The Hotel was only ever referred to as “The Hotel” – the reason for this is supposedly that it was the most lavish, most important hotel in the entire city; however, it’s more likely because a cliqueish cabal obsessed with the building wanted to give it special airs and reverence. What is true is that each generation knew the hotel by a different name, as it was renamed and rebranded a handful of times throughout its life: the supposed reason for that is another story entirely: an unsettling tale of rumours and legend that drags together many of the eccentricities and anomalies of Glasgow’s bloody history that people have long believed were just disparate, isolated incidents. That story is plagued by misinformation and misinterpretation, so for just now, we will focus on The Hotel itself.
The Hotel lay in the heart of the city for over 150 years, and in its heyday, it was a very popular spot – but time took its toll on the establishment, and in its final years, many felt it had lost most of its glamour and sparkle. The rooms of the hotel were very reasonably priced considering its location – on one of the biggest and busiest streets in the city, literally only a few feet from the entrance to the Glasgow Underground subway system. Its rooms were modestly decorated, its facilities spartan and its food servicable, and as a result, the hotel came to enjoy a large clientele for short-stay visits.
The Hotel had one particularly special group of repeat clients over its history – the Guides, a handful of people who may be unkindly (but perhaps not unfairly) labelled a cult. The Guides were initially a Christian temperance group formed in the late 1800s, who met inside the hotel every few weeks for social gatherings and talks on the temperance movement – most of the material that documents their existence comes from newspaper articles kept at the Mitchell Library and the University of Glasgow Library, though some unsavory suggestions about the Guides’ practices is brought up in correspondences between the staff of the hotel and the city council offices. Just before the turn of the century, the group’s structure radically changed – many members stopped attending the gatherings (with more than a few disappearing altogether), and a rigid hierarchy began to emerge, with one woman, Anna Napier, as its defacto leader. The Guides had become far more than just a social group, but exactly what it had become was not documented, as the group no longer welcomed outsiders and did not advertise or report in the newspapers after 1892.
The Guides did, however, keep records of some of their activities – written inside a single Gideon Bible that was kept inside a certain room of The Hotel. The Guides made some arrangement with the Hotel’s proprietors in the last decade of the 1800s to the effect that only they were allowed to use that particular room, and it is only due to the descendants of those proprietors that we even know of the continued existence of the Guide’s and their altered Bible. Indeed, many former employees of The Hotel mentioned that the room continued to see use up until recently, which suggests that the Guides exist in some form still – it has been suggested that this contemporary group is anything from a Wiccan coven to a new sect with religious tenets founded on the altered Bible itself. The room that the Guides supposedly used seems to change depending on who is asked: there is little consensus.
The only information gleaned from the Bible comes from the reports of former employees of The Hotel, who may have glanced at it while changing the room’s linens. These reports include mentions of the Drowning Chapel; the Gorbal plague cart; the Galvanic Angel; the false saint; the river under the Bridge of Sighs; the Lady Love Well; the High Street bone railway; the Panopticon Experiments; and the Milk of Mary. Many of these particular phrases are corroborated amongst several different people’s accounts, though what each of them actually are tends to vary wildly, leading to the conclusion that urban legends and Chinese-whispers have long since atrophied any usable accounts of the full contents of the Guide’s altered Bible.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to check the Bible for oneself. The Hotel is gone now; ripped down and smashed to pieces as of June of this year, with new city-center residential developments and a shopping center being built atop it: rumourmongers are quick to theorise that it is no coincidence that the Hotel was demolished just as Glasgow’s strange phenomena were gaining more widespread attention. The whereabouts of the Bible are unknown: even prior to the Hotel’s destruction, members of staff at the Hotel were unable to definitively locate either the room the Guides used, nor the bible it supposedly housed. Having checked every Gideon Bible inside the hotel, I can confirm not one contained any of the Guides’ records.