One of the reasons for this trip was to visit this famous landmark on the banks of the Imatrankoski Rapids. And as it was a bit late, we opted not to eat at the hotel, but to have evening tea for two at the library whilst soaking up the atmosphere.
The current hotel was built in 1903 in the Jugend style, and it is more of a castle than a hotel, and it has a history of being a hotel, an Army headquarters during the WW II, and since the war it was restored to it’s original glory as a hotel. It’s also been voted as a most beautiful building in Finland for several times.
Having an evening tea was a pleasant experience. It allowed us to have a bit of a “Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced as Bouquet) moment”, whilst pondering if the building would be haunted. And even though we might end up getting strange looks from the staff, we asked about this from the receptionist. And guess what – there are things happening at the hotel, apparently due to the Gray Lady.
Who is this Gray Lady then?
According to a legend, a lady from Vyborg travelled to Imatra with her dashing soldier husband. Probably for their honeymoon. However, later on she returned to the hotel alone. Then she gave a letter and money for the stamp for a maid who was working in the hotel, asking for her to mail the letter. After that, she wasn’t seen anymore.
The maid, however, forgot to mail the letter, and shortly afterwards the hauntings began; people heard things, and some claimed they even saw a ghost in the gardens.
Several years later, the letter was found, and opened. It was a farewell letter from the lady to her husband, who had cheated on her. She had opted to come back to Imatra for one last time to jump into the rapids of the Imatrankoski. However, as the letter never reached her unfaithful husband, the Gray Lady is still wandering around the hotel and the grounds.
And as any good encounters go – neither of us can exactly be sure that there wasn’t someone present in the library room when we sat there for the tea…
In case you were wondering, the Gray Lady is still very much active in the place. Some guests hear peculiar knocking sounds in the middle of the night, or smell things like freshly brewed coffee in odd hours in their rooms. She can be seen during meetings as well.
But, even if this would be discarded as a romantic story, there is still an inkling of truth to it. Over the years, many women (and men!) who have been suffering from a broken heart or for reasons unknown, have made their last leap from the bridge to the rapid and treacherous waters of the Vuoksi river. At times it got so bad, that the police would follow women who travelled by themselves and/or had just a one-way ticket to Imatra, so that they wouldn’t go and make a jump.
In 1972, a statue called “The Maiden of Imatra” was erected to commemorate the memory of all those who have died on the rapids. It is an important and stark reminder to help those who are too distressed to go on.