Does a headless woman haunt the area around the old Lenore town site on Mount Sicker, as the decades-old story that’sbeen spread around the Cowichan Valley says?
Many have said they have seen the apparition of the woman looking for her lost head which, legend claims, was chopped off by her jealous husband in the early 1900s after catching her cheating with another man.
In fact, the husband is said to have chopped her entire body up into little pieces and spread them across the mountain.
There are many ghost stories and tales of the supernatural all across Vancouver Island, and author Shanon Sinn has brought many of them together in his new novel The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side, which was officially released on Oct. 10, just in time for Halloween.
Unlike many who tell the ghoulish tales mainly to scare people, Sinn takes a facts-based approach to the stories to determine their validity, although he’s open to the possibility there may be some truth to a number of them.
He deals with a number of spooky stories from the Cowichan Valley in his novel, including the headless woman of Mount Sicker, the ghosts on Mount Tzouhalem and the black magic that was supposedly practiced by Brother XII and his followers on Valdes Island and surrounding area.
“If a story is evolved and polished, you can be almost sure that there’s little if any truth to it,” Sinn said.
“But if the story seems to be frayed around the edges and not evolved, it really gets my attention.”
Sinn said he spent a good deal of time researching local historical records and newspapers from the time of the supposed murder of the headless woman of Sicker Mountain and found nothing that indicated that a woman was murdered at the time.
“There’s no historical basis to the legend, but lots of people claim to have seen the apparition,” he said.
“It’s interesting that the apparition is sometimes seen with a head, and other times the bottom half of her body, or her feet are missing. It makes for a fascinating chapter in the book.”
Sinn said he researched the legend of the ghost of the preeminent Quamichan chief who lived his final years on the side of a mountain that was named after him, Mount Tzouhalem, after being banished by his own people.
The apparition of Chief Tzouhalem, who was said to be a mystic who talked to spirits, including a cannibal spirit that helped him kill people, has reportedly been seen many times on the mountain.
Sinn said he finds it fascinating that the historical Chief Tzouhalem, who was apparently such an enigmatic and feared personality in his lifetime, still lives in legend in the Cowichan Valley area.
“Almost all the stories of apparitions of Chief Tzouhalem appear to be at least second hand, so I’m undecided if there is anything to the ghost stories,” he said.
Then there’s the story of Brother XII who established the Aquarian Foundation in 1927.
The group built homes in Brother XII’s colony at Cedar-by-the-Sea, along with additional properties on nearby Valdes and De Courcy Islands.
Over the next few years, as conditions in the colony deteriorated, Brother XII’s core group of disciples revolted and filed legal actions against him to recover the monies they had contributed to his work.
The resulting court case in Nanaimo was full of tales of black magic and voodoo, and Sinn’s synopsis of the court case reveals that many in the courthouse believed the tales were true.
“Whether or not there were any truth to the stories is another thing, but people were recorded fainting in the courtroom and even the judge was reportedly scared,” he said.
“I don’t make judgments in the book, but there’s no doubt that people really believed it was all true.”
Sinn spent time in the military and served in Afghanistan before a diagnosis of cancer forced to him to find another vocation that was less active.
“Writing has always been a great passion of mine so I went to school at Vancouver Island University, which I’m still attending, to help me be a writer,” he said.
“I quickly realized there was a certain popularity to this subject, but there was never a book that collected these stories from Vancouver Island. This book was released on Oct. 10 and it is now on the top-10 best seller’s list in B.C. I knew there was a huge market out there for this type of book, but its sales have exceeded my expectations.”