Tour de horror reveals real hauntings

Vancouver Trolley Company’s two-and-a-half-hour halloween trolley tour touches on the city’s bloody history.

By Kristi Alexandra
[culture editor]

If you really want to get scared this halloween, skip the Stanley Park haunted train ride. Skip Playland’s Fright Nights. Skip the haunted nursery horror houses. That’s kids’ stuff.

Go for the real hauntings; visit the bloodiest parts of the city where unspeakable acts have taken place; visit the graves of the horribly murdered.

And if you don’t know how to stake out those places, then hop aboard the Vancouver Trolley Company’s Haunted Trolley Tour. The two-and-a-half-hour excursion will take you to the city’s most notorious haunts, from unsolved mysteries like “the babes in the woods,” a pair of twin boys who were axed to death in Stanley Park, to the  infamous Kosberg family murders where 17-year-old Stephen Kosberg drugged his parents and four siblings and hacked them to death in their sleep on Christmas eve of 1965.

A trip to the Vancouver Police Museum shows the axe from the Kosberg family murder, still with actual blood and a single strand of blonde hair hanging from the blade.

The trolley picks up passengers at Canada Place and circles the city, first starting with the Fairmont’s Vancouver Hotel. The Fairmont Vancouver is home to one of the best known local ghosts, “the lady in red.” The legend behind the lady in red goes that the woman was a frequent patron of the hotel, until she died in a car accident in front the hotel in the 1940s.

Since then, she’s been seen wandering the 14th floor and making stops along the elevator, appearing in hotel rooms. For those who don’t know, the 14th floor of many hotels and buildings is the 13th, as some elevators skip from 12 to 14, avoiding the common stigma of a 13th floor.

The lady in red is known to be a benevolent ghost, but eternally stuck in the Vancouver Fairmont Hotel nonetheless.

The trolley moves along afterwards to Stanley Park, where much of the land is a Coast Salish burial ground–like the cricket field often used by families on the weekends.

But where the park’s most prominent paranormal activity happens is the spot where the “babes in the woods” were found.

Two small skeletons were found in Stanley Park in 1953, wearing aviator caps and toting tin lunch-boxes. The skeletons were found by a parks board gardener, under piles of leaves and a woman’s oilskin coat. Beside the skeletons was a woman’s shoe, leading investigators to believe the murder suspect was a female.
Apart from that, compromised DNA tests revealed that the skeletons were a boy and a girl, one around eight years old, the other 10.

In 1998, when new DNA tests were done, the children’s teeth revealed that both of the murder victims were male. The babes in the woods murder still remains unsolved.

As does the murder of 22-year-old Janet Smith, who died in one of four possible locations around Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

The trolley takes passengers around  Shaughnessy, where several stops are made at lavish-looking Victorian houses and buildings.

Smith is rumoured to have been murdered by drug-smuggler Frederick Baker at a Baker houseparty (the Bakers were a wealthy family of playboys), and then her body moved to different locations after her actual death. The murder weapon, a gun, was compromised after the first policeman to see the body touched it, making fingerprinting impossible.

The trolley stops at the graveyard where Smith is buried, and passengers go pay respects to her grave.

But the eeriest stop on the trolley tour is that of the most haunted house in Vancouver: a large home on the corner of King Edward and Cambie that is built on an ancient native burial ground. The house, indefinitely haunted, has driven out many families who’ve lived in the home–it was even stigmatized enough to continually be a bargain home.

Stories of babies mysteriously being placed on windowsills, ghosts packing resident’s bags and other warnings have led the home to only be able to be occupied by Buddhist monks. Monks who can restore peace and deflect negative energy felt by the past patrons of the home.

The Vancouver Trolley’s horrifying-but-educational tour stands a test that no other halloween-themed attraction can: the stories aren’t seasonal. Vancouver is haunted all-year-round.

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