The Haunting of Vancouver Island:
Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side
by Shanon Sinn
Touchwood Editions, Canada, 2017
Much like entering an allegedly haunted house, with little knowledge of the skulking revenants, Shanon Sinn’s book The Haunting of Vancouver Island has that je ne sais quoi that’s only apparent when there’s a glut of ghost stories.
There are plenty of books, newsletters and pamphlets written about the supernatural, but not enough that do deep dives into the haunted earth fit for an Atlas Obscura feature. If anything, Sinn’s tome, published in 2017 is full of research and very limited on the anecdotal information.
It is richly crafted in history and cultural anthropology. He knows the subject material and the beliefs of the many First Nations that call — or have called — Vancouver Island home.
It is refreshing, and it has enough of a personal story relating his passion for the supernatural in the introduction to understand his modus operandi.
Afterall, Sinn is a member of Paranormal Studies and Inquiries Canada (PSICAN) — an organization that pays close attention to detail and exercises professionalism.
Throughout the book, Sinn approaches the beliefs of First Nations with great respect, also weaving in historical relevance and the response from secular organizations, such as governments when dealing with the Takaya, the lone wolf that appeared on the Discovery and Chatham Islands close to Victoria or the young killer whale that resided in Comox harbor until it met its Waterloo.
Another wonderful approach to his investigating, and an explanation about how a story can be broken like a telephone line game, is Sinn’s reference to a tulpa.
He prefers to dig deeper into the origin story, without the influx of journalists writing seasonal stories to capture the timeliness of Halloween. It’s akin to the Marvel Comics universe —with so many writers reshaping original characters, the original story tends to get tainted.
Warranted, the research done by investigators should reveal whether there is veracity to said origin story as well.
There is great attention to detail and very little editorializing throughout the narrative. It’s bare approach to discussing the great mysteries that afflict the island.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver Island, and was deeply drawn to the allure of it, from the ancient sylvan paths in Cathedral Grove to Hole in the Wall and even to Victoria’s historical heartbeat.
The only dull moments, I found was the limited interaction with the living. As a journalist myself, I expect evidence shared by witnesses through their own voices. Often, that’s what helps a ghost story breath.
But’s it’s only a few instances with Sinn’s book would I have felt the story was better suited for a sit down with a witness. The rest of the narrative leaves the reader wanting. There is still enough mystery, shrouded like the fog diving into the valleys of Ucluelet.