By Tim Collins/Contributor
With Halloween here again, residents of Sidney might be forgiven for making their way to the Haunted Bookshop to see if they might discover a spirit lingering amongst the rare volumes.
They’d be in the wrong place. The Haunted Bookshop isn’t haunted. The name is taken from a work by Christopher Morley and has nothing to do with ghosts.
“In some ways the shop’s name has become the bane of my existence,” said Odean Long, the shop’s owner. “People come in here looking for books on the occult. We’re not that kind of shop.”
Yet that doesn’t mean the Peninsula is without its own restless spirits.
John Adams, the operator of the Ghostly Walks (amongst other historical tours) in Victoria, maintains there are a locations in the area where ghostly sightings are common.
Perhaps the best known of these spooky sites is Butchart Gardens. Adams has been told stories of the family home, Benvenuto, where a ghostly apparition of a man has been seen cruising through the rooms late at night. Adams said people have also reported feeling tugs on their clothing and hearing organ music that doesn’t originate from the sound system.
The action isn’t restricted to Benvenuto. Adams said that late at night, after everyone has left the park, security staff have reported seeing a young girl riding a tricycle and making her way down the paths. When they investigate, she disappears.
But the action isn’t limited to Butchart Gardens. According to Adams, there was a house on Ardmore Drive so haunted that it needed to be demolished. No one would live there.
Then there’s the strange case of the phantom tractor. It’s seen late at night in the area of Stelly’s X Road. Apparently the ghostly farmer can’t rest until his fields are tended. There are no reports as to what he’s growing.
Horth Hill Park has a resident spirit as well, according to Adams.
“I’ve had a lot of reports of people seeing a house on the property. They see it, and then it’s gone. The sightings have been accompanied by a real sense of unease and anxiety.”
The strangest haunting, though, takes place at the Stonehouse Restaurant at Canoe Cove.
According to Ron Wolfe, the general manager, the building was constructed around 1935 as a personal residence. Sometime around 1940, though, it was the scene of a horrible accident (at least it was assumed to be an accident). A young boy, the eight-year-old son of the owners of the home was found hanged in his upstairs bedroom.
Apparently, the unfortunate lad never left.
“There was one story I was told by a friend of mine; a friend who lives just up the hill here,” said Wolfe. “He had a little girl who started reporting that she was playing with what my friend thought was an imaginary friend. It was a little boy with bright red hair who liked to play tricks like playing with the hoses in his yard…”
When his friend started paying attention to the claims and the hoses draped around the yard, he learned that the little boy who had hanged himself was a lad with bright red hair.
His daughter had never heard the story.
Other people have also reported seeing the ghostly apparition on the property. “It can get pretty weird up here at night,” said Wolfe. “No one wants to be the last person here, closing up for the night. It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.”
Ed Sum, of the Paranormal Victoria Investigations and Research Society has heard a lot about the Stonehouse. “It’s one of those places we’d love to investigate,” said Sum. He said that the current owners have not yet allowed his group into the location.
Sum said that he never assumes that reports of haunting are true. “But we’ve seen and heard some very strange things over the years,” said Sum. “It might be best to keep an open mind.”
If you’re inclined to visit ghostly locations in and around Victoria, go to www.discoverthepast.com for a list of times for John Adams’ ghostly walks.
Otherwise, keep your eyes and ears open as you travel about on Halloween night. Who knows what you’ll see?