Saturday, February 18, 2017

HGB Ep. 184 - Delta Bessborough Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Jean Hilliard Frozen and Lives
(Suggested by: Lisa Lauren Schmidt)

Jean Hilliard was 19 years old and living in Lengby, Minnesota when something incredible happened to her. She was driving to meet up with her neighbor when her car skidded off the ice covered road. It was the coldest it had been for some time with temperatures of twenty-five degrees below zero and Jean Hilliard was literally frozen solid as she walked for help. Her neighbor discovered her and rushed her to the hospital. Her arms were so frozen, they were unmovable. Ice clung to her in places and the nurses claimed that touching her skin was like touching ice in a freezer. Her face was white and had the look of death and there was not much hope that she would be revived. Besides frost bite, another hazard of being frozen is that water expands when frozen. It was believed that there was damage on a microscpic level, including severe brain damage. Jean awoke from her coma with no major affects of having been frozen solid like a block of ice. She was released from the hospital after a month. This is considered an unexplained medical miracle and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Outlaw Belle Starr Killed in Oklahoma

In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1889, the outlaw Belle Starr was killed in Oklahoma with two shotgun blasts to the back. Starr was known as the "Bandit Queen." She started out with a relatively normal life being born into a middle class family on a farm in Carthage, Missouri. The Civil War changed all that when her father's innkeeping business was ruined and her brother Edwin lost his life in the war. The family moved to Texas and Belle met a string of bad men. She married one of them named Jim Reed and became his partner in crime, rustling cattle and stealing money. This lasted for five years and then Reed was killed in 1874 by a member of his own gang. Belle took off for the Oklahoma Indian Territory and met a Cherokee outlaw named Sam Starr who became her common law husband. The two continued their criminal ways and were arrested in 1883, both serving five months for horse theft. In 1886, Sam Starr was killed in a gunfight and Belle was alone again. She then met her finally partner in crime and love, a Creek named Jim July. He was later arrested and sent tp Fort Smith for punishment for his crimes. Belle accompanied him part of the way and then decided to return home. She was ambushed on the way and fatally shot in the back by two shotgun blasts. The murderer was never found and the case remains unsolved.

Delta Bessborough Hotel (Suggested by Corianne Wilson)

The castle-like Delta Bessborough Hotel is a four star, ten-story hotel located in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Today it is owned by Marriott, but this historic hotel dates back to 1928 when it was built by the Canadian National Railway. Railway hotels were built all across Canada with many of them sharing the same architecture. Many locals refer to the Bessborough as "The Bess" and many of them have tales of hauntings that take place in the hotel. There seems to be several spirits hanging around The Bess in the afterlife. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Delta Bessborough Hotel.

Saskatoon is considered Saskatchewan's great crossroads. The Cree tribe lived here and the name  Saskatoon is derived for the Cree word for the berry that is native to the region, misâskwatômina. A group of Toronto Methodists formed the Temperance Colonization Society and they believed the Saskatoon area would be a great place to set up a dry community. They relocated there in 1882, led by John Nielsen Lake. The railway was not completed to Saskatoon, so they took it to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and then rode horse drawn carts the rest of the way. There were 3,100 settlers. Lake is considered the founder of Saskatoon for this reason. The temperance society folded within ten years. Not many new settlers wanted to come to the area and internal fighting led to the demise.

The railway finally arrived in 1901 and another settlement set up on the west side of the South Saskatchewan River near the railway station. This settlement would incorporate and keep the name Saskatoon and the original village was changed to Nutana. A third settlement named Riverdale formed on the west side of the railroad tracks. These three settlements decided to become one city and they all eventually became Saskatoon in 1906. The city grew rapidly and by 1911, the population had more than doubled.

Canadian Pacific Railway was founded in 1881 with the purpose of connecting interior towns to each other and to the coasts. A railway had already been under construction, but it was way behind schedule and running out of money. A group of Scottish Canadian businessmen formed the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to fix the issues and construction took off. By 1885, the last spike in the transcontinental railway was driven into the ground. With the railway came a need for lodgings and this became the advent of railway hotels in Canada. The first one was built in Montreal in 1878 and named the Windsor Hotel. The Canadian Pacific Railway opened its first hotel in 1888 in Vancouver. The hotels were meant to be luxurious and were mainly built in a chateau style of architecture. It is a style considered distinctly Canadian with turrets and Scottish baronial elements.

Several smaller railways were struggling and the government incorporated them together into the Canadian National Railway in 1919. The Grand Trunk Railway was another railway rolled into this company. This rival company to the Canadian Pacific Railway also built railway hotels, which was something the Grand Trunk Railway had been doing before it was amalgamated. The Saskatoon business community lobbied the Canadian National Railway to build a railway hotel in Saskatoon. At the time, Sir Henry Thorton was president of the Canadian National Railway. On December 31, 1928, he announced that they would build a hotel in Saskatoon designed by Archibald and Schofield of Montreal. John Archibald was a Scottish immigrant and John Schofield was an immigrant from Ireland. The hotel was designed to resemble a Bavarian castle. Construction began in the frozen month of February and thus a steam thawer and gasoline excavator were required. The hotel was built from Tyndall stone, tile and bricks all made in Canada. The hotel was completed in 1932 with 225 rooms.

While construction was being done, the Great Depression swept across the world and travel was hit hard. While the hotel was ready to go in 1932, it didn't officially open until December 10, 1935. The first guest was Horace N. Stovin. The hotel was named Bessborough after Sir Vere Ponsonby who was the 9th Earl of Bessborough and at the time, the 14th Governor General of Canada. He and the Countess visited the hotel while it was being built. In 1972, the Bess traded hands and was bought by Donald, Dick, and Marc Baltzan. Ten years later the Canadian Pacific Hotels purchased
Canadian National Hotels and the Bess was placed under CP Hotels' subsidiary Delta Hotels during the 1990s, which is where the Delta part of its name comes from. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts bought CP Hotels and Delta Hotels in 1999. That year a $9 million renovation was begun on the hotel and it was restored to much of its original historic elegance. Another renovation came in 2003. Today, the Bess is owned by Marriott and features several meeting and conference rooms and is surrounded by five acres of Elizabethan gardens.

More than just guests stay at the Bess. It is reputedly quite haunted and has three paranormal hotspots. The Adam Ballroom is 4,024 square feet and a favorite venue for weddings and receptions. It is located on the Convention Floor level. It is this ballroom and this level that is reputedly haunted by an apparition that is wearing a gray suit and fedora. He appears full-bodied and has even said, "Hello" to passersby. Guests will mention to employees that they saw a man wearing a dated suit just hanging around without any purpose. Employees are unable to find the man and now generally explain that the guests may have seen a ghost. He is thought to be a former employee of the hotel, more than likely a manager based on the way he is dressed and the actions that led to his death. There were two men drunk in the hotel, causing quite the ruckus. He asked the men to quiet down or leave the hotel and their response was to pick him up and hurl him over the balcony. He fell at least seven stories and reputedly, there is still a crack on the floor where he hit.

One man who claims to have seen this ghost was the co-founder of Paranormal Saskatchewan, Colin Tranborg. He also was told by a witness that they saw this man looking at them through the window of a storage room, which would be impossible because as Colin put it, "There is no way he could have been out there because he would have fallen to his death." There are those that claim the man in the gray suit is someone different than the man wearing the gray fedora. Some guests and staff say they have seen a figure moving through the Terrace Lounge that is now a banquet room. Hotel guests used to congregate in the lounge to send letters, read the paper and visit. The man in the fedora is said to wander the room looking for his friends.

The third floor is the next haunted hotspot. The apparition that is seen here is said to be terrifying. The spirit resembles a very small woman whom looks tired and depressed. Her hair and clothing is a mess. As long as people ignore the spirit, she seems to keep to herself. But if someone acknowledges her, she runs up to the person and screams in their face before she suddenly disappears.   
The stairwell is said to be haunted. This haunting features the spirits of several children. People claim that it sounds like they are playing in the stairwell. They ignore the guests, so this could just be a residual haunting. It is believed that they were killed at the hotel somehow, but there is no story to go with this. Colin said he has been told that children have been seen roaming and playing in the corridors.

There is also a story about a bellman haunting a stairwell according to Stefan Deprez, sales/marketing director for the Delta Bessborough. Deprez shared a story he was told by an employee, "Someone took a picture of him coming down one of the stairs, and when they developed the picture there was this apparition in behind him and he swears to this day it was a ghost."Apparently, the bellman was running with luggage down the stairwell and he tripped and tumbled to his death. There is a section of broken marble on one of the staircases that people claim is where he fell. The apparition appears on this very spot.

Many people have come through the Bess in her decades of service. Is it possible that some of those guests and some of the employees have continued to stay on in the afterlife? Is the Delta Bessborough Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!


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