Sunday, March 10, 2013

Boot Hill Cemetery (BC Penitentiary)

A good friend of mine wanted to experience a mini ghost hunt.  She was curious about what I do as a paranormal investigator, and what it all entails.  I suggested we go to a cemetery which had been created for the B.C. Penitentiary prison of New Westminster, and she was in agreement, not realizing what the adventure would bring.  She invited a good friend of ours, and on a sunny winter afternoon, the three of us met up for our journey.

A view of the cemetery looking northwest.
The unmarked cemetery is situated not far from the Woodlands Memorial Gardens. As it involves going through property owned by the Queens Park Care Centre, I will not provide a map on how to find it.  Regardless, this abandoned cemetery is on land owned by the city.  There is no evidence of anyone taking care of it.  The grass is overgrown, with blackberry bushes growing wild.  One has to be careful where they step.  Feces from wild animals, dogs and cats are found scattered throughout, thorns of the berry bushes easily hook into trousers and socks, and because the ground is wet and soggy, it sinks in areas.  If you plan a trip to this plot of land, I suggest you wear hiking or gum boots and long pants.

One of many grave markers we found.
With two women in tow, I found the cemetery to be in bad shape.  Walking through the trees and brambles surrounding it, we ducked through a chain fence to gain access. Once on the lot we noticed stone markers with numbers carved into them.  These appear to be prisoner numbers.  The graves are well spaced out and most have long grass and moss covering them.  In some cases even dirt has swallowed them up.  Keeping in mind that bodies of criminals and convicts lay underneath our feet, some in unmarked graves, and possibly some who may be innocent of the crime they were convicted for; the girls and I wandered around the parcel of land with amazement.  The air was crisp, with a fresh snap to it.  It felt peaceful here, undisturbed, unannounced, hidden away from view; however, I couldn't help the sadness I was feeling deep within.  To know that these people, no matter of their past, were tucked away without any care or recognition is somewhat unforgivable to me.  How is it that we seem to have discarded this part of our history, and the people that came before us?  There appeared to be some interest, as we realized some of the stone markers were cleared of the long grass, weeds and prickly brambles.  Possibly other visitors before us, those curious, like us.  A teenage girl and a younger boy arrived at the cemetery as we were leaving.  Noticing their respectful behaviour made me feel good.  If this younger generation can honour this land and those interred, there is hope.

Ultra-Violet photo looking north-east corner of cemetery
Before the visit, I dug up (pardon me for my choice of words) some information about the cemetery.  I love research, and with simple techniques came up with a few tidbits that may not be well known.
  • Between 1913 and 1968, deceased prisoners of the B.C. Penitentiary prison, whose remains were not claimed by family, were buried in this plot known as “Boot Hill”.
  • Records for Chinese, 1st Nations and Doukhobor convicts buried at the lot are very difficult to find and may have been destroyed.
  • The land is owned by the City of New Westminster and has a fence surrounding it, announcing “no trespassing”.
  • The number of prisoners buried here is questionable.  It is thought to be 47 but it could be more.
  • Some graves are marked by simple stone blocks with their prisoner number inscribed (believed to have been made by their fellow convicts), while others are believed to be unmarked.
  • The first and only man hanged at the prison, on January 31, 1913, is believed to be buried here.
  • The cemetery contains the Protestant plot and the Catholic plot.  There are no markings of where each begins and ends.
  • The graveyard is not marked.

EVPS:  Upon review of our digital recording of the visit, I found several evps (electronic voice phenomena) that appear to be men interacting with our discussions and theories. I felt shivers listening to these voices chiming in on our conversations.  The evps are posted in our website: VSPI - Evidence .  Please take a listen!  Wear headphones for quality listening.

I know I’ll be back to visit Boot Hill some day soon.  It is an interesting site, that lacks recognition and care.  I feel connected to this land for whatever reason, and are fortunate that we found the cemetery to pay our respects, even though we didn't realize (at the time) that several men were walking along with us in spirit.  I've always felt everyone deserves respect in life and death, no matter who we are and/or were.

Talk soon,


Update: November 30, 2017:
We have been blogging about the prisoners buried at the cemetery. If you wish to catch up with their stories, check these out:
01) Meet Convict 1548 - Thompson
02) Meet Convict 2370 - Walsh
03) Meet Convict 2304 - Chinley
04) Meet Convict 1774 - Hinds
05) Meet Convicts 1628 - Herman Wilson + Unknown# - Joseph Smith
06) Meet Convict 1659 - Y. Yoshie
07) Meet Convict 1884 - Moses Paul
08) Meet Convict 2516 - Daniel Henrick Urick
09) Meet Convict 1948 - Unknown Gim
10) Meet Convict 2938 - Reginald John Colpitts
11) Meet Convict 5603 - Stephen Poole
12) Meet Convict 3130 - Harry Davis
13) Meet Convict 2312 - Albert Hill
14) Meet Convict Unknown# - Phillip Hopkins
15) Meet Convict #9720 - Norman Donald Bottineau
16) Meet Convict #2225 - Louie Num

Note: The construction in the area opened up a foot path into the area behind the new hi-rise and townhouses providing access to the cemetery. Today you will find a marker on the chainlink fence identifying the cemetery. You can contact us if you are seeking details.
Thank you,


  1. We had the pleasure of visiting this spot today. Beautiful.

  2. With the new construction next to the Victoria Hill presentation centre, and overgrowth behind William Rudd house this does not seem to be accessible anymore ?? Anyone have a general route to get here these days?

  3. VSPI does not assist in "trespass" on other property, or through it. We will however add, due to construction this cemetery is no longer accessible without crossing barriers of safety & violation of trespass. We suggest you contact the City of New Westminster and make a complaint that this cemetery should be considered a historical record of British Columbia, therefore, they should open it up to the public as an educational tool, as well as show respect and concern for sacred land.
    Thank you, Kati

  4. My friend and I are trying to locate the grave site so she can pay respects to her great uncle who happens to be buried there. Any chance you could give us pointers or tips to look for as we have been there once with no luck finding it. We are heading back again to try and locate it.

    1. Hello Criss_ting. Unfortunately, with the new hi-rise building directly in front of the cemetery, there may no longer be access to it. We do not assist in "trespass" however, if you email us at I can give you a bit of detail to aid you in your search. Thank you!