Scandalous, murderous, and mysterious tales abound in Vancouver, Canada, but why pay hundreds of dollars for an authentic ghost tour, when you could make up your own, inauthentic stories for free? Of course, making up ghost stories “for free” doesn’t have to involve any fancy planning, but Nate, Alex, and I decided to drive 2 ½ hours to Canada and stay overnight for “inspiration.” So, no, we didn’t go on any official ghost tours, but for those of you who are wondering, here are a few we would have taken had we not been so cheap or imaginative on our own: Ghostly Vancouver Tours and Forbidden Vancouver. But, oh! The stories we can now tell thanks to our overactive imaginations! I’ll begin with:
Nate: Now, when we get to the border, please don’t try to make any unnecessary conversation. Just answer the questions without offering too much extra information.
Me: What do I do if they ask me about my job? Can I tell them I’m a blogger or do I have to tell them I’m a writing tutor?
Nate: How much money did you make blogging last year?
Me: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Nate: How much money did you make as a writing tutor?
Me: Slightly more than nothing.
Nate: So you should tell them you’re a writing tutor.
Me: But I like the blogging job better. Should I tell them the one I like the most?
Nate: The job you don’t like as well is usually the one that makes at least some money. Any other answer and they’ll be suspicious.
Alex: What’s taking so long? There are only two cars in front of us.
Me: Either we got in the “extra thorough line” or they’re searching every car. Are they searching cars?
Nate: Not that I can tell.
Me: Do you think they’ll look for dead bodies in trunks this weekend?
Alex: Should we tell them we have dead bodies, Dad?
Nate: Seriously, enough. Both of you. Put your serious faces on for once. We’re close enough for them to hear us and we have the windows down. Oh. . . wait! It’s our turn. Everyone quiet! I’m pulling up.
Agent: Passports please.
Nate: Here you go.
Agent: Where are you staying?
(Nate looks at me with panic in his eyes. We hadn’t planned for this question. We know where we’re staying, but we haven’t rehearsed the answer.)
Nate: Uhhh. . . .
Me: The Hotel Executive Le something . . . It’s French sounding . . . I don’t speak French. I think it’s Soleil (which I pronounce so leel). I do speak Spanish, though. I used to teach it before I became a writing tutor slash blogger, which is what I do for a living now. That’s the job where I earn money. The writing tutor job. The one I don’t like as well, but that earns some money. For a living. It helps pay for Alex’s swim lessons. They’re very expensive.
(Nate’s face turns pale. He makes the “cut” sign with his right hand, which he waves at me from below the steering wheel. This sign means, “For the love of God, stop talking.”)
Agent: (still wincing from my horrible French) So it’s in downtown Vancouver?
Agent: Okay, well enjoy your stay in Canada.
As we pull away, the agent looks at me one last time while waving with a gloved hand. Peeking out from underneath the hem of the gloves, I see thick green scales and the eyes behind his sunglasses glow red. He flashes a sassy, wicked smile that seems to say, “I’m not from here, either.”
“Haunted Hotel Room Mini Bar”
Rich, textured fabrics and gleaming golden details await our “fashionable” arrival at the Executive Hotel Le Soleil. (We are clad in “loud” tennis shoes and fleece, while the rest of Vancouver wears sophisticated shades of navy, black, and European cuts of clothes.) The hotel just looks grand as we schlep our luggage through the lobby and wait to check in.
Alex: Mom! Dad! How are we affording this? It’s so nice!
Nate: Relax. We can afford it. It’s in our budget.
Alex: But it’s so nice!
Me: Alex, keep your voice down! We can definitely afford this. Your dad and I budget our trips. We can stay here exactly one night, with a discount and during the off season before we blow the budget.
Receptionist: Your room is ready. You can take the elevator to the 6th floor.
Alex: Even the elevator is fancy!
Me: Wow. You’d think we don’t take you anywhere.
When the elevator reaches the 6th floor, we take the hallway to a corner suite where the housekeeper, who is also much better dressed than we are, is just finishing up.
Housekeeper: Please enjoy your room. If anything—anything—is wrong with your room, please note that the suite next to it is also available.
She then disappears before wishing us well.
Me: Did you hear that, Nate? Why would she let us have the other suite? What would be wrong with this room?
Nate: I don’t know, but that’s very nice of her. All the hotel staff members here are excellent.
Me: (placing my hand on Nate’s as he opens the door) No—did you notice the level of concern in her voice?
Nate: Yeah. She seems very conscientious about her job.
Me: That’s not what I mean. It’s like she’s trying to tell us something.
Nate: I didn’t get that at all. Let’s just get settled and head over to Granville Island.
Of course the room is clean, comfortable, and stately. We’ll be very happy here. I throw myself onto the bed and admire our view of the downtown buildings.
Then, my gaze falls upon a rather small, inconspicuous part of the ceiling, just above the mini bar. There, on that very tiny spot of the ceiling, I see what looks like a faded red “swipe” of a stain.
Me: (pointing to the spot) Nate, do you think that’s blood?
Nate: What? Where?
Me: On that part of the ceiling. Is it blood?
Nate: You’re the only person in the world who would notice such a thing.
Me: So, do you think it’s blood? Was someone murdered here?
Nate: I don’t know. It looks like a paint stroke—like a painter made a slight mistake with the brush. It’s not really red. It kind of looks beige or something.
Me: Come on! Where’s your spirit? It’s Halloween weekend! I’ll bet this place is haunted. (For a real list of haunted spots in Vancouver—and some stories behind them—check out this Ghosts of Vancouver Blog.) I’ll bet that’s what the housekeeper was talking about. I’ll bet there’s a story if you look hard enough and imagine.
Nate: I suppose. And I suppose you’re going to tell that story.
Me: Oh, yes! Alex! Let’s gather ‘round the mini bar for a story.
(Alex sighs, but comes over anyway.)
Me: Here’s how it goes: I think . . . I think a nice family stayed here once, but there was an argument. The argument had to do with . . . the mini bar. The family consisted of a mom, dad, and teenage son and each one snuck items from the mini bar when the other wasn’t looking. Well . . . upon checkout, the bill came to $150,000 Canadian—all because of the mini bar. The dad calmly paid the bill, while the mother and son packed their suitcases in the room. When the dad returned, he confronted the rest of the family:
Dad: Who ate the chips?
Son: Mom did.
Mom: No I didn’t. You did! I ate all the chocolate bars.
Dad: I’m pretty sure your mother drank all the gin too.
Mom: I had to because you drank the scotch!
Dad: The bill is $150,000!
Mom: That’s Canadian. With the exchange rate, we come out ahead somewhat.
Dad: No, we don’t come out ahead at all! Why can’t you control yourself around a mini bar?
And it goes on and on like this. They argue and argue loudly. Meanwhile, some mischievous Future Canadian 4-Hers of America decide it would be hilarious to let a black bear loose in the middle of a luxurious downtown hotel in Vancouver. They captured the bear during a camping trip, tranquilized it, and have now led it into the hotel lobby during a shift change. The bear then rode the elevator to the 6th floor.
Now this family had also stocked up on maple syrup during this trip. The argument got really ugly and they threw the bottles of syrup at each other. A thick, sweet trail trickled out from underneath the door, which the bear noticed right away. So, he beat down the door and slashed the family to bits and pieces. Blood splattered everywhere—including the ceiling, right over the mini bar.
The Canadian Mounted Police came and subdued the bear. Finally, a professional cleaning crew worked through the night to restore the room, except for the spot on the ceiling. Perhaps it serves as a warning to other guests. Those who have stayed here claim they’ve seen a ghostly hotel receipt for $150,000 that gets slipped under the door and then vanishes when they reach to touch it. Sometimes, the mini bar door opens and an other worldly voice says, “Do it. Drink the scotch.”
“Hammocks of Doom On Granville Island”
The colorful, but daunting mazes of stores and restaurants on Granville Island might seem intimidating, but the real threat is the hammock store. Once you enter, you can’t find your way out so easily, so heed this cautionary tale, dear readers.
Nate: Let’s go into this fun, quirky, and harmless looking hammock store.
Me: Sure, why not?
Alex: I’ve always wanted to try a hammock.
Shop Keeper: Welcome, folks!
Me: Wow! These hammocks are really cool. They’re huge and the strands are spider thin. So many delightful colors too!
Shopkeeper: These are the best hammocks in the world.
Nate: Alex, why not give one a try?
Shopkeeper: Yes, Alex. Please climb in and relax.
(Alex struggles to get in.)
Shopkeeper: Relax, Alex! Relax harder! Relax harder than you’ve ever relaxed before! Really settle in there. Stick your feet out right to the edges. Lean your head back all the way. Chill harder!
Eventually, Alex relaxes. He looks quite cozy, so Nate gives one a try.
Me: Alex and Nate look so happy. I just have to try one out too.
Shopkeeper: Yes! Please do!
I stretch out on the thin fibers of the hammock, which cradle me in absolute comfort. I vaguely remember saying something about feeling enveloped in a warm cocoon, before dozing off. When I wake up, it seems that the Shopkeeper has grown spider legs, which he now rubs together, while drooling.
Shopkeeper: Yes, Family. Relax!
Me: Nate! Wake up! It’s a trap! The Shopkeeper is a giant spider. These are webs, not hammocks! We’re food!
Nate: I . . . I can’t move!
Me: Get Alex!
Alex: Mom! I don’t want out. I just want to stay here.
Me: No, Alex! That’s what he wants! That’s what the Shopkeeper wants! You must resist!
Shopkeeper: Try with all your might, but you can’t ever leave. These are the best hammocks in the world.
Me: No! Not the best hammocks in the world! We’ve fallen into the trap of sitting in the best hammocks in the world! Fight, Nate! Fight, Alex! Everyone—use your core!
We writhe and twist in our hammocks, trying to free ourselves from the coma-inducing strands while the Shopkeeper laughs maniacally. Alex somehow manages to break free and I tell him to run for the door. He makes it. At least one of us will live.
I make a last effort to reach my right hand towards the floor—just as Nate wriggles free from his hammock. I tumble out of mine in a most ungraceful manner. Pulling myself up from the floor, I take Nate’s hand so that we can run, but he suddenly stops—inches from freedom. He looks desperately into my eyes. He’s so handsome and intense. So very, very intense. We’re also both sweating. It’s suddenly very warm and I have to remove my jacket. Nate has to remove his shirt.
Me: What is it? Just tell me. Anything—I’m here.
Nate: I have to go back. I have to get a business card.
Me: Be careful! I love you!
Nate knocks the Shopkeeper/spider to floor, grabs a business card, and sweeps me into his arms as we run—free and wild through Granville Island.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite “campfire” ghost story?