Dead Man's Island

North from Vancouver’s downtown core, you approach a scenic location known as Stanley Park, and snuggled deep in cedar trees with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop is the home of HMCS Discovery. This Canadian naval base has been in existence since 1943, but the island where it stands has been used by a series of First Nations people since pre-history. The island has a long, spooky, and chilling history of sacrifice and slaughter. Rumors about strange lights, weird moaning chants, and spectral figures roaming about were whispered at night when the settlers went to bed. And now the small, pretty island where the HMCS Discovery is berthed is aptly named “Dead Man’s Island.” Legend has it that in the 1700s, two tribes, the Northern and the Southern Salish people, were at war, and during one bitter battle, the Southern tribe took women, children, and elders hostage. These hostages were marked for certain death. So it came about that the Northern tribes surrendered, hoping for a peaceful exchange, but they were cruelly slaughtered and more than 200 Northern warriors died. Through time, because of the horrific acts, the island became known as a poisoned land or a land of enchantment, and then these stories were forgotten. It then became a burial place, first for the Salish First Nations and then for the new European settlers. Pioneers described how eerie the island looked, with its small cedar fences surrounding old burial mounds like ragged headboards jutting out of the ground and piercing the rain forest fog, forever marking its occupants’ final sleep. It’s a lonely, uneasy, disquieting place. Once the Europeans came, the Salish people were pushed away from this mysterious pocket of land. The Europeans moved in and used the grounds for their own cemetery purposes, often disturbing the native dead. Among the dead buried on the island, aside from God-fearing pioneers, were the scoundrels and dregs of Vancouver’s earlier community. Seamen suicides, Canadian Pacific Railway construction casualties, Chinese lepers, prostitutes, bandits, and other ruffians who fought each other in the grills and saloons of Gastown (Vancouver’s original name) were also buried there. Victims of the Great Vancouver Fire and smallpox epidemic all ended up in the wet, mossy, and muddy soil of Dead Man’s Island. In 1887, Mountain View Cemetery was finally built, and the burials on the island came to a stop. But then, when it got dark, the stories began. Strange tales of screams have been reported coming from the island. The sounds are described as inhuman screams that make the blood turn cold. Others have reported seeing a fluorescent glow on the island, twisting and writhing as though in great agony and then changing into a human form. There have been spectral shapes seen moving in the fog, with red, glowing eyes and voices like broken glass, hissing out names of those who would disturb their sleep. And in this forest graveyard with vines covered in deep jade-colored moss, where souls lie in broken rest and reportedly still walk in the night, the HMCS Discovery sits.

—Jan Gregory and Kathy Zuccolo Vancouver Paranormal

DEAD MAN’S ISLAND HMCS DISCOVERY (CANADIAN NAVAL BASE) 1200 STANLEY PARK DRIVE VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA V6G 3E2
Taken from the: Encyclopedia of Haunted Places -Ghostly Locales from around the World – Compiled & Edited by Jeff Belanger – Copyright 2005 by Jeff Belanger

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