As an esoteric researcher, I’m constantly traveling the world searching for clues about lost ancient civilizations, secret societies and the answers to life’s most puzzling questions: Where do we come from? What happens after we die? And are we alone in the Universe? In order to decipher these great mysteries, not only is it necessary to read everything you can get your hands on, but also to visit strange lands and meet with extraordinary people.
In the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, sometimes I’ve found myself meandering around the hallways of an old Tudor castle – still haunted by the ghost of Henry VIII, exploring the legends of Vlad the Impaler, or retracing the footsteps of European alchemists through intoxicatingly-beautiful cities like Budapest, Vienna and Prague – all steeped in rich layers of historicity and religious iconography, with food and wine worthy of the gods.
I’ve discovered that every place in the world has an occult history, symbolically encoded into layers of architectonics, timeless monuments and geomagnetic anomalies. For those reasons I’ve been asked by the New Agora to write a reoccurring travel column, documenting my esoteric adventures. And since Halloween is around the corner (as I write this), I thought what better time to explore the strange and mysterious history of our own backyard here in beautiful Vancouver.
After all, the University of British Columbia made headlines in 2012 for its ground-breaking studies in parapsychology; a field that has been dominated by the likes of Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove at Stanford. Their research explored Ouija boards, proving they work through what is known as the ‘ideomotor effect’. That means they can deliver subtle messages from the subconscious mind via our autonomic nervous system.
When most people think of occult cities in Canada, however, Vancouver is not their first choice, as Winnipeg, Manitoba, perhaps first comes to mind. Not only because of its close proximity to a well-documented UFO encounter back in 1967 known as the “Falcon Lake incident” – which the Canadian mint released a 2018 collector coin to commemorate – but its Legislative buildings were allegedly built on top of subterranean chambers, it also has an in-house Masonic lodge and is plastered top-to-bottom with esoteric symbolism.
I learned from my friend, gifted seer and Metis elder, Derrick Whiteskycloud, that even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle traveled there back in 1923 to attend a séance and was convinced he made contact with the spirit of Harry Houdini. Psychism was so common place that at up until 2008, Winnipeg required licenses for practicing psychics that specified their type of fortune telling.
But could there could be an even more occult city in Canada? That led me to meeting with legendary author, cannabis scholar and Soma Institute founder, Vancouver’s own Chris Bennett. He greeted me at the door of his eclectic downtown pad with boundless energy, wearing a red smoker’s jacket and Shriner-like-fez. Examining me for a moment through his dark rimmed glasses, a warm smile emerged from under his distinguished beard before inviting me in. “Come in and make yourself comfortable, man!”, Chris blurted out, as he directed me over to a stoner-friendly couch adjacent to him covered in bright flower-patterned blankets. I felt like I just stepped through a magical wardrobe into entheogenic Narnia.
A volcano vaporizer in the corner just finished (eviscerated) an organic nug of lemon-haze into a misty cloud of pure canna-bliss. His walls were covered in electric skateboards, old hookahs, shelves full of rare esoteric books, miniature figurines of Templar Knights, famous occultists, and magic scrying mirrors. There is a great video of our exchange below:
He began to gush over his latest occult artifact, which was an intricately carved late 19thcentury wooden bench in the middle of his living-room, decorated with winged-horned rams, angels and demons; like a fixture inside of an Austin Spare painting. He had just imported it from an antiques dealer in the UK that told him it came from the upstairs of the Golden Dawn’s Osiris lodge, which perhaps was sat on by the likes of Wescott and Mathers themselves.
With an encyclopedic-like-memory he began to rapidly disseminate a detailed account of how cannabis, hashish and nightshade-imbued elixirs were used by the early Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Theosophists and the Royal Society to attain higher states of consciousness.
We also discussed how these substances were used by early spiritualist and sex magick pioneers like Paschal Beverly Randolph. The Romantic period was known for its nightly séances and experimentation with psychoactive substances, alongside phantasmagoria shows that used candle lit lanterns to project spooktacularfigures of skeletons, phantoms and ghosts onto semi-transparent screens in packed musty-theaters. And although spiritism started to spread in Eastern Canada by the 1850s and to the West by the 1870s, Vancouver’s First United Spiritualist Church just celebrated its 100thanniversary – a congregation run by psychic-mediums to this day.
At that point my attention shifted, as perhaps it was the cat clawing at a carpeted pole in the loft above, or the resident parrot screeching from across the room, but I gazed over at an epitaph of Shiva and the Hindu gods nestled up to a portrait-statue of the beast himself, Aleister Crowley. Chris noticed my eyes wandering, and proudly told me, “I sculpted that myself, you know!”
His eyes lit up, as he further exclaimed: “Did you know Crowley visited here? When I was researching my new book Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult, I learned that one of the individuals assisting Crowley, Charles Stansfeld Jones, also known as Frater Achad, had lived just a few doors down from my child hood home in North Vancouver, and Crowley visited him there. As well there is a claim he was arrested, nude and acting peculiarafter performing a ritual circumnavigating the centre of the city in 1930, probably high on the peyote that Crowley gave to local members of the OTO, which as far as I can tell was right across the street from my Shop the Urban Shaman, which has been there since 2001, at Victory Square.”
According to Chris, Vancouverites were deeply rooted in the occult at the turn of the 20thcentury. Not only was this city home to artist, writer and Theosophist, Emily Carr, but was once visited by the great Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. It’s not hard to imagine how Coastal British Columbia would have captivated the imaginations of the 19thand 20thcenturies most prolific occult minds.
With winter wonderlands like Whistler, Seymour and Cyprus nearby, Vancouver is renown for its supernatural beauty and majestic mountains that are subtly surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Pacific. Arguably, its crown jewel is Stanley Park, which is crawling year ‘round with joggers and cyclists that stop to snap selfies in front of its iconic skyline. This area has a longstanding history involving the First Nations people and British settlers, resulting in an infusion of totemicalart and Indigenous place names for its spellbinding surroundings.
A city recognized for its ostentatiously weird and provocative culture, which can be found at regular demonstrations and exhibits in front of the art gallery. Could this be a result of lingering magical energies left behind from the bizarre public rituals of the past? There are so many taste-tantalizing places to eat and drink at Gas Town, Granville Island and more. But what about occult shops, you might ask? Well, there is Banyan Books in Kitsilano, which has been around since the 1960’s and is like the Costco of metaphysics. And then there is a wide variety of speciality shops catering to cards, crystals and essential oils.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting any large city is rummage through old bookstores in search of occult treasures, and Vancouver is no exception to this with the likes of McLeod’s books. Walking through its dusty glass doors is like having your olfactory nerve surreptitiously made-love to by an orgiastic frenzy of the pleasantly soothing aromas of fermented ink and paper.
Like a scene out of the 1999 movie The Ninth Gatestarring Johnny Depp, manic book collectors of all walks of life scramble to a war-torn-box smothered counter for appraisals of priceless literary works, as an eccentrically brilliant expert with very little patience and a bad hair day tells you what they are worth. It is here that many Theosophical works, rare magical grimoires and manuscripts by Sir Francis Bacon fly off the shelves at top dollar to scholars and private collectors with deep pockets.
As impressive as that all might sound, in my opinion the award for the most charming occult city in Canada goes to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, which is only 1.5 hours away from Vancouver by ferry. I like to call it ‘little London’ for the British feeling you get here, not only because of its gorgeous Greco-Roman architecture and red double decker buses, but there is a statue of Queen Victoria – who wanted to be faced away from the place, back towards England. There is a video I did about it below::
Vancouver Island is a rocky landmass surrounded by salt water, which according to local historians, John Adams and Kate Humble – who do an incredible job with the ‘Ghostly Walks’ …(https://discoverthepast.com/ghostly-walks),
…and is a must do if you are visiting – is the reason why it is one of the most haunted places in Canada. That and during the construction of Fort Victoria, many First Nations burial grounds were disturbed by being dug up and built on top of.
Victoria’s Parliament buildings are not only built alongside ley-lines and caked in esoteric symbolism, but their construction was complete in 1897 on top of underground tunnels by their designer, Masonic architect Francis Rattenbury. Not only did he go on to build the Empress hotel in 1908, but was murdered by his wife’s estranged lover in 1935.
In the early 1900’s, Victoria was not only home to a growing spiritualist movement, which we are reminded of when you visit the upstairs floor of the Craigdarroch castle and find an antique Ouija board, but it was also overrun with brothels, opium dens, and gruesome hangings at Bastion square. Buildings have been discovered there with the remains of people ritualistically buried alive into the walls. There is also an unsolved cold case that baffles historians to this day that stems from an 1899 incident where a neatly dissected body was discovered on the Songhee reserve, believed to have been the work of England’s Jack the ripper.
Some researchers claim that Victoria has the second highest population in the world of practicing witches and satanists next to Geneva Switzerland. And while it’s highly likely, given the population’s esoteric proclivities, I haven’t been able to confirm that.
However, there was a popular book that came out in 1980 called Michelle Remembers, written by psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder about Michelle Smith. She eventually became his wife after claiming to have been subjected to ritual abuse by members of high society in many well-known areas of Victoria. One of these places was the Ross bay cemetery in which Mitchell described a mausoleum in which she was allegedly buried alive in and used to evoke a demonic entity. Critics are mixed, as some have dismissed her alarmist claims as fictious, because a hypnotic regression was used to recall these memories at a time when satanic hysteria was popular with television evangelists.
But when you get past Victoria’s macabre past, there is a magical feeling here. I’m reminded of that every time I rent a bike and go for a stroll around beautiful Beacon Hill park and fly kites by the ocean. Or drive up to the Mount Tolmie lookout spot at night to stare at mesmerizing sea of sparkling lights while devouring an after dinner, salted-caramel Empress square from Roger’s chocolates.
This city is not only crawling in amazing little metaphysical bookstores and occult shops, such as the Triple Spiral in Chinatown’s Fan Tan alley – run by my magical friend, Phylis, but also many delightful-old haunts with diabolically-delicious food. When in town, I always visit the Bard and the Banker: an old bank converted to a pub, alleged to be haunted by the ghost of a famous Canadian poet, Robert Service. I like to slouch down into a comfortable leather booth in the back corner for a pint or two and read his poetry out loud and see if I can see a shadowy figure emerge. So, remember, if you are looking for an esoteric adventure, why not consider Vancouver and nearby Victoria for your next haunted holiday.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jonny Enoch is an esoteric research, writer and lecturer from Vancouver, BC, Canada. If you would like to join one of his tours, visit www.ancientmysterytours.com| Website: www.metaphysicalsource.com| Instagram: @EsotericJonny | Twitter: @ JonnyEnoch | Facebook: Metaphysical Source