Canada’s westernmost province, perhaps known best for its natural beauty and outdoor adventure, is also rich in tales perfect for sharing around the campfire. From the depths of its deepest lakes to the top of its highest mountain peaks, British Columbia is host to many mysteries, myths, and folklore that will get your imagination running wild. Turn the lights down low, grab a flashlight, and snuggle up for a few of BC’s most infamous tales of haunted places and monstrous encounters.
Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, BC
In the shadowy waters of Lake Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, an enduring tale tells of a giant lake serpent that lives below the sparkling surface. The Ogopogo was once referred to as N’ha-a-itk or Naitaka, Sacred Creature of the Water. It was a respected creature that local natives would bring sacrifices and offerings to appease. The “lake demon” was renamed “Ogopogo” by English settlers in the early 1900’s.
This world-famous monster has been spotted and caught on film by several eager serpent-hunters; the most notable sighting occurred in 1926 when a lineup of 30 some cars all claimed to see the same shadowy creature slithering in the water near Okanagan Mission Beach. Another popular viewing place is just off the shores of Rattlesnake Island, near Peachland, BC.
So far, there have been no reported deaths or injuries as a result of tangoing with this 40-50 foot long fiend, so if you’re ever in the area, keep your eyes on the water and have your camera ready! And when all else fails, there’s always the legendary statue of the Ogopogo near Kelowna’s commercial water front, who is such a celebrity he even has his own Twitter account. Follow him @TheOgopogo and on Instagram @the_ogopogo!
The Lady in Red
The Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver, BC
The 5-star Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver is so luxurious that some guests just don’t want to leave. If this central, downtown hotel is known as “The Castle in the City”, then The Lady in Red could be called its princess.
The Lady in Red, the city’s most famous phantom, is believed to be Jennie Pearl Cox, a Vancouver socialite who died in a fatal car accident a few steps away from the hotel entrance in the 1940’s. She’s been sighted in the elevators, and is believed to be the cause of the erratic flickering of lights and other such strange happenings. She was staying on the 14th floor, and most sightings of the apparition occur for guests who’ve been assigned rooms there. In the most remarkable tale of the Lady in Red, a Japanese family complained to the reception that their room had been double booked by a woman in a red outfit who greeted them at the door, who had vanished completely when the hotel manager went to investigate.
So if you’re into ghost hunting, we recommend insisting on a room on the 14th floor of the Fairmont Hotel, where perhaps you could personally invite The Lady in Red over for a nightcap.
The Ghost Rider
Mount Hosmer, Fernie, BC
Long ago, William Fernie, a settler to whom the region owes its namesake, noticed that the local Chief’s daughter wore a necklace of pure coal. In a sly effort to discover where the precious resource could be found, he seduced the princess and learned the secret of the Morrissey Coal Seams. He then deserted the princess, rebuking his promise to marry her. In a resentful rage, her mother - the tribe’s medicine woman -put a curse on the Elk Valley, claiming that all who lived there “will suffer from fire, flood, strife and discord; all will finally die from fire and water!”
The curse was believed to be true by many locals, as fire ripped through the business section of the town in 1904, and again in 1908 with a blaze that nearly wiped out the whole of the city. Eight years later, the Elk River flooded, wiping out sections of West Fernie. Then during the Great Depression, Fernie faced near-famine conditions, making the spell seem all too real.
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In an effort to quell angry spirits, Chief Red Eagle and Mayor James White met for a ceremonial smoking of a peace pipe and lifting of the curse in 1964. Since then, no major disasters have befallen the city, but a reminder of the Chief and his daughter still exists on the rock face of Mount Hosmer. In evenings during the balmy summer months, one can see a distinct shadow carved by the shape of the rock that appears to be a figure riding a horse. This is believed to be the Indian daughter being led on horseback by her father, forever watching over the town, ensuring that no act of greed or deceit be made again for fear of the consequences.
Harrison Hot Springs, BC
The Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot, is a 6-8 foot tall, hairy, malodorous biped who wanders the deep forests of British Columbia and leaves behind footprints measuring two feet long and eight inches wide.
The Bigfoot has baffled scientists and mythologists for centuries. Recorded sightings date back nearly 200 years, with the most memorable perhaps being in 1924, when Albert Ostman, who was prospecting near Powell River, claimed to have been kidnapped by a clan of Sasquatches. Legend has it that he narrowly escaped after feeding the furry family pipe tobacco. For fear of being ridiculed, Ostman kept his story a secret until 1957.
This Chewbacca-like monster is most often sighted between Harrison Hot Springs and Hope, with recent sightings near Mission, BC. The Bigfoot is apparently pretty shy, so if you’re heart set on getting a photo with the Sasquatch, you can do so at the popular Harrison Hot Springs, where his gorilla grin and open arms welcome you into the resort.
Lost Gold Mine
Pitt Lake, BC
Like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, the Lost Gold Mine of Pitt Lake has inspired the imaginations of geologists, historians, wealth-seekers, and adventurers alike for over a century. Rumor has it that a rich gold deposit remains unclaimed at Pitt Lake, back from the time of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush that brought many settlers to the area in the 1850’s.
As the legend goes, a man named George Moody found $1200 worth of rough gold in Pitt Lake, and a few years later, an unnamed Native man came back to the settlement with double that from the same location. Attempts to follow the Native man to the mine failed, and when he was on his death bed (likely due to illness amassed from extreme journeying), he gave the directions to the gold deposit to a relative. When he and a team set out to find the riches, there was nothing to be found. In 1901, a man named Walter Jackson allegedly found the mine as well. He detailed his findings in a letter to a friend before he died, telling of a bag of gold nuggets he’d hidden under a tent-shaped rock. This bounty has yet to be unearthed.
To this day, there are several tales of gold-hungry teams that have come up empty-handed on their excursions to Pitt Lake. What happened to the golden caches, with “millions of nuggets, some as big as walnuts” as Jackson wrote in his letter? Perhaps they disappeared, as mysteriously as the Ogopogo or the Lady in Red, to become forever embedded in our minds as one of BC’s infamous urban legends.
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