What haunted writer Ian Gibbs while pulling together ghostly tales for his new book Vancouver’s Most Haunted: Supernatural Encounters in BC’s Terminal City was his writer’s block.
“I started to write it and then COVID hit and that shut down everything,” he said, during an October phone conversation. “Honestly, in a weird way, I just lost my will to write. It’s like, I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weird and I don’t feel very happy.
“Everything’s gone upside down, so you just kind of roll with it.”
Gibbs overcame though, as most everything in British Columbia returned to a new normal. He was also able to visit Vancouver for research.
“The way I write, I treat it like a second job. I come home, eat dinner and then locked myself in the office until the chapter was done. And that’s the way I have to do it,” the 49-year-old said, with a laugh. “Because if I wait until I’m in the mood, I think it would hit me once every two months.”
Exploring Vancouver’s spectral stories took on a Keatsian appeal for Gibbs, as the opening quote to his new book is pulled from the Romantic-period poet: “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.”
Gibbs toured around some of Vancouver’s most well-known haunts, like Riverview Hospital, Gastown and the Orpheum Theatre, as well as private residences in the neighbourhoods of Kerrisdale and Grouse Mountain.
Like a ship travelling further up the Fraser River delta, he learned about the development of the city and how much infrastructure, whether it be sea or rail, played a role.
Gibbs even had a chance to discover how Victoria became the capital of British Columbia over New Westminster.
“I had no idea there was such a heated about who was going to be the capital,” he said. “Governor James Douglas lived here in Victoria, and he was pushing for Victoria. But they got into some dirty political tricks.”
There was a final debate, and through suspected skullduggery, someone got a hold of the speaker for New Westminster’s speech and muddled all the cards up. The Victoria representative was able to give an eloquent speech, but New West clearly didn’t.
After following John Keats’ words, and experiencing Vancouver on his own, Gibbs said he hopes that
“For me, as a kid experiencing things and being told I was imagining things, I always found a lot of comfort in ghost books, believe it or not,” he said. “They freaked me out, don’t get me wrong. I’d have to read an Archie comic afterwards.
“But I found that it made me feel better because I knew it wasn’t just me experiencing it.”
Which explains why the book is dedicated to all those who have experienced the unexplained.