This article will be taking a look at how a student learned the identity of the spirit behind the University of Toronto haunting – through a tale of love, betrayal…and sinister murder…
Conversation With a Ghost
A student named Allen Aylesworth was walking through the university grounds some time in the 1870’s, when he encountered a large bearded man wearing a dark hat and long coat. Aylesworth decided to make a little chit-chat by commenting on the cold weather.
The tall dark stranger replied that it was always cold in his world.
This reply interested Aylesworth, so he struck up a conversation with the stranger, who then identified himself as Ivan Reznikoff.
After a few minutes Aylesworth realized that the weather was starting to eat through to his bones, so he invited Reznikoff back to his apartment to get out of the cold. They spent the remainder of the night downing rum and talking…
This conversation managed to reveal the identity of the ghost who was frequently spotted on one of the university stairwells…
Reznikoff explained to Aylesworth that he was a stonemason who worked on the university building and ended up falling for a local lass named Suzie, who he planned to propose to.
Unfortunately a Greek worker named Paul Diabolos was also in love with this local girl…and a feud was born.
The competition was on – and both men set out to show each other up.
This resulted in Diabolos carving a likeness of Reznikoff as one of the leering gargoyles that decorate the corner of the university. Reznikoff was not happy about this – and he realized that Diabolos was actually a more talented stonemason than him!
Diabolos’s witty carving seemed to win Suzie over, and she began having an affair with him. Just before the planned wedding Susie called it off…and ended up getting engaged to the talented Diabolos.
Reznikoff was furious – and chased Diabolos across the university grounds with his trusty axe. They ended up running through the east wing but Diabolos managed to hide and get the drop on Reznikoff, stabbing him the back in the process.
Reznikoff finished his story saying that Diabolos had buried him under the stairs where his undiscovered body still lay.
The other members of the university construction group all thought that Reznikoff had ran off – broken hearted and embarrassed by his loss in love.
Reznikoff then claimed that he had been standing near the stairs where his body was buried, ever since, in the vain hope that someone would discover it.
Aylesworth woke up the following morning and the man named Reznikoff was gone – surely he had drunk too much rum and imagined the ghostly story the stonemason had told him?
In 1890, a devastating fire burnt out a large area of the university and the east wing was gutted by it. During the repair work, after the fire, workers stumbled upon human remains beneath the stairwell.
Allen Bristol Aylesworth, now a successful lawyer, returned to the university grounds and revealed his story. The remains were eventually interred under an old maple tree in the University College’s quadrangle.
Aylesworth went on to become a Canadian Parliamentarian…but he always stuck to his story of meeting the ghost of Reznikoff…
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The Banff Springs Hotel must surely be one of the most beautiful in the world. Set in the landscape of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and surrounded by deep forest it could have been plucked from the pages of a Fairy Tale.
For over a century the Banff Springs has attracted visitors from all over the world. Movie stars, celebrities and royalty have all enjoyed its opulence and luxury.
Spoilt by the lavish surroundings, few who stay here are keen to leave, in fact there are a few guests of the spectral kind who refuse to move on.
Over the years The Banff Springs Hotel Ghosts have become an attraction in themselves and earned the hotel the reputation of being one of the most haunted in Canada.
The Castle of the Rockies
The hotel was built in 1886 by Cornelius Van Horne. Van Horne was the General Manager of The Canadian Pacific Railroad and was responsible for driving its route through the Rockies.
Realising that the beauty of the area would attract tourists, he began a building project along the railroad’s path to provide luxury accommodation for visitors. In 1888 the Banff Springs Hotel opened its doors to the public for the first time.
Described as the jewel of Alberta, the hotel was built in the Swiss Chalet style and nicknamed The Castle of the Rockies. Originally a wooden construction, the hotel was rebuilt after a fire in 1926.
The Secret Room
The fire in 1926 was to reveal a hidden secret in the Banff Springs Hotel. When clearing the debris, a hidden room was discovered which some suggest was the seat of the fire.
Further probing revealed that the room was probably an accidental creation by bungling builders. During the construction process the builders had read the plans incorrectly and managed to create a room without any windows.
Rather than confessing to their error, they sealed up the room and hoped it wouldn’t be noticed. Over the years strange noises and paranormal phenomena were experienced in the adjoining corridor.
While it didn’t fully explain the strange events it came as a relief to staff to know that a secret room was hidden just beyond sight.
If you go in search of room 873, you are unlikely to find it. The hotel staff would suggest that it has merely been incorporated into the room next door to create a larger suite.
Those with a suspicious nature believe there is a more sinister reason for the disappearance of room 873. At some point in the hotel’s history a murder is rumored to have taken place in the room.
A father is said to have killed his wife and daughter before committing suicide. Attempts were made to clean the room afterwards but the tiny blood soaked fingerprints of the child could never be wiped from the bathroom mirror.
Eventually, the room was sealed up when staff refused to enter and guests reported that they had been attacked by an unseen force.
Since the room has been sealed an impression of a small child sometimes appears on the wall where the door should be. The image has been successfully photographed by some guests.
The Tragic Bride
One of the saddest ghost stories emanating from The Banff Springs Hotel is the story of the tragic bride. A beautiful venue for a wedding, it proved to be a fateful choice for one young couple.
There are two different versions of events that took place. In the first version a beautiful young bride was descending a curved marble staircase to dance with her new husband in the ballroom. As she walked down the stairs she tripped on her gown and fell down the steps breaking her neck.
The second version is more horrifying if that is possible. The stairs had been lined with candles which must have created a stunningly romantic effect.
As she descended, the bride’s dress brushed against a candle and caught fire. Panicking, the woman stumbled and fell to her death.
The ghost of the beautiful bride has been witnessed waltzing alone in the ballroom. Perhaps she is still pining for that first dance with her husband that she never had.
Others have felt the woman’s presence in the bathroom at the top of the stairs where she is said to watch people. Those who descend the stairs she died on can sometimes feel a chill breeze even when there is no draft.
One thing that is certain is this lovely bride bears no malice. A young couple being given a guided tour of the hotel in preparation for their own wedding tell the following tale.
As they descended the stairs the prospective groom caught his foot and tripped. Stumbling, he reached out to grab something but could not save himself.
Almost immediately, he felt a pair of steadying arms pull him back. When he turned to thank his saviour, there was nobody there.
The Helpful Bell Boy
Browse the photographs of staff in the last century and you will find pictures of a group of happy, smiling bell boys. Taking center stage in these largely youthful groups is a cheerful older gentleman, Sam Mc Auley.
Sam was originally from Scotland but moved to Canada in his youth. After gaining a bell boy’s post at the hotel, he went on to work at the Banff Springs for many years.
To say Sam loved working at the hotel would be an understatement. Retiring from his job on numerous occasions he was always drawn back to the role he enjoyed so much.
At one point the ageing Sam informed his friends and colleagues that when he died he would return to haunt the Banff Springs Hotel. It seems that Sam was true to his word as he has been witnessed all over the hotel, but particularly on the ninth floor.
The kindly and benign Sam continues to help people and can be seen dashing about carrying luggage. One of the most convincing reasons for accepting that Sam’s spirit haunts the hotel, is the number of guests who see him who know nothing of the hotel’s history.
Numerous people have enquired after the elderly bell boy in the green uniform who helped them earlier in the day, only to be told no such person exists.
A local businessman relates the story of when he and his bookkeeper visited the hotel to attend a meeting. After the meeting both gentlemen availed themselves of the washroom facilities.
The businessman left the washroom first and went to browse the gift shop while he waited for his bookkeeper. When his friend hadn’t turned up half an hour later he became concerned.
After forty minutes the bookkeeper turned up in an agitated state. He explained that he had left the washroom by the wrong door and ended up lost. He would have remained lost but a kind, elderly bell boy guided him to the gift shop.
The businessman describes his friend as a committed Christian who did not believe in ghosts and knew nothing of Sam Mc Auley.
The two men went back into the washroom to discover that there was only one door to enter or leave by. The door the man said he had used was a fixed mirror.
The kind bell boy was nowhere to be found and enquiries at Reception confirmed the hotel did not employ a bell boy matching the description given.
It would be easy to be skeptical about lots of the ghostly sightings at The Banff springs Hotel. Why is there no record of the young bride’s name or of the family who died in such chilling circumstances?
Are these stories merely the product of an overactive imagination that have since become local folklore?
What isn’t so easy is the debunking of the masses of video, photographic and eye witness testimony recorded by guests and visitors to the hotel.
Strange lights, orbs, unexplained noises and ghostly images have all been recorded.
Many people arrive at The Banff Springs Hotel unaware of its history but leave after experiencing spine tingling paranormal events. Surely their testimony is the most compelling.
For those that wish to investigate the Banff Springs Hotel ghosts themselves, the stunning setting is well worth a visit.
If you do make the trip to this magnificent building, there is just one more apparition that may chill you to the bone. Over-indulge in spirits of the wrong kind and the ghostly bar tender who haunts the hotel may send you to bed early with the warning , ‘I think you’ve had enough’ ringing eerily in your ears.