Fenn: Different Kinds of Ghosts

This morning I found this strange video about Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam. Riverview, which opened in 1913, was originally called “The Hospital of the Mind,” and treated men who suffered from various forms of insanity. The hospital closed last year.

Glen Ferguson of the Canadian Paranormal Society posted the video in February. I found it while doing some research on the deinstutionalization of thousands of people from British Columbia’s mental health institutes in the 1980’s, which—according to this study by UBC Medical Journal—has had some pretty devastating consequences for Vancouver’s mentally ill. In the video, Glen reads a methodical and (frankly) pretty boring history of BC’s first “Hospital of the Mind,” over long exterior shots of the hospital. At one point, he appears in frame wearing a CPS jacket. In spite of the implication, Glen never mentions anything explicitly ghostly, although the tape hiss on his microphone is a little spooky.

If you’ve read Velma Demerson’s Incorrigible, looked into the history of Ewen Cameron, or for that matter, followed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, its not hard to see why Greg and I are looking for ghosts in Canada’s past—albeit, different kinds of ghosts. While researching an episode of the Terry Project about a fancy restaurant in one of Canada’s poorest neighborhoods, Gordon Katic and I have been struck with a single confounding question: how did the Downtown Eastside (DTES) become so impoverished and desperate in the first place? Some locals and experts have told us that the DTES began to deteriorate in the 1980’s when the province transferred a huge number of its mentally ill people from institutions like Riverview back into their communities. This short history of the Downtown Eastside written by the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, for instance, writes:

The situation in the neighborhood began to seriously deteriorate during the 1980’s, resulting in part from the deinstitutionalization of patients from mental health facilities in British Columbia. The lack of proper support services for these newly released patients led many to the Downtown Eastside’s affordable rental housing units. This influx was compounded as a number of shelters and some housing for these ex-patients were built in the neighborhood at the same time. Lacking proper supports, many were unable to cope in community settings and stabilize their lives. They became easy targets for predators, especially those in the drug trade.

I wonder if the roots of places like Pigeon Park actually lie in places like Riverview?

If, like me, you are interested in this mystery you should do three things: (1) subscribe to the Terry Project on iTunes; (2) follow me (@Samadeus) on twitter (also follow Gordon Katic); and (3) check out my website: www.samfenn.com. Thanks!

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Sam Fenn is the Executive Producer and Host of The Terry Project on CiTR. You can follow Sam on twitter (https://www.twitter.com/Samadeus), check out his instagram (http://www.instagram.com/rsamfenn) and read more of his writing at www.samfenn.com.