The Qualicum Heritage Inn on Vancouver Island has long been reputed to be haunted. Robert Belyk found the stories so compelling he opened his 1990 (2002) book Ghosts, True Tales of Eerie Encounters with over ten pages of the Inn’s haunted past. Later, in 2002, OLN’s Creepy Canada also featured the Inn. Additionally, previous Inn guests have left tales of paranormal encounters on various hotel review sites online, while former staff members have made public statements regarding their own personal experiences within to online and print sources, as well.
The building started out as a boy’s college in 1937. The Tudor-style building continued to operate as a center of education for the privileged, until it closed in 1970. At this point, the school became the Qualicum Heritage Inn. Due to architectural and historical considerations, the Inn was eventually designated a Municipal Heritage Site on July 9th, 2007. In 2008 the Qualicum Heritage Inn closed its doors and has remained boarded up by developers ever since.
The reason the property was boarded up, was so that developers (who purchased the site for condos) could make several concessions before continuing the project. Most of these agreements involved the protecting, restoration and upkeep of the heritage site itself (which will actually be a smaller – yet central – portion of the overall condo development).
Interestingly, though condo units are already being sold on their website, Qualicum College Heights does not disclose the fact that the former Inn is considered to be one of Vancouver Island’s most haunted sites. Whether you believe in ghosts, or not, that might be something that comes back to – um – haunt them.
The list of haunting incidents reported at the former Qualicum Heritage Inn is long: full apparitions have been reported of a man in an old-fashioned military uniform, of a little boy, and of a woman. Voices have been heard predominantly on the fourth floor of boys talking, a consoling woman, “crying”, “moaning”, and “chanting”. In room 453 (later 459), furniture was said to have been moved on its own, while the bed was said to have looked to have been slept in when no one had access to the room. A man’s voice was also heard in this same room, while blankets were reported to have been pulled off of at least one person who was sleeping in it. Elsewhere, lights were claimed to have turned off and on by themselves, while a TV was said to have powered on by itself. A piano on the main floor was heard playing by itself when no one was in the room by at least two separate workers. Multiple people have also reported feeling “watched”. There have been unexplained sounds of people running and doors slamming when witnesses could see no one present. One individual even claimed that an “invisible” person ran by them on the stairs and that they then had to move to get out of the way. Previous staff members named what they believed to be one ghost, “Buddy.” According to witnesses, Buddy would throw things around making messes on the main floor. This spirit was also blamed for the phone, printer and other electronics having “disturbances.” According to statements, a boy’s laughter was reported after some of these more mischievous incidents.
As if the list isn’t long enough already, it might also be important to note that many people believe renovations can actually increase the activity of a haunting, as well.
Recent American polls suggest that up to half of all Americans believe in ghosts. A 2009 CBS news poll suggested that 48% of all people believed in spirits, while a 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov poll claimed 45%. An older 2003 Harris Poll, on the other hand, claimed a whooping 51%! It’s hardly a matter of whether or not somebody believes in ghosts or not, however. Contrary to popular belief, no reputable scientist has ever come forward and said that the incidents described were not being experienced in all cases. Even after hoaxes, misidentification, and hallucination have been ruled out, there are still incidences of gathered evidence that have remained unexplained. It does not necessarily mean that what remains unknown at this time might not be fully explained in the near future through a greater understanding of physics, further replications of the “Philip Experiment”, a deepening understanding of the “Observer Effect” or through further academic statements from scientists such as Lombroso, it just means that these experiences have not been explained yet. Regardless, even if an understanding of these occurrences remains in the far distant future, the mere fact that up to half of the population does believe in the existence of ghosts should compel the developers of Qualicum College Heights to disclose this information to prospective buyers. In fact, I believe they have a moral and legal obligation to do so.
This isn’t just a Charter issue pertaining to belief either. American case-law already has a precedent in Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991): where a house was sold that the owner knew was “haunted”… “the defendant is estopped to deny [the ghosts] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” As we all know, when it comes to unusual Canadian legal cases, we do take precedence from both British and American rulings. While one could undoubtably argue that the owners never knew that the former Inn was reputed to be haunted, it might be hard to convince so many people – and the people who they’ve interacted with – to say under oath that no one in the sparsely populated area had ever even heard that the Qualicum Heritage Inn had been reported to be haunted for decades. It’s knowledge that a prospective owner has a right to know.
The stigma of a haunting on a home can be so negative, in fact, that in some places – like Hong Kong for example – there are actually databases that list them, which will affect housing prices up to 30%! Recently, one real estate broker’s signs in New Orleans even began to include whether or not the house was believed to be haunted!
There will be 8 condos for sale in the “Ashton Manor” portion of Qualicum College Heights (the old Qualicum Heritage Inn), but these are not being listed for sale yet. Perhaps, it isn’t just an accident that these suites will be finished very last – during “Phase 3” of the property development. There might even be strategy involved here. Maybe, just maybe, the developers want to see if anyone is paying attention. Then again, maybe they planned on doing the right thing, by disclosing the information, all along.
Do the Qualicum College Heights developers have a moral and legal obligation to disclose to their perspective buyers that their property’s believed to be haunted? I think that they do, and I believe if this one ever does goes to court, that our legal system would be forced to agree with me, as well.