By Jessica Brodeur
VANCOUVER — If the walls of the Victorian Hotel, the ruins of the Pantages, the bricks of Blood Alley or the stones of Water Street could talk, they would have tragedies to tell. Although we’ll never know everything they’ve seen, luckily the tour guide, the ghost of George Turle, is just the character to tell the tales of Gastown. He’s seen it all: been to the Klondike and back, made friends and enemies in the early townsite and taken part in some unlawful shenanigans. A few small corners remain after a great fire, redevelopment, gentrification and over 100 years of history unfolding – and that sets the course for Forbidden Vancouver’s walking tour, Lost Souls of Gastown.
Forbidden Vancouver founder Will Woods was inspired to start the macabre tours after being inspired by the Edinburgh Ghost Tours & Seattle Underground. He combined his entrepreneurial mind with some acting classes and a lot of research, Wood’s first tour, Prohibition City, was conceived. Lost Souls of Gastown came shortly after. Wood’s concept was “a character telling gruesome and Gothic stories in a character light… I thought what if I pushed it further, and instead of saying there was a fire that rushed down Water Street, I’d say I was the person running down Water Street with the fire licking my back. It ran through Halloween and it was so popular we ran it all year.”
When asked about his take on ghost stories, Wood explains, “what I hate is lame ghost stories. Most ghost stories that I hear bout the city, there’s nothing there. ‘Oh there’s supposed to be a lady in a black dress here’ or ‘a ghost in that wall.’ That’s not a story, that’s a throwaway comment. I like the idea of a backstory. Narrative. Paints a picture of the time; that’s what storytelling is.” Leave the paranormal activity chasing to the ghost busters and instead expect a disturbingly sinister account of Vancouver in its frontier days in a theatre adventure.
The tour winds through streets and alleys on foot just after dark. Just when it looks like the worst is over: the epidemic that led to the population of stiffs on Dead Man’s Island, poor old washed up gold prospectors in drunken rages, saloon brawls and greedy hustlers… a murder mystery unfolds. The year is 1891. The scene of the crime is Water & Carrall St. The suspect is too close for comfort. And don’t forget, these stories are by all accounts true.
Forbidden Vancouver walking tour details can be found at http://forbiddenvancouver.ca/, check for additional Halloween season tours this October.BC, British Columbia, Forbidden Vancouver, Halloween, walking tours