Supernatural B.C. attracts visitors from beyond
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:08AM PDT
While B.C.'s tourism motto may be "Super, Natural British Columbia," it may also have another, more ghostly, interpretation.
From war heroes to disgruntled performers soloing from beyond the grave, British Columbia is rife with tales of homegrown supernatural activity. Robert Belyk, a five-time author on paranormal activity in the province, says even the biggest skeptic can get on board with a good ghost story.
"Whether you believe in it or not, the lore is so fascinating," said Belyk.
And widespread. British Columbia is widely considered to be Canada's most haunted province.
Related: Haunted B.C. In Pictures
One of the theories to explain the surplus of paranormal occurrences is the blanket of rain that "haunts" B.C.'s south coast.
"Some people believe the amount of rainfall is directly related to hauntings," Belyk said.
"Countries like Ireland and England are notorious for paranormal activity, and they have a very similar climate."
Belyk also says the laid back attitude of West Coasters means more British Columbians are willing to talk about their encounters with the undead.
"We don't have any hesitation to talk about our ghosts. We don't put a great deal of value about worrying about the religious overtones of these things, and so some great stories get out there."
Here is a list of some famous and lesser known "haunts" in the Lower Mainland where paranormal activity has been documented.
New Westminster: Fraser Cemetery
New Westminster's Fraser Cemetery has long been a haven for paranormal experiences.
You may think a resting place for the dead is quite a natural stomping ground for ghosts; but it's something that surprises ghost expert Robert Belyk.
"Normally they don't like to hang around those places," he said.
Archie Miller grew up close to the Fraser, and worked as an archivist for the city of New Westminster for many years. He says several people have reported seeing a young woman walking through the graves in a Victorian-era dress.
"She kind of waves at them," said Miller. "They look down at a relative's stone and then she's gone."
Others say they've been pushed by a mysterious force towards a gravestone. Miller describes one woman who was by herself and distinctly felt someone put a hand on her waist and move her along a row.
"She was alone but her reaction was immediate that someone stuck up behind her," Miller said.
"When she turned around there was no one there, but where she was standing was right in front the grave she was looking for."
One of the most recent sightings was the sighting of a little boy on a bench in the mid-1990's.
Burnaby Central Park
Founded in 1891, this 90-hectare park in the centre of Burnaby is high on eerie encounters. Four or five ghosts have reportedly habituated on the wooded property, scaring hikers and park-goers. One of the most interesting apparitions is a young woman who speaks in tongues at the edge of the forest.
"Its gibberish -- just a totally unrecognizable language," said Belyk.
Belyk believes the ghost is a woman who was killed in the park in the 1950's by a fireworks display.
"One of the fireworks went askew and hit her in the temple, killing her," said Belyk. "I've long suspected this is the ghost of the park. She's certainly been the most active."
The legends of ghosts at the Vogue Theatre on Vancouver's Granville Street are almost as prominent as the singers who have performed at the venue since it opened in 1941.
Former house manager Bill Allman calls the basement the "ghost highway," where there have been many apparitions and spirits.
Allman himself has heard someone playing the drums when the theatre is completely empty.
"As I came out of the basement I heard it and when I got to the top of the stairs the playing stopped," he said.
"So you have this phantom player sitting on his kit and I can tell you, he was not very good."
In the projection booth upstairs there have been reports of a more menacing apparition who sits in a theatre chair with a scowl. It even appeared to an actor in the middle of a performance.
Allman says while he's been unnerved, he's never been terrified.
"Ghosts in old theatres are just part of the landscape."
Vancouver's Hycroft mansion is one of the city's most stately homes, and is also reported to be one of the most haunted houses. The 20,000 square foot Shaughnessy estate was used as a veteran's hospital from 1943-1960, but is now owned by the University Women's club.
There are reportedly seven ghosts in the 30-room home, including an older man in a First World War officer's uniform. The ghost is believed to be Alexander McRae, a prominent politician and war hero who built the home in 1909. His wife Blanche is also known to cause some disturbances.
Since the University Women's club bought the property in 1962, the home is often used as a film set -- something author Robert Belyk says explains the hauntings.
"Ghosts don't like film crews coming in," he said. "Just about anywhere you have film crews coming in you have a problem with ghosts."
Belyk says most ghosts are very proprietarily oriented, and take strong objection to change.
"They come in and move things around and ghosts don't seem to like that."
The historic district of Gastown has long been known for its ghostly apparitions. The first European settlement in the city, The Irish Heather pub was originally Vancouver's first police station, something that may explain the presence of the paranormal.
The pub's bathrooms used to be jail cells, and restaurant diners have reported sound of clattering chains and slamming cell doors. The ghost is so famous he has earned the moniker "The Ghost of Gastown."
Robert Belyk believes the presence of the ghost may not be as strong since the historic building underwent renovations this year.
"Ghosts hate changes," he said. "Especially renovations."
On Thursday, ctvbc.ca looks at what happens to the more than 200,000 pumpkins thrown out after Halloween each year in Metro Vancouver. Turns out going green with your Jack o' Lantern doesn't have to be spooky.