Forbidden Vancouver’s Lost Souls of Gastown tour offers a unique experience, immersing patrons in the ominous past of early Vancouver. They offer student rates and enough knowledge of the area to brag to your friends about next time you go for a pint in the neighbourhood.
The bells chimed ominously in the night as we met the group in Cathedral Square, setting the mood for an eerie evening. Mark Turpin, a Simon Fraser alumnus who graduated in theatrical arts, boisterously led the group in character as George, a gold miner from Jackson, Tennessee with an accent to boot. George is friends and acquaintances with some of Vancouver’s most notorious and controversial figures of the old days, including a brothel owner, Queen of the Yukon, and the first pub owner in Gastown.
The use of the oral storytelling technique was refreshing, entertaining, and a much-needed break from our love affair with digital media. Winding through cobblestone back alleyways and stepping inside some of Vancouver’s oldest buildings, we were transported back in time with gruesome tales of murderous vengeance and other bone-chilling stories that are sure to change the way you see Gastown forever.
The tour tells a story about George’s friends, who are actual historical figures, and we hear their real ghastly stories. Being in the very spot where epic history took place added to the experience, supplemented with the use of vintage photographs that offered a contrasting image of what the area looked like during various stages of history.
Although the tour itself wasn’t very scary, it was at times emotional and shocking, as it was easy to imagine what certain historical figures must have felt at the time through the dramatic storytelling. The tour doesn’t hold back or censor any of the dirty past that was once alive on these streets at a tumultuous time in Vancouver’s history.
The seasonal tours are offered until November 1. If this particular tour doesn’t pique your interest, they offer several others, including one on the prohibition era in Vancouver, as well as a crime-solving tour that you can do with a group of friends.
Although the promise of ghostly activity is not part of the tour package and there’s no one jumping out at you with a chainsaw resulting in faux heart attacks, this is a recommended activity to spice up your spooky seasonal holiday. Unlike ghosts, there’s no denying the shady and ruthless history of Gastown.