-By: J.J. Cheesman
Have you heard of the Banff Hotel in Canada? If you haven’t, all you need to know is that it’s a hotel famous for its ghostly hauntings. Since explaining the following account to Shelly, she’s mentioned it often. Indeed, the Banff hotel came up in my browser a number of times while trying to research Coldwell Inn. I’ve looked everywhere for SOME scrap of information about that hellish place, but I haven’t found any. This may be due, at least in part, that I’m actually not entirely sure if what happened to me just last month can be classified as ‘a haunting’. It also may have something to do with Coldwell Inn being just a little run-down shack with rooms for rent on the side of the road just outside of Brant County.
I was passing through Brant on my way to Toronto to visit an old friend. I live in the U.S., in a suburb of Chicago. My plan was to drive the entire seven hours in one day. The long but manageable drive was one I made several times to see Shelly. Some people might say that having to make a drive like that would be out of the question. I say it’s preferable to the $300 plane ticket.
Shelly and I have been friends a very long time. We met online through some mutual friends. We’re both aspiring artists, although Shelly is a much better painter than I am if we’re being honest. When it comes to Shelly, her and I just click, ya know? We get each other’s sense of humor, we feel the same way when it comes to creating art, and we both suffer from ADHD which often times keeps us up at all hours of the night, talking to each other on skype. We got along like guns and bullets, and it was eventual that we’d kicked around the idea of meeting in person.
One summer day, Shelly showed up at my house, just like that, out of the blue. It was a welcome surprise of course. Shelly ended up staying the entire week and we had an absolute blast together. It was at the end of that week, that we had resolved to make it a tradition every year to visit one another so that the other wasn’t having to make the trip every time. Once a year turned into once every six months. That is, more or less, how I ended up on the side of Ontario Highway 403 with a flat tire yesterday.
It was my turn to visit Shelly, and I had made three mistakes before I left that day. The first mistake, was not making sure I had adequate sleep the night before. My second mistake, was not leaving earlier than I did. So, by the time I’d passed the city Woodstock, it was already well after Four P.M. I was able to Google the number for a tow back into Woodstock and have the tire replaced at a shop. Once the tire was fixed it was already Seven, and the sun began its descent over the horizon. I may be used to staying up at all hours, but that was the very thing that came back to bite me in the ass.
As I drove from Woodstock on Highway 403, my car swayed just a little as my eyes drooped intermittently, and I knew it was unsafe to stay on the road for long, and I would have to find a place to stay for the night. Seemingly in answer to my thoughts, I spotted a billboard as I passed it that read,
A place to hang your hat!
Take a right onto Highway 55!
Only being an hour away from Shelly’s house, I REALLY didn’t want to have to pay for a room to stay for the night, but I also didn’t want both me and my car to end up all over the side of the highway if I fell asleep at the wheel.
When I reached Highway 55, I hit the turn signal and got off of ON-403. I was a little worried at first, I had not seen a sign for Coldwell Inn aside from the billboard, but it soon became apparent why. In just a few moments of drive time I spotted the neon sign raised high on the side of the road outside the motel. The words ‘Coldwell Inn’ were displayed in bright blue on the sign, along with the words under them that read, Vacancy.
The motel rooms were single-tiered and were arranged in a ‘U’ shape around the parking lot, with the manager’s office located off to the side. I pulled into the lot and parked in front of the office. When I walked in, there was an older gentleman behind the counter who immediately looked up from whatever he was reading at the sound of the chiming bell that heralded my entrance.
“Hello Miss!” He said sweetly.
“What can I do for you?”
The man’s attitude and voice was so welcoming, I couldn’t help but smile despite my exhaustion.
“I’m looking for a room.” I said.
“Of course you are! After all who comes to a motel if they aren’t looking to stay!” He chuckled at his own joke, and I feigned laughter. I was too tired to find much of anything funny.
“It’s fifty dollars a night, if that is acceptable.”
It certainly was acceptable. I was expecting at least a hundred bucks. I really wasn’t too ecstatic about the price though. I had to wonder about how a motel was able to survive with such low prices when, if the mostly-empty parking lot was any indication, they didn’t get much business.
“Uh… yeah. That’s alright.” I told him. Briefly, I considered trying to find somewhere else, but I was already there, and I was so tired.
I handed the old man my credit card and filled out an information slip he handed me to put my name and number down on. Once he ran my card and I gave him my info, he handed me a key with a metal tag that had an outline of the number ‘1’ cut into both sides.
“You’ll be in room one, it’s the quiet season so you should find your stay to be a peaceful one. There is only one other guest staying with us tonight.”
I thanked him and headed back out to my car. I pulled over to one end of the ‘U’ shaped building, and parked in front of the door with the number ‘1’ on the front. I was dreading what I would find in the room, but I tried to keep my spirits high. Each room had one bay window to the left of the door, but all of the blinds were drawn, so I couldn’t see inside any of them. As I got out of my car, I took note of the room directly across the parking lot from my own. In front of the door labeled ‘24’, a red Taurus was parked. It was a nice-looking car and in pretty good shape, which helped assuage any fears that I might have to guard my belongings. I didn’t want to lug any of my bags into the motel, only to bring them right back out again in the morning. Still, I made sure my car alarm was functional and pressed the lock button on my key-remote three times before I entered my room.
I was pleasantly surprised immediately upon opening the door and flicking the light switch on the wall. A standing lamp by the bed-side lit up and I could see the room was actually… nice. It wasn’t extravagant by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t the run-down piece of shit I was expecting. The bed was a queen, and someone took care to make sure it was neatly made. A couple reading chairs accompanied by a small table, sat in the corner. No T.V. to speak of, but that didn’t bother me any. The only unpleasantness I found was that it was a little stuffy inside. I cracked the screened-in bay window just a hair before turning in. Hitting the light switch again, I fell flat onto the bed flat on my stomach without even taking my shoes or coat off. Before I feel asleep, I pulled my phone out and set an alarm for 5 A.M. As soon as I put the phone down beside my head, I was unconscious.
Remember when I said I’d made three mistakes before leaving Chicago? Well, the third mistake was the big one. I don’t know how long I was asleep for exactly. It couldn’t have been longer than a couple hours, but because I forgot to charge my phone before leaving, there’s no way for me to know. All I know is at some point in the night I was awoken with a start by a knock on the door.
“Hello dear, can you come out here a moment?” A woman’s voice drifted in from outside.
I was confused and groggy, and the words spoken by the mysterious voice only half registered in the fog of my mind as I rubbed my eyes. Picking up my phone on instinct, I pressed the ‘home’ button, steeling myself for the blinding light, but it didn’t come.
“Wha…?” I said, slowly moving off the bed and putting my unresponsive phone in my pocket absent-mindedly.
“There’s been an issue dear, I’m going to have to talk to you.” The woman’s sweet voice drifted musically through the air.
Slowly, my legs began moving toward the door. My heartbeat thumped in my ears as the early pain of a headache just settling in gnawed at the back of my skull.
“Hold on.” I grumbled. Before I reached the door, I began to regain some of my sense in the dark. As the drunken spell of sleep left, another feeling began to replace it. Something was off about that voice outside my room. I realized that I’d recognized it, from somewhere.
“Hurry up dear, It’s chilly out here.”
I did recognize the voice. It couldn’t be who it sounded like though. There’s no way, not here.
Now moving with caution, as silently as I could, I crept to the side of the door to look out the window. I’d open the window earlier, but I left the blinds shut. I lifted a hand and moved up one of the blind slats just enough so that I could get a peek out onto the parking lot. I could feel the color from my face leak out from my pores.
Basked in the light of the hanging lamp outside the room, dressed in a yellow sun dress, was my mother. She stood smiling, as if it wasn’t strange at all she was in a different country in the earlier hours of the morning outside motel. I could feel myself shaking in my shoes. This wasn’t right, that just couldn’t be Mom. Not here of all places, not now.
“Hello dear?” Came my mother’s voice once again, and she NEVER ceased her smile.
It was then I noticed the sound of knocking coming from the other side of the parking lot as well. In front of the red Taurus stood a man wearing a green parka, and he had a large bald spot on the back of his head. He had his left hand behind his back, and he was holding something, though I couldn’t tell what it was from that distance.
“Hello?” I could hear him call.
“Billy, open up man!”
Moments later, the door opened, and a young-looking man in plaid pajamas was standing in the doorway looking astonished.
“Carl?” The young man said. Thanks to the open window, I could hear them both clearly.
“What are you doing here?”
The balding man in the green parka laughed.
“What do you mean what am I doing here? Are you going to let your brother stand out here in the cold?”
“Oh, shit man I’m sorry! Come on in!”
Mr. Green Parka stepped into the room. He shut the door behind him, obscuring my view from what was going on inside, but not before light from the hanging lamp outside room 24 bounced off the object in his hand, and I saw it clearly. It was a knife.
I jumped as the face of my mother appeared directly in front of my vision. For a moment, I was paralyzed with fear while her piercing blue eyes were like daggers that stabbed into my own.
“Carolyn, honey, you really shouldn’t be snooping in other people’s business,” My mother’s smiling face cooed out that sickeningly sweet voice.
“It just isn’t polite. Open the door for me honey, it’s so cold out here.”
I slowly backed away from the window.
“You’re not my mother!” I screamed hysterically at the closed blinds.
“I don’t know who the FUCK you are, but you aren’t her!”
I pulled my phone back out of my pocket, holding the power button in a desperate attempt to get help, but there was no use. The phone would not turn on.
“Oh honey, I just hate it when you swear.” The door handle rattled and jiggled as whatever was standing outside began to try to come in by force.
“FUCK YOU!” I screamed with tears in my eyes.
“Go away! Leave me alone!” My mind was breaking, I didn’t understand what was happening.
There is a fear beyond what most people know, a primal terror that breaks down logical thought and reason, I know because it began to ravage my mind in that very moment. I was shaking so bad that steadying my hands were impossible, and I wasn’t able to think clearly. For a single, awful second, I’d believed I’d lost my mind.
“I just don’t know why you make everything so difficult on me Carolyn, you never treat your father this way.” My mother’s voice was mocking me.
Then, a ripping sound through the air silenced every screaming thought in my head. I knew immediately what the sound was. She was tearing the screen off of the window. She was going to get inside. She was going to kill me.
My survival instinct kicked in, and I knew I only had one shot. I walked as quietly as I could over to the door, and I twisted the deadbolt as slowly as I could so it wouldn’t make a sound. Then I pulled out my car keys from my coat pocket, waiting with my finger above the unlock button. Those few seconds were hell as I waited, listening to the screen in the window tear. Finally, I could hear the window begin to rise, and the blinds slowly moved as a hand began to emerge from behind the bottom of the blinds. That was when I acted.
I tore the door open and sprinted the few feet to my car while rapidly tapping the button on the key ring to unlock it. As I had hoped, the woman pretending to be my mother was caught off guard, and by the time she’d realized what was happening and started to pull herself from the window, I already started my car and shifted into reverse. In the rear-view mirror, I saw Mr. Green Parka walking at a quick pace toward the car from room 24. Without a second thought, I slammed on the gas pedal, backing into him and crushing him under the weight of both my rear and front passenger-tires. I then quickly shifted into drive, and my tires squealed as I tore out of the parking lot and back onto Highway 55.
I didn’t stop driving until I reached Shelly’s house. When I got there, I explained to her what happened, and she listened to every word. I told her everything that happened down to the smallest detail, as I’ve described here, and though she looked concerned, she did not interrupt or question any of it. When I’d finished my story, the water in her eyes suggested to me that maybe she thought I’d gone crazy. After all, Shelly knew me very well.
Shelly offered to call the police for me, but we haven’t yet. I don’t know what to say. My dead mother rose from the grave and tried to kill me? They would laugh me all the way back home with a shiny new white jacket. Still, I had to call someone and report something. I was still shaking hours later in Shelly’s home while she made us coffee and I plugged my phone into a charger she let me use.
When my phone booted up, and I saw that I had a voice mail message, and I let it play on speaker without looking at who it was from. I assumed it was from my brother, he’d gotten into the habit of checking up on me a lot lately, but it wasn’t my brother’s voice on the message.
“Hello Carolyn!” The familiarly sweet voice of the old man from the Inn rang out from my phone.
“Hey, couldn’t help but notice you left in a rush, I was just calling to remind you that you still have the key to one of our rooms. You must have forgotten to drop it off in your hurry to leave. I don’t mind though, drop it off at your earliest convenience, and don’t forget…”
The old man’s voice suddenly changed into the soft cooing voice of my mother.
“Mommy misses you.”
The voice mail ended, and the two mugs of coffee that Shelly was holding fell from her hands and onto the floor.
I’ve said it before, but I can’t stress it enough. Shelly and I were very good friends. She’d met my mother on numerous occasions. Mom was easy to talk to, and she never made you feel wrong or different in anyway. As such, she left quite the positive impression on Shelly, as she did a lot of people.
So much of an impression in fact, that she even made a special trip to the U.S. to make sure she was there for her funeral last year.