Ghost Stories of Old Victoria

Old Chinatown.

 In the spirit of Ed Mooney’s wonderful ghost stories and history challenges,  here is a little local history. I will have one more for his Spooktacular at the end of the month.

chinese lotus

Fort Victoria was one of the last outposts of the British Empire (established by the Hudson’s Bay Fur Trading Company), and as with all frontier towns  had its’ share of colorful characters and lawlessness. At the end of the 19th century Chinatown had opium and gambling dens and the rest of Victoria had it’s share of saloons and brothels. The Royal North West Mounted Police (now known as the RCMP) kept order.

Many Chinese immigrants laboured on the railroads and in the mines of coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir. Though they were an industrious and family oriented people, they were not well treated and their working conditions were usually less than ideal compared with the slightly better ones of European Canadian employees.

The Gate of Harmonious Interest at the entrance of Chinatown

very beautiful Chinese music
mirror

A Ba Gua

The Chinese have a great respect for spirits. In Chinese belief, most ghosts are malevolent and it is very important not to disturb them. Unfortunately, everything usually does. Any change in dynamics,  including moving house or redecorating, all need the flow of wind water or feng shui to restore harmonious balance. The ba gua mirror captures the energy of evil spirits and prevents them from harming the living. The eight segmented design of the ba gua is based on the divinations of the Book of I Ching and of yin and yang.

Nevertheless, ghostly footsteps can still be heard in Fan Tan Alley – a narrow passageway between two streets leading into the Chinese District.

fantan alley in chinatown2

Fan Tan Alley

So we come to the story of Ah Chung. In 1889 he was a seventeen year old Chinese boy employed by the Tommy Burnes American Hotel on Yates street as a bed maker. One day he did not show up for work, and shortly thereafter the news heard on the street was that the police were looking for a young Chinese boy in connection with a grisly murder.  The owner notified the authorities, suspecting they might be looking for Ah Chung. The Hotel was searched and Ah Chung was found hiding in a coal bin, covered in dried blood. He was arrested and later committed suicide in jail.

Ah Chung had fallen in love with a beautiful teenage prostitute who worked in a sing song parlour on Fisgard Street. He begged her to run away with him and find a better life. He even gave her a vial of poison to kill the owner of the brothel so she could escape. The girl declined his suit, either because she felt it was too dangerous or else because Ah Chung was penniless. Nothing he said could persuade her. The spurned Ah Chung became enraged at such loss of face. He enlisted the help of a friend and went to visit her. At some point and somehow, the friend grabbed the girl by her long hair, stretching her neck over the window sill. Ah Chung then pulled out a fish cleaver he had taken from the hotel kitchen and cut off her head.

After his death Ah Chung, was not given the proper Chinese rites and there is no record of his burial. Is it any wonder his ghost is restless and angry!

Through the years many people have claimed to hear the echo of  running footsteps in the alley through which Ah Chung is said to have fled after the murder and an owner of the bubble tea shop on the corner has claimed to frequently hear heavy steps walking across the upper floor of the building when no one is there.

chinatown at turn of century

Mural on Fisgard St. of Victoria’s Frontier Chinatown

afterward:

sing song parlour is a brothel

This is one of the John Adam’s Ghost Tour stories which are very popular this time of year!

In North America, Victoria’s Chinatown is second in age only to the one in San Francisco

Chinese have the best ghost stories – along with Japanese ghost stories.  As anyone who has seen the modern film “The Grudge” or ” The Ring”- both based on old Japanese folk tales will know, -these malevolent spirits can never be exorcised nor is there ever any reprieve – just a resignation and certainty of a torturous long and horrific fate.