Ceperley House – Burnaby Art Gallery
The following reports detail several visits to a Lower Mainland art gallery which has been known in investigative circles as one of the most haunted buildings in BC.
The gallery is housed in a three-storey, 32-room mansion built in 1910; it has been operating there since the late 1960s.
Throughout its history the mansion has housed four wealthy families (1911-1939), a congregation of Benedictine monks (1939-1954), a controversial religious cult (1954-66) and a university fraternity (1966-1967).
While also rumoured to have been a hospice for terminally ill tuberculosis patients at some point in the 1950s, it is the cult which lends this tale much of its tragedy.
The Temple for the More Abundant Life was a US–based group headed up by William Franklin Wolsey, a convicted bigamist who insisted his followers call him “Archbishop John I”.
The group operated a Christian boarding school for orphaned children at the mansion, and it wasn’t long before allegations of physical and sexual abuse began to circulate throughout the community.
According to some reports, Wolsey had an extremely volatile temper, and the children misbehaved or failed in their lessons, the cult leader would lock them in the dark, tiny closets of the third floor dormitories – sometimes for days at a time.
“When a six-year old boy with a slight speech impediment couldn't keep up with other children during the recital of the Lord's Prayer, Wolsey was enraged, and the boy was so traumatized by the incident that he reverted to baby talk." – Robert C. Belyk, author of Ghosts: True Stories From British Columbia.
Other books have chronicled even darker aspects of what happened to children at the mansion:
"Children of the Temple’s school were taught that they would die if they did not believe what was taught them in the classroom. Youngsters who displeased or disappointed the Archbishop in any way were subject to the cruellest of punishments, and every child was forced to participate in the unorthodox 'Sex and Hygiene' course, which Archbishop John taught personally."- Jo-Anne Christensen, author of Ghost Stories Of British Columbia.
In 1959, a report by the Vancouver Sun newspaper exposed Wolsey as having outstanding warrants in the US for charges of extortion and spousal abuse. He immediately fled BC, although it is believed he was later apprehended and extradited to the US for trial.
Written by John McCormack
This particular mansion has a reputation as being one of the most “physically haunted” buildings in BC, meaning there have been numerous accounts of object movement and interaction by unseen paranormal entities. Some of these have been experienced by our members. Others have been reported to us by visitors to the mansion.
- mysterious voices, screams and laughter
- footsteps heard in empty hallways and stairwells
- lights and electrical appliances turning on and off
- doors which lock, unlock, open and close
- padlocks on doors which rattle violently when staff pass by
- thuds coming from within the walls and ceiling
- paintings which leap from their place on the wall to the floor, occasionally striking gallery patrons
- tools in the basement workshop disappearing and reappearing in different places
- kitchen utensils which have moved on their own accord in front of several witnesses
- electrical interference with audio and video equipment during town meetings
- outdoor sprinklers turning on and off by themselves
However, there have also been occasional sightings of a variety of spirits by the art gallery’s staff and patrons:
- a little girl skipping her way across the south lawn
- a young woman in white peering out of the third floor dormitory room windows
- an elderly woman in white wandering the halls and stairwells
- a monk dressed in a habit descending the stairwells
- a well dressed man standing in the central gallery viewing area
- numerous dark, shadowy figures
- strange flashes of blue light
- strange blue sparks crackling across the floor
Photo: Heather Anderson – April 2001
Photographer's Note: I feel that this photograph is worthy of consideration because of the circumstances surrounding the moment that I took the photo. John and I had walked past the steps, and we both felt as if we were not alone and commented on this to one another. I turned around and fired the camera in the direction we both felt this. We were a bit surprised after the film was processed, to see this. I am open to the fact that this could be moisture or other, but when presented to a professional film developer, he felt this was not the case.
The camera was a basic model automatic 35mm Pentax.
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