Fort Langley offers ghastly, ghostly and eerily erudite October walking tours!
One recent evening, we meet our guide, who’s outfitted in Hudson Bay trader garb. While fortifying ourselves with Fort Wine Company’s cranberry wine, fine BC merlot and delicious local cuisine at Beatniks’ Bistro, Amn Johal introduces us to some of Fort Langley’s monthly themed events. “Grave Tales 2012 itself is based on scholarly Fort Langley research, residents’ insights…and notable paranormal encounters!”
Carrying a candle-lit lantern, he leads our intrepid group into the darkness and a startling past. Maintaining vintage buildings, this community retains a haunting 19thcentury style! Stopping in front of a rustic law office along its main street, Amn recounts, “Glover Road reflects the long struggle between Chief Trader James Yale and the colony’s Governor Douglas. Originally called Smugglers’ Road, this was the way for Cariboo gold prospectors to evade taxes. Their personal grudge began decades earlier when Douglas married Yale’s fiancée.”
Amn also explains how Francis Mavis bought the Fort’s eastside property, giving streets family names. And tells about the nearby Mavis home, where Francis fell head first off the roof. This brain injury caused memory loss. Weeks later, he bludgeoned a believed intruder with a hatchet. His wife Mary was found in a pool of blood; Francis was committed to an asylum.
Across Glover Road, we enter a creaky, iron-wrought gate into the town cemetery and soon hear of two undying romances. At one gravesite, Amn talks of native burials and an Iroquois fort worker’s love for his Kwantlen wife. “To this day, the gunshot of his tragic suicide and his woman’s scream continue to be heard!”
Proceeding to an obelisk marker, we hear about another fort couple. Amn first praises the keenness of William Henry Emptage to live an adventurous life in early British Columbia…and his rebound from the grisly loss his hand. Afterward, he met, loved and married Louise, a native princess. And upon her death after happy years together, he buried her in style in the cemetery’s front row! At William’s death, friends couldn’t afford an adjacent plot, so bought him one within sight of hers. After a century a light post was installed in the 1970’s obstructing that view. Since then, each wanders alone through morning and evening mists, bewildered…and asking graveside visitors if they’d seen their lost partners.
Our walk continues to the fairly new Liquor Store for other stories. One involves store employees watching a phantom fisherman sauntering along the old-time trail, through the store’s walls to the village’s one-time dock.
Nearby, St. George Anglican Church contains the HBC Pioneer Cemetery of 1840-1890. We learn the iron-cross on its front wall is the grave marker for Peopeo, one of the early Hawaiians employed at the Fort. Peopeo’s burial site remains a mystery. Records confirm just two plots. A well-marked grave clearly identifies Ovid Allard (1880-1884) buried beside his grandfather. Is Ovid there? Parishioners claim the playground tire swing sometimes twirls mysteriously… and a child’s laughter can be heard.
At the fort’s south wall, Amn tells us about other ghostly spirits, including a little native girl that uses feathers to tickle sleepers in adjacent neighborhoods. Then, inside the Fort’s Big House Amn confides that only when fellow workers reported seeing an elusive native boy did he reveal his own scary sighting. Visitors have also reported witnessing this deerskin-clad child joining groups of children in its upstairs activity room and beckoning them to play hide and seek outside. Many believe he was simply part of the Fort program!
The night ends around a fire pit with hot chocolate…and still another spine-chilling tale.