Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Savoy Hotel, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

The Savoy Hotel is a historic, one of the oldest luxurious hotels in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. It is one of the largest hill station hotel in India. The hotel is built in English Gothic architecture style that flourished in England during 12th to 15th century AD. The hotel is built mostly in wood and spans over 11 acres (45,000 square meter).

The Savoy hotel in Mussoorie, Uttrakhand

Mussoorie became one of the most popular hill stations after the railways reached Dehradoon in 1900. It was a famous summer resort for the Britishers and was popularly known as “the pleasure capital of the British Raj”. Around 1895, Cecil D. Lincoln, a barrister in Lucknow and an Irishman came in possession of the estate of Rev. Maddock’s Mussoorie School. He demolished the school, and built the Savoy Hotel during the next five years. There were no roads, and bullock carts were the only means to carry uphill lots of Edwardian furniture, grand pianos, billiard-tables, barrels of beverage, crates of champagne and other materials including the oak pieces that were later joined to make dining hall floor.

The Savoy hotel full of snow in winters

The Savoy was opened in the summers of 1902 in competition to The Cecil at Simla and The Carlton at Lucknow. The Savoy received a memorable guest in March 1906 when the Princess of Wales (who later became Queen Mary) visited Mussoorie and stayed in the hotel. She also attended a garden party in the Beer Garden on the Savoy grounds.

The Savoy hotel in a bright sunny day

In a tragic incident, Mussoorie was hit by an earthquake soon after the Princess departed. There was a great loss of property and lots of buildings cracked open while quite a few could not withstand the catastrophe and fell down. The Savoy was sealed temporarily due to damage from the natural calamity and was again reopened in 1907 after repairs. In 1909, Mussoorie was electrified, which made the hotel even more luxurious.

The statues and the atmospheric turrets of the Savoy on a misty day in Mussoorie

A rare photograph of HH Shri Bhola Nath Ji attending a function at The Savoy hotel

The Savoy was often visited by many dignitaries such as Maharajas, Chieftains, Princes, Kings of Nepal, Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, the Crown Prince of Laos, and the Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck. Jawahar Lal Nehru was a frequent visitor to The Savoy. In 1920, he stayed in the hotel with his sick mother, wife and Indira who was then a kid. The Savoy orchestra which was renowned for its music was played each night at the ballroom. The couples dances on the music and mostly enjoyed foxtrot (the latest dancing form in those days) in the ballroom.

The rejuvenation of the famous ballroom of The Savoy hotel

Writter's Bar at The Savoy hotel

In the summers of 1911, Miss Frances Garnett-Orme a 49 year old lady and her associate Miss Eva Mountstephen arrived the hotel from Lucknow. Both these women were spiritualist (psychic) who specialized in seances and crystal-gazing. Miss Garnett-Orme was engaged to a British officer of the United Provinces police. However, her fiance died just before the marriage, and it seems that she developed psychic abilities and after the tragic incident.

Crystal Gazing

Miss Mountstephen shortly returned to Lucknow, and then to Jhansi while Miss Garnett-Orme was still residing in the hotel. However, she was mysteriously found dead in her bed couple of days later while the door was locked from inside. After the postmortem, it was established that she was poisoned with prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide), a colorless cyanide-based poisonous liquid. The police registered a murder case and started investigation. A few months later, her doctor was also found dead of strychnine (strychnine is highly toxic, colorless and used as pesticide) poisoning.

The novel - "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Agatha Christie
The police arrested Miss Mountstephen on the charges of tampering with Miss Garnett-Orme’s bottle of sodium bicarbonate by adding prussic acid to it. People believed that she had used her mystic powers from a distance to make Miss Garnett-Orme add poison to her medicine. However, this theory could not be proved in the court and Miss Mountstephen was proved innocent. The Chief Justice of Allahabad made a remark while delivering the judgment that the true circumstances of Miss Garnett-Orme’s death would most probably remain unknown. This was a legendary case which inspired a detective novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie and a chapter in The Rupa Book of True Tales of Mystery and AdventureIn A Crystal Ball – A Mussoorie Mystery by Ruskin Bond.

Rudyard Kipling had initially written to Arthur Conan Doyle urging him to write a story about “murder by suggestion” centered around this mysterious death. However Conan Doyle neither visited the hotel not did he do any investigation. Instead he mentioned this to Agatha Christie and the thriller The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the result in 1920.

A table rapping seance

It is believed that the halls and the corridors of the historic Savoy Hotel are haunted by the ghost of Miss Garnett-Orme, who was found dead under mysterious circumstances about one hundred and three years ago. Reputed guests at the hotel have heard flushes going off and doors opening mysteriously. They have often sighted something which looked like an apparition (floating silhouette) of a lady. Mysterious sounds of a woman whispering and singing softly has also been recorded. The case was quite a sensation because Miss Garnett-Orme was a practitioner of occult and was involved in crystal gazing and table-rapping seances.


  1. Wow ! Its really informative post ever I read. Superb information about Mussoorie. Mussoorie is one of top place in Uttarakhand for tourist. Many of attractions are available to see and Enjoy it. I was searching for that, Finally I got it just because of you. Thank you so much friend. Keep sharing.

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  2. Wooow, I don't know its true or not but its really interesting. I've just read the whole article and I was feeling like m reading a novel or book. Well I often visited Mussoorie and also heard about this Savoy hotel but didn't got the chance to go there. Anyways now, I will definitely want to go there. Well Thanks dear, thanks to share this interesting story and lovely pics of the hotel

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