"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."—Edgar Allan Poe
It was a bitter cold and rainy day of that month of late September, when I had reached in my automobile, the solitary country road that led to the Batesville Hotel, within the Canadian province of Alberta in the year of 1935. The elements of the inclement weather, the poor visibility, and the impassable road had impeded my advance and the arrival, to my ultimate destination that was the city of Edmonton. The hotel was located in the hillside of a valley, below the towering mountains that were above the deciduous pine and evergreen trees, nearby the thermal springs amid the watery fall. I was impressed with the construction that was the configuration of the hotel, as I had entered its grounds in my automobile, through a long and narrow passage that few could espy from the distance. At the front gate, I was properly tended by one of the employees of the hotel, who had parked the vehicle in the rear. Then, I had promptly entered the hotel to escape the whistling sound of the wind and the effects of the chilly autumn that were numbing my ears and feet. Once inside, Mr. Reginald Bates, the proprietor had amiably greeted me and had escorted me upstairs to my room, where I had initially planned on staying the night and continuing to Edmonton the following morning. The massive structure of the hotel was daunting and had at least, three hundred rooms and sixth floors. Inside the room, I had marveled with the overlooking view of the chalets and log cabins of the surrounding area.
"I am glad that you have decided to stay the night Mr. Tanner. The hotel is in the process of the completion of its renovation, and you are the first customer that we have had, since the recent refurbishments. We expect to have our grand opening this night. We shall have more guests tonight, but we have not had an American for some time now. Where are you originally from?"
"I am from a town in the New England region."
"New England you say. That seems interesting! I am an Englishman by birth, but I have lived in this part of the region, for several decades."
"I am very grateful that you have allowed me to remain the night in the hotel. The weather did not permit me to continue onto Edmonton."
"I am always willing to assist in that endeavor, and I hope that your temporary accommodation at the hotel is, at least, satisfactory to your needs."
"I only wish that I had come in the summer than in the autumn."
"We have an applicable motto here Mr. Tanner that we follow with superb precision, we mean to please our guests, always! Now, if you will excuse me, I must speak to Mr. Reed the receptionist, about the final arrangements, for tonight's guests. Of course, you are invited to attend our festivity, for the night in the ballroom. There shall be an American jazz band playing, from New Orleans I believe."
I had not expected the other formal guests, since the unstable weather outside was not truly propitious to their arrival. My room was located on the second floor and unknowingly, the room number to my chamber was 222. I had a prior incident in a hotel several years ago in Toronto that involved a disturbing discovery of a dead body, in my room that was 222. I was not much of a man of superstition, but there was a tingling sensation I felt, as I stared at the three exact numbers written clearly, in the sable hue of an indentation. The peculiar emotion that I was sensing had unnerved me for a brief period and made me recall that unfortunate occurrence.
When I regained my conscious awareness, I had decided to observe the interior composition of the spacious hotel. I was then told by the elderly concierge a Mr. Lockhart that the hotel was built, during the 19th century, as one of Canada's grand railway hotels. It had been constructed in the Scottish Baronial style and was originally opened to the public on June 1, 1890, by the proprietors, the esteemed Bates family. I began to observe the extended staircase in the lobby, and the interior staircase by the gallery, the reception hall, the open hallways, the large ballroom, the candelabra, the chandeliers, and oil lamps, the banquet tables in the banquet room, and the suites of the opened reception room. I had thought the usage of oil lamps, instead of electricity, somewhat of an oddity, but the concierge had explained that it was a provisional modification, until the other guests had arrived that night. I could not complain, since I was one of the guests of Mr. Bates and the Batesville Hotel.
Despite the cold outside, there was enough warmth in the fireplaces and daylight to occupy my time for leisure. I had noticed as I walked around the hotel that there was no noticeable sign of any modernization. If so, it was badly detected by my observation. What I had keenly observed was the garish decor of the Victorian furniture and architecture that was priceless in each room. There was a subtle aspect of peculiarity of the hotel that I had perceived, with a casual glance and detailed contemplation. Perhaps it was my methodical instinct or overactive mind that was making an unreasonable assumption. The weary traveling and the pouring rain contributed, to my gradual exhaustion and lack of facility. After the improvised tour of the hotel, I took dinner in my room and rested a while. The repose was to facilitate the renewal of my vim and verve. I had been on the road for various hours, through the unsteady terrain and was eager to reach Edmonton.
Within an hour I was awakened in disquietude, by the noise of the motors of the automobiles outside on the grounds, and the voices of people speaking that were entering and heading toward the front door of the hotel. It must have been close to eight o'clock and the sunset that I had seen before my respite was replaced, by the absolute darkness of the night. I had missed the beautiful gloaming that many had spoken and mentioned of this secluded area. Daylight in these parts of the country was limited to the few hours of the autumn's reprieve to comfort one, amid the annual change of seasons.
I was interested in seeing more of the artistic gallery. Thus, I went toward it and was met, by the terrifying image of a vagarious soul that was a ghost that stood before me. The ghost had resembled a woman, whose glassy eyes and silence were doleful in an expression that had exuded the fine lineaments of her exquisite countenance to a great degree. Her clothing denoted the past, and her dress was that of a black and white Georgette Crepe and her accessory composed of pearl earrings that were worn for a special occasion. She uttered to me the words of "Beware of the evil of the hotel!"
Afterward, she disappeared into the gallery suddenly. I had searched for this mysterious ghost within the hallways, the reception room, the banquet room and the ballroom. Unfortunately, I did not locate her anywhere, in the general vicinity. Therefore, I could not acknowledge what I had witnessed was an unsuspected encounter, with a supernatural ghost that was haunting the Batesville Hotel. Was this ghastly apparition that I had descried real in its composition or was it only an imaginary vision that my mind had predetermined to be the stray soul of a dispirited ghost? Whatever it was, I could not exclude the idea of an indeterminate specter, but any rational conclusion was not feasible too. The more that I had discerned of the hotel before, the more that I began to feel a vague mystery that was hidden in the hotel. It had started to unsettle me to the extent that I needed to know more, about the illustrious history of the Batesville Hotel. The guests had already entered inside the hotel and were in the area of the lobby, the reception hall, and the ballroom. There was just one gallery and ballroom that were then conspicuously opened to the public at that moment. I had returned at that time to my room to rest and soon was in a dormant state of sleep, before the noise had awakened me.
When I had spoken to the concierge Mr. Lockhart previously, I did not bother to inquire about the number of guests, but there appeared to be sufficient rooms, in the three hundred or so rooms of the ample Batesville hotel to then accommodate them all, without any major difficulty or obstacle. My curiosity to know of their identity and reputation had stirred my investigative intuition. I left the room after I had awakened to see the guests that had arrived recently. Thus, I walked down the staircase and heard live music coming from the ballroom and saw a crowd of innumerable persons, within the ballroom afterward. There was a jazz band playing in the background, and the guests were all dressed in fancy attire and accessories. The peculiar thing was they were dressed in 1920s clothing.
I was surprised, at first, until I was informed by the receptionist Mr. Reed at the front desk that the guests were invited to the hotel, for a momentous occasion that I had supposed was connected to their fashionable apparel. When I insisted on knowing the inducement, he had smiled and told me that the ball was an annual party that was celebrated to commemorate the opening of the hotel in 1925. I did not ask any more petty questions, since it was a logical reason I had presumed. I had perceived that all the guests were required to dress in that fashion, as it was the intention and idea. It appeared to be a grand gala, as there were guests everywhere in the hotel, from the lobby to the gallery, and from the corridors to the ballroom. In spite of the festive nature, I could not abdicate the aberrant premonition that was disconcerting me. Something was inexplicably bizarre and out of place, with the people and the event of that night. Whatever it was, I could not decipher the riddle to the missing pieces of the crossword puzzle that had remained an incessant mystery indefinably.
Mr. Bates who was dressed in a classic tuxedo had greeted me, as I had reentered the ballroom, "Mr. Tanner, it is good that you have joined us for the festivity of the night."
"I am honored to be invited Mr. Bates; although I have a strange sensation that there is something of the hotel that I have not quite figured out its unique significance."
"Oh, it is nothing more than the wearisome effects of the trip. What would you like to drink, a martini or brandy?"
"A martini would soothe my angst!"
"Then a martini it shall be!"
He put his arm on my shoulder, "Good my boy, let me introduce you to several of my known acquaintances. I am certain that you shall be entertained by them."
Mr. Bates was kind enough to present me to the social elites of the high class of Canadian Society and abroad that he had shared acquaintanceship with, for some decades. Even though, I was a foreigner and stranger, I was treated, as if I was one of them, with courteous admiration and acceptance. There was one thing that was evident, their inclination for merriment, and they had caroused with alcohol and entertainment. At first, it was a normal behavior of the party, but as the hours had passed, I noticed that not one of them was then demonstrating discernible signs of fatigue or boredom. Had the festivity of the night begun to bewilder me and it was I that was tired? I felt the fatigue in my body, and I needed to take a stroll out of the ballroom to clear my mind.
I had stepped outside to the grounds of the property, but the rain drops had reached me quickly, as I smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves. I would have preferred to have stayed more outside, but there was a storm approaching. The ground would turn into moistened drops of dew, sleet and balls of hail within a matter of hours. There was no one outside, and when I went back inside the hotel and warned the receptionist and the guests of the oncoming storm, they had expressed no concern and were indifferent in their gestures. Their passive reaction was not normal I thought, and I had taken in consideration, their irrational conduct and reaction. Maybe the alcohol imbibed had affected their sensory awareness and judgment.
When I had entered the ballroom again, I found Mr. Bates at that precise moment giving a rousing, commemorative speech to his entire guests that had gathered around to listen attentively. His eloquence was displayed in his magnificent expression and words chosen. His speech was about the reopening of the hotel and the dedication of the servitude and the lasting impact on the region that the hotel would generate, in revenue to the local economy. The hotel was an important asset to the community and allowed its national and international growth and fame to be established also. His speech had seemed, like a rehearsed speech that came natural to him. I had seldom heard in my life, such an impressive orator articulate as Mr. Bates. If he was not a proprietor of a hotel, he would be mistaken, from the breed of the persuasive politicians that solicit votes masterfully.
However, my attention was of apprising him of the storm and the cautious measures needed to be implemented. Surely, I thought, I was not the only person in the hotel preoccupied, with the ferocity of the storm that was no longer in the horizon. After he finished, he had proposed a token toast, with the fond commemoration of the reopening of the Batesville Hotel. I had waited for that opportunity to finally speak to him, about the minacious storm. As I had addressed him, he was busy with other thoughts on his mind, until I had obtained his full attention.
"Mr. Bates, I did not wish to inopportune you, but there is an urgent matter that must be addressed with delicacy."
He had sensed my flustering behavior, "Calm down Mr. Tanner, what is troubling you?"
"There is a terrible storm that is about to reach the hotel with large balls of hail. You must inform the guests at once!"
"A storm you said. You must be mistaken. It is only a brief passing of the autumn's breeze that reaches the hillside. That is all!"
"A brief passing of the breeze, I doubt that. And the balls of hail?"
"Relax Mr. Tanner. You must enjoy the night!"
"And the storm?"
"Forget the blimey storm and stop fretting! Trust me, we are well-equipped here, at the hotel to deal with Mother Nature and her rumbling. Moreover, the guests are all safe inside the hotel. Perhaps, you should take a walk in the gallery or retire for the night."
"Yes, I shall do that—take a stroll in the gallery to clear my thoughts."
The howling wind was blowing with a fury, and the arrivance of the brunt of the storm was only a matter of time. There was no possible way I could sleep or ignore the storm, but I could not obsess myself, with something I was not certain of its inherent meaning, since I had no control of the intense situation. I had looked outside, through one of the windows of the lobby and saw the increase in the rain and the piles of hail that were swiftly covering the landscape of the extensive circumjacence. The hillside was then covered with hail, and it was impossible to imagine the availability of the direct access of the roads that led to the hotel or away from it. I had surmised that the guests would be staying the night, until the storm had passed. I had left the lobby and headed toward the gallery again, where I would discover a haunting revelation that would discomfit me.
As I was walking in the gallery and observing the colorful portraits hanged on the walls, I had beheld through the corner of my eyes, the incredible image of an old photograph that appeared to be guests within the ballroom. The guests resembled the very exact guests that were presently in the hotel. And what was more unbelievable was the indelible image of Mr. Bates, with his daughter Amelia Bates and the receptionist Mr. Lockhart. The photograph was dated in the year 1925, during the reopening of the hotel. There was an even more unparalleled photograph beside it. It was a similar festivity in the ballroom, with the exception of the year. This peculiar photograph was dated in 1890, during the original inauguration of the hotel, by an Englishman, with the name of Mr. Reginald Bates. In the second photograph he was with the identical receptionist, and Mr. Bates' young infant daughter, Amelia Bates, the ghost that I had witnessed before.
I had stared closely at the photograph to see whether or not my instinct was incorrect. In the end I knew it was not. The evidence was irrefutable, but how was this all related to the hotel? One of the male servers of alcohol had seen me within the lobby and approached me to offer me a drink. I had reluctantly accepted it, as a temporary distraction to assuage the discomforting effects of my apprehension and disbelief. The heightened emotions I was experiencing had obscured my thoughts, into a rapid stage of obfuscation. It made no complete sense at all. I had always considered myself a logical thinker, but this scenario at the hotel was concealed, by an insoluble mystery, I could not quite solve yet, with the consequential facts. My active intuition was telling me that I had discovered, a mystery of a paranormal force and circumstance.
However, my mind was telling me that there had to be a logical explanation for all of these coincidental clues that I had not had the time to unravel its irregular complexity. Within a matter of minutes, the storm had abated, but it had left inches of residual balls of hail on the ground that impeded any exit or entrance, from or to the hotel. No one it seemed cared about the storm or the fact that nobody would be able to depart the hotel soon. Their apathetic conduct and mien had continued to perplex me even more, with the lapse of time. I had to solve the mystery of the photographs, in particular, the irrefutable relation between Mr. Bates and the female ghost, with the unspeakable tragedies that befell upon the hotel.
If I could find some valuable clues that could assist me in this important endeavor. I had walked around the corridors searching the rooms on every floor, using the elevator that was operating well. Immediately, I remembered one of the areas, where the renovations had not been completed. There I was able to find the irrevocable truth of the mystery of the Batesville Hotel. After reaching the area of the staircase of the second floor I had noticed that the whole second floor was covered, with the mildew and specks of dirt. The area had been neglected for decades it demonstrated, with an obvious deterioration and continuous dilapidation. It was telling to see how a good hotel could have still the antiquated usage of oil lamps and not be replaced with electricity.
Something was not right with the occurrences of the night. I had proceeded to walk through the corridor and observed the irreplaceable eeriness of the darkness. The partial reflection of the moon afterward had accompanied me, along with a flashlight I had found in the storage room. There was one specific room that was closed off, by a pair of ribbons. Why was this, I wondered in the back of my mind? The only way I would answer my question was to attempt to open the door. The door was locked, but I pounded on the door knob, with the flashlight and the door was then unlocked. Gradually, I had turned the knob to open the door and then I saw the inside of the abandoned room. It had not been used for decades I assumed, because of the rust and dirt seen everywhere inside the room. But what I had discovered upon my entrance was indisputable evidence of an ineffable nature.
I had found newspaper articles that dated from the year of 1890 and 1925. There was a mention of the tragedy of the night of October 25 of the year 1890 in the Batesville Hotel and its unnatural correlation, with the tragic death of the daughter of Mr. Reginald Bates, the lovely Amelia Bates in the year 1925, within these articles of print. According to the story, there was a terrible fire that had burned down the hotel in the year of 1890 and killed the guests that had gathered in the ballroom, for the anticipated inauguration of the hotel. Then, in the year of 1925, during the reopening of the Batesville Hotel, another horrible fire had encompassed the hotel in burning flames.
Unfortunately, all the guests that were in the ballroom also had died, including the aforementioned Amelia Bates. I remembered as well the area that had been bricked up and made to look, like the rest of the wall in the hallway. Judging from the first photograph, it must have been the site of the original ballroom. Ever since these tragedies there have been uncollaborative reports of apparitions around the hotel, with one particularly strange story standing out from the rest, the appearance of a mysterious woman who haunted the hotel guests. She was referred to, as the ghost of the burning bride. She is believed to have tragically died, after catching her dress on the lighted candles, while walking down the staircase to her room. Unable to put out the fire and in fear the woman tripped and fell down the stairs breaking her neck instantly. Thus, began the unnamable curse of the Batesville Hotel.
Some witnesses of the hotel had stated that they have clearly seen her ghost dancing in the ballroom, with an elegant dress. In some reports people had seen glaring flames coming, from her dress as she danced. Other guests have witnessed her on the staircase, where she lost her life so tragically. These new revelations if true meant the implausible notion of a fathomless phenomenon that was occurring, since I had first arrived. There were sudden chills running down my spine, and I had believed, I was losing my mind or at least, control of my irreparable thoughts. The deliberation of a delusionary effect deceiving me was something that had unnerved me to the state of utter trepidation. I was lost in the moment of this realization, and I could not rationalize the concept of the insoluble horror that was attached to the Batesville Hotel.
The past of the hotel was forever linked to the Bates family and the calamities that caused the deaths of many unaccountable persons that died in those two awful incidents. I took the newspaper articles with me and left the room, but not before I found a singular ring, on the dressing table that had a shining ruby and several old photographs of Amelia Bates. There was no doubt in my mind that she was the horrific ghost I had seen before in the gallery. As for the ring, it was probably an heirloom that had pertained to the family and was left behind. For what reason, I simply did not know. Once I had departed the room, without the detection of any observing eyes, I returned to the ballroom, where Mr. Bates and the guests were gathered at.
But as I was walking forth in the corridor, the female specter had reappeared. I saw the familiar expression in her glassy eyes and the warning of the imminent peril of my demise. My acute perception was that I had uncovered the irreversible truth at last. However, there was just one irrepressible mystery that I needed to confirm my suspicion at once. Was everyone in the hotel, a ghost and I had been experimenting, an encounter, with an irreconcilable evil that was of an undeniable origin? I had tried to recompose myself and appear to be not perturbed by the condition or demonstrate any signs of irresistible panic, amid the irreducible circumstances of the ordeal. This abnormality was growing by the minute, and I had dreaded its gruesome finality.
When I had reentered the ballroom, Mr. Bates was having a pleasant conversation, with an unidentified gentleman that was unknown to me. The jazz band was still playing, and the guests were mostly occupied, with their revelry and entertainment that was never-ending. I had lost time of the hour, but it had to be close to midnight. For some undetermined reason, all the clocks had stopped at precisely, twelve o'clock. I took from out of my front pocket, one of the articles that were written, about the vivid tragedies of the Batesville Hotel. The article had mentioned the blazing fires had transpired, at exactly midnight. What did that happenstance signify? Was I to be a part of this horrendous event of the Batesville Hotel? I could not stop fidgeting then, when I had turned around and Mr. Bates was standing in front of me, with a casual smirk that I would never forget so plainly.
"Mr. Tanner, where have you been? Don't stiff in the lip. You look like you have seen a bloody ghost!"
"I was taking my stroll, as you had suggested Mr. Bates."
"And how was that stroll. Did you enjoy it? By the way, the storm has ended. I told you not to worry!"
"Yes, it seems you were right. The storm has subsided. But we are trapped and cannot leave this place, until the roads are clear."
"How intellectual you are Mr. Tanner, an admirable trait I share with you ironically. Indeed, you are correct in your assumption and untoward remark, but there is one thing that you must know."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Oh you mortals fascinate me, with your inquisitive enquiries and at the same time, your ignorant susceptibility is what condemn you to your irrelevant mortality. You see, you are trapped forever in this hotel, as all of us are, the immortal undead."
"Are you insinuating that you are all dead?"
"This is all a nightmare that has no ending Mr. Tanner! Accept your fate. There is a saying, "An apprentice has an indenture with the master, from whom he learns his trade."
"You are completely mad!"
"Perhaps, but that does not matter, since your fate is inevitably sealed. You shall perish, as all of us have."
I ran out of the ballroom with immediacy, as I heard him say, "You can run all you can Mr. Tanner, but there is no escape!"
Wherever I tried to run, I had failed to escape the anonymity of the madhouse of Hell and the echoes of his macabre guffaw. I could not dismiss this veracity and the unfathomable terror of being trapped, in a repetitive cycle of no surcease. The indefinite nature of evil had sought to take my soul and make me a servant of its vileness and complicity unwillingly. But the question was, where would I go to escape, if the road outside was impossible to travel in my automobile? If I stayed at the hotel, I would be then condemning my soul to instant death. I did not know how to describe the being that was Mr. Bates, except that whatever he was, he was no longer human in actual composition. Many things had entered in my brain, as I made the desperate effort to find a way to understand what was truly happening to me.
There was no time for a logical explanation, yet it was the only recourse I had, as my limited option. I did not consider myself a religious man, and there will be those that deem the outcome and experience I confronted was a divine miracle, but I who lived it think otherwise. I do not dispute the general concept of good and bad souls. To me, I felt that I was caught in an irretrievable dimension of the portal of the afterworld that had exceeded the common notion of our interpretation of Hell. After I had contemplated my situation in privacy and had applied my thoughts, I recognized that there was one thing that differentiated me, from the other victims of the Batesville Hotel. This thing, that I allude to is greater than our instinctive fear. It is called the natural resolve that maintains the lucidity of our mind.
I came to the instant realization there in the lobby that everything around me was an unmitigated illusion that was an invention sorely misunderstood, by my mind and recognition. In facile words, nothing was real, as I procured its comprehension and significance. This, my fragile state of mind had caused me to believe that what was occurring to me was my apparent reality of some sort, when it was only a surreal form of malice manifest in my mind, through my countless fears and anxiety. The indisposable factor of human determination has always brought us to a certainty that has outlived evil in most instances.
Oh, Mr. Bates, Amelia Bates, and the others had existed, but only in the realm of my apprehension and in the past. I had concluded that if I had conceded to that argument, then the hellish phantasmagoria would be finally over and trouble me no more. It was perhaps insane to put my trust in an unclear presupposition that was not proven, as a solid and independent fact. I felt my time was running out, and I had to react quickly, if I was to survive this inhospitable madness of the Batesville Hotel. But Mr. Bates had not agreed, and he sought to confuse me and petrify me, with his acts of illusions of fright and deceit. That devilish grin of charm and insidious eyes were too difficult to erase, from my constant thoughts. However, I could not permit him to wield his illimitable dominion over me consistently, with such effectiveness and influence that would destroy my sanity and soul, without ruth.
The intonation of his voice had intensified, "Mr. Tanner. You are a very persistent man, whose resolution I admire, but your foolish denial of your fate has blinded you!
"Mr. Bates. You are wrong! Your time is up, and I now understand the guile that I did not know before. You are nothing more than an imaginative illusion of my gullible mind. You are a wandering ghost that has not realized that he is dead!"
Everything around then had begun to fade before my eyes, including Mr. Reginald Bates. His memorable guise had begun to alter in a dramatic fashion. His face began to peel away, as did his physical appearance, into the nothingness of the early morning hours. I believe even he did not know what was transcending in that hotel. A ghost can only haunt you, as long as our minds are susceptible to the presence of an inimical nature. In the end, I had regained the essence of my mental faculties, before it was too late. I will be candid in my admission to you the reader, all that you have read was nothing more than an interminable nightmare that existed, in the profoundness of my creative imagination and imbalance.
I awoke from my sleep, and everything was the same, as it was upon my arrival to the Batesville Hotel. I took a deep breath and reflected on that unusual matter. Then, I left my room and walked down the staircase, and had realized that it was morning, and the storm had ended. The roads were still impassable, but there was a plane that was picking up any stranded people left behind. Before I left the Batesville Hotel, I had said my goodbyes to Mr. Reed, Mr. Lockhart and of course, to Mr. Bates. I was one of the fortunate ones to be rescued, but as I was departing the hotel, I felt a piece of paper in my pocket and took it out to read it. It was the genuine article about the tragic incidents and fires of the Batesville Hotel that I had read. What did this mean, if it was only a supposed nightmare I had? Whatever it was I had experimented was of an inscrutable origin that had no logical definition or elucidation that could be interpreted accordingly. I Dick Tanner was either alive or dead? And if I was dead, did I not know of that inimitable truth?