Ross Bay Cemetery
I grew up in Victoria British Columbia, a lovely wind-swept town located on the very southern tip of Vancouver Island.
One of Canada’s oldest and still surviving Victorian cemeteries is Ross Bay. When I was a kid, many stories were told about ghost sightings and spooky activity on dark nights. Even now, Victoria is reputed to be a place where paranormal activity occurs. People have reported sightings of the spirit of Isabella Ross, the woman who owned the land where the cemetery was built. Other reports include the eerie vision of a lady in white, the ghosts of a couple, and a distressed woman looking for a lost child.
One could not think up a more perfect setting for hauntings! Huge old headstones and ornate mausoleums, tall pillars and monuments of angels with wide outspread wings, tall trees bending in the wind…all fueled our imaginations!
Ross Bay Cemetery is located directly alongside Dallas Road, and was named after the bay that is across from it. In the early days, the cemetery actually extended all the way to the beach, and during heavy weather, the waves would crash right into the cemetery. Stories are told of coffins floating out to sea, and the bones of the dead being found on the beach. Eventually, Dallas Road was extended and a sea wall was built. However, I remember some stormy days when the waves crashed over the seawall, flooding Dallas Road, and threatening to flood the cemetery.
Many of British Columbia’s Premiers and famous citizens are laid to rest at Ross Bay: Sir James Douglas the founder of Fort Victoria and chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and one of my heroines, artist and writer Emily Carr amongst them.
One of the last times I visited my home town, I joined some of my classmates from Oak Bay High’s 1960 graduation class for a long walk. We cut through the cemetery to reach our lunch destination. As I walked through the well-travelled winding pathways and green spaces, I experienced Ross Bay Cemetery in a whole new way. I marveled at the absolute beauty of the Victorian monuments and statuary, the many mature trees and ever-changing blooms, and the spectacular setting looking south over the bay to the Olympic Mountains. To my eyes now, it is a place of restfulness and history. A true Victoria treasure.
This beautiful new gravestone was erected on Emily Carr’s gravesite in Ross Bay Cemetery in September 2001, and honors Emily Carr using her own words. The stone reads:
Dear Mother Earth!
I think I have always specially belonged to you. I have loved from babyhood to roll upon you, to lie with my face pressed right down on to you in my sorrows. I love the look of you and the smell of you and the feel of you. When I die, I should like to be in you uncoffined, unshrouded, the petals of flowers against my flesh, and you covering me up.