Unsolved Mysteries of the World


The Hume Hotel, Nelson, British Columbia

Season 6, Ep. 5

Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season Six Episode Five The Hume Hotel, Nelson, British Columbia

Sometimes you look for them in dark crypts and abandoned cemeteries. Other times you happen upon them in homes and in old battlefields. And sometimes you are drawn to them and they drawn to you. Here is the true tale of one night at the Historic Hume Hotel in Nelson, British Columbia.

The Nelson area has a rich history of exploration and mining. Explorers and adventurers employed by the North West Trading Company and the Hudson Bay Company were the first to enter the Kootenay and Columbia River valleys while searching for fur trade routes. David Thompson travelled the Kootenay River as well as the full length of the Columbia River between the years 1807 and 1811. In September 1876, gold was discovered at Forty-nine Creek, nine miles west of Nelson, resulting in a minor rush of prospectors from the United States.

The mining industry helped to create the foundation for a community and on March 18, 1897 the City of Nelson was born when the Letters of Patent were issued. The first mayor of Nelson was John "Truth" Houston. Once incorporated, Nelson became a hub of activity for the West Kootenay region. Sternwheelers plied the waters of Kootenay Lake and the West Arm, and development of the new city, including the construction of the Hume Hotel, proceeded quickly.

On March 17, 1898, the Hume Hotel opened with a grand celebration the likes of which had seldom been seen in Nelson. The fan-fair that accompanied the occasion underscored the sense of pride felt not only by J. Fred and Lydia Hume, original owners and one of Nelson's pioneer families, but also the local community in general. No consideration was left unchecked and the opening was a celebration of the skill, determination, and hard work that went in to the hotel's construction.

It also heralded a new era for Nelson, which had been incorporated the year before, and provided a sense of hope and optimism for residents of the new city as they forged ahead into the 20th century. Work on the Hume Hotel began on Saturday, June 12, 1897.

At that time, Nelson's landscape was considerably different from today. A deep ravine, created by Ward Creek, essentially divided the city in two, with the dirt roads of Vernon and Baker Streets passable only by way of wood frame bridges.

The Hume Hotel, which sat on the corner of Ward and Vernon, was an impressive figure within this scene.The hotel was designed by Alexander Charles Ewart, who carefully considered all the architectural details, from piazza views to bay windows to inset balconies. With much thought also given to ornate detailing and state-of-the-art amenities like electric lights and steam radiators, all for a total cost of $60,000, the hotel was indeed a marvel to behold.

After nine years of successful operation, on March 11, 1907, J. Fred sold the Hume Hotel to Wilmer C. Wells, a political man who served as commissioner of lands and works for two terms under Premiers James Dunsmuir and E.G. Prior respectively. Wells brought in his two sons, George and James, to run the hotel, and fully intended to construct additions in response to the growing demand in Nelson for first-class accommodations. Wells, however, never did fulfill his commitment, and on October 14, 1912 he sold the hotel to George Benwell, an hotelier of considerable repute, for a sum of $85,000. Benwell's tenure irrevocably changed the Hume Hotel. Following the revolutionary architectural standards of Frank Lloyd Wright, in May 1929 a massive interior and exterior renovation was completed.

The Hume Hotel was so different in appearance that it was, as described in the Daily News, "hardly recognizable." The magnificent cupola, which towered over Vernon and Ward Streets, was removed; the balconies were extended outward flush with the exterior walls; the entrance was moved to its present location; and many other changes were made. Benwell, following in Hume's footsteps, also considered modern amenities and state-of-the-art technology a necessity. He installed a telephone exchange and phone in every room, a dumb waiter, a French steel range, steam tables and electric dishwasher in the kitchen, and an icemaker capable of producing 600 pounds of ice daily. The level of service, sophistication, and general hospitality excellence, which were hallmarks of the Hume era, were also the hallmarks of the Benwell era. 

By 1979, the Hume Hotel was in a serious state of deterioration. Benwell had sold the hotel in the 1940s, and after a series of owners failed to keep up the standards established by Hume and Benwell, the Hume Hotel was nearly condemned. Bills were left unpaid, the power was disconnected, and it sat empty for several months. Ernie Rushworth, who at that time carried the first mortgage on the property, called on Dave Martin, who had helped Rushworth successfully revitalize a run-down hotel in the Yukon.

He asked Dave if he would be interested in the purchasing the Hume. After careful consideration, the purchase was completed and an exhaustive heritage restoration project began. Nelson was undergoing a similar initiative in the same period so the timing was excellent. In December of 1980, the Hume Hotel was reborn as the Heritage Inn, and once-again became a proud symbol for the people of Nelson. The restoration project took one million dollars to complete, twice the original budget, and was carefully undertaken by designer David Thompson. The massive renovations were wrought with pitfalls—the interior was completely gutted and the hotel's electrical and plumbing systems redone. A number of hidden treasures were revealed during this time, many of which have been carefully restored and are now part of the Heritage Inn ambiance.

In the Library Lounge, for example, you can see the original old brick fireplace, which had been hidden from view by a plaster wall.

Adding to the success of the project, many local residents provided antiques, photos and artifacts to decorate the interior, and local trades people recreated many of the original embellishments, sometimes working from old photographs. The opening ceremony, on December 8, 1980 was an auspicious occasion, with many local dignitaries in attendance.

The highlight of the night was the presence of three generations of Hume descendants: Freeda Hume Bolton (the 80 year old daughter of J. Fred and Lydia), her daughter Dawn, and her grandson Jay Fred Bolton. Freeda presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony and 'knighted' Dave Martin Sir Lancelot. In 2005, major changes to the hotel’s exterior façade were completed which included an outdoor patio for the General Store Restaurant as well as the hotel’s signature rooftop ‘crown’. 

For twenty-five years as the Heritage Inn, the Martins continued the tradition of hospitality excellence started in 1898 by J. Fred and Lydia Hume. At the completion of the exterior renovation, the hotel went back to its roots to be renamed as the original proprietor once titled it, the Hume Hotel, paying homage to a local legend and a storied history on the corner of Vernon and Ward Street.

Members of the Hume family were again on-hand for the festive grand re-opening as they were exactly twenty-five years ago.

And now that we have the history taken care of let's take a quick break and when we return to the podcast, I will share my own investigation into the haunted Hume Hotel.

The Investigation Begins

As always, I begin my investigations with no knowledge of the history or the haunt. I come in fresh and with an open mind. I owe it to the listener and more importantly to myself to see what truth comes out. I arrived at the Hume Hotel in late afternoon on a very hot and smoke-filled summer day.

The BC forest fires raged in the interior and tourism was low. I pulled in Nelson noting all the historical structures and the beauty of the city itself. Pulling into the Hume I felt a distinct welcoming feeling, a calling if you wish. I entered the front entrance and immediately I felt eyes on me. I was being watched. This same feeling overpowered my wife as she entered as well and on several occasions she mentioned it. The eyes that were watching us were piercing and they emanated from a portrait of Lydia June Hume which hung on the staircase.

I also got the feeling that something was not right and my attention was brought to an elevator. The elevator was installed sometime later and the shaft blocked the magnificent view of the grand staircase. Checking in, I got to choose my room save for one that was pre-booked. I chose the 2nd floor.

Room 221. Room 221 was actually historic Room #4 and #5. You see, during the early days, hotel rooms were not that large and most did not contain a washroom at all. The redeveloped room was a combination of two historic rooms. The room was very comfortable and offered a fantastic view of the Provincial Court House incidentally the same view people paid top dollar for to see a public hanging in the front yard.

The room above- 335, was the prize room for the viewing. The Hume held a lottery to see who would get the room and the best view. This room was the one that was previously booked. I guess the view is still the best. I toured around Nelson and came back to conduct an investigation. It didn’t take too long to meet the ghosts of the Hume face to face. Firstly, I found myself wondering the hall ways and staircases. At each level I felt as if someone was following me. A female.= “Mrs. Hume?” I asked. But did not get a response. Mrs. Hume, who I assumed was following me stopped at the 3rd floor and did not continue further. Coming back down I spotted a poem on the 2nd floor.

It’s title? The Ghosts of the Hume Hotel. Interesting I thought. They know this place is haunted. I got the immediate feeling of suicides, murder and thievery.

I continued on to the other rooms and into the bar and restaurant and found nothing other than the distinct feeling of being watched and followed. I returned to my room and lay on the bed when suddenly an apparition appeared.

A man in a strikingly dark suit and fedora. He sat in a lone, empty chair smiling as he puffed on a cigar. He knew I saw him because he smiled when I squinted my eyes and strained to see the illusion.

The man tipped his head as to say, “Hello” and then melted away. I had the feeling this man had a secret. His secret I knew by the smile on his face. Without a spoken word more, I knew his secret. I waited, patiently and did not see him again. I shuffled in the bed and turned on all my recording devices. The night was peaceful for me and I had one of the best sleeps I could ask for. My wife, on the other hand, did not. She, too, saw an apparition. She saw a male pacing in the room back and forth and then sitting on the bed itself. She believed it to be me, but then saw me fast asleep beside her. Startled and scared she was going to wake me when the vision vanished.

That morning, in the shower, wondering what I had picked up on EVP, I heard a sentence spoken to me as if a person stood next to me. “You’ll have a safe trip lad.” When I returned to my home I checked for any recordings and found none.

My photos, also, proved to hold no ghostly images. Now, at home, it was time to do my research.

In 2005, The Nelson Paranormal League, a group of Paranormal Enthusiasts filmed their documentary Haunt at the Hume along with Thea Trussler a psychic who conducted a reading on the structure.

At the end of this podcast, we'll provide a clip from their documentary and we'll have links to their information in our shownotes.

Over the course of the last 75 plus years there have been recordings of strange happenings at the Hume Hotel. Many guests and employees believe the ghost to be that of Fred Hume himself. Room 335 of the Hume Hotel has become synonymous with paranormal activities.

Stories from guests include the full physical manifestation of a man in a top hat raising his brandy snifter in a cheer to an incoming guest. One guest asked to be moved to a different room, stating she had never experienced such a phenomena, and while she felt no malicious intent from the figure, she was certainly uncomfortable knowing she would be sharing the room. Staff have experienced numerous occurrences of paranormal activity including the television set turning on and off of its own accord, the tap beginning to drip as they are doing their cleaning duties and despite the best efforts of repairs, it continues to do so without measurable reasons. Temperature fluctuations are also a regular occurrence, often times attributed to paranormal activity.

The room has its own history, as conveyed in the film, The Haunt at the Hume. It is believed there was a prospector who favoured that room as his meeting place for an illicit affair. His love of the room may explain the appearance of the man in the top hat. Room 335 also has a darker past.

The only hanging to occur in Nelson stirred much attention and the entertainment factor of a hanging seemed to inspire the hotel to capitalize on the morbid event. The hotel sold lottery tickets to gain the best viewing rooms of the hanging that was to occur in the yard in front of the courthouse. The readings Thea conducted on the room had her experience the excitement of the day and then the sheer horror of a man being killed.

The shock that reverberated through the winning lottery ticket party was palpable in the very walls of the room. Why was room 335 denied on my investigation? Was Lydia Hume following me as I enjoyed my time investigating the Hume and who was the man in room 221? Was he the same as witnessed in 335 or simply a different spirit altogether? 

The Hume is there, waiting. Waiting to be discovered and the secrets revealed.




Email nelsonparanormal@shaw.ca

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The Haunted Old Idaho State Penitentiary Part Three

Season 6, Ep. 15
Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season 6 Episode 15, The Old Idaho Penitentiary Part IIIIn the 1940s and 1950s the Idaho Penitentiary again was suffering from overcrowding and a new cell house was constructed. Cell Block #5 held the worst of the worst with maximum security cells, a death row, its very own indoor gallows and drop house.This housing unit is rumoured to be the most haunted of all the buildings on the property, even though, only one official hanging took place within. It was also that last State sanctioned execution in Idaho taking the life of Prisoner # 9509 Raymond Allen Snowden in the most unethical way.On the evening of September 23rd, 1956 Cora Lucille Dean drove to the Hi-Ho Club in Garden City, where she intended to have a few drinks and play the slot machines. Here she met a young man named Raymond Snowden who she found no only attractive, but fun to be around. When the two had a few drinks, Snowden wanted to take things a bit further and pressured Cora. When his advances were denied he threatened Cora in a frightening manner asking her to choose between rape and death. Cora obviously taken aback chose neither and that made Snowden angry who produced a pocket knife and stabbed Cora 29 times.The body, which was found the next morning by a paper boy, was viciously and sadistically cut and mutilated. An autopsy surgeon testified the voice box had been cut, and that this would have prevented the victim from making any intelligible outcry. There were other wounds inflicted while she was still alive — one in her neck, one in her abdomen, two in the face, and two on the back of the neck. The second neck wound severed the spinal cord and caused death. There were other wounds all over her body, and her clothing had been cut away. The nipple of the right breast was missing. There was no evidence of a sexual attack on the victim; however, some of the lacerations were around the breasts and vagina of the deceased.Snowden took the dead woman's wallet hailed a passing motorist and rode back to Boise. There he went to a bowling alley and changed clothes. He dropped his knife into a sewer at a Cigar Shop and threw the wallet away. Then he went to his hotel and cleaned up again. He put the clothes he had worn that evening into a trash barrel outside the hotel.Police narrowed in on Snowden almost immediately as eye-witnesses pointed out that Snowden had left with Cora that evening from the Hi-Ho Club. Police also, remember Snowden from a previous encounter as to which he boasted he was going to sever the spinal cord of his then girlfriend because she was irritating him.They found the weapon, the same one they remember him previously threatening with, still covered in blood in a sewer grate near Hannifin's Cigar Shop. Another eye-witness placed Snowden there and that was enough for an arrest to be made.During the trial it was brought to the attention of the media that Snowden had boasted of two other murders, but they were never confirmed. A detective magazine at the time dubbed Snowden, "Idaho's Jack the Ripper" in view of the viciousness of the crime.Snowden was found guilty and sentenced to death. He took up residence in Death Row with his door in view of the indoor gallows to which he would make his way to on October 18th, 1957.At 12:05 he was brought into the gallows room and met with the Chaplain. The noose was placed around his neck and the witnesses in the viewing room got their first look at Snowden. The door sprung just 45 seconds later. Down went Snowden and the crowd gasped. It seems the Warden and those responsible for carrying out the deed did not measure Snowden's height or weight, and s such the counter-weight was not calculated correctly. Snowden fell, but he did not break his neck instantly. Instead, in the catch room, he struggled and swung about for 15 minutes until he finally died. Some say it was an oversight, while others believed the authorities did this on purpose to make Snowden's death one of suffering.Snowden's hanging was the last of a total of ten men to occur at the prison and his body was buried in an unmarked grave on prison property. Some believe that Snowden haunts his Cell, Cell Block #5 and the hanging room. But Snowden may not be the only soul still doing time at the Pen. There are a total of 129 recorded deaths within the walls.Due to overcrowding and the treatment of prisoners serious riots occurred in 1952 and again in 1971. The 1973 riots proved to be the end of the Old Idaho Penitentiary as riots burned down several buildings and damaged others beyond repair. The 416 resident inmates were moved to the new Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise and the Old Idaho Penitentiary was closed on December 3, 1973, never to see another living soul imprisoned behind its stone walls.If you are interested in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary you can visit them daily where tours are conducted by volunteer staff. Special events around Halloween turn the prison into one goulish haunted attraction. More recently, the Pen has been giving Paranormal Investigation Tours.Special thanks to all those volunteering to keep such a historic gem alive. Thank you to the Idaho State Historical Society for their excellent resources and dedication. We will attach a bonus episode that was produced by the staff of the Idaho State Pen with funding from the Idaho State Historical Society.It focuses in on the prison's only double hanging. If you like what you hear, head over to their youtube page to see additional videos.We will leave you now with the words and memories of prisoners and staff from the Old Idaho State Penitentiary.Until Next Time.....Be good.