October 20, 2017 - 4:45pm
Creative Writing student Shanon Sinn launches his book, The Haunting of Vancouver Island, on October 27 at VIU
Shanon Sinn believes in ghosts. He’s also a skeptic.
The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Creative Writing student explores these conflicting emotions in his new non-fiction book, The Haunting of Vancouver Island. Published by Victoria-based TouchWood Editions, the book is an investigation into stories about supernatural events from across the Island.
“I think it’s a fun way to look at our own mortality,” says Sinn. “The thing I love the most about these stories is they are a uniting factor for people. So many people have had encounters with the supernatural and they are pervasive across all cultures, all religions.”
From a headless ghost, to a lady who walks on water, to the wild people of the woods and sea serpents, Sinn researches 25 tales of hauntings and sightings from a journalistic perspective, interviewing people with experiences where possible, reading accounts in various primary sources, such as local newspapers, and going to the site in person.
The stories span the length and breadth of Vancouver Island, and Sinn includes stories from the three major First Nations language groups on the Island: the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Coast Salish and the Nuu-chah-nulth. There is even a chapter on the VIU Malaspina Theatre ghost, which students have reportedly been encountering for more than 20 years.
“I’m just acknowledging that these stories exist,” says Sinn. “I also debunk some of the information in several of the stories. In the end, there are so many unanswered questions. My biggest hope for the book is that it will set a new bar for this kind of writing so people will look at the topic more seriously.”
Sinn has always been interested in ghosts. One of his earliest childhood memories is seeing a green fog in the basement of his North Saskatchewan home. He’s continued having these experiences throughout his life. One transformative experience was in Nanaimo in 2001, when his girlfriend also saw the greenish cloud that he had dismissed as a figment of his imagination.
Sinn started researching other stories and collecting information about paranormal experiences. He also became a member of the British Columbia Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society and Paranormal Studies and Inquiries Canada.
Sinn’s interest would have remained at the hobby level if it weren’t for a cancer diagnosis that ultimately led him back to school at VIU. Sinn went to Afghanistan in 2009 as a reservist attached to the regular force. When he returned, he was diagnosed with cancer and was medically released from the army in 2014. Still reeling from the side effects of the chemotherapy treatments, Sinn enrolled in classes at VIU that year.
When he took VIU Professor Dr. Joy Gugeler’s publishing course, he met Taryn Boyd, the Publisher of TouchWood Editions. With Gugeler’s support, he pitched the book idea to her and after his proposal was accepted in the spring of 2016, he took everything he collected and put it into book format. Several of the stories were workshopped in classes taught by VIU Creative Writing Professors Susan Juby and Frank Moher.
“I am so grateful to VIU – being here I’ve made so many connections and received so much support,” says Sinn.
“I’m thrilled this class, and my regular invitation to industry guests, could facilitate this book deal,” says Gugeler. “Many of our students are talented and developing book-length projects, but few have manuscripts complete prior to graduation. It is the happiest of circumstances when a student finds a home for their composition while still in our workshops.”
Click here to learn more about the book on the TouchWood Editions homepage.
Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
Tags: Student Success