In Wayne, Alberta you’ll find a bar with real bullet holes in the wall in a ghost town that is said to have real ghosts, but also a still operating and supposedly haunted hotel, probably the only one in a Canadian ghost town!
All this is located in a little place called Wayne, about 16-km and 11 single-lane bridges southeast of Drumheller, Alberta. Wayne sprung up when the Red Deer Coal Company built the Rose Deer Mine, in 1912, and it has fascinating history. Part of the Drumheller Valley’s coal boom in the early 20th century, the town was one of many in the area that attracted thousands of workers to the coal mines.
Mine owners in the valley who began buying up parts of coal-rich land at the start of century wanted to make money as quickly as possible, and bosses lured new immigrants from Europe to work in the valley with promises of company housing and good wages.
But when the workers arrived, they discovered overcrowded canvas tents infested with bedbugs, without medical facilities or clean drinking water, and diseases like typhoid were commonplace. Living conditions in the valley were so bad that soldiers returning from the World War I began calling Drumheller the “Western Front,” claiming that conditions in the valley’s mining towns were worse than those in the trenches.
At the time the work was dangerous, and living conditions were poor for the local miners, which led to the establishment of miners’ unions. Violence, both as part of anti-union intimidation tactics and simply between overworked, intoxicated miners, abounded in the valley.
In any case, in its heyday, the typical Wild West town had a population of more than 2000 people. There were two schools, a hospital, several stores, a hotel and the saloon that in the 1920s miners affectionately dubbed the “Bucket of Blood” due to the large number of drunken brawls, but not only.
The Great Depression hit Alberta’s coal mining industry hard and the first mine in the Drumheller area closed down in 1932. By the time the last mine in the area shut down in the 1950s, the population of Wayne had dwindled to fewer than 300 souls. Today the hamlet has only 28 permanent residents and the only evidence of the glory days is the Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon, serving locals and visitors with beer, burgers, and its piece of history. They are both still open.
The Last Chance Saloon has been the stuff of local legend for over a century.
The most popular story include the time a bartender fired a few warning shots at customers who refused to pay for their drinks. Those bullet holes are now framed on the wall.
But there’s also the story of the owner’s horse, Tinkerbell, who was a regular face at the bar until local health inspectors banned the popular equine customer. More recently, in the 1970s, the bar’s owner successfully lobbied for allowing dancing in taverns, something that had been banned in Alberta.
The walls of the saloon are decorated with old black and white photos of miners, antiques, and mounted hunting trophies. There isn’t a bare spot on the wall and even the roof is “decorated.” There’s a racoon wearing a New Year’s Eve party hat in the corner, a warthog over the door wearing a Canada flag and a White Tail Deer who is very involved in Alberta politics judging by the fact that he has several campaign buttons pinned to his fur. Moreover, in the corner of the room is an antique bandbox that was removed from a bus depot in Calgary and still works.
The Rosedeer Hotel, sitting by the rusted railway tracks that once served the town, is located right next door to the saloon and it is named in honor of the first mine. Built in this once booming mining town, opened its doors in 1913, and with si uniquely styled rooms filled with stories of the past.
The Rosedeer Hotel’s third floor is even rumored to be haunted by a former pro-union coal miner. There are not historical reports, but something bad happened on the third floor, which remains closed to this day.
Even though Wayne is not a huge tourist centre (it’s still officially a ghost town!), you shouldn’t let that discourage you from paying a visit. It’s worth the journey just to sit in a real Saloon with actual bullet holes in the wall in a ghost town that is said to have actual ghosts!
Images from Web – Google Research