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Ghosts, secret passageways and Hollywood: Greater Victoria castle has it all

Hatley Castle now serves as a heritage site

Famous films and ghostly sightings are part of the charm at Hatley Castle, one of two castles in Greater Victoria, said Erin Limacher, Royal Roads University spokesperson.

The castle was built in 1907, taking around 10 months to build, and was the primary residence for James and Laura Dunsmuir, Limacher said.

Dunsmuir was the premier of British Columbia from 1900 to 1902 and the lieutenant governor from 1906 to 1909.

The couple had purchased a parcel of land for $70,000 and it was a place to retire and live in a secluded location.

The castle now serves as a heritage site and an academic institution with special challenges.

“It’s not fully accessible. Only the first floor has been made accessible,” Limacher said.

The castle is home to various gardens, one of which addresses food security, and she said that around 1,000 pounds of produce has been donated to local partners and food banks.

She said there have been ghostly sightings around the castle, and a strong smell of cigar smoke can be sensed while in Hatley castle.

“I have a member of our security team who loves to tell ghost stories. He has had personal encounters.”

The films made at Hatley Castle range from Hallmark movies to major Hollywood blockbusters such as Deadpool and X-Men.

“Those were probably the largest productions. Certainly the ones that had the most buzzed around them.”

The castle has a lot of secrets, including the fact that when the stained glass windows in the castle had been shipped in molasses, the glass would not break while they were being transported, said Limacher.

“When you pull up to the front doors of the castle, you’ll notice a little staircase built of stone. And that was to support people as they were getting out of their horse-drawn carriages.”

“Then, as you go into the dining room, you’ll notice a tiny little metal lever on the dining room floor. And that was for Laura Dunsmuir to summon kitchen help.”

There is also a secret passage in the castle, and it was initially used so Dunsmuir could escape his guests, she said.

“He could sneak in and out without having to be bothered with entertaining folks.”

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