Celebrating The City’s Spookiest Season
Halloween – October 31 – marked the end of the year for the ancient Celts. The veil that separates the land of the living from the realm of the dead was thought to be thinnest then and spirits were free to come and go.
Today in Victoria, the province’s most haunted place, the city’s many “spirited” attractions celebrate with the Ghosts of Victoria Festival.
• Ross Bay Cemetery is a beautiful oceanside Victorian cemetery where phantoms roam. Isabella Ross, once owner of the land, sits looking forlornly out to sea; David Fee, murdered one Christmas Eve, appears as white mist. The Old Cemeteries Society hosts tours each Sunday at 2pm and the annual Ghost Tour is from 1 to 3pm Sunday, October 31.
Call 250-598-8870 for more details.
• The Maritime Museum is the favourite haunt of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the “hanging judge.” Dominating Bastion Square, many consider it Victoria’s most haunted place, the location of public hangings during colonial days. The museum is open daily, with Ghost Tours at the end of October.
Call 250-385-4222, ext. 106 for information.
• A former convent school, St. Ann’s Academy’s grounds feature a walled orchard, woodland walk and beautiful Novitiates’ Garden. The restored chapel is open Thursday to Sunday, 1 to 4pm. On October 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 6:30 and 8:30pm, Voices from the Past explores life, death and unexplained phenomena at this 150-year-old historic site.
Call 250-953-8828 for details.
• Ghostly Walks explore the haunted alleys and courtyards of downtown Victoria. Until October 21 these popular 90-minute walks begin nightly at 7:30, with extra 9:30 tours on Fridays and Saturday. Tours start at the Visitor Centre. Extra Halloween tours begin nightly from October 22 to 31 at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30pm, meeting in the lobby of the Bedford Regency Hotel at 1140 Government Street. No reservations needed.
Call 250-384-6698 or visit www.discoverthepast.com for details.
• The stunning Craigdarroch Castle, open daily, does not offer ghost tours, but at Halloween hosts a spooky play, The Cursed Cabaret, a new play with music, on selected evenings from October 13 to 31. Call
250-592-5323 for information and reservations.
• Haunted Horse-drawn Trolley Tours venture down dark streets in the most haunted neighbourhoods on the West Coast, and you just might see a ghost or two! The 45-minute tour is narrated by a ghostly guide and to make matters even more intriguing…all the stories are true! Tours take place at the end of October.
Call 250-383-2207 for information and reservations.
• Nightmares Entertainment, downstairs at 1215 B Government Street in Trounce Alley, is one of Victoria’s newer spooky attractions. The “Terror Zone” in 3-D attraction is not for young children, but only the brave! Open throughout September and October, with extended hours around Halloween.
• Ghost Bus-tours, are two-hour coach tours past Victoria’s most haunted places. The Old Cemeteries Society has run these very popular tours for 16 years, with a different route each year. Join a tour October 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 or 31 at 6:30 and 9pm. Tickets are available through Tourism Victoria at 250-953-2033.
To explore for ghosts on your own at any time, start downtown in several Old Town shops, such as Rogers Chocolates and Old Morris Tobacconists. Tourism Victoria can also provide names of haunted restaurants, bars, hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Featured in the Creepy Canada TV series, Hatley Castle (part of Royal Roads University) is haunted by ghosts of the Dunsmuir family who once owned it, and you just might catch a glimpse of James Dunsmuir Jr. in his soldier’s uniform as he rises from the lake in the Japanese garden.
A passenger on the Lusitania when it was torpedoed in May 1915, his body was never found. Back at Hatley, his elderly mother longed for him to return home and when the castle became a military college during the Second World War her ghost stalked the dormitories to see whether one of the cadets was her long-lost son.
Beneath majestic trees and crumbling tombstones at the Old Burying Ground on Quadra at Meares Street lie 1,200 bodies. The spectres of Adelaide Griffin who died in 1861 and “Soap and Water” Johnson who committed suicide in 1871 often glide among the graves.
The Victoria Golf Course on scenic Beach Drive is haunted by Doris Gravlin, strangled there by her husband in 1936 and hidden under a pile of logs on the nearby beach. She appears often as a white figure or light on the fairways, running quickly toward people and sometimes running circles around them near the beach and beside the road.
Chinatown has many supernatural stories. Its secret tunnels are only myths, but its hauntings are very real. Feel the paranormal energy in Fan Tan Alley as you walk past its abandoned opium dens and gambling halls. Watch out for the ghost of Chung, a teenager who fell in love with one of Chinatown’s sing-song girls, but was spurned by her when he proposed marriage. In revenge he returned and chopped off her head as she sat at an open window. He fled through Fan Tan Alley and his ghost is felt there still, pushing people against the brick walls.
– Jennifer Blyth