Haunted happenings from the Ghosts of Victoria Festival
As British Columbia’s most haunted place, supernatural events abound in the capital city – and not just at Halloween. For a “spirited” visit to Victoria at any time of the year, there are many attractions to see. As Halloween approaches, the Ghosts of Victoria Festival provides even more ghostly activities.
Ross Bay Cemetery, open daily during daylight hours, is a beautiful oceanside Victorian cemetery where phantoms roam. History tours by the Old Cemeteries Society take place Sundays at 2pm. Two special Halloween events include the Psychic Tour October 19 at 2pm and the Annual Ghost Tour on October 26 at 2pm. Details at www.oldcem.bc.ca or call 250-598-8870.
The Maritime Museum is the favourite haunt of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the “hanging judge,” among other active spirits. Dominating Bastion Square, considered by many to be Victoria’s most haunted place, the museum is open from 10am to 5pm daily during September and October. Ghost Tours are scheduled on selected evenings during the last two weeks of October. An overnight Ghost Investigation by Beyond Belief Paranormal Events will also take place on October 25. To make a booking or inquiry, go to www.mmbc.bc.ca or call 250-385-4222, ext. 112.
St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site is a former convent school whose beautiful grounds are always open. The restored 1858 chapel is open from 1 to 4pm Thursday through Sunday during September and October. At 7pm October 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, the chapel and grounds host a special program called “Voices from the Past,” dealing with life, death and unexplained phenomena at this 155-year-old historic site. Tours are also available in French, upon request. Call 250-953-8820 for reservations and information.
Ghostly Walks explore the haunted alleys and courtyards of downtown Victoria. These popular 90-minute walks take place nightly at 7:30pm during September and October, with extra tours nightly September 1 to 13 and on weekends September 14 to October 16, starting at the Visitor Centre, across the street from the Empress Hotel. A special Halloween schedule runs October 17 through November 1, with tours nightly at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30pm starting from the lobby of the Bedford Regency Hotel (1140 Government St). No reservations are needed. See more page 44, call 384-6698 or check www.ghostlywalks.com for all times and details.
“Original Ghost Bus-tours” have been an annual favourite at Halloween for 20 years. These two-hour-long haunted coach tours are conducted by ghost expert John Adams for the Old Cemeteries Society and pass by the city’s most haunted places, including a stop to look for the famous Golf Course Ghost. “Original Ghost Bus-tours” take place on selected nights October 17 to 30. Advance reservations are required; book tickets online at www.ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250-590-6291.
Victoria Carriage Tours operate daily through September and October. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the carriage drivers will tell ghost stories, upon request, in addition to their regular commentary. Call 250-383-2207 for information and reservations. During evenings from October 24 through 26 they offer their Horse Drawn Ghost Trolley Tours. Reservations are available at 250-475-7600.
Galey Farm, at 4150 Blenkinsop Rd, gets into the Halloween spirit each year with its Festival of Fear, running 6 to 10pm nightly from October 16 to 31 and including several activities for all ages: Haunted House for kids, Carnevil Haunted House for adults, the Cornfield of Horror, Crazy Train and Madame Isabella’s Séance. Online booking and information at www.galeyfarms.net or call 250-477-5713.
Oak Bay takes on a spooky look around Halloween with Pumpkin Art on the Avenue, featuring 500 uniquely carved pumpkins, displayed behind the Oak Bay Municipal Hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. from 5 to 9pm October 24 to 31. By donation; for information visit www.visitoakbayvillage.ca
For those wanting to explore for ghosts on their own, several shops in Old Town along Government Street are good places to start, including Rogers Chocolates and Old Morris Tobacconists. Tourism Victoria can also provide names of many haunted restaurants, bars, hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Craigdarroch Castle, open daily for visitors to see the splendour of its restored rooms, does not offer ghost tours, but has been the setting for many spooky movies. Check www.thecastle.ca or call 250-592-5323 for more details.
Hatley Castle (part of Royal Roads University) is haunted by ghosts of the Dunsmuir family who once owned it. Featured in the Creepy Canada TV series, the formal gardens (admission fee) and museum (free) are open daily during September and October, 10am to 5pm. Call 250-391-2666 for more information.
The Old Burying Ground (Pioneer Square) is on the edge of downtown at Quadra at Meares streets, where beneath majestic trees and crumbling tombstones lie 1,300 bodies.
The Victoria Golf Course on scenic Beach Drive beside the ocean in Oak Bay is haunted by Doris Gravlin who was strangled there by her husband in 1936. Many believe she is the most frequently seen ghost in town.
Chinatown has many stories of ghosts and the supernatural and while its secret tunnels are only myths, its hauntings are very real. Watch out for the ghost of Chung who murdered his girlfriend, then fled through Fan Tan Alley. Chinatown Walks are held every Saturday at 10:30am. Private tours by request. Tours, which start from the corner of Government and Fisgard streets (in front of Starbucks Coffee), focus on history, but at Halloween a few ghost stories slip in. Call 250-384-6698.
Market Square is a heritage oasis, created out of elegant brick buildings of the late 1800s. The ghosts here long ago frequented the saloons, brothels and gambling dens that lined Johnson Street, Victoria’s once infamous red light district.
For more details about the Ghosts of Victoria Festival and haunted places and activities, from the light-hearted to the serious, call Tourism Victoria at 250-953-2033, visit their website at www.tourismvictoria.com or stop by the Visitor Centre beside the Inner Harbour downtown.