The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is a beautiful, historic, luxury hotel located in the heart of the city. With history dating back to the 1920s, this gem has seen a ton of action.
From celebrities like Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger to royalty including King George VI and Elizabeth I, the Queen Mother. But this hotel isn’t just a local hotspot for socialites and travellers with money… it’s also home to one of the city’s most famous ghosts: the Lady in Red.
Listen to “Haunted Hotel Vancouver’s Lady in Red”
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History of Hotel Vancouver
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver has been an iconic landmark in downtown Vancouver since 1928, officially opening its doors in 1939. It’s currently one of the most exclusive (read: expensive) places to vacation in Canada, and became a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2017. However, today’s Hotel Vancouver, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, is actually the third hotel to bear that name.
The first Hotel Vancouver popped up in 1888, shortly after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (or CPR) in Vancouver. Described as more “farmhouse than luxury” this hotel was a “crude four-story structure” located in Gastown, meant to cater to visitors in the area. But people were flooding to Vancouver and the CPR quickly realized this hotel wasn’t going to cut it for the customers they wanted to serve, and in 1916, they decided to revitalize.
In 1916, after hiring architect Francis S. Swales, the new Hotel Vancouver opened its doors. It was described as an “engineering masterpiece” with 14-stories of pure, Italian Renaissance-style architecture. Upon its reopening, it was a celebrated destination that entertained the most affluent residents and visitors of Vancouver. It saw celebrities including Babe Ruth, Ethel Barrymore and Sarah Berhardt graced the hotel’s famous roof-top bar, The Panorama Roof. But all of the glory flashed before their eyes during the end of the 1920s when CPR competitor, Canadian National Railway (CNR), started building their own lavish hotel.
Two blocks away from Hotel Vancouver was… Hotel Vancouver, a 17-story, chateau-style build by some of the greatest architects in the area at the time, John Smith Archibald and John Schofield. They used a style of architecture called “Chateauesque” which meant that when it was done, it legitimately looked like a castle. The build started in 1929, but the Great Depression compromised the financial security of the hotel, and along with the Canadian National strike, the hotel build stalled until the competitors CPR and CNR signed a deal to jointly build the hotel as co-owners.
Want to learn more about haunted Hotel Vancouver? Check out Ghosts of Vancouver: 39 Haunted Places Kindle Edition.
Sadly, this meant that the doors would close on CPR’s own luxury Hotel Vancouver to make way for the new one, but the project finished. In 1939, the project finished just in time to accommodate King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who were visiting on that year’s Royal Tour. This hotel has seen its fair share of famous guests, and in the 1940s, Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger showed up to take a photo at the rooftop Panorama Ballroom. And, at one point, a baby elephant was even smuggled into the hotel.
The partnership between CNR and CPR ended in the early 1960s when CNR acquired CPRs shares of the hotel and contracted Hilton Hotels to manage it. That was until the 1980s, when CNR decided they would manage it themselves—that didn’t exactly work out for them as they ended up selling the entire hotel to CPR a few short years later. In 2001, CPR established the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts brand to manage their luxury properties.
In 2015, it was announced that luxury French hotel chain Accor bought the company that owned Canada’s Fairmont hotels, along with the Raffles and Swissotel brands for a whopping $2.9-billion. The hotel, located at West Georgia Street between Burrard and Hornby had its 80th anniversary in 2019, after a 5-year reno project costing $75-million gave it a new upscale lobby, upscale Notch8 Bar and Restaurant and added luxury heritage suites to the spooky 14th floor.
The Lady in Red
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is home to at least one known ghostly guest, The Lady in Red. In fact, she’s probably the most well-known ghost in the entire city. She spends her afterlife wandering the hotel in her luxurious red dress.
Jennie Pearl Cox was a young Vancouver socialite in the 1930s. According to Fairmont Moments, she first visited the hotel around Christmas the year that it opened in 1939 with her husband Harold, and their six-year-old daughter known as either Dorothy or Dottie. The family loved it so much that they returned for the Christmas ball each year.
According to local legend Pearl, as she was known by her family and friends, and Harold were frequent visitors to Hotel Vancouver during the 1940s. That is, until the summer of 1944. The family, Harold, Pearl and Dottie, were driving in their car back from a family picnic in the countryside when they were hit by a truck near the corner of Burrard and Georgia, and all three died.
Shortly after their deaths, Pearl’s ghost appeared as The Lady in Red at Hotel Vancouver, and she’s been frightening guests and employees ever since, though the hotel maintains she is, in fact, a friendly ghost. She’s been seen in the lobby, on the stairways, in the ballroom, and in guest rooms on the 14th floor.
When the hotel was originally built, two of the eight elevators were never finished—which remains the case today—which means that behind the locked doors there are simply empty shafts. Pearl is often seen walking through the locked elevator doors and disappearing—particularly on the 1st and 14th floors. You can also sometimes find her milling about the ground floor lobby.
She’s also known to turn on and off lights, open and close closet doors and her apparition has been seen milling around guest bedrooms. On one occasion, a Japanese tourist was staying on the 14th floor and called the front desk to ask whether the room had been double-booked because another guest was seemingly occupying their space. The woman they described in their room was the Lady in Red. On another occasion, a bellman was escorting a guest to room 1403, when the guest walked into the room he saw the Lady in Red follow them in. But when he entered, she had already vanished.
On May 25, 2017, Scott Graham a local elevator mechanic was working in a private residence at Hotel Georgia, which is around the corner from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver when he took a picture with his phone. Upon inspection of a picture, he described seeing a woman in a red dress “wistfully looking down on West Georgia Street from the 16th floor.” While many thought this was solid proof of a ghost hanging out in the hotel, it was later investigated and determined that the red dress was actually just a tarp in the window. The 16th and 17th floors are office space, which at that time, were closed for renovation.
It’s unclear whether the Lady in Red really roams the hotel or was simply made up as a marketing gimmick to promote the hotel since questions remain about Jennie Pearl Cox’s life, death, gravesite and the family she may or may not have left behind. But the local legend remains strong, and every October the hotel’s Notch8 Bar and Restaurant features a ghostly cocktail called Jennie Cox, in honour of their Lady in Red.
Find more haunted tales in the Bookshelf.
Visiting the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is located in the city’s very beautiful downtown core with plenty of delicious food to eat nearby and a great area to explore… but it’s a luxury hotel. So, if you’re planning a visit you’re looking to pony up between $300-$400 Canadian dollars at least. But if you’re fancy enough to cover it, we hear it’s well worth the stay.
Overall the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver has a 4.5 out of 5 on Tripadvisor but not everyone had the most pleasant experience:
- Juleshpc wrote: “Bedding is terrible and extremely uncomfortable. Woke up with excruciating pain. Please update your beds and pillows and maybe not charge $11 for cutlery for guests ordering outside your hotel menu that only had 9 items on it half which were kids items.”
- Gloria S said: “Over the years we have stayed at the Hotel Vancouver and now it has sold. The old meaning of “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” apparently doesn’t mean much to the new owner. Main lobby GONE ! !, now high back chairs. Lovely Bar/Lounge, GONE ! !, now cold lack of warmth. Asked where the washroom was and when told I went down a flight of stairs all the way to the other end of the hotel and finally got there but almost did not make it ! ! Lovely breakfast room, GONE ! ! Fairmont hotels just went in and changed all of things many many people loved about this hotel. Two drinks in the lounge $ 72.10 Small bottle of wine in room $ 64.07. Hard to imagine that. Will not be staying there ever again.”
Did you love this episode? Check these other ones out:
- Haunted Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, Part 1: If you’re looking for another ghostly hotel story, check out this one in Los Angeles.
- The Lost Episode: Hatley Castle: Located in Victoria, BC this national historic haunted hot-spot has been host to guests including Queens and government leader, celebrities filming movies (ever heard of Deadpool?) and is of course home to some ghostly tenants as well.
- Take a Ghost-Filled Vacation on One of These Haunted Beaches: Learn more about the ghostly inhabitants of Pawleys Island, Moss Beach, Kaupoa Beach and Mackinac Island.
- Hollywood’s Most Haunted: Knickerbocker Hotel, Magic Castle & Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Wondering what ghosts you might find lurking in glamorous Hollywood?
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Haunted Hotel Vancouver’s Lady in Red, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Historic Hotels Worldwide.
- The Lady in Red, Suncruiser Media.
- Hotel Vancouver, Ghosts of Vancouver.
- ‘Lady in Red’ ghost sighting? Vancouver man shares spooky photo, Vancouver Sun. (photo)
- The Lady in Red, Fairmont Moments.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion and Tae Haahr. “Haunted Hotel Vancouver’s Lady in Red” was researched, written and produced by Tae Haahr, and edited by Rory Joy. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.