There’s a nightlife in beautiful, historic Victoria, B.C., far more exclusive than the hottest dance clubs. In fact, you and I aren’t even invited. This is a nightlife alive with the afterlife. If you want to get down with paranormal activity, Victoria is the hottest place in the west for the coldest spirits. I’ll be your tour guide. After all, hunting ghosts is my hobby
Victoria boasts over 5,000 years of First Nations history and a community of colourful characters after the old Fort Victoria was founded in 1843. Tourists from across the globe flood Victoria for its old school British flavour and an inner harbour full of vistas and buskery entertainment.
But, this wrap-around waterfront city on Vancouver Island has a dark side leftover from its wild west days. Perhaps an ill omen was the great storm in 1909 that bashed the shores of Ross Bay Cemetery, the city’s first and still-standing burial plot, washing away large portions of the predominantly Chinese, Japanese and First Nations graves. Not good.
Ghost stories are one of the most exciting things about Victoria, and spending nights hunting them down is an excellent way to pass time. But let me stress, ghosts are real. They aren’t jokes and whispers from myths – they actually exist. For the last few years, my friends and I have searched for the living dead, and we’ve experienced many frightening things. If you’re up for the challenge, visit these true Victoria haunts and report back with stories and sightings.
Francis Rattenbury, playboy architect of the Empress and Parliament Buildings was bludgeoned to death by his second wife’s lover, a chauffer, over a mistress. Rattenbury haunts the Parliament Buildings, some hypothesize, because he feels he hasn’t received the right accolades for his work
The BC Maritime Museum
The BC Maritime Museum was built on the old gallows and graves of hung criminals. It’s not uncommon to hear the sounds of chains and moans there, even in the day.
Oak Bay Golf Course
Once upon a time, a groom murdered his wife on the cliffs of the Oak Bay Golf Course before doing himself in. Seeing a woman in a bridal gown is a regular occurrence.
St. Ann’s Academy
Wacky artist Emily Carr has been seen many times on the lawns of St. Ann’s Academy. Some have also seen her at her grave in Ross Bay, a tourist favourite.
The Empress Hotel
After the tunnel under the Empress Hotel was cemented shut, workers heard a man’s screams. After cracking the tunnel open, the only trace of the man were fingernail scrape marks on the inside of the concrete block.
Speaking of the Empress…
Speaking of the Empress, an old woman haunts the sixth floor. People see her regularly as a solid figure who asks for help finding her room. When the hotel guests head to the hall to help her, she’s gone. Talk to Empress staff about glasses, chairs, and bed sheets moving after cleaners have prepped the rooms and they’ll spin you a yarn.
The most haunted place in Victoria is coal baron Robert Dunsmuir‘s Craigdarroch Castle (pictured above). Volunteers hear whispers close to their ears and report seeing objects moving in front of their eyes. There’s no doubt that Dunsmuir’s wife, Joan, is trapped in the home. Team members from Ghoul Inc. and a dozen tourists this season have taken photographs of her, and she appears exactly as she is in paintings (pictured above). Outside, the smell of lard tallow candles (a favourite of Joan’s) waft from her room to the parking lot. If you’re fortunate enough, she’ll play the piano for you. It happens.
If I’ve piqued your interest and you’re ready to go ghost hunting in Victoria, here are my tips before setting out into the dark:
- You must have a lot of patience, a very receptive and controlled mind, and iron nerves. Luckily, these can be learned.
- Carry a cell phone, a flashlight, a digital voice recorder to tape electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and a camera with a lot of extra batteries.
- Take photos everywhere. Don’t wait for a ghost to appear. You’ll undoubtedly catch one by feeling sudden cold and movement. Start snapping blindly (The photo of Joan Dunsmuir, above, was taken this way).
- Go with someone. It’s safer, and you’ll want a friend to confirm what you saw and heard.
- Don’t do anything illegal. You might end up trapped on earth when you die.
The most important thing is this: honour the dead. Ghost hunting is not about exploiting the dead for entertainment. The point is physically coming into contact with someone who is trapped in time. Be nice. It could be you wandering the earth in the afterlife.