Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Happened That Night....

As you can see from my last post titled ‘How to Catch a Spider – Advice from Ros’, my friend Ros obviously has great powers over me. She sends me on these great adventures and I do what I’m told. I must be subconsciously scared of her or something because I always seem to do what she says. Recently she sent me on a wild-goose-find-the-haunted-well-chase, but that’s another story for another time.

I have a much better haunted story....

As she and I have an ‘appreciation’ for all things eerie, spooky and paranormal, she kindly advised me of a ‘seasonal’ event she saw advertised in the newspaper. As she lives quite a few hours away from me, accompanying me on this ‘investigation’ would be difficult so I was tasked this quest ALONE. The advertisement my friend Ros saw was not for a typical museum ‘tour’ of The Maritime Museum of BC, but for a ‘Haunted Hallways’ tour of the building.

The Maritime Museum of BC has artifacts and info from shipyards to shipwrecks, to discoveries to losses. Now that stuff is all well and good, and as traitorous to my British Columbian patriotism as this might seem, it’s just not my interest. But given the history of the building, well...

The building was first built as the Supreme Court back in around 1889. Back then when laws, thinking, and social graces where different, hangings were commonplace, and many of the convicted who were tried there were sentenced to death. But prior to that building’s existence, in its place was a jailhouse - complete with gallows. Hangings were a family event and bacon sandwiches and beer were served as refreshments. When the convicted was hung and the thrashing body stilled, “Who claims this body!?” was called out to the ‘audience.’ If no family member stepped forward to claim their loved one – which usually never happened for fear of association with such a derelict – the deceased was buried in the grounds of the jailhouse courtyard. When the jail was later torn down to make way for the Supreme Court to be built on top of the jailhouse, construction workers found skeletal remains. Finding buried bodies around Victoria was quite commonplace so the workers simply shrugged and continued building on top of the bodies (I’m no historian - this is just a brief summary- any errors in this recounting is mine). (For more info, visit

So back to my friend Ros and her special powers....

“You must go!” said Ros about the ‘Haunted Hallways’ tour.

“Should I?” I asked.

Silence on the other end of the phone was telling. The silent ‘duh’ urged me on.

So at 8pm on a Friday night I armed myself with a camera, an umbrella (like that would help – but it WAS raining, you see), my cell phone with 911 on speed dial, as well as packs of gum to gnaw on nervously, then headed to the museum.

Down-to-earth, passionate-about-her-job Christina gave us the grand tour starting with a history of the building. Her storytelling skills, her knowledge and historical facts mixed with local lore, sightings and experiences had everyone captivated. From room to room we ventured. First there was the room aptly called 'The Knot Room', built right on top of where the gallows was from the previous jailhouse. Accompanying stories and experiences left everyone – including me – with the chills. Then there was the holding cell room, where a ‘presence’ is still felt by many staff. A hallway known for an ghost looking for his wife had us furtively glancing around, eager yet apprehensive to catch a glimpse of this lost soul.

From stories of racism – indigenous people and the British didn’t see ‘eye to eye’ back then – of lost loves and betrayals, and downright violent deaths had us all captivated. From room to room we went, Christina's stories of historical fact laced with first-hand experiences with unsettled spirits had us all believing in the ‘what if.’ We had secret ‘behind the scenes’ tours, venturing up hidden staircases and into recently-discovered secret rooms. We ended up in the courtroom where the infamous hanging Judge Matthew Baillie Bebgie sentenced the convicted to hanging. (Note: The Supreme Court as it was then didn't have 'gallows' - the convicted were sent to a jailhouse off site to meet their fate (for the locals, there was jailhouse complete with gallows by Hillside Shopping Centre)

After an hour the tour ended (I, for one, wasn't 'done' and could definitely go back for more), concluding with a brief and spooky ‘lights out’ moment in the courtroom. I sat on one of the jury benches – the same benches where jury would help Judge Begbie lay down the law – and for a moment I felt my bum go cold. Seriously.

But let me get back to the beginning of the night...

Before the tour started, early attendees were allowed to tour the museum. I had a quick peek around the exhibits then found myself in a room sporting a few pictures of ships. What held my interest was what was in the back corner.

A big black safe, almost as high as your typical door, stood silently in the corner. I approached and took a few photos. My senses were on high alert during my self-guided museum tour, and as I was early, there weren’t many folks around. I snapped a few photos and wanted a close-up of the wording on the outside of the safe.

I barely bent my knees to access a better camera-view of the wording, when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my ankle and then...

My camera seized up. The screen went fuzzy as you can see from the photo, and remained that way for the rest of the tour. I couldn’t turn the camera off or on and no amount of button-pressing could fix it. I resorted to using the camera on my cell phone – a risky move, at that – and my camera didn’t ‘fix itself’ until almost two hours later, right down to the minute from when it first ‘went funny.’ Even when I later got home and plugged it in to charge, it still wouldn’t 'fix' itself. I have never had a problem with the camera before; it was fully charged and was seemingly all right prior to the evening.

I’ll let you ponder that and make up your own mind...

I later told Christina about my camera, sheepishly admitting to the 'coincidence' of it all and brushing it off in a manner of 'I know I am nuts, but....'

She waved off my concern: 'Oh, that happens to people's cameras all the time here' - like this was a normal occurrence.

In the end, it was a MOST fantastic night - one I will never forget. I lived to tell the tale, my camera is fine, and I will continue to do what Ros tells me to do.

Oh - and my ankle is fine.

(Note: The museum is being moved to the basement of the CPR building, where the renowned ‘Wax Museum’ used to be. The museum’s last days residing in the historic building are numbered, so the staff are going all-out, hosting tours and sharing first-hand experience tales of their experiences in the building. Be sure to check them out at
(Me in the court room sitting at The Hanging Judge Begbie's desk)

For more interesting facts about Bastion Square, Victoria, BC, where the building resides, please visit Bastion Square Info.

Thanks for reading!


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  2. I read in today's paper ( that the museum is closing that location on Tuesday so you made it just in time! So glad you listened to me. ;-) And what happened with your camera--very weird!

    1. Ros! I know! The whole thing was just so weird. Thanks for the attachment - although I'm happy the museum will still be around, I am sad to hear of it moving from such an 'atmospheric' building. And yes, I'm SO glad I listened to you! ;) Thanks for stopping by! Lisa

  3. Thanks for the tour, Lisa! Because of your vividly wonderful descriptions, I felt like I was with you in the museum. Looking forward to hearing what else Rose suggests you do :)

    1. Hi Jacqui - You are most welcome! I could have gone on and on and on about everything - including some of the amazing stories - but there was just so much! I was actually thinking of you during the tour - for the historical stuff :) Thanks so much for reading! Lisa

  4. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for the tour. I'm afraid to learn what else your friend Ros 'makes' you do. Is she a hypnotist? Because that would certainly explain it. :)
    I love that museum, Sylvie Grayson

    1. Hi Sylvie - yes, Ros is very powerful, indeed! I loved my adventure there and will be curious to see what happens to the building when the museum moves. I don't think the new tenants will be there for very long :) Thanks for stopping by ! Lisa