Gravlin, Doris (1906–1936) Reputedly the most famous Ghost of British Columbia, who haunts the Victoria Golf Club and course and the nearby Oakland Bay Beach Hotel, in the city of Victoria. Involved in a stormy marriage, the young Gravlin is believed to have been murdered by her estranged husband—who also was found dead, an apparent SUICIDE. Gravlin’s ghost has several names. Her most popular is the April Ghost, and she is also known as the Oak Bay Ghost, the Ghost of Golf Course Point, and the Watcher. Gravlin was a nurse who married Victor Gravlin, six years her senior, the sports editor of a Victoria newspaper. Doris was very much in love with Victor, but he had a severe drinking problem that eventually drove her away. Victor made repeated attempts to stop drinking, but could not.
In 1934, Doris separated from him and took a job as a private nurse to Kathleen Richardson in the Oak Bay neighborhood. On the evening of September 22, 1936, Gravlin went out for a walk wearing a pair of white kid shoes—and never came back. Five days later, her body was found in the shoreline grass near the seventh tee of the Victoria Golf Club. It was discovered by a caddy, John Johnson, who was looking for a lost ball. First he noticed a woman’s sweater lying on the beach. As he picked it up, he saw the body. The ensuing police investigation determined that Gravlin had been murdered near the seventh tee in a patch of wild broom. Her body was dragged down to the beach. She had been beaten and strangled to death. Both shoes were missing. Victor also disappeared the same night, September 22. He had been living with his parents. Like Doris, he announced at 8 P.M. that he was going out for a walk— and never returned. A warrant was issued for his arrest. Victor’s body was found on October 25 along the shoreline of the same golf course. A fisherman rowing past saw the corpse tangled in kelp near the ninth tee.
An autopsy determined Victor had been dead about four weeks, making his death about the same time as that of his estranged wife. One of Doris’s white kid shoes was in the inside pocket of his coat (by some accounts, both shoes were found on his body). The full story was not released in the media, not unusual for the times. But the story behind the tragedy circulated. According to the story, Victor telephoned Doris on the fateful day to discuss reconciliation. She agreed to meet him at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, one of their favourite places. The hotel has an English-style pub and restaurant called The Snug. They left the hotel and went for a walk on the nearby golf course. At about 9 P.M. that night, a resident living near the golf course heard an anguished scream.
The case was closed. Authorities believed that Victor, severely depressed over his marital and drinking problems, murdered his wife and then drowned himself. Doris apparently has never rested in peace, for her ghost remains active in present times. By the next spring, people were reporting seeing Doris’s ghost on the golf course. In the 1960s, sightings of her increased and began to fit a pattern. She was seen standing along the rocky shore. Initially she was dressed in a brown suit characteristic of the 1930s, but this eventually gave way to a sheer white wedding dress. Her ghost stood looking sadly out to sea for several minutes before vanishing. More reports of Doris’s mournful ghost were made, often by young people who went to the golf course hoping to catch a glimpse of her. She was seen floating over the shoreline, a misty and glowing APPARITION. Sometimes sightings were accompanied by sudden plunges in temperature and a cold rushing wind. It was not unusual for the ghost to be witnessed by entire groups of people.
In 1972, ghost investigator Jean Kozocari said Doris actually took her hand. Kozocari had taken a group to the golf course for a Doris sighting. On the way out, someone took her hand. At first Kozocari thought it was a member of her group, although the hand seemed extremely cold. Then it vanished. Doris’s ghost continues to be seen by many people. Some visit the golf course on their own, some stop by on ghost tours. For reasons not known, she is especially active in the spring, hence her most popular nickname of “The April Ghost.” She usually appears at dusk near the point where her body was found. She wears a white wedding dress. According to lore, she can only be seen by young people, but to see her means that a couple will never marry. Sometimes she terrifies people by rushing toward them with outstretched arms or by following them. At the Oakland Bay Beach Hotel, Doris haunts the third floor. Guests wake up and see a sad young woman in white standing by their bed. She also is felt in the hallways.
- Belyk, Robert C. Ghosts: True Tales of Eerie Encounters. Victoria, B.C.: Horsdal & Schubart, 2002.
- Christensen, Jo-Anne. Ghost Stories of British Columbia. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1996.
- Skelton, Robin, and Jean Kozocari. A Gathering of Ghosts. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1989.