Summoning the Spirits of New Westminster
Features / October 26, 2017
Peer into six of the most haunted places in the city
As one of the oldest cities in Western Canada, it’s no surprise that New Westminster is home to a slew of ghost stories. The Great Fire, a blaze that nearly levelled the area in 1898, helped stoke the rumors that something lurks in the dark corners of the city, and as the years passed New West became increasingly seen as one of the most haunted areas in British Columbia.
Over a century of supposed supernatural occurrences have taken place within its borders since Queen Victoria affectionately named it “The Royal City” in 1859. Below are six of the scariest spots that ghost hunters from near and far find themselves compelled to investigate.
It’s said that a young woman in a white, Victorian-era dress roams the grounds of the Fraser Cemetery, waving at visitors and directing them towards particular stones in the grass. Some visitors also report visions of a little boy perched on benches or playing on certain structures, but both of these figures are quick to vanish.
To date, no malevolent hauntings have been documented among the tombstones themselves. The cemetery, however, has a particularly unnerving atmosphere. It was established on Richmond Street in 1869 and many of the people buried there have occupied the cemetery since the early 1900’s, their graves grown over with moss and eroded by harsh weather. Few, if any, still receive visitors.
There is a certain solemnity to most burial grounds, but there’s something more to Fraser Cemetery. What, or whom, that something might be is still uncertain.
New Westminster Secondary School
A particularly mysterious case, the legitimacy of the hauntings of New Westminster Secondary School are hotly debated by those who’ve taught or attended class there.
According to legend, a boy drowned in a pool in the basement of the school, beneath what is now known as the Massey Theatre, sometime in the 80s. After his body was found, the school had the pool filled in and started using the basement for storage, building the still-in-use Massey Theatre above it. Security guards have said to been frightened by the fleeting spectre of a young boy lying face-down in the basement or standing in the theatre. What’s more, some say they’ve seen orbs of light flitting through the school’s music room, heard a man’s voice shouting from the basement where an archery range once was, or seen a mysterious boy in the woodworking shop, where another child was said to have lost his life.
While many graduates and faculty members attest to the existence of a pool in the school’s basement in the 80s, others argue that there has never been one in the building. Current administration confirms that, at the very least, current staff have no knowledge of a pool there today. Still, some say that they saw the pool with their own eyes before it was filled in near the end of the decade.
If that sounds too scary to be true, never fear; there is a proven fact that would cause any visitor to New Westminster Secondary School to feel uneasy. According to Dianne London, a citizen of New Westminster who attended the school in the 1950’s, over five acres of the building was constructed without proper decommission on top of the Douglas Road Cemetery, which was initially used as a pioneer graveyard and eventually became the burial site for prisoners, stillborn babies, mentally ill patients from Riverview, the impoverished, and Chinese, Sikh, and First Nations persons.
This ominous structure looms tall and sullen over Royal Avenue, where it now serves as a museum and archive. It was once occupied by the Irving family, with Captain Irving moving in in 1865. The family sold the lot to the City of New Westminster in the 50s, and although their bodies are not physically in the home today, many believe that the Irvings’ presence still lingers there.
Your basic scares, like unexplained noises and movement, are commonplace in Irving House, but some of the apparitions that visitors witness are quite unusual. In the main dining room, the walls appear to shiver and an identifiable voice repeatedly asks for a name to be spoken. Upstairs, the trophies turn to watch passersby. In the master bedroom, where Captain Irving died, an indentation in the mattress is commonly reported.
Walking around Irving House, peering between the lace curtains into dark windows among the rows of scarlet flowers outside, it’s hard not to catch a chill. For the brave, tours are held there from 12:00 to 4:00, Wednesdays to Sundays every week.
Bernie Legge Theatre
In the grand scheme of New Westminster’s history, this site is relatively new. It has existed for around 50 years but, located underneath a dense canopy of trees in Queen’s Park, has still fallen subject to suspicious and fearful murmurings. In October, bright red Christmas lights line the shingles of the stout building, and caution tape can be seen peeking out of the mud leading up to its doorstep.
Employees past and present attest that three entities frequent the Bernie Legge Theatre: “The Woman in White” who presents herself in the form of blinding white lights darting between the seats, a little boy who kicks the back of the seats, and an old fisherman who can be seen in reflections in the theatre’s lobby and green room.
An anonymous commenter on the Northern Paranormal Investigations’ website, who had been working at the theatre for a year at the time of commenting, claims that there is also a dungeon—more likely, a basement—“where even the most skeptical of people can’t help but feel a sense of great fear.”
“Actresses back in the 80s and 90s have told stories where they felt something grabbing them from behind, like long invisible arms trying to wrap around them. No one ever goes to the theatre alone after dark. Strange things happen that defy logic and reason all too often. Lights flickering and strange noises are so common, we don’t even pay any attention to those things anymore,” the commenter wrote on Aug. 6.
The Met Hotel
A man named George once checked into the 120 year-old Met Hotel, but he never left. At least that’s what the staff at the hotel, who commonly deal with inexplicable electronic malfunctions such as elevator doors opening and closing without anyone around calling for it, believe.
The hotel stands as the second oldest in New Westminster, and was one of the only structures that survived the Great Fire.
The resident ghoul at the Met was affectionately named “George” by the hotel’s front desk manager, Sean Thomson, who resides in the hotel. But the staff aren’t the only ones who feel a presence in the building.
During the spring of 2016, an anxious review for the Met was left on TripAdvisor by user RaeWoman.
“This hotel is definitely haunted,” they wrote. “I woke up in the middle of the night with that very clear, distinct feeling, and needless to say, it was very hard to get back to sleep! It felt like a presence was hovering, standing over beside the bed! Very creepy indeed.”
Upon visiting the Met on a rainy evening, concierge Ocean Mackay admits that “there could be spirits roaming around, because there have been a couple of deaths and it’s so old.”
The only chilling experience she has had is the movement and opening of the elevator without request, although the building’s basement does give her and her coworkers the creeps.
The Paramount Gentleman’s Club
Nowadays it’s a no-booze strip club, but not long ago this location was a popular theatre that played host to a sequence in the original adaptation of Stephen King’s It. A dated neon sign bearing its namesake adorns the Paramount, which seems to have a more hair-raising history than most would suspect.
A bouncer at the club, Sam Singh, claims to have come face-to-face with the spirits who reside there. He is often one of the last people to leave, and has felt several presences during his time at the Paramount.
“I guess my favourite story is this one time we went backstage,” he says. “It was my manager, myself, and one other guy. We heard the chairs move around and didn’t think anything of it, but when we came back around to the floor, one of the chairs had come to the dead centre of the stage.”
He has seen and heard bathroom doors slam shut, sinks start running on their own, and people running up and down the halls.
“A lot of things move … We sometimes see things that aren’t really there,” he says. “There’s this one area where, every time I go there, I get chills.”
He goes on: “We always see this woman in a white dress standing above us, because there are four separate floors upstairs. At the very top one, from the third floor, we can see on the top one that there’s somebody standing up there staring at us. But when we go there, there’s nobody.”
The woman looks like one of the girls who would be working in the club, Singh says. Recently, he used a Ouija board in the club and believes that he channelled a four year-old boy.
“I don’t like telling this one because sometimes it’s hard to believe,” he says. “Another coworker of mine heard the chairs move but we were in the front office, so we went into the club to rearrange the chairs again but I turned around and freaked out and was like, ‘What the hell?’ and he saw something too, but we looked under the table and saw a boy crawling out of it. A little boy.”
According to the staff, the owners were approached by a Canadian paranormal society, but refused to host an investigation.