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New book explores Vancouver Island ghost stories

Author Shanon Sinn presents the facts in ‘The Haunting of Vancouver Island’
Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin Author Shanon Sinn says Nanaimo’s Bastion is believed by some to be haunted by ghostly axe murderer. The heritage site is featured in Sinn’s new book, The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side.

In 1999 Shanon Sinn saw a light he couldn’t explain hovering in the trees on a cliff overlooking Keeha Beach near Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

He tried to investigate the incident the following day, but couldn’t find any trails to the top and there was no way for a person to reach the place where he saw the light. He recorded the event in his journal.

Sinn first moved to the Island in 1995 and following a period in the military he returned to Nanaimo in 2012 to study writing at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and began work as a research assistant at the Nanaimo Museum where he led the “ghost tours.” At that time Sinn started collecting Vancouver Island history books and taking note of supernatural occurrences. He had also been keeping a blog covering Celtic folklore and mythology that gradually grew to include Island ghost stories.

“Between that and I joined this group that looks at hauntings more from a skeptical believer kind of perspective, so I had all these things kind of coming together and I realized that there was a demand for it. So I knew that this was a book that I needed to write and that I’d already inadvertently been making connections all over the Island for years and collecting these stories without realizing it,” Sinn said.

“I must have known on some level I would do this because if you read it you’re like, ‘Holy smokes, how did this guy read all of these books?’ Because there are so many references. I think the bibliography is something like seven pages long.”

Sinn’s book, The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side is now available and the author will be holding a reading at VIU on Oct. 27 and at Chapters in Nanaimo the following day.

The book covers reported hauntings and ghost and monster sightings from across the Island, both famous and little known. He said it was a “balancing act” to try to include a fair representation. He said the more populated areas like Nanaimo and Victoria have the most stories but added that each region has its main spooky encounter.

“Port Alberni is the lady that walks on water, Tofino is the Schooner Restaurant, Comox Valley is the Forbidden Plateau, up by Campbell River it’s actually the Heriot Bay Inn, which is actually on Quadra Island right across a narrow stretch of water,” he said.

“And then you get more north. Alert Bay is in a lot of Kwakwaka’wakw stories with the Sasquatch - just using that word for convenience.”

Sinn wanted to include First Nations folklore as well, as tales of spirits and creatures sometimes jibe with modern ghost stories. One chapter is an interview with Chief James Swan of Ahousaht.

Sinn said his goal is to look at these incidents from an impartial perspective, presenting evidence in the form of personal or second-hand accounts and historical documents to allow readers to come their own conclusions.

“People are having these experiences, that’s indisputable. But some people are like, ‘They’re all liars,’ or, ‘They’re all crazy.’ There are theories about everything from sound waves to hallucinations to, yeah, mental illness. And then there are other things, too, like people like Stephen Hawking believe in other dimensions and then there are religious or philosophical-type possibilities,” Sinn said.

“So I think with that many people having experiences we should look at it more seriously, instead of this sort of reality TV, paranormal ghost hunting, really silly way that we’ve been approaching this subject.”

WHAT’S ON… Shanon Sinn will read from The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side at Vancouver Island University’s Arbutus Room above the cafeteria in Building 300 on Oct. 27 at 5:30 p.m. Another reading is taking place at Nanaimo Chapters on Oct. 28 at 12 p.m.

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