Unearth Victoria’s dark past and haunted present on a spooky and engaging walking tour, run by a local family.
Victoria is said to be the most haunted city in British Columbia. This should not come as a surprise to locals, who might have heard stories about the famous Empress Hotel and Craigdarroch Castle. Nothing screams ghosts and ghouls like Halloween, which makes October the perfect time to explore the spooky myths and legends that Victoria holds by joining a “Ghostly Walk” led by Discover the Past, a local walking tour company.
My tour began at Market Square, where I was greeted by our guide, Emily, who was decked out in an all-black outfit. Her neck was adorned with a skeleton-print scarf, and her dress was decorated with images of cats, spiders, bats, and skulls under a flowing leather coat. She wore a microphone and carried a black pole with a silver skeleton on top, which she held in the air as we walked through downtown, making her easy to follow.
Emily began the tour by asking the locals of the group if they’d ever seen a ghost, saying that she usually received a nonchalant “yes” in response. Victorians are accustomed to hauntings, she said, given the history of our city which was built on stolen land and graveyards of both Indigenous peoples and settlers. On top of that, a mix of gruesome crimes and tragic accidents have left certain Victorian spirits restless.
Emily told a number of spine-chilling stories as our group followed her around downtown. As a bit of a true-crime fan, I was expecting that the night would consist mostly of stories that I had already heard, but almost all of her stories were new to me.
One of the first spots that Emily took us to was the foot of the Johnson Street bridge, where we could see the Delta Hotel standing tall across the water. As we huddled around Emily, she began to speak in a low and serious voice, as if revealing a secret. The group was silent and still as she told us of the unexplainable experiences that workers had in a particular spot of the construction site while building the hotel. Each time someone passed over this spot, Emily said, their electrical tools would suddenly die and their hearts would begin racing as their bodies filled with panic. They would go on to learn that this was where 44-year-old Agnes Bings had been brutally murdered on the night of Sept. 29, 1899. The most shocking part of her death was the manner in which her body was found, in an almost identical condition to the victims of London’s “Jack the Ripper.” Is it possible, Emily wondered, that the unidentified London criminal had migrated to Victoria 10 years after his infamous killing spree and committed this violent act? The crime will almost certainly remain unsolved, and we will never be entirely sure who’s to blame.
Another story brought us to Chinatown. Here we heard the tale of an angry and bitter young man who couldn’t handle being rejected by a girl by the name of Yow Kum. Upon being rejected, the man erupted in rage and attacked Kum. As Emily explained that the girl had been decapitated, she pulled off her skull-print scarf, revealing a horizontal line of dripping fake blood across her neck. She turned and motioned for the group to follow, though we were stunned for a moment before we continued walked.
According to Emily, the ghost of Kum’s killer has never rested after committing such a senseless act. It’s said that his ghost can be seen running through Fan Tan Alley, just as the killer had in 1889, while trying to escape police after committing his crime.
To hear more stories of vengeful spirits, you’ll have to take part in a ghostly walk yourself. Stories include a local shipwreck, which Emily referred to as the “ship that didn’t want to die,” moving graveyards, and a street car disaster.
Tours take place every night in October. Tickets range in price depending on age, but Discover the Past offers student-priced tickets at $16. An hour was the perfect amount of time for the tour, which is also offered in French. Plus, the company has been around since 1999 and is run by a local father and son duo.
Overall, I’d say the experience is worth your money. Emily provided a chilling and theatrical experience, despite the fact that her storytelling was often interrupted by a passing bus or the loud music of a restaurant patio. Even on a cold October night, Victoria is inevitably buzzing with the presence of its locals, both alive… and dead.