The Squamish people call this place “Island of Dead Men.” It was the site of a fierce and brutal battle.
During the battle between the Northern and Southern nations, the southern tribe kidnapped women, children and elderly of the north and held them for ransom. The northern tribe agreed to hand over their best warriors in exchange for the captives. These warriors were then massacred on the spot by the southern tribe.
According to Native legends, the following day mysterious flaming flowers grew where the dead had fallen, causing the southern tribe to abandon the land and deem it an accursed place plagued with black magic.
Since then, the Squamish people took to using the island only as burial grounds, usually placing bodies within cedar coffins, which they then lodged up within the branches of ancient trees.
This burial ground tradition didn’t change when settlers arrived. It simply took a different shape. Starting from the early 1870s, the island became a dumping ground for dead merchant seamen, the bodies of workers killed during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway line, the 21 victims of the Great Fire of 1886… anyone who died in the surrounding areas but couldn’t afford a more upscale burial, including vagrants, outlaws, prostitutes, lepers, societal outcasts, and immigrant menial workers and laborers.
During a smallpox outbreak in 1888, the island became a quarantine area. Those who died were buried there.
People have heard a woman sobbing, screams and loud clanging noises among other things. A few have seen apparitions. Others have been touched by unseen hands. People have also reported seeing ghostly lights.
According to one story, Leading Seaman A.M. Hamilton, stationed at the military base built during Ware War II, had been given special permission to stay overnight in Building No. 1. On the first night, she heard the voices and footsteps of two men going up an outside staircase. They continued up the staircase to the third. She then heard furniture being moved around in what was once the base’s radar room. This went on for over half an hour.