Emily Carr and Ross Bay Cemetery

Ross Bay Angel

After stopping for some unremarkable lunch at a local pub, we wandered into Ross Bay Cemetery.

According to the ‘Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria‘;

“Ross Bay Cemetery has the oldest surviving formal landscape design in BC and is a superb example of a Victorian-era burial ground. Its profusion of unusual trees and plantings, winding carriageways, graves with intriguing marble, sandstone and granite monuments…”

All of that is exactly what makes Ross Bay Cemetery so special. Plenty of stone angels, celtic crosses, elaborate mausoleums and unique grave designs. Many beautiful, uncommon trees and plenty of photo opportunities – all year round.

Ornate Stone Cross

The cemetery, part of a public park, opened in the 1870’s and faces the Pacific Ocean. The sea wall was constructed in 1911 because of extensive erosion damage caused by the pounding Pacific.

In the early 1990’s, while living in Victoria, I visited the sea wall during a dramatic storm at Ross Bay to watch the incredible, enormous waves plow over the breaker, across the adjacent road to crash up into the cemetery. Breathtaking.

Under Deans My Beloved Daughters

The next visit we make to Victoria will be during their ‘Ghosts of Victoria Festival’. Victoria is commonly known as the most haunted place in British Columbia, a fact I wouldn’t deny after an experience I had with my family on a ghost tour a few years ago – a story for another time perhaps.

The Ghosts of Victoria festival is an annual event, happening in October, that features spooky happenings throughout town. One tour stops at the famous cemetery, and has done so for the last 18 years.

It is believed that the ghost of Isabella Ross, former owner of the land and the farm that once stood here, can be seen looking forlornly over the Pacific Ocean. David Fee, murdered on Christmas eve, has been reported to appear in the mist.


No one is allowed in the cemetery after dusk. For many years, Ross Bay has had to deal with vandalism, so called witchery and cult-ish activity.

The problems have subsided with the new bylaws and increased security measures, but at one time Ross Bay Cemetery was a favoured choice of the otherwise ‘demented’ members of our society to enact their horrors – often upon household cats.

Strung up in atrocious, grotesque crowd drawing manner, there was a time the cemetery was less than safe after dark.

A book was written about the topic, called ‘Michelle Remembers‘. Though it has been discredited for accuracy issues, it is not the only publication written about ‘dark activities’ taking place in a cult-y fashion in Victoria and involving the Ross Bay cemetery.

Emily Carr Said Junk Left for Emily Carr

There are plenty of historically important and famous people interned at Ross Bay. A list can be found at Wikipedia.

One of the most beloved is Canadian artist Emily Carr. I was surprised to see her grave covered with bits (paint brushes, roses, pencils, artwork, stones and beads) that fans and lovers of her life and work had left behind – like she was Marilyn Monroe or Jim Morrison.

I suppose in a way she was not incredibly unlike the above mentioned. She was quite unusual for her time and pioneered many women’s issues here on the west coast of Canada.

And she could live ‘wild’ and enjoyed doing so – in solitude. Off into the bush she would go. She was a remarkable woman. You can read more about her at Wikipedia.

Her beautiful home is located in Victoria and is open to visitors. If you are a fan, it is worth a stop in.

At 27 acres, we could have spent hours more exploring the graveyard, but we still had more of the island to tour – and not much time!

Many additional photos of Ross Bay Cemetery in the slideshow, and plenty more can be found at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can follow this tour by heading to the ‘Vancouver Island‘ section.


16 responses to “Emily Carr and Ross Bay Cemetery

  1. I love Ross Bay Cemetery; it’s such a beautiful, tranquil spot. My great-grandfather is buried there and I try to visit his grave whenever I’m in Victoria.

    I’ve never seen Emily Carr’s grave — I will make a point of looking for it next time. Thanks!


    • Yes, youth is indeed wasted on the young! The cemetery is really a work of art – hopefully you will be able to get back to make a visit =). The Butchart Gardens are lovely though, aren’t they? I haven’t been in many years…


  2. I love visiting old cemeteries. This one looks lovely. My dog and I walk through Brompton Cemetery in London quite a bit. So much history and beauty. Such a shame people vandalize these places.


    • Oh yes, it is all about the history! I have only been to one cemetery in London – and you know, it was in Kensington, as is Brompton – I have to do some research to see if they are one and the same. Regardless, the one I visited in London was SO SPECTACULAR. Much older than ours here, much more unusual and vine-y – it didn’t look real – like a movie set. And it just seemed to go on forever, so much to look at. I loved it. Lucky you!


    • Yes, a unique beauty…I have been interested since my girlfriend and I discovered a very old cemetery when we were about 10 years old. I am sure I read and studied every headstone over the two years I lived there. As now, I was fascinated by the history. I know you can relate to the latter! 😉


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