Under the light of the buzzing street lamps, a Ghostly Walks group stands beneath the Market Square sign, creaking on its hinges in the crisp autumn wind.
As the last of the day’s light disappears from the sky, the group learns about the murder of Agnes Bings.
On Sept. 29, 1899, Bings missed the last streetcar home after a day of work at the Pilgrim Bakery – located in what is now Market Square – and decided to walk across the railway bridge to get home. She was found dead in a Jack the Ripper-style murder on the west side of the bridge (where the Johnson Street bridge now stands).
Her more than a century-old unsolved murder might be why she never left the area, says ghost tour creator John Adams. Her ghostly figure has been seen in Market Square and standing near the spot where her mutilated body was found.
Adams has been operating Ghostly Walks for two decades, providing a macabre antidote to Victoria’s cheery summer tourism. The Ghostly Walks run year-round, but tour guides are now ramping up for October, when the public’s appetite for morbid stories from Victoria’s dark history skyrockets, drawing locals and tourists alike to the company’s nightly Halloween ghost walks.
The annual Halloween tours always start in Market Square but venture into new, bone-chilling territory every year. Running every night from Oct. 11 to Nov. 3, this year’s tour-takers will learn the ghostly past of the area around Bastion Square, China Town and the harbour near the Johnson Street bridge – one of Agnes Bings’ favourite haunts.
In past years the 90-minute tour has covered everything from the ghost in the Broad Street bordello, the haunting in Helmcken Alley and the ghost of Belle Adams, who was reported to have slit her boyfriend’s throat.
Adams says there’s no risk the company will run out of ghost stories any time soon. In 20 years he, his son Chris and the other guides have collected more than 500 ghost tales and dug deep into some of the city’s most infamous crimes.
Adams uses newspapers, letters, diaries and other historical sources to dig into ghost stories and sightings, hunting down the significance of certain locations or people. Each tour typically contains around 15 different ghost stories, and new ones are frequently added to the collection, especially around Halloween.
“It helps that we have been at it for a long time, we’ve been collecting ghost stories for decades,” he notes.
But not all of the company’s walks are so spine-chilling. Discover the Past runs daytime history tours too.
“I really enjoy telling stories,” Adams says. “Whether they’re history stories or ghost stories, I really enjoy it. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
Outside of the Halloween season, fear-seekers can choose from a few different Ghostly Walks, taking in spooky stories on downtown treks or hearing the eerie history of St. Anns Academy and Beacon Hill Park.
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