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The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side

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A compelling investigation into supernatural events and local lore on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island is known worldwide for its arresting natural beauty, but those who live here know that it is also imbued with a palpable supernatural energy. Researcher Shanon Sinn found his curiosity piqued by stories of mysterious sightings on the island—ghosts, sasquatches, sea serpents—but he was disappointed in the sensational and sometimes disrespectful way they were being retold or revised. Acting on his desire to transform these stories from unsubstantiated gossip to thoroughly researched accounts, Sinn uncovered fascinating details, identified historical inconsistencies, and now retells these encounters as accurately as possible.

Investigating 25 spellbinding tales that wind their way from the south end of the island to the north, Sinn explored hauntings in cities, in the forest, and on isolated logging roads. In addition to visiting castles, inns, and cemeteries, he followed the trail of spirits glimpsed on mountaintops, beaches, and water, and visited Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island and the Schooner Restaurant in Tofino to personally scrutinize reports of hauntings. Featuring First Nations stories from each of the three Indigenous groups who call Vancouver Island home—the Coast Salish, the Nuu-chah-nulth, and the Kwakwaka’wakw—the book includes an interview with Hereditary Chief James Swan of Ahousaht.

367 pages, Paperback

First published October 10, 2017

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About the author

Shanon Sinn

2 books12 followers
As a member of the British Columbia Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society (BCGHRS) and Paranormal Studies and Inquiries Canada (PSICAN), I research folklore and hauntings from a journalistic perspective. I write fictional ghost stories and dark fantasy/horror as well.

I'm also an infantry veteran, photographer, forager, and stand-up paddleboarder. I'm currently enrolled in Vancouver Island University's Creative Writing Program and was recently awarded the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism.

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5 stars
55 (20%)
4 stars
89 (33%)
3 stars
92 (34%)
2 stars
24 (8%)
1 star
9 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Dana.
682 reviews9 followers
October 12, 2021
A truly fascinating read! Being from Vancouver Island I couldn't get enough of these stories. So, so good!
Profile Image for Emily Menary.
38 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2021
In the spirit of spook, and craving a community in my new town, I picked up The Haunting of Vancouver Island. Brief tales from all over the Island has inspired me to haunt-hop instead of bar-hop. Sinn (apart from having the perfect name for such a read) did his research. He travelled to these sites with an open mind, and dropped the writers’ ego at the door. He spoke to elders, locals, and tourists to transcribe full entries as best he could.
After also loading my October with horror movies that give you the where, why, and how of their respective hauntings in faux-documentary form, I think I expected the same here. Of course, real real accounts and research can only give so much, so many of the tales in this book ended along the lines of, « we don’t know why this is the way it is ».
That being said however, it’s a well done spooky read.
177 reviews
March 23, 2021
Pretty terrible storytelling. The Nanaimo Museum covers the surrounding area's ghost stories around Halloween - much more entertaining.
Profile Image for Rachel.
38 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2022
Great book to read in tandem with a trip to Vancouver Island!
Profile Image for Shannon .
106 reviews6 followers
February 23, 2023
I think the premise for this is excellent. A different editor maybe? I rolled my eyes a lot, let’s just say that.
Profile Image for Jay Storey.
Author 11 books95 followers
August 15, 2020
I grew up on Vancouver Island, and have often heard (though never experienced myself) about the numerous paranormal events that have taken place there. This book captures a lot of the mystery and intrigue surrounding events up and down the island. I like that that author keeps an open mind, careful not to fall into the trap of just repeating unfounded rumours, that often turn out to be false, but also accepting that there could be something to the events described.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in the island, the paranormal, or the history of the area.
Profile Image for Corinne.
4 reviews
January 24, 2022
Not a fan of the writing style. I did however enjoy learning some BC history and haunting stories.
Profile Image for Lotus.
82 reviews22 followers
December 7, 2017
I enjoyed this book especially as I live on Vancouver Island and have always been interested in it's ghost stories. Also luckily, Shanon has a really enjoyable voice as a writer, conversational, which is really perfect in these kind of books as sometimes the writing can be too dry otherwise. I liked his approach as well, mine is similar - open minded, but also skeptical.

Even though I had previously read many of the books cited, and so had read, or heard in person, many stories before, I was pleased to learn some information about them I had not known. And there was lots of stories I had never heard before too. Shanon has definitely done his research.
Profile Image for Sephy Hallow.
138 reviews5 followers
November 21, 2022
Sinn doesn't quite grasp the meaning of the word "skeptic." His investigations are shallow, and he is quick to interpret perfectly explainable events (such as an old window closing by itself) as proof of the supernatural. Although I appreciated the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and folklore or spiritual beliefs, the fact is the book is self-contradictory and relies on the author's innate sense of belief, rather than a "question everything first" approach expected of a true skeptic. This is quite troubling when dealing with supernatural claims, as Sinn himself demonstrates when relaying the story of the late journalist Joe Fisher. Fisher died by suicide after finding the "channeling" offered by psychics and mediums led to false information; instead of coming to the rational conclusion that the psychic was lying, Fisher believed he was being manipulated by spirits, and later threw himself off a cliff, still believing he was being harrassed by malevolent ghosts. It's a tragic tale in its own right, but the fact Sinn doesn't make the connection between the death of an evidently vulnerable man (even Sinn reports Fisher was on psychiatric medicine at the time of his suicide) and the manipulations of living, breathing people, insisting that there is still some use for psychics, and that they are largely good, honest people - despite vast quantities of evidence to the contrary demonstrating that psychics are either frauds using techniques such as cold reading to fool the grieved, or that they themselves are acting under the direction of a mental illness.

In addition to the problems with his loosely skeptical, but not particularly analytical stance (placing him at best as a weak advocate for the supernatural), the book itself is written in bursts of short, staccato sentences, giving it the sense that each story could be the first draft of an informational pamphlet. Even someone wanting to report pure facts could still lend atmosphere and a sense of place to the stories relayed, and it is disappointing that the events themselves are portrayed in such a bland manner.
Profile Image for Amanie Johal.
207 reviews
August 7, 2022
I didn't know Vancouver Island had so many ghost stories! It was fun to re-contextualize the places I've known all my life with the knowledge of the apparitions that have been witnessed there.

I appreciated the skeptic stance Sinn took with the stories because it would have been very easy to write the most sensational version of the stories, but the decision to investigate each story and strip it to the most verifiable pieces based on historical evidence available is admirable and actually more interesting. One comment I have, which I suspect is very specific to my brain, is that the skeptic commentary honestly added unexpected comedy. I can't even explain why I found it funny when he'd be like "Why does this ghost appear in April when she didn't die in the Spring? And why does she have different outfits during the day and night, especially with one of them being a wedding dress when she didn't die shortly after her marriage?". I don't know, like I said, probably just my brain.

As a sidenote, I was pleasantly surprised to see Susan Juby (author of Mindful of Murder, which I enjoyed) thanked in the Acknowledgements. Small world for Vancouver Island publishing!
2 reviews
January 25, 2021
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. It seemed promising, as hauntings are an interesting subject matter, and I generally enjoy mysterious/paranormal/unexplained phenomenon type content. However this reads as though a high-schooler wrote it - amateur, bland, and a very basic, poor writing style. One of the first books I threw in the recycling bin after reading because it was so bad. Several of the "quotes" in the book were based off of Facebook comments... ugh... cringe... If I wanted to read Facebook I wouldn't have purchased a book. It is embarrassing that this is seen as a representation of the quality of writing coming from Vancouver Island, as we have so much more/better to offer. Also, a story written about Vancouver Island, which is fully First Nations territory through and through, written entirely by a white man, with little to no consultation of First Nations for their legends and lore... how disappointing. It reeked of the author's self importance and I wonder if he intended it for teens or kids maybe, as their level of reading would be more suited to the level of basic, uninspired writing found in these pages. I hated this book.
Profile Image for Vixtrolla.
65 reviews27 followers
September 3, 2018
An enjoyable collection of ghost stories and folklore from Vancouver. I loved all of the research that went into each story. I often find that there is never enough background information when the supernatural is involved, so this was a nice change of pace.

Some of my favorites were:

-"The woman in chains": This ghost story had physical evidence of the ghost's body at the site of the haunting, which granted more weight to the story.
-"Kanaka Pete, Axe Murderer": The original account of this haunting was not as sensationalized and the witness (James Hearst Hawthrowaite) had nothing to gain by claiming the cabin he stayed in was haunted, which made the haunting seem more valid.
-"The Mystery of the Nanaimos Fire Hall": I enjoy the idea of a grandfatherly fireman protecting people even after his death. Also the life of the supposed spirit was even more interesting than the fact he might be haunting his fire hall.
-"Ghosts and Black Magic": This section contained a wonderful interview about Nun-Chan-Nulth beliefs.

Again, wonderful collection that I would recommend.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dee Chainey.
Author 4 books52 followers
December 4, 2018
Impeccably researched, Shanon Sinn's book delves into a world of spirits and strange creatures seen and experienced on Vancouver Island. Tales range from ghosts to cryptids, with stories being traced back to their original tellings, with careful attention given to accuracy of initial reports and eye-witness accounts. Stories are all explored from the community wider perspective and placed within their cultural context, with a commentary from the author on how the experiences have morphed and changed, or retained a sense of reliability, as they have transformed into local legend. One of my favourite aspects of the book is how the author's own critical eye and spirituality shines through the text, giving an added depth, and a feeling of connection to the island – and therefore to the tales that belong to it – which is strange, for a place the reader might not have visited. A fascinating journey into a region filled with folklore and spirituality that really evokes a sense of place, and brings a timeless and diverse landscape to life – one well worth reading!
1 review
January 28, 2021
One of the worst books I've read, waste of $. It was so bad that I gave it away to my in-laws, and then a year later they forgot I had given it to them and gave it back to me, stating they couldn't get past the first few chapters. Boring, uninspired writing. It seems like the author wrote this while still in high school... such low quality. Each chapter is set up so awkwardly. I guess a young kid might enjoy it but they'd actually probably stop reading it because it was so boring. The best thing about the book is the cover art. Though the pages were a good fire starter for a backyard bonfire recently. Wish I could get my $ back.
Profile Image for Christina.
125 reviews7 followers
January 14, 2020
Not just a collection of ghostly myths, it is more a journalistic research into the reports and tales of both classic Vancouver Island ghost sightings and other creatures (such as sea serpents.) Historical records, reports and often eyewitness accounts of the spirit activities are used to tell the tale but also sort through inconsistency, fraud and the truly unexplained. I found I learned a lot of the island’s factual history, both First Nations and British colonial and how ghostly activites are viewed and understood throughout.
Profile Image for Mystic Faerie.
377 reviews19 followers
May 25, 2018
(4.5 Stars, rounded up) I really liked this book. I felt like the stories were well researched, and not told in a way just to scare people and sensationalize the story. The author included a lot of history behind the story, which was great. I feel like he really cared about the subject matter. He always stated both the reasons why and why not the story could be true. I felt that he represented our Island's lore very well, and with a lot of respect.
Profile Image for Sharren.
9 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2018
This was a fascinating read about hauntings on my beautiful island. Shanon goes into each investigation with an open mind, believing that anything is possible, but he also does not blindly accept what he first sees or hears as fact. I recently discovered after a visit to our museum that most of the stories about Forbidden Plateau in the Comox Valley were shamelessly made up to encourage tourism, and so I was happy to see this was reported on in his book. Well done!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anne Evangelista.
163 reviews4 followers
January 19, 2020
I thought I was going to love this book because I really enjoy ghost stories. While I enjoyed learning about the island and learned some history that I never would have otherwise, the author’s writing style made it very difficult to fully enjoy the book. His best stories were the ones were he interviewed people or wrote about personal experiences rather than just talked about what someone said in an online forum, on a tv show, etc.
Profile Image for Sloan Sink.
20 reviews
June 30, 2022
One thing I loved about this book was that you didn't need to read it linearly. You can choose whatever story you want to hear and go! Great read at night, not sensationalized and very respectful of those who passed and those involved with providing stories.

By far my favorite stories were 'Ghosts and Black Magic: Stories from Chief James Swan of Ahousaht,' 'Serpents and Shapeshifters,' and 'The Spirit of the Wolf.' Great read with a healthy level of skepticism.
Profile Image for Sabrina Voerman.
Author 9 books65 followers
August 13, 2019
A fun read especially having been to many of the areas mentioned in this book. As someone who does not believe in ghosts, I found it merely entertaining and informational of the history of the island. I like that Sinn remained neutral and was never trying to force readers to believe in ghosts or not. I found it to be a very respectful way of writing this topic.
Profile Image for Brittany.
75 reviews11 followers
June 12, 2020
Wow what a fantastic read. The author ensures that he places the context of the research and stories, as well as his own experience and background into this book. Additionally he incorporates both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge with proper acknowledgements and background to tell the hauntings of Vancouver Island. It’s a book that I would read in a well lit area or during the day.
Profile Image for Carrie.
249 reviews
January 2, 2018
Was ok. Nothing particularly chilling in there, but some interesting stories about some familiar places Sinn takes a very objective approach to the stories and pokes holes where the tales are woven less strongly. A fun read and good fodder for stories to tell around the campfire.
Profile Image for Trisha.
139 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2019
I loved that there were so many events that have been explained. I like ghost stories that are told from a TRUE aspect. Making up ghost stories is easy!! Ensuring they’re truth, that’s the hard part. Loved the story telling.
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
28 reviews2 followers
September 25, 2019
What I loved most about this was how primacy was given to the First Nations oral stories and own voices. Even though it was a book about ghost stories I feel like I learned a lot more about Vancouver Island than from other histories.
Profile Image for Judy.
17 reviews2 followers
October 7, 2019
Very well-written and well-researched collection of ghost stories. Includes so many super interesting historic accounts that either confirm or debunk some of the claims. If you're interested in Ghost Stories and/or British Columbia, this is a must-read! Looking forward to the next installment.
Profile Image for Laura Dawson.
5 reviews
July 1, 2021
First half was engaging, became repetitive in the second half & seemed to loose steam. Disappointed to see such a large focus on Victoria hauntings. I'm sure north island has lots to offer.
Overall, very hit & miss. Didnt love the writing style but at least 3 solid stories in here
Profile Image for Sydalg.
59 reviews
October 11, 2022
Great book!

Well researched and very down to earth. I really enjoy reading it.
The stories and legends are very interesting and I learned so much.
Especially recommend for people who live on the island or/and want to learn more about it !
Profile Image for Lisa.
409 reviews
November 30, 2022
It has some interesting theories but there are some things that bothered me about the writing. It was nice however, to read about ghost stories of my island and to have more insight on which could be truthful (in as much as ghost stories are) and which are sensationalism.
Profile Image for Heather Hjarta.
10 reviews
April 13, 2023
I’m shocked by some of the poor reviews. The author’s research is incredible and being from the Island myself, I enjoyed learning more about the true history of the ghost stories that I’ve heard over the years. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those from the area.
Profile Image for Rebecca Shipley.
7 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2018
Started off really great but then turned into more of a First Nations folklore which did not interest me.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews

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