While I was caretaker of the Sulphur Springs Garden Hotel in Cambridge, and still with my ex wife, I experienced a few unusual things, to say the least.
For instance, shortly upon moving in, my first order of business was to assess the property, including the hotel’s interior for security and maintenance needs. We hadn’t even gotten the moving truck completely empty before I stepped inside the creepy old building, followed by my brother and best friend at the time.
We were walking into a foreign world; paint peeling, water damaged, musty smelling and definitely not empty. We entered the building via the rear service entrance (the one door with a fully functioning lock at the time), which brought us into the kitchens and servers area off of the main ballroom.
This whole area was piled high with broken furniture, old dishes, scattered documents and books, and just general rubbish from the previous renovation attempts.
We quickly perused the pile of junk and set side some gems for further inspection once we completed our initial exploration.
Once back on tour, our first stop was the basement; damp and cold and smelling of the sulphur water spring that flowed under the building and to the nearby river. If you’re having trouble with the visual, picture the endless basement of the weaver in Stephen King’s famous novel, Night Shift. Not a pleasant place at all. There were some old tools and work materials left over and some dilapidated bed frames from the retirement home days.
The boiler room took the cake though; this was straight out of Freddy Kruger’s worst fantasy. Huge iron boilers rusted and covered in some unidentifiable grime. Two inches of brown, rust coloured water covered the floor and the smell was so bad you had to cover your face with your sleeve just to breath.
We slowly continued our tour, quietly travelling the creaky stairwells and narrow hallways until we found our way to the main lobby. This was the centre piece of the hotel in its hay day, adorned with huge carved wooden beams and an enormous wood burning fireplace with a marble mantle right out of some gothic comic book series.
There were some small offices right off the lobby, a concierge desk and the most ornately carved stairwell I’ve ever seen. Thick wooden banisters weaved up through the core of the building, as the stair case rose off of the grand red carpet floor of the lobby. The wallpaper in this area seemed like it might once have looked nice, though it certainly didn’t when I was there. This whole area had the unfortunate odour of urine and dead something and a quick search through the small debris piles revealed a dead skunk, which I wish we hadn’t disturbed, because the smell just got worse after that.
Succumbing to the draw of the huge stairwell, we climbed to the second of the old hotel’s seven floors and began exploring room-to-room. Each room we entered held the same eerie presence, a personality, a watchful set of eyes, examining our every move.
Some of this building’s worst secrets are held on its upper floors, the vast majority of them based in the bases human realities. Old and stained mattresses laid out by local prostitutes, piles of what you and I would call junk, though to the homeless people who once found shelter here it may have been their every worldly possession.
As we walked the silent hallways, I remembered all of the old stories we were told about this building. The ones about kids falling down the elevator shaft, the ones about the homeless guy burning to death in a bathtub, the gruesome stories of once famous hotel guests leaping from the tin roof to the street below.
When you enter such an old building, if you’re quiet enough, if you pay attention, you can feel it breathing, and this was no exception. The higher we climbed the heavier the feeling became; once on the top floor we were nearly overwhelmed by the feelings of despair and anguish.
We finished our first tour of the hotel in just more than two hours, ending back at the service entrance doors, where we collected the items we had set aside earlier. Two of those items were beautiful blown glass flower vases. 12 inches tall and made of the most spectacular thick glass you might ever find. I couldn’t believe no one had found and taken these before, but to my pleasure, they were ripe for the taking.
Had I known what was going to happen, I would happily have left them for the next passer-by.
Stay tuned for the next entry in the Sulphur Spring Hotel Chronicles.