Ghosts of Vancouver: our city’s best-known haunts

Are they really haunted? You’ll have to find out for yourself. These are the stories we’ve heard.

Evoking a medieval French castle, the Chateau-style Hotel Vancouver, complete with steep copper roof (now painted green), ornate dormers, and creepy gargoyles, is alleged to be haunted by an elegant “lady in red” who patrols the 14th floor. This fashionable apparition has reportedly been seen walking on an invisible ledge by hotel guests, employees and film crews. It is said that the hotel’s elevator often stops on the 14th floor, and as the elevator door opens on its own, the lady in red is seen gliding through the hallway . . . .

Hotel Vancouver – Archibald & Schofield, 1928-1939. Reference code AM54-S4-: Hot P70

This medieval style, fortress-like landmark is Vancouver ‘s earliest drill hall. Its notable features include two rounded towers complete with battlements, and rusticated stone trim. Three and a half foot thick walls and a parapet made from Gabriola Island limestone rest solidly on a foundation of huge granite blocks. The Hall has always housed Vancouver’s and British Columbia’s senior militia regiment, The British Columbia Regiment – Duke of Connaught’s Own. Various eerie sounds are the most commonly reported evidence of other-worldly residents: footsteps. . . . voices. . . . books falling from shelves. . . . items falling from walls. However, the image of a man has been observed in the Senior NCO’s and Officer’s messes. Little is known of the identity of those who haunt the Drill Hall, but the military personnel who trained here saw action in the Boer War, as well as the First and Second World Wars.

Beatty Street Drill Hall – Dept. of Public Works, 1899-1901. Reference code AM54-S4-: Bu P721

Inside the Beatty Street Drill Hall . . . . perhaps the very hallway where mysterious footsteps are often heard. Art Grice, photographer (used with permission). Reference code AM336-S3-2-: CVA 677-925

Built for industrialist, war hero, and politician General Alexander Duncan McRae, this stately Shaughnessy mansion is believed to be home to as many as seven ghosts. One, an older man in World War I uniform, is thought to be that of the General himself, another may be his wife Blaunche. Three others, known as “the Pranksters,” are thought to be First World War vets who died when Hycroft was a Veteran’s hospital and convalescent home from 1943 to 1960. One more is thought to be the head nurse from that period; while the origins of a mysterious “crying ghost” remain unknown. Reportedly, the ghosts are seldom seen or heard from during weddings or functions hosted by the University Women’s Club, who has owned the mansion since 1962, but they do not seem to like film crews who make frequent use of the property for film shoots. In particular, it is said the ghosts of Hycroft particulary detest hosting science fiction shoots, such as X-Files , or Poltergeist.

Hycroft Mansion – Thomas Hooper, 1908-1912. Leonard Frank photo. Reference code AM54-S4-: Bu P689

This shadowy view of the sumptuous interior at Hycroft Mansion makes clear why science fiction film makers find it such a desirable location for filming. Reference code AM872-: CVA 434-5

When it opened in 1941 as a first-run movie house, the Vogue Theatre, with its sophisticated Art Deco style, was the hottest ticket in town. Designed as well to handle performing arts including concerts and Broadway shows, the Vogue hosted some of the biggest names in the business. The “who’s who” set of Vancouver would regularly fill its nearly 1200 seats to take in the latest in entertainment and cultural events. A 1988 restoration project brought back the theatre’s original splendour and installed a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. The theatre is said to house at least two ghosts: one that dwells in the basement dressing room and another that lurks in the wing of the left orchestra. Staff often report unexplained noises such as footsteps, but there have also been reports of apparitions of a tall man in a white tuxedo and black bow tie. Allegedly this dapper spectre was even spotted in the aisle by a well-known performer from on stage during the middle of his performance.

Vogue Theatre – Kaplan & Sprachman 1940-1941. Vancouver (B.C.). Planning Department photo. Reference code COV-S511-: CVA 780-52

2 responses to “Ghosts of Vancouver: our city’s best-known haunts

  1. You’ve left out the Seaforth Armoury!
    Most soldiers of the Seaforth Highlanders who’ve served for any length of time are familiar with “The Piper” – who has been heard both by day and by night(sometimes by groups of people at the same time) for at least the last 40 years.
    Another common experience is ‘the ghost of the back stairs’ – there is one stairway that many soldiers and visitors find ‘uncomfortable’ (one officer’s dog – ordinarily the most gentle of creatures – would not even consent to be carried up these stairs). The sound of a man walking in hobnailed boots have often been heard in this area of the building – so frequently that they are no longer remarked upon!
    Some visitors (and particularly female visitors, for some reason) to the Sergeant’s Mess have often expressed extreme reluctance to be left alone in the main room, saying that they have a strong feeling of being watched while standing in the empty room. This has not been reported when there are more than a very few members of the Mess present (who are, after all, Gentlemen who make an effort to entertain their guests). Over the years several Barmen (me, for one) have reported seeing from the corner of their eye a figure ‘in old-fashioned uniform’ standing at the bar, which is not there when they turn their head. There has been a recurring ‘cold spot’ at one place in the room which coincidentally is where an officer collapsed and died during a formal dinner.
    Lastly, I have had several accounts from soldiers over the years whom when standing on or crossing the Parade Square late at night have heard ‘indistinct crowd noises’, and the very strong feeling that they were standing in the middle of a large (but quite invisible) crowd.
    Of course I don’t believe in ghosts, or any of that sort of nonsense – but I have stood in the cold spot and seen my breath, I’ve heard the Piper on more than one occasion, and if nobody is looking I go the long way ’round rather than go up those stairs.
    Yours Aye
    Captain (retired) Robert MacDonald CD FSA Scot
    (served 1st Bn Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1975-2001)
    Regimental Historian
    RHQ Seaforth Highlanders

  2. Heather Gordon

    Thank you for these ghost tales. There are many in Vancouver, and we haven’t heard all of them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *