The Horror Honeys: Vancouver's Haunted Trolley Tour - 2013

Vancouver's Haunted Trolley Tour - 2013

A Head Honey Hexmas Adventure

The Haunted Trolley Tour

Your Head Honey is a sucker for a few things in life...sour candies, kittens, true crime, and haunted tours.  Here in Vancouver, the local Police Museum puts on an annual Halloween tour through the seedy past of our not-so-old city.  I took the tour with the HorrorHubby and a group of deadly serious (and seriously fabulous) folk of a decidedly gothic persuasion.  Fancy mourning dress was encouraged.  FYI - I love parties like this.  

Seeing as the tour is meant for a mixed age audience, and likely for people from out of town, I'm going to go a bit easy on my review.  A bus full of jaded goths at 9pm on a Thursday night is not a bus full of tourists who think Vancouver is sosuperprettyandexcitinglookatthosemountainsJudith.  No.

That being said, I won't mention the cheezier aspects of the tour...but they're pretty adorable, even though the one liners get to be a bit much for anyone who's serious about this kind of stuff...which I am.  We embarked on our adorably decorated trolley ride from Canada Place after gathering in the fog to listen to gothy 80's music to get in the mood...

Our tour guide had an enchantingly gauche Eastern European accent, which at times had people around me asking "what the fuck did she just say?", but it was delicious.  I won't highlight all of the stops on the tour, but the ones that I found most intriguing (many of the stories below I've fleshed out with other sources):

Stanley Park - The Babes in the Woods - 1953 - the skeletal remains of two young children were found in the Stanley Park woods hidden under a fur coat.  With the remains were found a child's shoe, a lunch kit, and a broken hatchet (the supposed murder weapon).  Initial investigations and searches for missing children's records were hampered by the mis-identification of one of the bodies as female.  Later proven by DNA that the remains were both male, it was by then too late to start the hunt afresh.  The decomposition of the bodies places the murder far earlier - in 1947.  The case remains unsolved, and theories about the killer's identity are numerous, including a prostitute from Maple Ridge who was known to hitchhike around the area and even a 7yr old Clifford Olson (a serial killer convicted of several child murders in the 80's in British Columbia).  A replica of the discovery site of the children's bodies is on display at the Vancouver Police Museum, and while the skulls are replicas, the original skulls were stored there on display until removed for DNA purposes and proper burial.

Janet's gravestone was donated by the Scottish community,
sadly when we visited, it had been recently vandalized.
Hycroft Manor - Janet Smith - 1924 - Janet Smith was a Scottish nanny who attended a party at the upper crust Hycroft Manor, she was found shot in the head the following morning.  Several theories circulate about the killer's identity from her lover (the son of the owner of Hycroft Manor) to her employer, Fred Baker, who may have had some shady business dealings and connections.  An immigrant "house boy" was initially accused of her murder and was kidnapped, and tortured by unknown men (hired by the Point Grey Police...) before he ever went to trial.  Wong Foon Sing was tried, and acquitted of Janet's murder.  The case remains unsolved, and Janet's ghost is said to have played a hand in the death of her former employer, and now stalks the grounds of Hycroft Manor.

English Bay - The Mysterious Plane Crash - August 19, 1920 - "Captain Brenton Meets Tragic End in English Bay" a pilot banking some flying hours to get his commercial license was taking a routine flight path over English Bay (2nd and 3rd Beach) when bystanders and sunbathers below heard a strange popping noise coming from the plane.  The plane plummeted towards the water and Captain Brenton was seen to have been thrown or jumped clear.  The plane crashed into the water beside him and rescue crews and civilians rushed to the aid of the downed pilot.  The wreckage of the plane was recovered - every single piece.  Captain Brenton, however, was nowhere to be found.  His helmet was the only item recovered from the crash site to indicate that someone had been on board.  There are stories of Captain Brenton's ghost haunting the shores of English Bay - a man in WW1 military garb without a helmet - and ghostly footprints in the sand.    

The murder weapon most foul
and crimescene photos
East Van - The Kosberg Murders (Dec 9th 1965) - One winter night in East Van, 17 year old Thomas Kosberg (who had a troubled history) made hot chocolate for his family after dinner.  His parents and 5 siblings enjoyed this unexpected treat and then went to bed.  They slept soundly and deeply because the cocoa was heavily laced with sleeping pills.  When the household was asleep, Thomas took a double bladed axe and slaughtered his family, saving 2 year old Vincent for last, smothering him with a pillow.  After the murders, Thomas called his psychiatrist..."I've done something terrible".  When the police arrived, Thomas was arrested, and two family members were rushed to hospital.  Gail, barely alive, and Vincent, already turning blue.  5 yr old Gail passed away in hospital, but Vincent was revived.  Thomas was clearly guilty of the murders, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Thomas was committed to Riverview Hospital to live out his days.  A sad casualty of BC's Health Care system, Riverview Hospital was closed in the 1980's and it's patients were turned out into the streets of Vancouver with no support.  Vincent, the only survivor of his brother's rampage, lives in East Van under a new name and identity.  The Kosberg murder weapon resides in the Vancouver Police Museum, still stained with blood and some strands of blond hair stuck to the blade.

Our tour also featured a stop in the museum, which was oddly decorated, but still lovely.  HorrorHubby was entranced by the cases and cases and CASES of confiscated weapons, while I was fascinated by the forensic pathology slides and diagrams of insect life cycle development to help identify time of death.  After a VERY Cole's Notes version of an autopsy which was full of awful (offal?) one-liners, cheap laughs and even a jump scare that made at least one member of our group squeak loudly, we loaded back on the bus and completed our tour.
Nyuk nyuk

Things I've learned from taking tours like this:
Goths in the mist at Mountainview Cemetery

  • Bring a blanket! 
  • Wear sensible shoes - for this tour we took a walk through Mountainview Cemetery - there is nothing funnier than a bunch of goths walking in a cemetery at night, in the fog.
  • Either come knowing a LOT about death/ghosts your city - or knowing absolutely nothing - being in the crowd who doesn't quite know what they're in for is entertaining.  It's also fun to be smart and nod sagely about facts and locations.
  • Bring water!
  • Be willing to suspend a bit of disbelief.  Ghost stories are supposed to be sensational - the older the story, the more license for embellishment.   

Head Honey's verdict: An entertaining evening.  I don't know if I would have been able to handle a tour full of people I didn't know or was nice to do the "tourist in my own town" thing for once, and get to know the dark side of my city a little better.  Highly recommended, but bring a pinch of salt with you.