History & Building:
Stories claiming that the century-old Heriot Bay Inn is haunted can be traced back for decades, but strange tales have always been a part of the inn’s colourful past.
In Quadra Story, author Jeanette Taylor says that it was Hosea Arminius Bull who first established the Heriot Bay Inn in 1895. After only a few years, however, a fire burned the original building down to the ground. The Heriot Bay Inn was soon rebuilt, but it was consumed by a second fire in 1911. The current Inn was then built in 1912. In the late 1920s, owner Charles Webster removed half of the building for unknown reasons. The other half remained in place, and is now the dining area and the loft above it. When Webster lost the property, residents rejoiced and immediately brought back either the same piece or a similar piece restoring the inn to its original glory.
The Heriot Bay Inn stands in a protected bay, facing East towards Cortez Island.
Building manager Lois Taylor provided evidence that the area had been an ancient First Nation village site by revealing a midden beneath the inn. This archeological site containing layers of seashells is in the basement, where evidence of the site’s antiquity can clearly be seen.
The building was built in an L-shape. The short portion of the L faces the Bay. This is the portion of the building that had remained when the other half was removed. It’s also where the dining room with the fireplace is located. As already described, above this is the “loft” space. On the lower floor, the long portion of the L holds a gift shop and the pub. Above this are ten guest rooms. The Heriot Bay Inn is a relatively small building.
Numerous accounts in the Quadra Story illustrate that the inn has a rather colorful past. There are tales of the inn being a retreat for loggers who wanted to get away from Campbell River. Miners and Fisherman would use the place as well and the groups would often fight viciously. A colorful tale tells of two men who were going to have a pistol duel. The locals tricked them separately, getting each of them so drunk that they ended up passing out. The two men woke up tied facing each other. They then became so furious that they threatened to team up and kill everyone involved. Somehow nothing came of this. A more tragic incident followed another out-of-hand party when a First Nations lady was murdered (off property). The Heriot Bay Inn was truly a rough place.
There have been many owners over the years. The inn is now owned cooperatively. The main manager we had contact with was Lois Taylor. She first started to work at the inn in 1974 when she was 19 years old. The Inn was already well established as being haunted at that time.
There are two spirits said to haunt the inn. One is said to be an old lady sometimes seen knitting. She’s said to have white/grey hair up in a bun. She’s primarily seen in room #14 (where I slept) from outside the inn. She’s also been witnessed in the dining area knitting “more than once.” She has been seen inside #14 as well. The bathroom window was found outside of the grout and lying on the grass unbroken at one point. On another occasion, a guest ran into the lobby and told a former staff member that an old lady was leaning outside of the room’s window and shouting. To them, it looked like she was going to fall or jump. The staff told this individual that there was no one staying in the room and verified by book and by checking #14 that nobody was there. A psychic at one point said that this old woman is waiting for her husband to return from sea.
The assistant manager shared the story of the only thing that ever happened to him in inn. Once, in the dining room, he was walking by the stereo (near the fireplace on the bar) when it suddenly turned on loudly. The unexpected blast of noise startled him. This stereo is near where the old woman has been seen knitting by the fire. According to a 1997 news article from the Campbell River Mirror Reporter, one of the witnesses who saw her in the dining room was Tanya Stoor a former employee.
The second apparition is believed to be that of a logger. His dress has been somewhat different in various tellings – such as suspenders in one account or long overcoat in another. He’s usually said to have a moustache, but might also sport a beard. He is said to either walk up and down the upstairs hallway or to be in the pub. The only pattern in any of the inn’s accounts is that this hallway walking usually happens in the early morning (around “6ish” or earlier).
Many people have seen him come into the pub or have had him stand beside them and when they turn to look he is gone. One bartender told of her own experience. She thought that her manager was beside her but when she turned no one was there. In a Vancouver Island CTV video news story, housekeeper Eileen Anastacia-Peters said that a man in old-fashioned dress peeked around the corner into room #12 at her. In the BC ghost books (Joanne Christianson and later Barbara Smith), a legend is recounted that says this logger was murdered after a bar fight and put in an unmarked grave. Lois says that she doesn’t know where this story came from, but that there is a similar tale that instead claims he was the murderer and not the victim.
There are several accounts where the pub’s stools had been put up for the night, but were somehow suddenly back on the floor on more than one occasion. One housekeeper and another bartender both said that they had feelings of not being alone. This bartender said she felt as if she was in an old lady’s presence. This was relayed to me a day and a half after my similar experience that I share below. Another story from another non-present staff member says that a bathroom stall door slammed shut when she was in the washroom alone.
A visiting psychic said that room #9 had a female spirit in it that doesn’t like males (the room travel blogger Sean Enns stayed in).
Lois relayed that room #8 has had two separate accounts where a square of intense white light has been seen. Both parties initially thought that the light was coming through a grate connected to the next room. Both of these incidents occurred “this year a few months apart”. The guests were annoyed at the time. Only in the morning did they discover that there wasn’t a grate there, and if there were it would only lead to the room’s bathroom.
The loft (room #5) has sometimes had furniture moved inexplicably in it. Lois and another manager once heard this happening when no one else was in the inn. They started to go up the stairs to investigate, but they changed their minds.
A final rather interesting story took place in the pub last year. Lois was present during this incident along with other staff members and customers… It was open mike night, and Lois was singing a Bob Dylan song with the lyrics, “tomorrow’s the day that my bride’s going to come.” Someone noticed that the floor was wet behind the bar. The bartender identified that the front of the bottle of amaretto had somehow popped out (just the raised square glass portion around the label). The rest of the bottle remained intact. The bottle was still high up on the shelf and had not fallen over in any way. There was no explanation for the break that anyone could find. Lois said that they all had an eerie feeling at the time. They opened a new bottle of liquor and poured out shots before collectively toasting the ghosts.
Personal Experience & Investigation:
We were given rooms #14 and #9. At this point we had not yet interviewed anyone, but we were told that both rooms were said to be haunted. I took #14, while fellow investigator Sean Enns took room #9.
Room #14 was 9.5 by 10.5 feet. The washroom was sort of L-shaped. It was 7.5 by 8 feet.
The room felt very welcoming. I put my items down on the bed and observed nothing out of the ordinary. As we had decided to go and get something to eat I left the room to meet Sean in the pub sometime after 6 pm. We were then going to interview Lois at 7 pm.
I returned to my room about 9 pm. I immediately felt like I was not alone and had a strong sense of a grandmotherly presence. I noticed that the bathroom window – which had been open – had been closed. I was overwhelmed with emotion at this time and tears came to my eyes. Later, Sean pointed out that I was feeling sick from allergies and maybe a cold. I was trying to downplay it, but I was feeling pretty rough. What he had suggested was that maybe this grandmotherly figure was looking out for me? I usually only get emotional like this when someone dies so this is not normal for me.
The closed window was an old window. When it was open, it took a significant amount of jostling to get it to come back down again. It had stayed up on its own since early morning when cleaners had been in the room. There was a wooden block present on the window ledge. Playing with the window I found that this would have likely only been used when the window was open just a crack, closer to being closed. In this position the window would not stay open. I asked Lois about access to the room. Housekeeping had assumingly opened the window much earlier in the day. No one had been in my room since, and housekeeping had already left for the day much earlier. Interestingly, I never felt this overwhelming grandmotherly presence again anywhere during the investigation in any location including back in my room.
The window was set up in the same way again. A video camera was put on it. There were hours and hours of video where nothing happened. At 1:32 pm the next day it sounds like someone is in the room. At 1:33 the window slams shut. No one touches the window. It sounds like someone is still in the room ruling out the likelihood of outside noises through the previously opened window (video clip is at end of video above).
When I returned and discovered it closed the window was different. The window would not stay up by itself any more. It was as if the force of it closing had somehow sanded down the rough paint and wood that had allowed it to stay open previously.
I used this as an opportunity to set up the window differently. This time when it was open, I put the block under it. It was cold out so I had to close the window to sleep. At this point, I put a towel, the wooden block, and a shampoo bottle on the top of the ledge above the lower windowpane. These are what we refer to during an investigation as “trigger items.” These are things put out of place that might be enticing for an entity to move. Nothing else happened again with this window however. I discovered afterward that this was the exact window that was found unbroken popped out and lying on the ground after a previous incident. I had originally thought it was the bedroom window in #14 and had ruled out the bathroom window. At the time, this had been a curious incident for the staff, because no one could figure out how the window had come out and it never did this again as far as Lois knows.
On the second night, I woke up at 2:22 am. I know this because I took a picture of the clock when I did so as I had my camera right beside me.
I’m not sure what woke me up, but a see-through orb was coming through the door. It hovered for a moment at the foot of my bed and disappeared. I then looked at the clock. I did not feel scared, as I had just woken up. I do question if I really saw this, though. I don’t recall having a similar experience with an orb before, but I have woken up from a dead sleep in the past and seen spiders dangling near my face that ended up not being there. For the record, I’m not afraid of spiders, but I do think this is important to mention for transparency because it could be a similar type of hallucination, though I don’t really feel like it was.
When Sean and I were doing one EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) session on the first night in the loft I asked the question: “are you waiting for your husband?” I felt like the woman was more present at this particular moment (but not the overwhelming grandmother, just like she was there). Sean later said he felt as if she was there (but upset) when I asked this question. This was the only time either of us felt like someone else was present during any of the EVP sessions and it was at the same time we both felt this and during the same question.
During one EVP session by the fireplace in the dining room I asked the question: “do you like Lois?” At this point, while reviewing the recording there was a sound I was unable to rule out. I believe it’s an EVP as it is distinctly whisper-like. It says “Huhh – huhh”, which are not legible words. It sounds like there are even quieter voices speaking before and after the sound as well. There were other background noises throughout the investigation, but this clip continues to stand out, and does not sound like any other recording. The quality isn’t the greatest but here it is:
Around the same time, I took a still image of the fireplace. There’s a strange green blur over two rocks in the image. Unfortunately, I only took the one picture, so I do not know if these two stones could actually be unusually green? I do not have a second image to compare them to. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, as far as taking multiple images for reference. There was nothing on the lens as I did not clean it after this and other pictures are fine:
Sean recorded many hours of audio while he was asleep in room #9 as well. He says that some of this sounds strange to him, but it was hard for him to decide conclusively if it was relevant as the bedrooms have thin walls. Catching sounds from an adjacent room would be entirely too possible. Make sure to read about Sean’s findings at offbeattravel.ca
This concludes any investigative points warranting mention in my opinion. We spent many hours capturing video, took stills, conducted several EVP sessions and took EMF readings. The most interesting evidence was the staff members’ stories of their own experiences.
As a final act before we left, Sean and I went into the pub and toasted the spirits with amaretto, honouring the Heriot Bay Inn’s newest tradition, the amazing people who work there, and of course the ghosts themselves #toasttheghost.