“Victoria’s Most Haunted” Gets A New Book by Ian Gibbs!

7 May

51nsewsef1l-_sx322_bo1204203200_By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Presentation at Bolen Books 
1644 Hillside Ave #111
on May 9, 7pm

Many long-time residents of Victoria, British Columbia will not dispute the fact that this garden city is haunted. More ghosts are said to spook specific streets here, and most of the downtown core and neighbouring districts are covered in Ian Gibb’s debut book, “Victoria’s Most Haunted.”

From bars to homes to restaurants and schools, this variety of sites is welcome. A few places are missed — some of which I had the fortune to check out during my time with PARAVI, a local paranormal investigative society (understandably not mentioned in the book because it’s no longer in operation) — but to get every story crammed in means obtaining permission not only from the group but also from the current business operators to talk about them.

I have found The Ghost Story Guy‘s collection (his handle in this paranormal pop culture business) to be a concise look at places both familiar and not. Gibbs has the Sixth Sense. While he does not use it to communicate with the spirit world, he can feel the energies out and describe what the mojo is like. I am thrilled his book covers a few new places previous publications have not. At least to my knowledge, not many new stories made it to print in the last 12 or so years. I heard of a few through the news, namely a photo of a supposed face materializing down a flight of stairs at Hatley Castle, but I did not spot anything when the image was published.

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Gibbs recounts recent activities and his brushes with the occult world with a narrative style that’s easy to visualize, and his personal account of his time working at Christ Church Cathedral School is this book’s highlight.

I smiled when I read his entry about the Young Building (Camosun College) because he included my own experiences there. This book is great by including historical notes in some chapters. This school’s most iconic building was built in 1913 and it was used as a normal school in the early years before being turned to a hospital. Of course, its purpose was changed in later years. Although Gibbs did not include the just-as-haunted Richmond House at the Lansdowne campus, because the ability to track down and talk to witnesses is not always easy, the accounts from staff to student shows he wants different perspectives. I related to him what I heard when I did my research for my college paper’s Halloween issue and had at least four experiences during my education here; half of which I’d say could easily be logically explained away. For those places that do not want to be listed, I’m sure the missing entries, like any mention of Doris Gravlin at the Victoria Golf Course, are considered overdone in comparison to Craigdarroch Castle, where the museum operators prefer to acknowledge the building is not haunted despite what witnesses say.

I became interested in the paranormal back in my early teens, but when cliques were the mainstays and the subject was not often openly talked about, I did not want to heavily advertise my interest. For this hobby, all the groups (even back then) exist to achieve the same goals and to say one gang is better than another always bugged me. Each club can use different methodologies, but when it decides to put on exhibitions, like “public ghost hunts,” I often wonder if the organization is simply offering circus-style entertainment for the curious or hoping proof of an afterlife will manifest when more witnesses are present to validate it? For the latter, a collective imagination wanting manifestation to happen can sway the results. Personal experiences make for better tales and Gibbs is wise to say, “The stories are meant to entertain, and neither the publisher nor the author claim that these stories represent fact. Additionally, it is not the author’s intention to influence anyone’s beliefs; instead, the author’s wish is that these stories will inspire, thrill, delight, and comfort.”

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Short of going to Britain, which has centuries of history and scarier tales of terror to go by, this corner of the Pacific Northwest has plenty for purveyors of this paranormal subculture to enjoy. True to the genre (i.e. in what you see on a few televised programs), Gibbs’ book is heavy on places readers can visit and yet include a few inaccessible places. The variety of tales he tells is excellent!

As for what is next from this author, I can see him embarking on a haunted road trip to examine all of Vancouver Island. Who knows, perhaps a look at Mount Tzouhalem near Duncan and Beban House in Nanaimo are next? Up in Northern Vancouver Island, the natural spring Devil’s Bath (located in Alice Lake Park) suggests some kind of dark history. To discover that past requires talking to locals to distinguish what is fact from the folklore. The Forbidden Plateau within Strathcona Park has a past I’m very interested in! It’s supposed to be haunted by first nations people and these are the type of stories best heard by the campfire. In the meantime, I’ll happily read “Victoria’s Most Haunted” by the shimmering light of the fireplace one more time.

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