VICTORIA - Victoria's spooky reputation as one of the most haunted cities in Canada comes to life during 90-minute Ghostly Walks that cover the downtown's bloody back alleys, creepy turn-of-the-century buildings and the shimmering Inner Harbour.
The tourists and locals who gather at the harbour's edge for the evening ghost strolls will most certainly feel an eerie energy during what becomes an underground history lesson of the city's conflicting forces of First Nations grave sites, Gold Rush characters, European immigrants and whatever else the waves wash ashore.
There are no promises of actual ghost sightings, but, like fishing, Ghostly Walks visits the most likely haunts.
"Feel the energy," says tour guide John Adams, a government worker and historian who dons his ghost robes and skull-capped cane at night.
About two dozen walkers are asked to hold their hands apart and slowly move them together, feeling in the chilly night the unexplained energy that appears to get stronger as the hands get closer.
Adams says that's the ghostly energy surrounding Victoria.
"The energy, when we die it does not go away," Adams says. "It's all around us."
Victoria's numerous energy-storing rock outcroppings, the harbour tides and the emotional clashes of its cultures combine to produce a ghost's paradise.
"These ghosts howl and scream," Adams says. "Sometimes it's a smell, like your grandmother's perfume, or something falls. They want to let us know they are there."
Tonight's tour starts at the Inner Harbour and ends in Chinatown, a walk of less than two kilometres, but there are ghost stories round every corner.
Adams points out across the Inner Harbour to James Bay's Laurel Point Inn as an area ravaged by ghosts when European settlers destroyed local First Nations burial sites and built their homes and businesses.
The area was the frequent site of massive fires and reports of gangs of screaming ghouls chasing out the settlers. Adams says the wife of one business owner reported being chased by the ghouls and she ended up in a psychiatric ward, only to die of fright shortly afterward.
The nearby Gatsby Mansion, now a hotel and restaurant, receives regular reports of a severed head floating in one of the bedrooms, Adams says.
At Bastion Square, Adams declares: "This is the most haunted spot in Victoria."
It's located in the heart of Old-Town, where pubs, museums and restaurants abound, but Adams says every building has a ghost story.
The building with the most ghosts is the Maritime Museum of B.C., the former site of Victoria's old courthouse, complete with jail cells and gallows.
Adams says Bastion Square was the site of regular public hangings and the hanged were buried there too. Banging noises are often heard in the room where former hanging judge Matthew Begbie used to pound his gavel.
"The building is filled with ghosts," he said. "Even the gift shop is haunted."
Adams then moves through Waddington Alley toward Johnson Street, now a boutique shopping area but formerly the city's red light district.
He tells the story of 22-year-old Agnes Bings, who worked at the Pilgrim Bakery but disappeared one night. Her body was found days later in a state investigators said was a Jack the Ripper-style murder.
Adams says since her death there have been numerous sightings of a tormented young woman, screaming and flaying her arms, near where her body was discovered.
Adams stops at Fan Tan Alley, the thin, curving entrance to what was once Victoria's secret gambling rooms and opium dens.
Fan Tan Alley now boasts trendy clothing, music and holistic healing shops, but it's still one of the most haunted locations in the city, he says.
People in the alley today often feel pushes from behind, which many believe is the ghost of a young worker named Chung who fled through the alley years ago after murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend in a jealous rage.
Chung used a sword to decapitate the young woman, but, strangely, she does not haunt the area, says Adams. The building's owner, terrified of being forever haunted by the victim's ghost, staged one of Chinatown's most elaborate funerals to appease her spirit despite her tragic end.
If You Go...
If a Ghostly Walk is for you, call 250-384-6698 or check out www.discoverthepast.com.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and students; children ages 6-11 are $8. There's a family rate of $35.