With Halloween fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to round up the most alleged haunted places on Vancouver Island. The following list was gathered from research on well-known sites that people generally accept to be haunted. The post is merely for entertainment use, and my intentions are neither to prove, nor disprove, the existence of ghosts or any other paranormal activity. It is up to you to decide whether you believe the following stories to be true.
Haunted Places on Vancouver Island
Victoria is known for being the most haunted city in BC, and many businesses fully embrace this title as a draw for tourists. There are both Ghost walking tours and Ghost Bus tours available for your enjoyment. For the sake of this post, lets take a look at a few of the more famous haunted places in Victoria.
#1. Bastion Square and Helmcken Alley
This particular area is said to be Victoria’s most haunted. Practically every building and alleyway around this historic square has a ghost story or two. Many years ago there was a jailhouse located on Helmcken Alley. It is said that the area is now home to the ghosts of prisoners who were tossed into the jail’s graveyard and forgotten about. The most prominent ghost is of a man in old prison attire, with chains shackled to his wrists and ankles, who frequents the alley. There have also been several reports of hearing rattling chains while walking around the square.
#2. Rogers Chocolates
Located on Government Street, this chocolatier is famous for more than their deliciously rich chocolates. It is said to be haunted by its original owners, Charles and Leah Rogers. Apparently they haunt the kitchen after the building is locked up for the night. There are tales of staff finding trails of chocolate strewn across the floor when they arrive in the morning, after everything was put away and cleaned up the night before. As well, there have been sightings of an unexplained child’s hand print mysteriously appearing on a mirror located high above the entrance door.
#3. Empress Hotel
Built between 1904 and 1908, the Empress Hotel is not only the most famous structure in Victoria, but also the oldest. And with age comes many ghost stories and tales. There are apparently several ghosts who wander the halls of this historical landmark. The unwanted occupants include:
- An elderly women in pajamas who knocks on guests’ doors
- The hotel’s architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury, who wanders around with his cane
- A construction worker, who hung himself during a restoration in the late 1950’s
- Lizzie McGrath, a chambermaid who died at the hotel in 1908, has been spotted on several occasions still cleaning rooms on the sixth floor
- A little girl who haunts one particular room
- Reader’s Digest
- West Coast Living Canada (blog) – make sure to read the comment section of this one for even more ghost stories from the Empress Hotel
- Flight Centre Travel Blog
#4. St. Ann’s Academy
Located on Humbolt Street, this 158 year old historic site was once Victoria’s first Roman Catholic Cathedral. Then in 1974, the Public Works Department of the BC government purchased the building from the Sisters of St. Ann, where it was used as office space. It suffered years of minimal maintenance and the City of Victoria eventually condemned the building. It was later restored and renovated in the late 1980’s, and is now available for public use.
This former convent school is said to be haunted by the nine nuns who are now buried in the cemetery on the property. As well, the ghost of Emily Carr, Victoria’s famous artists and writer, has also been seen wandering the grounds. It might be of interest to note that Emily Carr’s ghost frequents other locations around Victoria, including her home at 207 Government Street, as well as James Bay Inn.
#5. Craigdarroch Castle
This castle, owned by a wealthy Scottish immigrant named Robert Dunsmuir, was built in the shadow of tragedy. Four months into construction (starting in 1887), the castle’s architect, Warren Williams, died of an enlarged heart. In 1889, with the completion of the castle still one year away, Dunsmuir mysteriously died from a terrible cold. Five months after her father, Dunsmuir’s 2nd daughter died of the Typhode Fever that had ripped through Nanaimo.
Paranormal activity seen and heard at the Castle include faint piano music heard in certain rooms; sightings of a woman dressed in a white ball gown on the main staircase; a young girl roaming in the basement; objects that move on their own; a strong smell of candle wax first thing in the morning, even though no candles had been burning; and, it has been said that the odd visitor to the Castle will get such an uneasy feeling upon entering, they decide to walk straight back out again.
#6. Hatley Castle
This beautiful National Heritage Site is located in Colwood, in the Greater Victoria area. Completed in 1908, Hatley Castle was built for James Dunsmuir, a former politician and lieutenant governor of BC (and son of Robert Dunsmuir mentioned above). The Castle was home to the family until the late 1930’s. In 1940 the estate was purchased by the Dominion Government to be used as a Naval Training Academy and College until 1995. It was then turned over to Royal Roads University and is used as their administration office. It also houses the President, Vice-President, the Managers of Finance and Facilities, and the administrative support staff for Royal Roads University…as well as a few unwanted guests.
There have been numerous sightings of ghosts at the Castle, and it is said to be haunted by its former residents, the Dunsmuir family. Many of the sightings happened when cadets still had dorm rooms in the castle. There are tales of an old woman grasping onto a foot of one of the cadets; stories of seeing a crying girl who would mysteriously float out towards the sea; and, the ghost of a young maid who died while employed by the Dunsmuirs’.
More recent sightings and phenomenons include hearing the chime of a bell that isn’t there, and the opening and closing of doors and windows on their own. The most eerie story is of a ghost following a family home after visiting the Castle (see Vancity Buzz below).
Haunted Cowichan Valley
#7. Old Stone Butter Church
This long abandoned stone structure was built in 1870 by Father Peter Rondeault, a Roman Catholic missionary. It was built high on the hill of the Comiaken Indian Reserve, with the help of the local Cowichan native tribe. The helpers were paid through the sale of butter, which was churned by the priest – hence the name. Rippley’s Believe it or Not once did a piece on this church, stating that it was never officially used, and that every worker who helped build the church all died mysteriously. That story is untrue, however, for it was in fact used quite exclusively for a period of 10 years, until the new St. Ann’s Church at Tzouhalem was built in 1880.
Over the last 140 odd years, it has been repeatedly vandalized, and has developed a reputation of being haunted. Stories of ghosts following people home, strange sounds within the church, and eerie feelings of being watched while wandering around the grounds.
#8. Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island is located via a short boat ride away from the Nanaimo Harbour, and has the reputation of possibly being the most haunted island in the Pacific North West. The small island was used as a small pox colony in the early 1800’s, resulting in a few deaths. As well, in 1887 a massive explosion trapped and killed 150 miners in the coal shafts underneath Newcastle Island. Their bodies were never recovered.
The most famous piece of history, however, is of Kanaka Pete. As the story goes, Peter Kakua, a Hawaiian immigrant labourer (known as Kanakas) worked as a coal miner in Nanaimo. He met and married his wife, Que-en, who was of aboriginal decent, and had a daughter. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Que-en decided to leave Peter and threatened to take their baby with her. In a state of grief Peter drowned his sorrows in booze. Later that night, and in a drunken stupor, he came home to find his beloved wife in bed with her father. In a fit of rage, Peter wielded an axe and killed his wife, their daughter, his father-in-law, as well as his mother-in-law. Realizing what he had done, he attempted to escape to Vancouver by canoe, first stopping on Newcastle Island. This is where he was captured. He was later hung at Gallows Point on Protection Island, and was buried in an unmarked grave on Newcastle Island.
It is said that Kanaka Pete haunts the east side of Newcastle Island, and his ghost has been seen on the beaches at dusk. His unhappy spirit has been rumoured to be responsible for the disastrous mine explosion in 1887. There are also stories of people disappearing from Newcastle Island after going to the far side at night.
#9. Beban House
The Beban House is well known for its hauntings. The log-sided mansion, which sits on 160 acres on Bowen Road, was built by leading timber baron Frank Beban in 1930. Mr. Baron died in 1952, and the estate was purchased by the City of Nanaimo in 1953. For 35 years the house was neglected to the point of it possibly being demolished. In the early 1990’s it was decided that the architectural style of the house was unique to Vancouver Island and was listed on their historical register.
In more recent years the house was used a daycare, a mobile office for the RCMP, and home of Tourism Nanaimo. Most recently, it was the home of the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, and as well as the current office of the Nanaimo Clippers.
The rumour is that a young Chinese servant, who was accidentally killed in the house while employed by the Beban family, haunts the house.
Unexplained phenomenons include:
- Hearing a ball bounce down the stairs late at night
- A cupboard in Frank Beban’s trophy room that kept opening on its own, and which refused to close
- Filing cabinet drawers opening on their own
- Keys going missing
- Locked doors and windows opening on their own
- Sounds of tea cups clanking
- Chatter being heard when the house was empty
- Children playing with a small boy whom adults cannot see (sightings happened while the daycare inhabited the house)
- Water taps turning on by themselves
- An apparition of a woman
- A cat escaping a locked room
- Strange and eerie feelings of being watched when entering the basement
- Prairie Specters
- Nanaimo Bulletin
- If More Walls Could Talk: Vancouver Island’s Houses from the Past by Valerie Green, Lynn Gordon-Findlay (2004)
Haunted Qualicum Beach
#10. The Qualicum Heritage Inn
Originally operated as a boys college in 1937 and built by Robert Ivan Knight, this building has a rich haunted past. In 1949 it was renamed Qualicum College, and continued to operate as an education centre until the 1970’s. Until 2008 it was operated as an Inn. The majority of the hauntings occurred while guests were staying at the Inn. Most recently the building was restored and renovated by developers as luxury condos. Funny enough, they don’t disclose on their website that the building is suspected to be haunted.
The list of reported activity at this Inn is a long one:
- The ghost of a little boy heard crying or playing in the hallways
- The ghost of a man in an old-fashioned military uniform
- The ghost of a woman
- Footsteps moving in the corridors when no one is there
- Moans, mysterious voice, cries, chanting, and laughter have all been heard coming from the fourth floor
- Lights would go on and off by themselves
- A ghost who would throw things and make messes was seen so frequently by staff he was nicknamed Buddy
- Furniture that moved on its own
- A TV that was turned on by itself
- Strange dreams that haunted guests
- Frightening sounds
- A piano playing by itself
- Sounds of people running and doors slamming when no one was present
Have you ever experienced anything spooky at any of the above mentioned places? Share your stories of haunted places on Vancouver Island in the comments below.