7 Spooky Spots in Hyack Town

BOO! Ah, autumn. I love it! The leaves… the smell… the pumpkins… the little ghouls! Halloween is one of my favourite events of the year, with a bit of something for everyone. Now that my son is getting to an age where he gets it (wear this, knock on door, say “tickoteet”, present candy holding device and be rewarded!) I’m started to realize how fun it can be. With a 150+ years history, New Westminster offers a lot in the way of creepy spots and stories, outside of the knowns like cemetaries. With that in mind, I present seven spooky spots here in Hyack Town, in no particular order. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

1. Galbraith House

Galbraith House c. 1995 by Mike Martin Wong (used with permission)

When I first moved to New Westminster, I lived only a few short blocks away from this fantastic building. I used to walk home from college and eye it suspiciously as I passed. I am fairly certain something watched me from its highest windows. Today, it houses one of my favourite spas, has conference rooms for rent (hello, theme wedding?), I credit witnessing its restoration as the catalyst for my developing interest in the preservation of New Westminster’s old buildings. Here it is, today – decidedly less spooky but still amazing. I’d imagine a Halloween Party in there could be some serious fun.

2. Boot Hill

I ran across this website some time ago, and find Deborah’s well thought out and well researched collection pretty amazing. Boot Hill is the name of the cemetery for the forgotten folks who died at the BC Penitentiary. These are the people with no family to claim their bodies and so they were buried, with only numbers to mark their lives. I find Boot Hill poignant and sad, and very, very spooky. This cemetery doesn’t really exist – although the piece of land is owned by the City of New Westminster, and a fence is around it, you cannot access it without trespassing, and unless you have a legend, you have no way of knowing where any of the buried are as the headstones are only numbers.

3. The Free Mason’s Hall

There is this culture of mystery and spookiness that surrounds the Free Masons. I know many Masons, and I know their current tagline is something along the lines of “to be one ask one” so today they are an open and welcoming group. Their website alone is a huge wealth of historical info. But still. Free Masons have such a long and storied history, and there is so much weird secretive urban legends surrounding it,  that it’s hard not to get a little shivery when walking past the building. One expects Tom Hanks to jump out of the building with some sort of secret code to crack.

4. That Tunnel Under 8th Avenue at Richmond Street, in Massey Heights

Gah, this tunnel creeps me out. I don’t know why… it just makes me feel jittery and weird. Here’s a photo by Harry Traeger (and another one by bluja1 on Flickr and another one by Harry)

not such a nice place

Just tell me that’s not creepy as all get out?

5. The former Railroad Station (now the Keg Restaurant)

I’ve been told by more than one person that has worked at the Keg that there is no doubt this building is haunted.  Supposedly, the sounds of footsteps can be heard with regularity as staff are closing up and no one is upstairs. It’s an amazing building, with an interesting history. The Great Fire destroyed the original railroad station, so this is the replacement. Here is a little article about it’s architectural history. I keep hearing tell of tunnels under downtown New Westminster that start at the Railroad Station… I just wish I could get confirmation. Regardless, my imagination rates this place “spooky”.

6. The BC Gas building on 12th Street

To be honest, I love this building. I’d truly love to have the opportunity to walk through it, dirty though it may be. But, when I asked a number of people for spooky spot suggestions, this one came up a few times. Perhaps it’s the chain link fence or the scrubbly shrubs poking their way through the concrete surrounding the building. Perhaps it’s the odd way the paint has chipped. Perhaps it is the non-action and the marching of time that prevents this building from waking up. But it slumbers, and it spins legends and spiderwebs with each passing day.

Photo by Robert Hare, used with permission

.

And here’s a link to the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society with a great article about why this building is in danger – so much so that the Society has deemed this the number one most endangered heritage site.

7. Poplar Island

Poplar Island is a beautiful little slip of land that you see if you look past Kruger toward Queensborough from most anywhere along Stewardson Way or the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood. Here’s a gorgeous photo of it by Flickr member boybleu.

The Georgia Straight ran a great article a number of years ago about the history of Poplar Island. It rates its own Wikipedia page (entertaining since ALL the rest of New Westminster combined seems to be mashed on a single concise page), and there is a nice article on Rhonda Larrabee, the chief for the Qayqayt, the New Westminster First Nations band for whom Poplar Island is a traditional burial ground. But it’s uninhabited by living people. Which in my book means it is likely inhabited by not living people. Spooky.

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I’m sure there are many more spooky spots in New Westminster. What’s on your list?

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16 thoughts on “7 Spooky Spots in Hyack Town”

  1. Great article, Jen. Well researched and definitely spooky! That tunnel under E.8th Ave. at Richmond St. in Massey Heights has always given me creeps as well. Don't forget about Irving House. There have been some pretty well documented sounds and apparitions there through the years, like the sound of someone pacing back and forth upstairs, people turning and walking through the wall, and the distinctive sounds of long rustling skirts.

    1. I have been told that Irving's indentation can be seen on his bed once in a while. I think a Halloween Fundraiser at Irving House would be very successful!

  2. The Bernie Legge Theatre is also supposedly haunted. Lots of anecdotal stuff and I interviewed a ghostbuster-type from the Canadian Paranormal Society last May who has a spooky audio recording of being told to "get out" when nobody else was there. I'd post a link to the story I did about it back when I was still with the NewsLeader, but unfortunately their website only keeps stories for a few months before deleting them.

    1. Of the people I asked, the Bernie Legge came back from quite a few that it was haunted. I couldn't find a lot online about it, so I didn't include it. Now I wish I had dug deeper!

  3. There are also a few tunnels under Columbia Street including a tunnel that went fom the old prison to the sapperton water front park that was used to bring in supplies for the prison from the docks.
    There is also a VERY old museum located at the Masonic Hall on Agnes street and I understand the local masons have received some grant money to research their archives, they have since found a time-capsual. I wonder what else tthe keeper of all the secrets will find?

  4. Found it as a saved Word doc:
    While they don’t want to scare potential audiences away, the Vagabond Players believe their tiny Queen’s Park theatre is haunted by a mean-spirited ghost. Fortunately, spooky events only tend to happen late at night when the Bernie Legge Theatre, a transported former fisheries building, is mostly empty.
    “There have been all kinds of reports over the years of people working on lights or scenery late at night and hearing footsteps across the stage when they’re downstairs and the place is empty, but the most common thing is people having this powerful feeling that they have to get out of the building immediately,” said Vagabond veteran Wendie Macrae. “There have been several times where I’ve come by in the morning and the lights are still blazing and when I ask people who were there the night before why, they said they just had to leave right away.”
    According to Rob Scurrah, a technician working late one night once reported seeing an elderly woman dressed in white sitting at the back of the theatre. “We brought in a psychic after this but didn’t tell him anything about what happened. He went by himself everywhere in the building—the basement, the greenroom, the stage, everywhere—and he said that when he sat at the back of the theatre near the same spot, an old woman appeared beside him who told him to get out,” said Scurrah.
    The theatre troupe decided to bring in the services of Glen Ferguson, a former British Special Forces soldier and founder of the Canadian Paranormal Society, who describes himself first and foremost as a sceptic. Using state-of-the-art audio, visual and electrical equipment, he and his team set up in the theatre overnight and found evidence of more than just things going bump in the night.
    “We picked up a lot of interesting electronic voice phenomena (EVP),” Ferguson said. “Basically voices that you won’t pick up at the time but are picked up by digital media. Two of our girls were doing an EVP session in the basement, what they call ‘the dungeon’ in the theatre, and they got told to ‘shut up’ and we’ve got that on tape. There were only the two of them there at the time.”

  5. STAIR TO NOWHERE

    Along Columbia just east of the Patullo Bridge underpass behind dense trees and twisted ivy is a massive old concrete staircase heading down … Its not a building but its definitively a creepy abandoned place.
    Overgrown and disappearing under layers of forest debris and garbage it belies a long forgotten public access down the escarpement to the old Great Northern train station. Recall that famous NW scene where a steam train is pulling out of a station and heading along the curve onto the rail bridge over the river – the Royal City cannery is in the background – that was this station.
    If you go, go in the rain and wind and think of all the people that used this stair to either just arrive in town or to leave (forever?) … What were they thinking as they grasped the thick steel railing and started up the hill: dread, elation, anticipation?
    At the bottom the station has been replaced by a R/R works yard and steel shed; turn right and head back up the driveway to the street. You can still see the massive cannery foundations out in the river and the ancient steel girders of the rail bridge are great. The Patullo Bridge deck over head adds an ominous vibe to this historic place. Maybe when the riverfront walkway is complete through here we can have a cool viewing platform and some interpretation.

  6. What a fantastic post, great work. I wanted to add that I too know a couple people that used to work at that Keg (old railroad stations) and they just hated having to stay late closing when there were only a few people left because, again, they swore it was haunted. Never knew that about the legends of the underground tunnels beginning at the station, can't wait to hear more about that. Anyway, definitely up there on the spooky factor and once again, great post.

  7. I recently became aware of information regarding a long dead relative of mine. It turns out he had been incarcerated at the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster but there was no further information provided. I googled his name to see what I could find out and discovered an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun regarding Boot Hill. Through further investigation, I was able to find out more about his sad life journey that led him to the BC Pen. He died there in the 50's and was buried in the penitentiary cemetery. What makes me so very sad is that this cemetery has been allowed to deteriorate to the degree that it has. While the individuals buried there are deemed criminals by virtue of the acts they committed, they are human beings none the less. My feeling is that any identified burial ground should be treated with respect and not allowed to become overgrown and neglected, particularly one owned by the City of New Westminster. Interestingly, my relative's final crime was the theft of 15 dollars worth of men's socks. Because this was not his first crime, he was declared an habitual criminal and sent to the penitentiary.

  8. It’s funny no one ever mentions the Paramount theater, now a gentleman’s club. Just ask the staff. They have a lot of stories about strange occurrences and apparently have tunnel access as well. I was told by one person that they have old (some boarded up) rooms lining the tunnel running underneath the building complete with old furnishings. Apparently not many employees are willing to brave the tunnel for very long to get a thorough look at all of them.

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