The Old Supreme Courthouse Building
The Old Supreme Courthouse Building
Formerly Housing The Maritime Museum of BC
The Maritime Museum of British Columbia sits in Bastion Square in Victoria on Vancouver Island, an area of the city with colonial origins. The building itself developed during the town’s expansion into a city in 1862. Before the Museum opened in 1965, the building was first a police jail and provincial courthouse.
The staff and heritage guides at the Maritime Museum are well versed in the spirits still roaming around Bastion Square and the Maritime Museum. Reported as one of the most haunted buildings in Victoria by several articles and news segments, including CTV, staff and visitors are seldom surprised by the frequency and nature of activity people experience. Guides at the Maritime Museum believe several spirits are behind the strange reports, some emanating from the trials of Judge Begbie, the criminals executed on site, and the large collection of artifacts and exhibit materials displayed on each floor.
Most of the strange and unusual encounters and experiences of staff and visitors emanate from the third floor courthouse where Judge Matthew Begbie presided. Due to the mandatory punishment of hanging for capital offenses, Judge Begbie has erroneously become ‘the hanging judge’ throughout Victoria — a misinterpretation of his ‘haranguing’ from the bench which was to the benefit and defense of those on trial or disadvantaged in society. Visitors to the courthouse frequently report voices and footsteps from the public gallery as well as the smell of sweet pipe tobacco with no apparent source. In 2014, two families independently reported the ‘crowded’ conditions of the courthouse to the staff on the first floor within one week, and many adults report seeing a very tall figure in black dress walking across the Judge’s bench.
Below the third floor courthouse, lies a series of gallery spaces usually reserved for the Canadian Coast Guard, lighthouse, and ship model exhibits. While reports of disembodied voices, moving objects and apparitions are frequently reported to daytime staff, majority of activity centers around the Naval Gallery which exits into a staff-restricted area for special collections holdings. The space, architecturally referred to as 2.14, sits behind an old vault door and opens into a small, brick-adorned segmental arches. Few staff feel comfortable entering into this space which held prisoners awaiting verdict or trial. Psychic mediums Dawn Kirkham and Debra Doerksen report that the space is crowded with many different energies and spirits has an overwhelming sense of despair and grief.
Perhaps connected to those housed in 2.14, is the Shipbuilding Room on the first floor of the museum. Staff continue to record major unexplained incidents and experiences in this small, easily overlooked space. Visitors to the Maritime Museum, even those on large tour groups, sometimes report a feeling of suffocation or choking and witness figures moving past a roped-off section up the staircase. A few visitors have even described feeling the weight of someone standing on their shoulders. These claims and experiences are not new to the staff who realize that the gallows were once where the Shipbuilding Room now stands.
Despite the darker history of the Maritime Museum, many full-time staff cheerfully welcome this activity into their daily work. While there are many spirits living at the Maritime Museum, they are always “hospitable, generous, and kind” to the many families, scholars, and nautical enthusiasts that continue to visit everyday.
If you are planning a visit to the Maritime Museum please check the contact information below or visit their website. The Maritime Museum offers many different programs for children, youth, and adults, as well as special discounts for group bookings. Museum staff welcome visitors to share their own experiences to aid in the ongoing haunted history of their building. The museum also offers paranormal tours and overnight investigations hosted by Beyond Belief Paranormal Events.