8 Ways to Embrace Halloween in Victoria

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For those who love Halloween, Victoria is a great place to be in October.

What gives the city its spooky reputation? One theory suggests that BC’s capital sits on a powerful ley line. Ley lines form a geometrical grid (or “ley system”) across the planet, and promote a strong celestial presence. The epicentres of these ley lines can be sources of incredible energy, said to be used by occult societies who make use of the supernatural forces that gather here.

Others suggest that the type of rocks that compose Vancouver Island and the surrounding salt water of the Pacific Ocean trap “spiritual energy”.

Whatever you believe, there’s no denying that Victoria has a rich culture of the supernatural. Here are a few spooky activities to visit to get in the Halloween spirit around the city.

Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia

Ross Bay Cemetery; photo: Rachel Rilkoff

1. Go on a Ghostly Walk 

Ghostly Walk (or bus tour) is a great way to see Victoria’s historic haunts. With many buildings more than a century old in Victoria, there’s no doubt a few spirits linger. Ghostly Walks meet in front of the elegant Empress Hotel, built in the early 1900s and said to be haunted by the hotel’s architect Francis Rattenbury, who met his end in a grisly murder by his wife’s lover. Rattenbury also supposedly haunts the Parliament buildings (another tour stop) down the street, of which he was also the architect. Tours also head to Chinatown, where you can chase the spirits of opium den dwellers and illicit gambling rooms through Fan Tan Alley, one of the narrowest streets in Canada.

You can also download the City of Victoria’s “Haunted Victoria” pamphlet and take yourself on a self-guided walking tour… if you dare to go alone!

2. Watch Live Theatre in a Haunted Castle 

Every October, Craigdarroch Castle plays backdrop to live theatre, with scary plays perfect for the Halloween month. Shows take place throughout the castle, an imposing stone mansion said to be haunted by Joan, the wife of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, who imparts whispers and the smell of burning candles upon visitors to her former home.

A gravestone in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, British Columbia

A gravestone in Ross Bay Cemetery; photo: Rachel Rilkoff

4. Play Golf with a Ghost

At the Victoria Golf Club, where the greens run along the scenic coastline, play 18 holes and keep your eyes peeled for the ghost of Doris, a woman whose body was found on the course, followed by that of her estranged husband (and alleged murderer) a month later. If you see a woman in a long white gown walking the links, with arms outstretched, it might just be the restless apparition of Doris.

5. Dine in a Hangman’s Square

Bastion Square, located in the heart of downtown, was the location of the hangman’s noose, with justice dispensed from the former Maritime Museum building, Victoria’s courthouse until the 1960s. The infamous “Hanging Judge” Begbie dealt out many guilty sentences (punishable by hanging) there, with those sentenced buried in the square. Even before the Hanging Judge, the local First Nations considered this spot to have an eerie presence. Today Bastion Square is home to restaurants and pubs, such as live music hub Darcy’s Pub, vegetarian Rebar and fine French Camilles.

Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia

A gravestone in Ross Bay Cemetery; photo: Rachel Rilkoff

6. Drink a Local Beer in a Haunted Pub

If you’re looking to try locally brewed beer with a side of spooky, try the Garrick’s Head pub. While the pub has seen a modern addition in recent years, the unchanged, cozy back room of the pub is rumoured to be haunted, with one particular lamp that gives staff endless trouble – no amount of bulb changing will keep the light from flickering mysteriously. (Upstairs, in the penthouse of the Bedford-Regency Hotel, a former hotel guest and murder victim makes his presence known with the lingering smell of cigars.) And the Bent Mast in James Bay, a Victorian house-turned-pub, is said to be the eternal home of a former owner who died on-site, as well as powerful poltergeists.

7. Discover History in an Ocean-side Cemetery

Ross Bay Cemetery is a picturesque place to walk during the day, with its ocean-side location and graceful mature trees giving it a peaceful presence. Many important Victorians have been laid to rest here, including artist Emily Carr, the aforementioned Judge Matthew Begbie, and Billy Barker, the man who sparked the gold rush in Barkerville. This old cemetery has been the rumoured location of occult rituals and is undoubtably one of the spookiest places to find yourself at night. And not too far away, next to Christ Church Cathedral, is Pioneer Square, an old graveyard used in the mid-1800s. Filled with unmarked graves, it’s a place that one hurries through when the moon is full and the big trees creak in the wind.

Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, BC

A grave marker in Ross Bay Cemetery; photo: Rachel Rilkoff

8. Walk in the Woods with Monsters

Go for a hike at one of the many parks surrounding Victoria and keep an eye out for the fantastical creatures that stalk the dark woods of Vancouver Island. The local First Nations have rich and terrifying legends of the supernatural: The wild woman of the woods, known as Tsonoqua, is said to steal children away in her basket, taking them home to eat. Her bedraggled hair and pursed lips are a popular motif for Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation carved masks. First Nations here are also well acquainted with Sasquatches, who have been sighted all around the island – very recently a Sasquatch was recorded howling in the woods on a small island just off the coast of northern Vancouver Island.

Alternatively, you can visit First Nations carvings at the Royal BC Museum and look for supernatural creatures of the carved wood variety in the Aboriginal collection.