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Haunted Vancouver

This rough-and-tumble town was incorporated as a city in 1886, so there are plenty of local 'haunts' to experience

Eva Takakanew
Writer, Photographer

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For those who love the thrill of the unknown and the paranormal, Vancouver has a long haunted history — from the eerie tale of “The Lady in Red,” the socialite spirit of the swanky Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, to the train conductor who is still seen on his trolley inside The Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, to the landmark Stanley Park and its lore of haunted forests.

These places have earned a reputation as some of the country’s spookiest spots. The histories and stories behind these sites are fascinating and will make your hair stand on end. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the tales associated with these places will leave you feeling a bit more curious and perhaps make you think twice before walking down a dark laneway in the city.

Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886 and was a rough-and-tumble port town, so there are plenty of local “haunts” to check out, including The Penthouse Nightclub, the Sam Kee Building, the Vogue, Stanley and Orpheum theatres, Waterfront Station and many more.

In the Downtown Eastside, its numerous SROs (single room occupancy hotels) are widely regarded as being hotbeds for paranormal activity, including The notorious Balmoral Hotel, which is in the process of being demolished.

For this story, I decided to explore firsthand the haunted tales and legends of three places: the Old Spaghetti Factory, The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Stanley Park. I invite you to come along. 

All aboard the phantom train 

Recently, as I walked down the dimly lit streets of Vancouver in Gastown — the oldest neighbourhood in the city — a chill ran down my spine. The city in which I have lived my whole life is known for its vibrant culture and busy nightlife, but I suddenly felt a wave of underlying darkness that seemed to seep through the cracks of the historic buildings and cobblestone roads. A favourite restaurant for tourists and residents alike, The Old Spaghetti Factory is well known as a haunted hot spot… yet from the outside, the place looks like a charming Italian eatery.

But the moment I stepped inside, I felt a sense of unease; the atmosphere was heavy and the air seemed to hang with a mysterious energy. As I was seated at a table near the old train car — now a dining area — I couldn’t help but notice the lights flickering. I heard the distant sound of the train’s conductor yelling, “All aboard! All aboard!”, which to me, seemed to echo throughout the restaurant. 

Apparently the conductor died in a train crash at the turn of the century and has taken up residence in British Columbian Electric Railway car number 53 — a decommissioned trolley from the 1950s.

The waitress interrupted my observations and smiled as if she knew what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had ever encountered the conductor’s ghostly presence.

As I began eating my food, I couldn’t shake the sensation that I was being watched, as shadows danced along the walls and every floor creak whispered to me. The Old Spaghetti Factory has an eerie charm which is impossible to ignore. Glamourous ghost Believing in ghosts and the spirit realm is a fascinating aspect of the human experience. There will be those who dismiss the idea outright, saying it is superstition. Yet there are too many accounts of the supernatural and unexplained phenomena to dismiss the possibility. Either way, the stories certainly stoke one’s imagination.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver at 900 West Georgia St., built in 1939, is a luxurious hotel and one of Vancouver’s most iconic haunted locations. It’s not just the living who occupy its rooms. Legend has it that the spirit of a former guest — a Vancouver socialite named Jennie Pearl Cox — walks the top floors in an elegant red evening gown. She is said to have died tragically in the 1940s in a car accident just outside the hotel.

She apparently stayed at the hotel often and loved dancing in its grand ballroom. She is always seen dressed in a red gown and is most frequently glimpsed on the 14th floor. Guest have reported hearing unexplained footsteps in their rooms and her apparition — sometimes disappearing through closed elevator doors — leaves a trail of whispers and goosebumps in its wake.

If you are ever brave enough to spend the night there, maybe you too will catch sight of the other worldly.

‘Babes in the Woods’

killer remains a mystery

Forest phenomena

It’s hard not to be intrigued by the possibility of a world beyond our own comprehension. The question remains: are these hauntings real?

X̱wáýx̱way (Stanley Park) is an oasis of beauty on the edge of downtown Vancouver. But beneath its lush forest canopy lies a much darker side of unexplained phenomena.

One of the park’s many legends involves a woman in white — an apparition searching the park’s pathways for her lost lover. She is described as a heartbroken woman in a flowing white gown who died near Prospect Point after a fight with her lover. Terrified witnesses have reported seeing scary shadows darting amidst the trees and hearing strange noises such as eerie laughter or mournful cries.

And Stanley Park is the location for the infamous “Babes in the Woods” murder case, which has remained unsolved for 70 years.

In 1953, two tiny skeletons were found in Stanley Park and became known as the Babes in the Woods. In February 2022, using genetic genealogy methods, they were identified as Derek and David D’Alton, aged seven and six when they were murdered in 1947. The killer, however, remains a mystery, adding to the park’s sinister pedigree.

Another tale dates back to the early 1900s, when the nine o’clock gun, a time-keeping cannon, was installed near Brockton Point. The legend involves the ghost of the former cannon keeper, who met his tragic end when the cannon backfired. Many believe he continues to lurk around the area.

My personal favourite legend of Stanley Park involves the dark lineage of Deadman’s Island. The small, isolated islet located just off the park’s seawall has a grim history as a centuries-old burial ground for Indigenous Peoples and was later used as a quarantine site during the smallpox epidemic in the 1890s. If the afflicted recovered, they were able to return home. If not, they never left.

On recent walks I’ve heard disembodied cries of the restless spirits echoing across the water and have seen strange apparitions that vanish into thin air if I ventured too close.

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, in October, the veil between two worlds — the living and those who have left — grows thin. Who knows? If you pay attention, you might just have a ghostly encounter of your own.

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Eva Takakanew

Eva Takakanew

Writer, Photographer

Eva Takakanew (Thunderchild First Nation) considers herself a “jack of all trades” when it comes to creative pursuits. She loves writing and photography, and is a member of The Shift peer newsroom at Megaphone magazine. She has lived in Vancouver all of her life.

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