The Cherry Bank Hotel 

Monday, October 10, 2005

On Saturday night, I rushed over to Vancouver Island for a date with some ghosts.

That's a long drive, then a 1.5 hour ferry ride and a one-hour bus ride away. I made it just in time to find out that the Quality Inn gave someone else the room I would have gotten had I been five minutes earlier.

"Can you recommend anything else nearby?" I asked.

"There's the Marriott," said the middle-aged lady behind the counter. "It's about $120 a night."

"I'm looking for something cheaper," I said.

The lady hesitated. "There is the Cherry Bank. But it doesn't have a TV or a phone."

"Sounds like my kind of place," I said.

The 108-year-old Cherry Bank Hotel started as a private residence for architect James Graham Brown and was named for its situation on the slope of a cherry orchard.

From 1912 to WWII, the Cherry Bank served as a boarding house until owners S. Edwards and A. H. Macon added a coffee shop in the 1940s and the cocktail lounge in the 1950s.

In the 1990s, the Cherry Bank got an outdoor patio, with an open barbeque pit, and a glass wall lounge expansion in 1991.

In 1996, what is now known as "Mr B's Race Place" (with televised satellite wagering) replaced games of Trivia Pursuit.

To get to the lobby, I walked under the white rotating mermaid, past the bar, down a dark corridor with red walls to a lobby only big enough for three people and no luggage.

The night clerk seemed skeptical. "Yes, we've still got two rooms, but with a shared toilet."

"I'll have a look and decide for myself."

Room Ten required a trek up a set of stairs with a bannister buried in the wall, then through a fire door to a very red hallway. In front of the door was Room Four. Then a right turn down another corridor, to a sign pointing up to Rooms Ten and Eleven, and up some more stairs to a secluded alcove. On the left, closer to the stairs, was Room Ten.

The lights in Room Ten did not work.

From the light in the hallway I saw a lamp on a night table to the left and groped at it until I found its switch near the base. Then I looked around.

There were two beds, one by the door near the lamp and the other by the window with no lamp but a mirror hanging on one of the walls next to it.

To the right of the door was a dresser - the upper drawers were lined with oil paper. The towels and two bars of soap - non-frothing, no doubt - lay in front of the large mirror. The mirror covered two prints of generic landscapes.

At the foot of the bed with the lamp were a table and two chairs. One of the chairs blocked a door that only reached to chest height.

I pulled away the chair and looked inside. A closet, with a handful of wire hangers. And, on the outer side of the building, a little door.

"Don't open it!" said my travel companion as my hand reached out to open that inside door.

I decided to take the room.

Then I went off to meet some ghost experts.

When I arrived they were talking about their hotels.

"Oh, that one's haunted!" said Kate to one of the guests.

"How about the Cherry Bank Hotel?" I interrupted.

Kate looked at me. "That one is very haunted."

Then she asked, "You're not staying in Room Four, are you?"

An elderly couple who once stayed in Room Four woke in the middle of the night to hear banging from within their room. They found the room's bathroom door removed off its hinges and laid against the wall. Their room was locked from the inside and no one from the outside could have gained access to Room Four.

Kate told me that the Cherry Bank has two ghosts. A little girl and a little boy. Paranormal investigators, who heard nothing while recording sounds in the hallway, later heard the little girl's voice inviting them to tea:
A team of filmakers came in once, to see what they could record. They noticed scratching on their video tapes, that got louder and louder as the recording went on. On this recording, they were able to detect a little girl's voice, "I'm having a tea party, and you're invited!", over and over again.
The little girl also appears to guests in the hallways.

Before returning to the hotel that night, I drank up some courage at a neighbouring pub. I slept in the bed beside the door (far easier to escape by) and didn't open my clenched eyes until the morning light.

Before leaving, I asked the morning clerk about ghosts.

"Oh, we've got three of them. A little girl and an old woman and one I don't know about. Only the kitchen staff have seen them."

The old lady ghost is Kathleen:
The spirit of Kathleen, a long time resident of the hotel, is considered by many to still roam halls. Kathleen was an extremely prim and proper woman. A new waitress was once setting tables but was not quite sure what to do. She left the room and when she returned she found the dishes on the floor perfectly laid out. Often the kitchen staff arrives to find the lid of a cooler has been left opened. It seems that someone once perished in the cooler and people suspect that Kathleen opens it to let out her fellow ghost.
In a recording, a mysterious voice purported to be Kathleen's pleads for help.

The Cherry Bank Hotel was to be demolished last year to make way for the Cherry Bank Condos but won a one-year reprieve.

Update: Matt, my travel partner, also wrote about our entrance to the Cherry Bank Hotel. It's pretty funny to read about the same experience written by someone else who was present. Matt plans to add a part two in the next few days. Check it out.

Also, my photos of the creepy Cherry Bank Hotel are coming soon.

Save the Cherry Bank Hotel!!!

Update: Chief-Ten-Bears commented about her experiences at the Cherry Bank:
I wanted to forget the Cherry Bank Hotel since I had my College Grad dinner there in 1991. I remember that insipid rotating mermaid and the (pervvy) sculptor who got his pic in the Times Colonist when it was installed. I recall the hot pink dining room and the indignity of the tatty children's pyjama flannel cloth bibs for those who ordered the ribs. I and a fellow grad were the only ones who asked for salmon and it was the worst I'd ever had, like a 3"x3" meat pincushion loaded with bones. Afterwards, everyone got wrecked on cheap beer and ran off to trash the tables in the 'Trivial Pursuit' bar.
Any other memories of the Cherry Bank are most welcome.

My husband and our three children stayed at the Cherry Bank Hotel on July 4th, 2002. We were coming from the Los Angeles area, and chose the Cherry Bank despite knowing it was rumored to be haunted. In fact, we also took part in the Ghost Walk while in Victoria, so the whole visit sort of had a fun, "haunted" theme! Anyway, I don't remember the room number, but it was the room closest to the front entrance, the one through the little parlor, NOT the entrance that goes through the bar, or whatever that dark place is! If facing that little parlor with the red chairs, our room was the last one in the hall, on the left. It had it's own bathroom, and two beds. My husband and I slept in one bed, our 10 year old and 4 year old slept in the other, and our 1 year old slept in a portable crib supplied by the hotel. In the middle of the night, I was woken up by the sound of, what sounded to me like, a little girl in dress shoes (like patent leather shoes?)running across the hardwood floor of our room, from the direction of the door, to the bathroom. It woke me up, and as soon as I realized what had happened, I looked over at my kids sleeping in the other bed, and realized that my ten year old was having a really bad nosebleed, and I needed to wake her up to get it to stop. I always really appreciated having been "woken up" because a heavy nosebleed during sleep can be dangerous for a child. So, although it seemed we had a ghostly encounter, it wasn't in any of the areas we later heard about being common for the Cherry Bank Hotel.
Thank you for the story, anonymous. I think the little girl ghost was a good one. I hope she's ok now that the Cherry Bank is gone.
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