It’s not hard to see why the old Stone Butter Church is considered by many to be haunted.
Walking up the steep stone path to the long-abandoned stone structure at the top of Comiaken Hill, located just off Tzouhalem Road in Duncan, on a grey and rainy day, one gets the sense that there may very well be forlorn and forgotten spirits lurking in and around the dilapidated church.
I’m not the only one who has felt that way as many people have visited the old Roman Catholic church, built in 1870 by missionary priest Father Peter Rondeault, over the decades and noticed the same feeling from the church and grounds.
It’s called the Stone Butter Church because Rondeault paid its builders with funds raised from the sale of butter from his dairy herd on a nearby farm.
Stories of ghosts following people home, strange sounds within the church and eerie feelings of being watched while wandering around the property abound.
In fact in 1931, Ripley’s Believe it or Not did a story on the church stating that it was never officially used and that every worker who helped build the structure died mysteriously.
However, the church was actually used for a brief 10-year period until the new St. Ann’s Church at Tzouhalem was constructed in 1880, and the contention that all its builders died mysteriously has never been substantiated.
But why let that get in the way of a good ghost story, especially when reports of strange sightings and sounds at the church continue to this day?
With a cold wind whistling through the windows and doors of the deteriorating structure making mournful sounds, and with rain beating on the roof replicating the noise of scary creatures running right at you, it’s easy to understand why many people become spooked when visiting the site.
John Adams, widely recognized as a foremost authority of haunted sites in Victoria, has visited the Stone Butter Church dozens of times over the decades, although he has never personally experienced any supernatural events there.
But he said it has all the ingredients to make it a place where many believe other-worldly events can occur.
“It’s built on a rock on a hill overlooking salt water and surrounded by mountains, similar to many other places that many consider as haunted,” Adams said.
“It’s also built on native land where sacred sites are not supposed to be disturbed.”
As well, Adams said many people believe there are invisible energy fields around the planet that some can detect and identify as special places, so they tend to build structures like churches on them, and unusual occurrences can be experienced there.
“It’s also often said that places, like churches, where events of special emotional significance, including weddings and funerals, are held over the years might bring back the energy of people associated with it,” he said.
The Stone Butter Church is not the only place in the Cowichan Valley that many have reported as haunted.
An apparition of a First Nations warrior, believed to be Chief Tzouhalem who lived more than 150 years ago, has been seen numerous times near Mount Tzouhalem.
Chief Tzouhalem, who was said to be a mystic, was a preeminent Quamichan chief who lived his final years on the side of the mountain after being banished by his own people.
Local legends also state that a headless woman’s apparition has been seen at Sicker town site, a ghost town located near Chemainus, numerous times since the area’s old mining days ended.
The story that has tantalized people for years is that the spirit is of a woman who was found cheating by her miner husband who beheaded her at their home in the community.
Ghost stories are always popular at this time of year, when darkness comes early and the cold winter winds begin to take hold, and there are many others from the Valley for people to hear and spook themselves with.
Happy Halloween everybody, and be safe out there.