Tofino in the Age of COVID

From carefully managed safety measures to mainstream COVID deniers, Tofino’s become a chaotic mishmash of policies and behaviours that feels more like a powder keg ready to blow than an anxiety-free tourist destination. This past Saturday, someone tried to pull my mask off in a gas station filled with maskless tourists. A mid-afternoon drunken attempt at humour. When I brought it up with a third person I was threatened with violence.

Some of my favourite people live in Tofino. The town has always been supportive of my writing with many stores still carrying The Haunting of Vancouver Island. I first visited Tofino in the 1990s and returned often to surf and then paddle surf after a knee injury. I eventually purchased an old fishing boat in 2015 that had been converted into a living space. A thinking-outside-the-box way to have an affordable home and office. I then invested in an unsuccessful restaurant business, recently winning the subsequent lawsuit. Continue reading

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Ghosts of Mount Tzouhalem and Stone Butter Church

 

On July 21st, I was in the Cowichan Valley for the filming of Harold Joe’s new documentary, Tzouhalem. Produced by Les Bland Productions and by Harold himself, the film will attempt to unpack the oral stories and urban legends surrounding the near-mythic figure of Chief Tzouhalem, who Mount Tzouhalem is named after.

What makes this project unique is that Harold is a Quamichan traditional Gravedigger. The Quamichan Nation acknowledges the existence of human and nonhuman spirit entities, so strict protocol is observed during funerals in order to avoid problems with either. Harold’s role often calls upon him to repatriate human remains and to help disembodied ancestors find peace.

Chief Tzouhalem had a complicated relationship with this same spirit world. So who better to investigate the legends surrounding him than someone familiar with his teachings? Tzouhalem was a member of the nation Harold is, as well, which means Harold has access to oral histories no other investigator would ever be able to acquire. Continue reading

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Vancouver Island Booksellers Operating During the Covid-19 Outbreak

The following Vancouver Island bookstores are selling books online or by phone (free local delivery for some) while Covid-19 social restrictive measures are in place:

Munro’s Books (Victoria)

Bolen Books (Victoria)

Russell Books (Victoria)

Ivy’s Bookshop (Victoria) – now open for phone-in and online ordering

Camas Books (Victoria) – every book is washed with “75% solution of isopropyl alcohol”

Cavity Curiosity Shop (Victoria) – “no contact” pick up service only

Tanner’s Books (Sidney)

Salt Spring Books (Salt Spring Island)

Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island)

Talisman Books (Pender Island)

Volume One Bookstore (Duncan)

Strong Nations Gifts & Books (Nanaimo) – now “open for orders as usual”

Continue reading

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The Best Ghost Stories in Fiction

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 1843.

Christmas used to be the time of year to tell ghost stories, both in Western cultures and in many other parts of the world during those longest nights of the year.  Charles Dickens’ tale of a miserly man who finds redemption through the help of undead spirits is a timeless holiday classic that has never been out of print. Lucky for the equally Scrooge-like amongst you, this haunting novella can be read for free online at several archive sites.

The Turn of the Screw and Other Tales by Henry James (1898). 2010.

Henry James is often said to have been one of the greatest writers in the English language and his ghost stories are still considered some of the best ever written. In Turn of the Screw, a governess looks after two children on a remote estate while their single father works in the city. She begins to see two apparitions on the property, and slowly comes to believe the children are communicating with the ghosts she feels are evil. This Broadview edition includes an introduction and appendixes that will probably haunt you for the rest of your days. Containing samples of James’ relevant nonfiction, his inspirations, reception, and “Study of the Supernatural in Nineteenth-Century England and America.” Continue reading

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Secret Door Podcast: The Haunting of Vancouver Island

The interview “The Haunting of Vancouver Island with Shanon Sinn” was released by Secret Door Podcast on October 17th. In this episode, I was interviewed by Melissa Martel about The Haunting of Vancouver Island as well as other regional ghost stories.

Melissa also lives on Vancouver Island — in the Courtenay area — so the interview was unique in some ways because she’s more knowledgable about Vancouver Island folklore (outside of the Victoria area) than anyone else who has interviewed me so far. Besides talking about Vancouver Island, we discussed our beliefs and/or skepticism in regards to ghost hunting devices and touched on several other topics as well. Continue reading

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Tofino’s Climate Strike

I wanted to share a few photos I took today during Tofino’s Climate Strike. For those of you who don’t know, Tofino is located on Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s where my retro fishing boat, the iDigher, is moored.

Tofino was the first municipality on Vancouver Island that I noticed was attempting to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags and straws. In 1993, the town was an instrumental ally of Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations during the War in the Woods (where 900 people were arrested). Since then, Tofino has been a firm opponent of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and its proposed increase in tanker traffic.

One could say that Tofino has a long history of social activism and acknowledgment of Indigenous rights, so I was curious to see what kind of turnout there would be today.

Continue reading

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