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1913-1958::The Haunted House of Harling Point, Victoria, British Columbia

Updated: Apr 7

At the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island stood a very large house. Many considered it to be haunted.

1958::The haunted house of Harling Point.

"The Haunted House of Harling Point - Victoria, British Columbia"

Photo Clip: Times Colonist (1958)

Victoria, British Columbia

In 1909, the property at the foot of Gonzales Hill in Oak Bay was divided into three separate parcels and sold by its owner, world-renowned architect Francis Rattenbury, whose iconic Empress Hotel had just opened its doors the previous year. Two of the oceanfront parcels stretched between Shoal Bay and Gonzales Point, and the third was the rest of the ocean-facing side of the hill including Harling Point (except for the Chinese Cemetery). But this bit of land wasn't always known as Harling Point. In fact, its story provides a clue as to how a house on Harling Point came to be known as haunted.

1951::Harling Point house (left of photo) dwarfing the neighbouring homes.

"The House That Dwarfs the Others"

Photo (likely pre-1958): BC Archives (G-05359)

In 1914, Victoria postal clerk James Smith moved his family into a big house situated on the east side of Foul Bay at the far side of the Chinese Cemetery. The 3-story house dwarfed the neighbouring homes and sat like a beacon on the very tip of Foul Point where it reached out to the Trial Islands. Inside the house was a sparkling chandelier casting light on an elegant staircase that provided passage between the ballroom on the main floor and its billiard room on the top floor. It was, in all its grandness, a sturdy home... and it had to be. Within the first few years, the Smiths learned that, like their house, they too had to be sturdy. They became the keepers of the water surrounding their home when year after year they raced to rescue someone who was clinging to an overturned boat and at risk of being carried away by the strong current. After two decades and many lives saved, the most heroic rescue the Smiths had ever endured came to pass.

1934::January 15, the storm.

"The Storm"

Clip: The Vancouver Sun (1934) Vancouver, British Columbia

On a cold night in January 1934, a man and a woman had made a trip out to the Trial Islands to collect bark for their woodstoves. Having gathered up a large supply, they were forced to make two trips. On the return of their second trip, a sudden squall churned up the swirling waters of the tide and upset their boat within view of the people on the shore. Men in the area bravely rushed to the rocky ledge of the point and launched whatever they could use as a rescue boat. But the gale was too powerful. Out of the four crafts launched, three were sunk. A strong gust of wind had overturned the first rescuer's boat just as he had plucked the drowning woman from the water. He managed to swim back to safety, leaving the woman behind. The next two rescuers barely made it as far when their boat was also overturned. They were saved only by the outstretched hands of a living chain of men and boys reaching out to them from the shore. The third boat was the same. It had capsized not far from shore and forced its two experienced rescuers to swim back in the freezing water. They returned to safety without help, but for one of them, the shock was too much for his heart and he died shortly after reaching the shore. This man's name was Dr. Fred Harling, a dentist in the area and the namesake of Foul Point's new name, Harling Point.

1956::The abandoned Haunted House on Harling Point

"The Abandoned Haunted House"

Photo (1957): Oak Bay Archives (2012-001-028)

Just two months after the Harling Point incident, postal clerk James Smith also died. His body had succumbed to a fatal illness. His wife Evelyn, who had made it her job to ready the hot cocoa during each rescue, remained in the house for many more years after her husband's death. At 87 years old, she finally left to live with her daughter in Vancouver and died several months later. The newly abandoned house became the perfect hangout for those who had spent years laughing and gawking at the spooky-looking house on the point. But that wasn't the last story to be told of the Smiths of Harling Point House.

After receiving news of Evelyn Smith's death, a local newspaper editor shared his own memories of the Smith family and their house that was thought to be haunted. He recalled his childhood days exploring the rocky shoreline of Harling Point and the wonders of the oddly huge house on the far side of the cemetery. He remembered his friend who lived there and his mom who would invite them in for a plate of oatcakes and a glass of milk before sending them back out into the warm sunshine. He shared in great detail his time spent in Mr. Smith's old longboat that he had painted sky blue, and the gramophone he would play as they cruised around Discovery Island. In a small way, with his stories, the editor saved the memories of the house just as the house and its occupants had saved many lives. The most interesting story from the editor's past, however, was the story he never told. When he was a young man, he had saved the life of a total stranger. His boat was the fourth boat that bravely took on the storm that one dark night long ago when all the others sank. In his small dinghy, the young editor had rowed out to the couple's overturned boat. With enough room to take only one of them back to shore at a time, he rowed the woman back to safety first and saved her life. When he returned to their overturned boat still tossing about in the storm, he found the woman's companion had been lost to the tides.

1934::Foul Point changed to Harling Point

"From 'Foul Point' to 'Harling Point'"

Clip: Vancouver Sun (1934)

Vancouver, British Columbia

After Doctor Harling's tremendous display of bravery that stormy night long ago, the name 'Foul Point' was changed to 'Harling Point' to forever honour the lost hero.

It was later learned that Dr. Harling was the uncle of Art Stott, the young reporter who had successfully rescued a woman during the storm that same night on Harling Point.

1957::Haunted House for Sale

"Haunted House For Sale"

Clip: Times Colonist (1957)

Victoria, British Columbia

When the home was left abandoned, the people who considered it haunted came to the house hoping to get a closer look. Sometimes they would simply look, other times they would be sure to break a window or damage the home in one way or another. The house was torn down after it sold in 1958 and the new owners immediately began to build their new home on the lot using and integrating whatever they could salvage from the big old Harling Point House.

1990::A birdseye view of Harling Point.

"Using the Old to Build the New"

Photo Clip: Times Colonist (1990)

Victoria, British Columbia

The Chinese Cemetery (at the bottom of this birds-eye-view photo) was purchased in 1902 and saw its first interment the same year. To the right of the cemetery, a rectangle outlines a proposed new building (in 1990) and the property of the old Haunted Harling House is beside it with its new structure built using much of the old Harling House.


Mysteriously, the man who had originally purchased the land on which the house sat, was an anonymous Scotsman from Dawson City. He had stopped in at Victoria on his way down the coast and was so taken by the view that he purchased the land promising to return one day and live there. But there is no proof that he ever did. In fact, although most stories say that James Smith was the builder of the home, it is not actually clear that he did. It's possible that the wealthy Scotsman had built the home as his own but then never returned to reside in it. Either way, the home was never complete and even the Times Colonist editor who had recalled his days eating oatcakes in the kitchen remembered that it was still a work in progress.

1934::The day after the heroic rescue.

"The Reporter. The Olympian."

Clip: Vancouver Sun (1934)

Vancouver, British Columbia

The young editor who was then a reporter and saved a life in that cruel and fatal storm, was also a 1932 Canadian Olympic Diver (having placed 11th out of 13 competitors). It was the collective display of bravery during this fatal storm that prompted a name change from Foul Point to Harling Point.


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