Well, it’s October and what else do you talk about except, of course, ghosts and cemeteries. We have the Old Cemeteries Society to thank for introducing us to this aspect of Victoria’s interesting history. They provide tours that take in Victoria’s famous ghosts and cemeteries.
One of the better known cemeteries, located along the oceanfront on Dallas Rd., is Ross Bay Cemetery, which the Society calls a Victorian era romantic cemetery. Many well-known people and families – among them are Sir Matthew Begbie (known as the hanging judge) and Emily Carr – are buried here among the 30,000 graves.
The Society conducts walking tours in the cemetery every Sunday, and, since each tour has a different theme, you can attend a different one every Sunday. The most popular tour takes place on October 29. It’s the annual Ghost Walk. And, if you’re still around in November, take the Murder Most Foul tour – stories of true crime in early Victoria.
In the summer months the Society also runs Lantern Tours in the Old Burying Ground (Pioneer Square beside Christ Church Cathedral). This cemetery started in 1855 when Ft. Victoria was at the center of everything (By 1873 all burials were switched to the Ross Bay Cemetery).
On the Cemetery Society’s Ghost Tours you’ll hear about some of Victoria’s "better known", or should I say, "seen", ghosts. The most famous of these ghosts is that of Doris Gravlin who was strangled (supposedly by her husband who afterwards committed suicide) on the 7th green of the Oak Bay Golf course, then buried in a sand trap. She’s been sighted many times by lots of different people and they say it’s not a pleasant experience. Usually she’s wearing a long white wedding gown. If you’re brave enough for the encounter, you’ll have to visit Victoria in late March when she appears regularly between 4:30-5:00pm and 9:30-10:00pm.
A number of Victoria’s well known buildings have their own ghosts. Two are the Royal Theatre and the McPherson Theatre. Both are haunted by several ghosts. Nine in the morning in October is the time to see a strange apparition on the street corner by the McPherson. It’s said to be that of a Frenchman, involved in a gambling game, who was shot and dumped there.
Craigdarroch Castle has the strong presence of Joan Dunsmuir in her former bedroom, and piano music and the smell of burning candles sometimes pervade the place. Emily Carr’s mother, like Joan Dunsmuir, still lingers in her bedroom at Emily Carr house. Hatley Castle, another Dunsmuir home, is haunted by a Dunsmuir matriarch, who made her presence known to the military college students who used to live there. They felt icy threads brushing across their bodies and saw a little old woman standing in the dark.
Several Victoria restaurants have experienced hauntings, especially in Bastion Square, it once having been a burial ground. There’s one in particular that people, sensitive to physic phenomena, won’t enter.
Many private homes in the city are haunted and tales of weird noises, doors slamming, dishes moving, lights going on and off, cold spots and numerous sightings abound. There’s the house in Oak Bay with a history of illness and disasters – people who lived there became ill, had strange character changes and even became suicidal. Their illnesses disappeared when they left the house. It’s said a former Barkerville dance hall girl tried to possess them.
A spot known as Mystic Spring in Cadboro Bay, is a place of strange power with many legends and stories connected to it. This land was held sacred by the native peoples who once lived here. Stories of the Spring’s influence on the lives of some of the residents in the area are pretty frightening.
Beacon Hill Park has a strange "ghost of the future". Several people reported seeing a ghostly woman, arms outstretched and mouth open in a silent scream, by a particular bush in the park. Some time after this, a woman was murdered, and her body was found under the same bush. She looked exactly like the ghost that was seen before she died.
But strangest of all is the widely documented and experienced time warp on Shelbourne St., south of the Hillside Shopping Mall. In October between 2:00 and 3:00 am, if you are driving alone in your car on this stretch of the road, the city street turns into an overgrown, unpaved country road, deserted and dark. Drive a minute and it shifts back to today. Are we in the Twilight Zone here?
Victoria Art Gallery
From August 4 to November 26 will mount a special exhibition "Jade, the Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China". This exhibition is comprised of 120 exquisite objects of jade from the People’s Republic of China. Most pieces are from archaeological digs and date from Neolithic times to the early 1900’s.
The exhibition is the finest jade collection to ever go on tour from China. One of the most interesting pieces is the 2nd century mortuary jade suit of Princess Dou Wan, which is composed of 2156 plates of jade sewn with 703 grams of gold thread, estimated to take more than ten years to complete.
Emily Carr Festival of the Arts
October 1-3 at Emily Carr House, 207 Government House, four blocks from the Inner Harbour. 250-383-5843. A celebration of the life and works of Victoria’s best known artist (Recently one of her paintings sold for $1,000,00). Events include walking tours, art talks and tours of Ross Bay Cemetery where Carr is buried. Emily was born in the house, built in 1864, in 1871. She painted scenes of this part of Canada.
The house has been restored to its Victorian ambiance. One room is now used as the "People’s Gallery" to present the work of Canadian artists, and there is a small gift shop offering a selection of items produced by Victoria artists and potters. The house is open from mid-May to mid-October, daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission fee. Special openings are scheduled at other times of the year, especially in December. Phone: 383-5843 or (250) 387-4697.
Autumn Cascade of Colours
Butchart Gardens from the first of October till the end of November. A dinner series features a variety of Pacific Northwest wines and foods. Special weekend entertainment and garden tours. Contact them at 250-652-4422.
Royal Victoria Marathon
Sunday, October 8 at 8am. Race length is 42.195 km. It starts on Government St. between the Legislative buildings and the Royal BC Museum. To register call 250-382-0042.
At Goldstream Provincial Park on the Trans-Canada Highway. Lasting for nine weeks, the salmon forge their way upstream to spawn. The Visitor Centre is open daily to answer questions and there are displays about the salmon. Free admission.
The Great Canadian Beer Festival
December 1 and 2. We mention it here because tickets are on sale October 23, and this festival is very popular and sells out early. At the Victoria Conference Centre at the Empress Hotel. Contact: 250-383-2332 or email email@example.com.
A celebration of the brewer’s craft. Only all natural beers are served and brewers are on hand to answer questions. Hop growers, masters, equipment suppliers and beer importers and distributors are also on the spot. Beer samples are $1 each. Admission by ticket is $10 by mail or at local outlets and includes a Festival Guide and 4-ounce tasting glass.
BC is said to be the most haunted of all the Canadian provinces. Victoria must have helped put it there. I can highly recommend two enthralling books for ghost lovers. "A Gathering of Ghosts" by Robin Skeleton and Jean Kozocari and "Ghost Stories of BC" by Jo-Anne Christensen. Both books can be purchased at Munroe’s Book Store on Government St. They’ll give you full details of the ghostly places I’ve written about.
ï¿½2000 by Barbara Ballard. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.
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