SE Marine Drive – Townhouse Hauntings
The following is an account of our research and investigation into a number of strange happenings at a townhouse complex near SE Marine Drive in Vancouver, BC. This account is now featured in Susan Smitten's Canadian Ghost Stories Volume II
The complex is located near SE Marine Drive in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Killarney. It consists of 70 housing units built nearly eight years ago, and residents in at least six of these units have come forward to say they’ve had strange encounters with what they believe is to be paranormal.
Hundreds of years ago the Killarney region was a popular summer residence for a number of First Nations groups, including the ancestral relatives of today’s Squamish, Burrard and Musqueam bands.
The area was favored by those people for its lush forests, abundant wildlife and close proximity the Fraser River… unfortunately, those elements were also attractive to the British settlers of the 1800s.
While we have yet to find evidence to suggest that natives were forcibly removed from this particular region, it is a documented fact that during this period it was common for white settlers to use violence against aboriginals to enforce their occupation of many parts of British Columbia … including murder.
Extensive logging operations began in Killarney at the turn of the 19th century, a highly profitable operation because of its easy access to river barge transportation.
In 1868, a large portion of the region was granted to William Henry Rowling (1826-1905), a surveyor with the British military’s Royal Engineers which had completed an exploration of the Esquimalt region on Vancouver Island a few years earlier.
Rowling’s lands consisted of a 3.5 km stretch of riverfront along the Fraser which extended a few kilometres north just past where the townhouse complex stands today.
Prior to moving to his new property with his wife Mary and their five children, Rowling had owned a pub called “The Retreat” in New Westminster’s Sapperton district. The city of Vancouver’s website lists the Rowling family as Killarney’s first official settlers.
Fast forward to December 25, 1889 – Rowling had thrown a Christmas party at one of the three homes he’d built on the property over the years.
Many of the guests in attendance belonged to various chapters of the Masonic Lodge, and a horse-drawn buggy containing several of their young members was soon met with a terrible fate.
Documents at the Vancouver City Archive show that the buggy was struck by a massive falling tree as they headed down the North Arm Road, an early incarnation of today’s Marine Drive which ran through the Rowling lands.
That night four young men were crushed to death: James Bodwell, 21; Clarence Campbell, 22; James Lawson, 16; and Jasper Locke, 24.
Lawson’s younger sister Mayo escaped with a minor injury to her arm, and another passenger, James Mashiter, was unharmed.
A news article appearing in the Dec. 27, 1889 edition of Vancouver-based “Daily Colonist” states:
“The news of the sad affair cast a gloom over this city and the North Arm, all the parties being well known. The bodies were crushed and mutilated almost beyond recognition.”
James Saint, a neighbour and relative newcomer to the area, was said to be partly responsible for the deaths.
A few days earlier Saint had cut into the tree’s trunk and deposited burning coals inside.
Burning trees down from the stump was a common method for bringing them down, and the process often took several days. Why the tree wasn’t cut to land safely is unknown.
Nearly 50 years later, much of the city of Vancouver had developed with the exception of Killarney, which was still largely uninhabited.
Aside from a scarce few residents, it was also home to one of the city’s landfills through the 1940s and 1950s. The landfill is no longer there, but by our estimation it too was situated on the former Rowling lands about a block south of the current townhouse site.
The Townhouse Tragedies
The following is a partial list of the activities reported by a variety of tenants scattered throughout the townhouse complex.
“Donna” – TOWNHOUSE #1 & #2
Donna has served as a liaison between the BCGHRS and residents of the complex. She was one of the first residents to move into the development with her husband and children about eight years ago. During that time she has lived in two separate townhouses at the site, and has had paranormal experiences at both. Donna has since moved into a new home in Burnaby, and we thank her for her efforts to assist us.
Activities in #1 include:
· sightings of shadowy figures;
· TV set turning on by itself when nobody was home;
· disappearing \ reappearing objects
NOTE: while this activity occurred with a variety of household objects like keys, personal belongings, etc., the most notable instances surrounded the frequent disappearance of her birth control pills.
The packages would often vanish from their usual spot on a countertop whenever someone left the room. Donna even tried keeping them in a locked drawer, but still they vanished.
At the time she thought someone was breaking into her home to play a cruel joke, and even raised the issue with other residents at a strata council meeting. It was after that declaration that some of her neighbours came forward and shared some of their strange personal stories. Like Donna, they thought they were going crazy.)
Activities in #2 include:
Sightings of shadowy figures and balls of light,
mysterious smells of Old Spice aftershave, cinnamon and flowers;
unusual cold spots and auditory phenomena
NOTE: On two occasions Donna heard glass shattering in her downstairs kitchen and upstairs bathroom. Upon investigation there was nothing there.
One morning around 4 am she heard the loud, unmistakable sounds of a man walking past her home whistling a familiar tune. As she couldn’t see anyone from her windows she rushed outside to greet the culprit… naturally there was nobody there, although she could still hear him walking a short distance away.
Another time she awoke to the voice of a “tormented” woman playing through a baby monitor. The microphone was in her infant son’s room, and again, no trace of a woman could be found.
Donna insists that this was not a case of transmission interference, a common occurrence with baby monitors. She said that you could actually hear that the woman had increased her proximity to the microphone while she was talking before pulling away.
Other instances have included the sounds of various bells ringing inside her home.
“Meghan” – TOWNHOUSE #3
Meghan moved in just a few years ago, and was also a particularly active participant in the BCGHRS investigation. Special thanks once again.
Activities in #3 include:
· sightings of shadowy figures and balls of light;
· lights turning on\off;
· water faucets turning on\off;
· footsteps walking up the stairs;
· a persistently vibrating picture frame
NOTE: The silver-colored picture frame stands about eight inches high and folds on hinges in the centre. It once belonged to Joan (see below), who resides in one of the most active homes in the complex.
Meghan said that she kept the frame on her bedside dresser, and several times a month she’d wake up to the sound of it rattling loudly. At first she attributed it to heavy vehicle traffic passing by her home. But she soon came to realize that it was only the frame that was shaking – all other objects on the dresser were still.
Her attempts to replicate the vibrating motion were unsuccessful – even physically shaking the dresser failed to reproduce what had been happening.
Unfortunately, she said it still feels like a presence is in her home.
UPDATE: We have received a new report from a resident in a neighbouring townhouse. Please see Champlain Heights Townhouses.
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