The Dimpled Mermaid of Active Pass

Mermaid Active PassOn June 14, 1967, the Daily Colonist reported that passengers on the B.C. Ferry, the Queen of Saanich, had seen “a long-haired blonde with the lower body of a fish or porpoise” sitting on a rock at the entrance to Active Pass. She was visible for over an hour during which time she ate a silvery salmon. At least two pictures were taken of the “dimpled blonde”.

The next day, the Daily Colonist headline read “$25,000 Offered for Mermaid – This Is…If She is Real.” The Underseas Gardens had offered a $25,000 reward for the mermaid. In addition, the company offered the mermaid herself a contract that included a substantial salary, room and board, and a supply of the special combs that mermaids use.

The idea of mermaids living between the sea and land, luring sailors to the watery depths has fascinated us since ancient times. They represent both the bounty of the ocean, and its dangers.

Southern British Columbia is one of the few places in the world where mermaids have been reported. So last week as I sailed on a BC Ferry, I paid special attention tOrcaso the shoreline at Active Pass, snapping this photo. Sadly, no mermaid graced the shores, so I added one with the magic of Paintshop. Although we didn’t catch a glimpse of the dimpled beauty, we saw a pod of orcas passing through the Strait – always a delight with a mythical allure of their own.

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Haunted Victoria

Craigdarroch Castle ranks among Victoria's top haunted places.

Craigdarroch Castle ranks among Victoria’s top haunted places.

The Huffington Post recently identified the Top Haunted Places in BC, including Victoria’s Empress Hotel, Craigdarroch Castle, and Hatley Castle. Victoria abounds in apparitions. Ghostly images have been reported at Ross Bay Cemetery, Mystic Vale and many other local sites.

Sightings of the artist Emily Carr are very frequent. Her apparition has been reported at St. Ann’s Academy and James Bay Inn, the site where she died. Carr is interred at Ross Bay Cemetery and her grave is popular with visitors who recognize her undying influence by leaving her tributes of paintings, paint brushes and pine cones.

Another busy apparition is Francis Rattenbury who still frequents many of the buildings he designed, including the Empress and the Parliament Buildings. Maids and construction workers also frequent the Empress.

Victoria is one of the most haunted cities in the Pacific Northwest. Whether our paranormal energy stems from our geography, geology or history, our ghosts speak to our unique identity and our sense of place so let’s celebrate Victoria’s ghosts at this time of year.

Have a happy Hallowe’en!

Robbie Burns Day in Victoria

To the Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-Race!  Today is the 255th birthday of Scottish poet, Robbie Burns. Victorians are busy celebrating the day in places such as Craigdarroch Castle. The University Club held a Robbie Burns luncheon on January 24th with traditional Scottish fare.

The highlight of the celebration is the ritual in which the haggis is piped in on a silver platter as the audience claps in time to the music. Burns’s poem, Address to a Haggis, is repeated with great drama as a knife is plunged into the haggis, trenching its gushing entrails bright. This is then followed by a taste of whiskey.

The traditional haggis consists of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with its organs -heart, liver and lungs – together with oatmeal, suet and spices and cooked for several hours. Its historical origins are lost in the mists of time, but some spirited folklore accompanies the dish. It has been said that the first mention of the haggis can be found in Homer’s Odyssey.

The Haggis website, at Haggis.com, shows wry Scottish humour by describing the haggis as a small animal native to the Scottish Highlands. The legs on one side of its body are longer than the other so that it can live on the steep sides of Scottish mountains. Furthermore, there are two subspecies of Haggis scotti. One type can travel only clockwise and the other only counter-clockwise depending on which side of the body the legs are longer. Poachers use a mirror to frighten the haggis so that it topples down the mountain where it can be seized. It is thought that the Hebridean Haggis is the original native species from which all other haggis descended.

Burns MemorialMany Victorians have Scottish ancestry and celebrate those traditions. In 1900, admirers of Robert Burns, Scotia’s Immortal Bard, erected a memorial to him in Beacon Hill Park. The statue includes an inscription from his poem, Highland Mary, about his lost love, Mary Campbell who died in 1786 at age 23.

About 1922, the Burns Club of Victoria, B.C. was established to perpetuate the memory of Robert Burns. Clearly, the celebration of the bard remains popular to this day so give Victoria a haggis!