There is an area in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver so ravaged by drugs and homelessness that it’s become an icon in popular culture and Canadian literature. This was the hunting grounds of Robert Pickton, a serial killer who may have killed 49 women. Many people believe that he managed to evade arrest (I won’t say detection given the case of Wendy Lynn Eistetter) for so so long because many people didn’t care about the prostitutes from the East side streets. Books such as Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach have depicted the hopelessness of this area. There is even a new graphic novel called the Dregs, which depicts this area as a feeding ground for wealthy cannibals in a dystopian future. So this is not a place that you would expect to find whimsy or hope. That would be especially true around Halloween, which has a reputation amongst first responders for bringing out the strange in people.
Steve Addison has a blog about the experiences of being a cop on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. He’s the kind of officer who can find pleasure in a street corner conversation with a heroin addict in the small hours of the morning. In one post, Mr. Addison described the madness and humor of this area in the days before Halloween. Spoiler alert: what appears to be a disturbing crime scene in fact proves to be a macabre piece of art, so please don’t let the picture frighten you off from reading the post. It’s hard to decide whether my favorite part was the marching band’s musical choices, or when the eclectic onlookers decided to join the parade.
On a more serious note, the CBC podcast “On Drugs” has a great episode titled “City on drugs: the dark pull of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.” The episode focuses on interviews with drugs users in Vancouver, to examine how they came to be ensnared by drugs.
Or if you are looking for a book that you can read on Halloween, after you put on the kettle and settle under a blanket, there is my own book, Dangerous Spirits: the Windigo in Myth and History. In Canada you can find it on Amazon here. It’s also available directly through the small Canadian Publisher, Heritage House, if you would prefer to support them.
You can also view my earlier post about the ghosts of Hong Kong and Macau. I also have a post about the Canadian Maritime mystery of the ghost ship called the Baltimore. Happy Halloween everyone. And if you are taking out children trick or treating, please remember glow sticks or reflectors.
Shawn Smallman, 2017