The Ghosts of Victoria Festival is an annual event featuring spooky activities throughout the city. The events are separately conducted by many groups at different locations.
Victoria is British Columbia’s most haunted place. Ghosts and goblins abound in the capital city – and not just at Halloween. If you want 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.
The Ghosts of Victoria Festival is held over the last two weeks of October each year, with many activities to choose from.
Ghosts of Victoria Festival 2013
The “Original” Ghost Bus-tours
Haunted Trolley Tours
Ross Bay Cemetery Ghost Tour
“Voices from the Past” at St. Ann’s Academy
Spooky play at Craigdarroch Castle
Maritime Museum Ghost Tours
Pumpkin Art in Oak Bay
“Festival of Fear” at Galey Farms
Ghostly Walks explore the haunted alleys and courtyards of downtown Victoria. These popular 90-minute walks take place every night during September and October. Until October 24 there is one every night at 7:30 pm. Extra tours at 9:30 pm are also offered nightly from September 1 to 14 and Fridays and Saturdays September 15 to October 17. These tours start at the Visitor Info Centre, across the street from the Empress Hotel. A special Halloween schedule runs from October 18 through November 2, with tours every night at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 pm starting from the lobby of the Bedford Regency Hotel (1140 Government Street). No reservations are needed. Call 384-6698 or check www.discoverthepast.com for all times and details.
“Original Ghost Bus-tours” have been an annual favourite at Halloween for nineteen 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 Oct. 17 to Oct. 30. Advance reservations are required. Book tickets online at www.ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250.590.6291.
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 every Sunday at 2:00 pm. Two special events for Halloween are planned: Psychic Tour on Oct. 20 at 2:00 pm and the Annual Ghost Tour on Oct. 27 from 1-3 pm. 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.” It dominates Bastion Square, considered by many to be Victoria’s most haunted place. The museum is open daily during September and October from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Ghost Tours are scheduled on selected evenings during the last two weeks of October. A Ghost Investigation by Beyond Belief Paranormal Events will be on October 26. To make a booking or inquiry, call 250.385.4222, ext. 106.
St. Ann’s Academy is a former convent school. The beautiful grounds are always open. The restored chapel is open Thursday through Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 pm during September and October. On October 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 7:00 pm a special program called “Voices from the Past” takes place in the chapel and grounds and deals with life, death and unexplained phenomena at this 155-year-old historic site. Call 250.953.8828 for reservations and information.
Craigdarroch Castle, open daily for visitors to see the splendour of its restored rooms, does not offer ghost tours. But at Halloween it will host a spooky play: “Dracula – The Blood is the Life” nightly from October 23 to 31 (except Oct. 28). The castle interior is the stage for this remarkable drama. There is no seating and 87 steps to climb, but tickets go quickly. Call 250.592.5323 ext. 31 for reservations or check www.thecastle.ca for more details.
Victoria Carriage Tours operate daily through September and October. From October 25 trhrough 30 they offer their Haunted Victoria Horsedrawn Tours. Call 250.383.2207 for information and reservations.
Galey Farm at 4150 Blenkinsop Road gets into the Halloween spirit each year with its Festival of Fear. This year it will be nightly 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm from October 10 through 31 and includes 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 Avenue takes on a spooky look around Halloween with Pumpkin Art, featuring hundreds of uniquely carved pumpkins. For information go to www.visitoakbayvillage.ca.
Exploring for ghosts on your own
Beacon Hill Park near downtown Victoria is a place of history, beauty and many ghosts. The “Screaming Doppleganger” as featured in the Creepy Canada TV series appears on an outcropping of rocks near the corner of Douglas and Superior streets. She is the ghost of a woman whose murdered body was found nearby and is seen standing atop the rock at sunrise.
Rogers Chocolates at 913 Government Street in Old Town is a National Historic Site. It is also Victoria’s oldest, most famous and most haunted chocolate shop. Look for the ghosts of Charles and Leah Rogers, the founders, who often slept in the kitchen of their old store and who reputedly never left. Recently a child’s handprint has repeatedly appeared on a mirror high above a door.
Old Morris Tobacconists, 1116 Government Street, is a heritage building that contains its original polished wood cabinets, onyx pillars and leaded glass entrance dome. It is haunted by the ghost of a former employee who died suddenly in the upstairs workshop. His footsteps and the sound of cupboard doors opening and closing are often heard when no one is upstairs.
Point Ellice House, reputedly haunted by the ghosts of the O’Reilly family, is open to the public for tours and garden teas, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, daily during the summer. Ghost tours are not provided, but visitors often experience their own supernatural encounters. Reservations for tea recommended. 250.380.6506.
Bastion Square and Helmcken Alley in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town is the most haunted part of Victoria. Almost every building around the historic square has a ghost or two. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia, located in the old Supreme Court building, is said to be the most haunted of them all due to the fact is was built on the site of the city’s jail and first gallows and many of the men who were hanged still lie buried beneath its foundations. The Maritime Museum is open throughout the year. Helmcken Alley leads away from Bastion Square and has the reputation for being just as haunted. The sounds of muffled footsteps with dragging chains, produced by ghostly members of the chain gang from the nearby jail, is one of the stories from Helmcken Alley that is featured in the Creepy Canada TV series.
Market Square and Chinatown have many stories of ghosts and the supernatural. Their secret tunnels are probably only myths, but their hauntings are very real. 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. In Chinatown, feel the paranormal energy in Fan Tan Alley as you walk past its abandoned opium dens and gambling halls, but feel safe under the Gate of Harmonious Interest which is decorated with symbols to scare away evil spirits. Chinatown Walks are held every Saturday at 10:30 am. Private tours by request. Tours start from the corner of Government and Fisgard streets (in front of Starbucks Coffee). They focus on history, but at Halloween a few ghost stories slip in. Call 250.384.6698.
Ross Bay Cemetery has the distinction of being the most spectacular Victorian cemetery in British Columbia. Its winding, tree-lined carriageways, magnificent tombstones with their poignant epitaphs and the distant views to the Olympic Mountains make it a memorable place to visit. Visitors are welcome during daylight hours every day of the year. The cemetery is noted for several resident ghosts, including David Fee (who was murdered on the steps of St. Andrews Cathedral on Christmas Eve 1890), Isabella Ross (the first woman in British Columbia to own land, whose farm stood where the cemetery is now) and a mysterious, elderly couple who are dressed in fancy Victorian attire and who are seen from time to time gliding along the western side of the cemetery. The Old Cemeteries Society conducts walking tours at Ross Bay Cemetery and many other cemeteries in Victoria on Sunday afternoons throughout the year.
Note: A city bylaw prohibits entry to Ross Bay Cemetery after dusk. Daylight visits are welcome, but please do not go there at night. Vandalism has been a major concern in the past and the bylaw helps reduce vandalism.
The Old Burying Ground is on the edge of downtown (on Quadra Street beside Christ Church Cathedral). It was used from 1855 to1873 and still contains 1,300 bodies. Now it is a city park called Pioneer Square and you may walk through it to enjoy the ancient tombstones by day or by night. If you go when it is dark, keep an eye out for the ghost of Adelaide Griffin who has haunted the place since her death in 1861 or for the less frequently seen ghost of Robert Johnson who slit his throat in a house across the street in the 1870s and has returned from time to time to reenact his grisly demise. The stories of the Old Burying Ground are featured in the Creepy Canada TV series.
Doris Gravlin, the Golf Course Ghost, back in September 1936 was strangled by her husband Victor and dragged across the seventh fairway at the Victoria Golf Course, then hidden under a pile of logs on the beach. The Victoria Golf Course is famous for its beautiful seaside setting, its fine golf and for the ghost of Doris Gravlin who has made frequent appearances since her murder. Often seen beside the seventh fairway or in the vicinity of the beach, she takes on many forms: a gliding figure in white, twinkling lights, or a pulsating globe of light. She sometimes plays havoc with motorists who drive past the golf course when she crosses the street and even enters their cars–sometimes by passing right through their windshields. A sudden, cold wind and a general sense of foreboding frequently accompany the appearance of Doris. The ghost of Doris Gravlin is one of the stories featured in the Creepy Canada TV series.
British Columbia’s Parliament Buildings are haunted by many ghosts, most notably Francis Mawson Rattenbury, the architect who designed them in the 1890s. His body rests uneasily in an unmarked grave in Bournemouth, England, where he was savagely bludgeoned to death by his wife’s lover (who was his own chauffeur). It is believed Rattenbury returns to haunt his most famous edifice to seek the recognition he craves and which he does not receive where he is buried.
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, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call 250.391.2666 for more information.
Haunted Vortex on Shelbourne Street. A strange phenomenon has been reported over many years along a two-block stretch of Shelbourne Street (between Hillside Avenue and Pearl Street). Motorists, usually late at night when traffic is minimal, have sometimes discovered everything around them takes on the appearance of rural countryside with farms, fields and gravel roads, instead of a paved road flanked by sidewalks and modern buildings. The vortex ends abruptly beyond the two-block area.
Haunted restaurants, pubs and accommodation. Victoria has many haunted places to eat, drink and stay. Click here to check listings on our links page.
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 (in Victoria) or toll-free 1-800-953-2022, visit its website www.tourismvictoria.com or stop by the Visitor Information Centre beside the Inner Harbour downtown.