of minutes after 8pm. Barb and Larry welcomed us with smiles and coffee, and after warming up from the chill outside, we began our preliminary work. Trevor and Holly interviewed Barb and Larry, and Robyn, Shae, and Megan began the work of gathering base EMF readings and taking photographs of the entire main floor, including the cafe and the kitchen. Once the work was completed, teams were assigned. Since Barb and Larry had asked to participate in the investigation, we assigned them to one team each. Robyn, Holly, and Barb started the investigation in the basement leading off the dining room, and Trevor, Shae, Megan, and Larry headed up to the second floor. Because of the building’s age, and to prevent as much noise contamination as possible between the teams, the main floor was left unoccupied.
Because of equipment running in the basements, the noise being generated was very loud, so we had to discard all of the audio data we gathered. However, while Robyn and Holly were investigating these areas, Robyn did experience a sensation of being touched. We checked for cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and found none; the EMF levels in both basements were surprisingly low, considering the age of the equipment, so we could not attribute what she experienced to that. We were also unable to recreate the experience.
The Second and Third Floors
Robyn and Holly had no experiences, but Shae, Megan, and Trevor experienced some unusual events in one of the rooms on the second floor. Unfortunately, no evidence was captured on the cameras to validate their experiences.
The Auditorium Hotel is a living testament to life in the early days of western settlement, and to the lives of the people who made the town itself the living piece of history that it is. We are very grateful to Barb and Larry for taking the time to share their stories with us, for taking us on a tour of the old hotel, and for their wonderful, warm hospitality while we were there. We can’t say for sure that the hotel is haunted, but we also can’t say for sure that it isn’t. Our equipment did not capture any evidence, but we all had personal experiences we could not explain or recreate. Was old Rex Irwin following us around and playing with us, or was it just air currents or sounds moving through the vents that caught us at the right time? We will probably never know….