Supernatural’s 15th and final season premieres tonight, but before it all kicks off, we want to spend a moment dreaming about a certain way the show could choose to honor its legacy.
With shooting for Supernatural season 15 obviously well underway – the show is currently making episode 8 – we’re already aware of a number of returning fan-favorite guest stars, as well as the vague shape of the plots, themes and final hurdles – including threads that have been woven into Supernatural since day one – that the show’s creators hope to tie together in order to bring the Winchesters’ epic saga to a close. One last ride, and I think we can all agree it’s been a hell of a journey.
However, if Supernatural season 15 is all about doing justice to the road so far and paying off the investment of both the fans and those who have helped make a show like this one possible over its mammoth lifespan, then there’s a very special factor of Supernatural’s success that has earned its time in the spotlight, and I, for one, would like to see an episode centered around it.
I’m talking about the city of Vancouver, which has been Supernatural’s homebase for its entire run, filming out of stages at the Canadian Motion Picture Park Studios in Burnaby and on location all across the greater Vancouver area in British Columbia, as far east as Chilliwack, as far north as Squamish and as far south as the U.S. Border.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: No, “The French Mistake” does not count. But story-wise, doing a real Vancouver episode would not be too difficult to execute or rationalize. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Sam and Dean would take a case north of the border if there was a good reason.
Proximity-wise in the show’s history, the boys have travelled as far northwest as Concrete, WA, at the foot of Mt Baker, and border-wise, they’ve travelled as far as Scotland, by plane no less, to exhume Crowley’s bones and save Bobby’s soul in season 6’s “Weekend at Bobby’s” (I need so much more information about this little UK getaway), so they must have some form of functioning passports, real or forged.
In season 11, we also learnt that as teenagers, John once took the boys on a “working vacation” to Mexico, and they’ve even travelled to Manitoba, Canada by road before, for a hunter’s wake in “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox.” Earlier in that episode, we saw a younger Mary on a hunt in the same region, so other parts of the American Continent are not No Man’s Land for US hunters.
There’s a solid case for a case of the week set in British Columbia being perfectly plausible within the show’s canon. But before I share some plot ideas about what the mystery that brings Team Free Will “home” to Canada could be, I want to talk about the offscreen implications of why this would be such a moving moment for the show’s final season.
The DNA of Supernatural is as uniquely Canadian as it is uniquely American, and given that the show was inspired by On The Road and American Gods, conceptualized as a “modern American Western” or “Star Wars in truckstop America,” – two gunslinging heroes on the fringes of society, traversing the back roads of America’s heartland in a classic muscle car – that’s pretty damn American.
And it is that element – the fact that Supernatural is so famously American, so famously transient – that makes its usage of all that Vancouver has to offer so interesting and so special, and why I believe that the city is worth showcasing, on screen, as a tribute and thanks to the show’s hardworking, always-hidden hometown.
Supernatural creator Eric Kripke pitched the show as The X Files meets Route 66: he wanted to bring us the Great American Road Trip with added monsters, he wanted to delve into the urban legends that have become the mythology and folklore of middle America, and he went as far as to say that he wanted Supernatural to be “really, a show ABOUT our country, the bloody, beating heart of America.”
But it was Canada that was able to raise this particular American Dream into reality. The show’s tangibility – the dirt beneath the Winchesters’ boots, the roads that wear away at Baby’s tread, the small towns and open fields, gas stations, motels, diners and back alleys that imbue Supernatural with the spirit of the land that Kripke was hoping for – is only possible because of the role that British Columbia has played, tucking away its own identity and identifiability to fulfil the needs of such a widely-scoped story. Fifteen years later, and the show’s one-of-a-kind, symbiotic relationship with the region has gotta be worth commemorating.
Thanks to Supernatural, I was able to visit Vancouver for the first time last November, when Hypable was invited to take part in the press line for the show’s 300th episode celebration. During this short visit, I quickly became enamoured with the idea of the show actually doing an episode set in Vancouver – in which Vancouver plays itself – due in part to my own first-hand introduction to the city’s unique landmarks and atmosphere, and in part because this milestone highlighted the breadth of the show’s impact on the British Columbia motion picture industry, both financially and culturally.
Shortly before the party itself, stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles took part in a special ceremony hosted by Canadian Motion Picture Park owner Alec Fatalevich, in which one of the stages that the show has called home was permanently dedicated in their name, with a plaque featuring the show’s mascot, the Winchesters’ 1967 Chevy Impala, installed on the site.
“When it comes to Supernatural, we don’t refer to it as a project, we refer to it as family, because everybody knows everybody – from top Hollywood people to the carpenter, electrician to catering,” Fatalevich told local outlet Burnaby Now on the big day.
And so this family will be honored forever at the place they once called home. Whatever productions come along next will have some big shoes to fill if they land a booking on “The Supernatural Stages” after the show wraps in 2020. “It was very, very emotional. Everyone was hugging each other,” Fatalevich said. “This will be something we’ll remember when we get older – even when we’re gone, it’ll be remembered.”
The BC Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture Lisa Beare, was also at the dedication of The Supernatural Stages, and afterwards posted a statement about the event and the show’s lasting contribution to the local economy.
“[…] Our government is proud to support our province’s motion picture industry and the great work being created here. For 14 years Supernatural has played a huge role in this industry. The show has been shot at locations all over BC, bringing hundreds of millions of direct production expenditure to our province over the years. This has resulted in thousands of jobs for British Columbians.”
It’s safe to say that the legend of Supernatural will live on in Vancouver for a very long time. Vancouver has served as a hub for U.S. screen productions for over a hundred years, earning the nickname “Hollywood North.” The province of British Columbia has marketed itself to the Hollywood entertainment industry for many decades as a versatile and relatively inexpensive location in which to make film and television – come use our landscapes, hire our people, and we will give your production a huge tax break – and it has held onto its spot as the 3rd largest center of screen production in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City.
But when the show’s decision to end was announced in March 2019, CEO of Creative BC Prem Gill called the show an “anchor” for the industry. “It’s a Warner Bros. show that has brought in more shows since from Warner Bros., from Supergirl to Arrow to Riverdale,” she said, commenting on the news. “It’s quite something that one show really helped lift the industry here and continues to. We’re fortunate that we’ve had their presence here for such longevity, which is not usual for television productions.”
Despite the city’s long history as Hollywood North, Supernatural’s legacy stands out in this particular field of economics as it does in so many others. Official reports from 2016 detail Supernatural bringing over half a billion dollars in expenditure for BC and funding over 9,600 full-time equivalent jobs.
Those numbers have undoubtedly increased over the last three years and into the show’s final stretch, and the fact that Supernatural has been running for so many seasons and retained many of the same crew since day 1 means that it has also provided those who have worked on the show long-term with an unusual level of job security.
And in return, Vancouver – via its varying landscapes, its homes and local businesses, and its people, has provided Supernatural with everything it needs in order to tell a story that crisscrosses the continental “United States” on a weekly basis.
Created by showrunner’s assistant Meghan Fitzmartin and post-production coordinator Mary Manchin.
Jump-cut from March to August, and fans are beginning to truly feel just how numbered those weekly adventures are. The last San Diego Comic-Con panel, the last round of pictures from the last first day of filming. In less than a year, the show as we know it will be gone. I don’t attend very many Supernatural fan conventions, but for several years I had promised myself that I would travel to Creation Entertainment’s ‘Salute to Supernatural’ Vancouver event for the last convention that would occur in the city where they make the show while the show was still being made, and after the announcement of the series finale, the clock was ticking and I committed to making this a reality.
Outside the hours of the convention, the long summer days allowed plenty of time to explore the city and surrounds in good weather. I was able to attend a Supernatural-centric walking tour in the residential parts of downtown Vancouver, eat at diners and restaurants that the show has used, and spent a full day driving with friends around Burnaby, Surrey and Delta discovering for ourselves just how creatively the crew had used BC and just how well BC has served the show in helping to create hundreds of cities and towns with differing architecture, climates and terrains where the Winchesters have travelled chasing leads on monstrous, spiritual or demonic activity.
Actor Samantha Smith, who has played Mary Winchester since the pilot in 2005, has witnessed the city’s dramatic growth, both physically and economically, since she first started coming to Vancouver for jobs, dating to even before Supernatural began. Speaking to me at the Vancouver convention, she notes the start of a trend for certain types of shows and certain networks utilizing the region, inspired by how far Supernatural was able to push the envelope with what Vancouver had to offer.
“This part of the world, this part of BC, can be anywhere. It has every topography, every style, every look, except maybe Hawaii! It has snow, it has mountains, it has sea, it has lakes, it has quarries… it has everything.”
“It’s lent itself to being anywhere in the United States and I have people asking me all the time, ‘Do you travel to actual states to film those things?’ So the beauty of Vancouver is not only that it’s welcoming and the crews are great but just the physicality of it has made the show possible. I’m not sure we could do it anywhere else.”
This may sound like an oft-repeated adage to those who have heard the cast or crew talk about Vancouver in panels and interviews over the years. I knew this on paper myself, but found that it sort of had to be seen for itself upon in order to be truly understood, particularly when put into perspective alongside other popular productions that also call the city home.
As the various BC industry professionals quoted above all referenced in one way or another the articles linked, Supernatural finding such a successful home base in Vancouver was the start of a new wave of production in a new era of television. In the 15 years since Supernatural began, the city’s TV industry has boomed, thanks, in large part, to the proof in the pudding that Supernatural provided for The CW and Warner Bros in particular, who started bringing a large number of their new shows up north.
But the biggest difference between Supernatural and all those other shows – be it the ones that came before, like Smallville, or the ones to follow, like the Arrowverse or Riverdale – is, as mentioned, the story’s transience. Most of the shows that film in Vancouver use the city to draw a map of the fictional world of their characters – Riverdale, Greendale, Central City, Starling City, National City, Hilltowne, Bristol Cove or The Good Doctor’s version of San Jose, The Magicians’ version of New York, iZombie’s version of Seattle – via familiar places and patterns, creating their own landmarks and touchstones.
Not Supernatural. For the first eight years of the show, Sam and Dean Winchester were effectively homeless, driving across America visiting countless states, towns, cities and rural areas, chasing or being chased by the things that go bump in the night. Production wise, that’s eight years with no standing sets, eight years of a constant need to scout locations and build or decorate pieces to suit yet another town, in yet another state, every single episode.
After season 8 saw the Winchesters unexpectedly finding a place to call home in Lebanon Kansas, the show settled a little, but only a little – the boys and their friends still hit the road frequently, undertaking long journeys in every direction when they need to handle a problem or follow a lead, and Supernatural’s use of Vancouver to represent all sorts of places in the USA continues.
On my Supernatural walking tour with Fans of Vancouver – a tour company dedicated to showing visitors how the city is used for film and television, which boasts a number of Supernatural-specific tours as well as one for The Flash and some more general “Hollywood North” filming location tours – the juxtaposition between Supernatural’s use of Vancouver and the way it serves other productions could not have been clearer at the tour’s final stop – the wondrous Marine Building in downtown Vancouver.
The exterior of this Art Deco skyscraper was used in season 4’s “It’s a Terrible Life” as the headquarters of Sandover Bridge & Iron, the firm where Sam and Dean are made to work a case as total strangers to one another with alternate memories. But the cafe attached to the building’s lobby, JJ Bean Coffee Roasters, is used regularly on The Flash as the gang’s coffee shop Jitters – a prolific and immediately recognizable example of a recurring locale for the Central City gang.
Aside from the Men of Letters bunker, Supernatural still has very few recurring locations, particularly not ones shot outside the studio. Bobby Singer’s Salvage Yard – shot on location in Vancouver a few minutes away from the studio, at a real auto yard that I was able to visit (the owner is extremely accommodating of Supernatural fans, and offered us a little tour) – had a good recurring run, but Bobby’s house and business all went up in flames in season 7.
The guys have implied regular haunts within their universe – the episode “Lebanon” showed us some of these for the very first time, and another in-universe spot that was only seen once on screen was a local dive bar where Dean shoots pool and knows the bartender Donnie by name, later drinking away his troubles with Crowley and telling him that though family don’t end in blood, but it doesn’t start there, either. (We played bad pool on Dean’s table at the real location, Soho Bar & Billiards, until around 1am.)
But for the most part, every single week, the hardworking Supernatural crew – location scouts, production designers, and so on – is tasked with finding a corner of the city or surrounds and transforming into somewhere new, yet recognisable and appropriately authentic for the scripted setting.
It’s in the Marine Building lobby that I was able to sit down with Arthur Sacramento, who runs Fans of Vancouver and personally escorts the Supernatural tours, to talk about the show’s presence in Vancouver in a bit more detail. A huge fan of Supernatural, he’s also an actor who has appeared on the show himself, serving as a body double for Metatron during season 9, when actor Curtis Armstrong was needed in two places at once – Arthur’s hands apparently feature in the close ups for the iconic typewriter scenes in “Meta Fiction,” when the rogue Scribe of God asked the audience to consider the nature of story.
During Arthur’s walking tours, he educates attendees about the wider Vancouver region’s versatility, such as the way Delta’s flat fields and wide open skies can stand in for the rural midwest, and the variety of architectural eras in various parts of the city (he also offers a driving tour which visits some iconic Supernatural locations further afield) and in our interview, he reiterates that over the past 15 years, Supernatural has truly impacted the Vancouver entertainment industry in terms of showcasing what can be done with the area.
“You can say that Supernatural is one of the best references to what can be done in Vancouver – a portfolio. You can see that even all the houses that they’ve used – the prophet’s house, Lisa’s house, the Lawrence house – they are all in very interesting areas of the city and because of Supernatural, those areas became known for other productions. It may not have become well known for the public, but for other productions, thinking like that, Supernatural was groundbreaking, and the longest production in Vancouver so far.”
Arthur has operated the Supernatural tours for five years now. Every tour is different, he says, but he always finds the customers fun to work with. One incident he’ll never forget is that not long after the show had done something particularly exciting with Lucifer, he and the attendees were talking about the character at length and with great hype and happiness. “This woman walks by terrified, because a bunch of people are crazy for Lucifer on the street and she’s just horrified with us!”
Another time, when almost finishing up in Gastown, the tour had an unexpected cameo: “All of a sudden I hear someone from the tour shouting ‘Gadreel!’ and it turned out Tahmoh Penikett had just come out of the building we passed… He stopped, said hello to everyone, selfies, autographs and everything.”
The convention week is a very popular time for Arthur’s Supernatural tours, because so many superfans converge on Vancouver specifically because of the show. It’s also a week that sees a lot more fans than usual hoping to actually find the show shooting on location and maybe see a part of an episode in action, a fairly normal aspect of life for Vancouver locals. This factor was another drawcard for those who wanted to attend the convention during the final year that the show will be filming. (Guilty. And yes, on my very last day in the city, I got to catch a glimpse.)
If you can’t make it up to Vancouver in the next six months, don’t worry – Arthur has no plans to remove the Supernatural tours from his tour company’s schedule after the show airs its season finale next spring. “Whether people are interested or not, I’m a huge fan. So I will keep doing it, even if I walk alone in the streets. This tour will be here forever, in my company.”
In Vancouver, he thinks there will be a “Before” and “After” Supernatural divide of eras, in terms of cultural impact on the city. However, he, like most people who love the show, believes that the passion for Supernatural will live on for a very long time to come. “Because people come to Vancouver just to see the locations for Supernatural. We know that most of the Supernatural fandom are die-hard fans.”
Whether they catch a filming day or not, coming to the city where they make the show for a convention is something of a pilgrimage, allowing fans the opportunity to really and truly immerse themselves in the world of Supernatural connect with the show in a very special way.
And the convention itself is a one-of-a-kind experience as well. All Supernatural conventions are, but Vancouver is especially unique in that for much of the weekend, particularly the Saturday night concert and the Sunday panel featuring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, many members of the show’s crew come down to join the party, a rare occasion that they get to witness the passion and love that their work has helped make possible in person, the way the actors get exposed to when they tour around the country with Creation Entertainment.
“We tend to get a lot of guests that are crew members who work day in and day out on producing the TV series but they don’t usually get to come and see the celebration part.” Stephanie Dizon, Creation’s VP of Talent and Production tells me. “So it’s really special for us to be able to be in the same city where we can celebrate with the people who are actually working day and night to put the TV show on.”
“The most impactful one was the very first time we did a [convention] here in Vancouver, and I met Jason Fischer, who was one of the first people on the crew that I met, and he came down and was really pleasantly surprised, happy with being able to see it in person.”
“We’ve been doing these conventions for a very long time but we picked Vancouver very early on because they film the show here, and Russ Hamilton [Supernatural’s long-time location manager] has been doing location tours for many years with us, and that’s a highly popular venture that we do, the fans have a really good time being able to see some of the locations are.”
Attendees at VanCon have also had the opportunity for several years to attend “Wayward Cocktails,” a post-convention gathering at a pub organised by the SuperWiki and featuring a deep dive Q&A from several prominent crew members like production designer Jerry Wanek and first assistant director Kevin Parks – both pillars of the show since day one. The fans who recognise crew from social media will take the chance to thank them for their hard work.
And the lead actors, who are never lacking in praise when it comes to the people that has become their Hollywood North family, kick up this effusiveness a notch at the Vancouver convention, talk about the crew or bringing them onstage, telling stories, pointing them out and asking the audience to acknowledge their Herculean efforts with a round of applause.
The fact that this year’s convention was the last one taking place in Vancouver while the show was being filmed there made not only the fans but also the cast very conscious of what that meant. It was a fact repeated and reflected on as heavily meaningful all weekend by the cast during their panels, alongside a running joke that during the upcoming concert, the whole crew would be backstage drinking, heckling and making a nuisance of themselves, irritating the performers to no end.
But in truth, the Saturday Night Special was very special indeed, with a particular and precious fragility to it, culminating in Jensen Ackles and Briana Buckmaster alongside Rob Benedict and his band Louden Swain closing the night with a cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and inviting up every person present who had worked on the show.
“Let me tell you something about what we do here at conventions,” MC of the weekend Richard Speight Jr said, as the final bows were taken.
“We do conventions because we support a show that has been phenomenal. We have a show that is phenomenal because of the people who are on this stage tonight, the crew, who make the show happen. If you love Jared and Jensen, if you love Misha, if you love Jeffrey Dean Morgan, if you have loved any character on the show, you love it because they have shot them really great, they have built the sets, they have brought the props, they have put the hair and makeup on. They are there before the actors show up. They are there after the actors go home. They are the backbone of the show and they are why it is a success, and the majority of them have been with the show since it started. And that is why you have 15 years of entertainment at your fingertips.”
I will never, as long as I live, forget the sight of Jensen Ackles standing guard at the stage entrance gangway while this speech was happening, individually thanking every one of the dozens of crew members as they exited, clasping hands, sharing hugs, patting backs, showing his appreciation with a lovely gesture in front of the audience before heading backstage with them to carry on the party. Many people were weeping. Everyone there knew that this would never happen again. There would be other nights, and there will be so many other lasts still to come, but this was a moment in Supernatural history all its own.
As of now, Creation Entertainment plans to do at least one more Vancouver convention for Supernatural – the 2020 event, which will take place in October, is onsale now. Stephanie hopes that even though the show will be over, the hometown feeling will remain.
“Next year will be like a reunion. It’s bittersweet that this is the last time the show will be in production, but the crew is all local here, so I’m sure they’re gonna come next year.”
Author’s own photograph.
While it’s unlikely that Supernatural conventions will ever entirely cease (“Our take on it is that if they’re willing to keep doing it, we’re willing to keep doing it, and if the fans are willing to keep coming, we have no intention of stopping.”) the number of events that Creation puts on per year is already decreasing to focus on areas where the event attendance is the most reliable, so the opportunity for fans to reunite with the cast and crew in the place where the magic happened will depend on the popularity of the 2020 Vancouver convention.
“Say next year it’s a sellout, we would have really no choice but to really consider it and say, you know, ‘This is a city that the fans really want to come to.’ I hope that  is just the same and I hope that people will want to come to Vancouver for the nostalgia of what this show has always been and having so many actors that live here and are based here and just pop by. We don’t really get that in any other city because we’re just not in that environment. This city lends itself to those random pop-ups and we occasionally get requests for other actors where their families are big fans, and they come to the show, so it’s really nice being in this environment. I hope that it continues to be successful.”
The Vancouver convention was the most wholly worthwhile fan event I’ve ever attended, and traveling around the city on location tours, both organized and self-guided using the incredible fan resource put together over the years, was as enriching and educational as it was silly and fun. I particularly made a point to visit three locations from crucial scenes that each, in turn, were formative in terms of my relationship with the show’s three lead characters – the moments that I truly clicked each one of them into my heart for keeps. But all the while, I kept thinking about the city we were actually in – how easily it had been transformed, but how easily it could also be shown off, and what it might mean to the people who have hosted the show in their city for so long.
So now, let’s talk about what the actual plot could be, and what parts of the city could be featured in a Vancouver episode in order to do the city justice!
This is the part where I need to point out that Supernatural, aside from its contributions to the local economy, actually does a ton of giving back to Vancouver as it is. The cast and crew have gotten involved in many local charity events over the years. Jensen Ackles recently captained a team in the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Legends and Stars celebrity soccer match, and literally right now, the cast and crew are raising money for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s Thanksgiving Challenge, humiliating one another in carnival games in the name of a great cause. You can donate now if you’re able. When I suggest the idea of Supernatural honoring the city of Vancouver, I am merely talking about in an artistic sense, allowing people the enjoyment of seeing the city that’s been disguised for 15 years being able to show off its best assets.
This is also the part where I am going to say that if you are reading this and happen to be a person who works on the show in a story capacity, please either exit out of this article right now or take this disclaimer as a total waiver of ownership over any of these concepts. I do solemnly swear not to sue you if a Vancouver episode is somehow in the works. You should definitely do it.
The first time I came to Vancouver, I walked the Stanley Park Seawall and discovered the Chehalis Cross monument – it’s very ominous in the dusk, and it’s one of a number of memorials for sunken ships with lives lost. While I would balk at taking specific names and incidents from a memorial, the show has covered a few “true” stories before, and they haven’t done very many watery monster-of-the-week stories in their history. Vancouver is such a predominantly coastal city with such a long shipping history that there must be plenty of fodder for a ghostly tale of the sea. Sticking with the water idea: Mermaids. Selkies. Lake monsters. Sea serpents.
The show has shot many scenes in Stanley Park before, but a Vancouver episode should use it again, featuring the most prominent and unmistakable bits. A shot of the boys walking and talking around the southeastern Seawall path from Coal Harbor, passing Deadman’s Island at sunset, the light reflecting off the water. A shot through the arched passage under the Brockton Point lighthouse. A shot of them admiring the Totem Poles, BC’s most visited tourist attraction.
Regardless of the episode’s plot, the worldbuilding of a Vancouver episode should definitely feature First Nations characters and imagery, as Indigenous art and culture is extremely visible in British Columbia, and it is built into some elements of the region’s tourism.
With permission and consultation from appropriate representatives, it could be possible to tell a First Nations story in this episode. The City of Vancouver is formally self-declared to be on unceded territory, the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, so a well-told story that either taps into a local Indigenous legend about a creature, or a story that incorporates some sort of vengeful spirit in a story relating to the oppression done to First Nations people (for example, CBC’s Anne with an E has introduced a Mi’kmaq community this season and is building up to address the horrors of residential schools) could be an interesting and meaningful option.
Or maybe there could be an episode about ghosts from the Great Vancouver Fire of 1886. Two months after the city of Vancouver was first incorporated, a massive fire destroyed a huge percentage of the town’s initial structures. Dozens of lives were lost, but survivors who took to the water were saved by Squamish Nation first responders, who paddled canoes over from the reservation in Ustlawn where they’d been forcefully resettled in order to rescue those in peril and help to rebuild the city.
Or take a local BC legend that’s grown to become more related to wider North American folklore. Sasquatch. In the episode “Wishful Thinking” – set in the Pacific Northwest, the one where they visit Concrete, WA – one of the false alarms they encounter is a sighting of this guy. “Every hunter worth his salt knows Bigfoot’s a hoax,” Sam said at the time, but that was a decade ago, and the world is a very different place now. All bets are off. Maybe the real thing is actually out there. And just… Imagine the Sam jokes. Just so, so many Sam jokes. So many.
Given Arthur Sacramento’s extensive knowledge of both the show and the city, I also asked his opinion on what sort of locations could be featured for an episode like this one. In terms of city landmarks, he suggested Canada Place, because the ten sails on the sides of the waterfront structure represent the ten provinces of Canada, as well as the interior of the Marine Building where we chatted – the show only used the exterior, and the interior lobby is decorated with some of the most unbelievably intricate and artistic craftsmanship that I’ve ever seen, all with a nautical theme. But in terms of story, I asked him about any famous ghost stories of Vancouver, and boy did he deliver.
“The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver has a resident ghost called the Lady in Red. She lives on the 14th floor and apparently she appears inside the elevators as well. It’s an urban legend and people do love her in Vancouver, we are very happy to have the Lady in Red inside the Fairmont Hotel. There’s also the Dominion Building in front of Victory Square and that building has a curse, people say, because on the day that building opened, in 1910, the architect of the building unfortunately fell from a set of stairs, broke his neck and died and the owner of the building, four years later, unfortunately took his own life from the top of the building. So we say the building is cursed. Apparently the ghost of the architect is still inside the building, and people see and hear him at the top of the building where his office was.”
I also asked Sam Smith about sights that could be featured in a locally based episode. “Seaplanes, some of the more famous buildings downtown, by the Fairmont and the Georgia, the bridges…” were her ideas about what parts of Vancouver she would personally like to see included in an episode that features the city as a case of the week, and given that she also referenced the Fairmont, I had to bring up the whole haunted hotel situation.
“I think it is. It feels like the Shining,” she says, claiming that the rumors of a resident ghost are true. “At least one. That’s what they should do, the Fairmont.”
Looking into the urban legend myself, I have to say that I’m sold. A Lady in Red sounds like a great bookend to the show’s first-ever spook, Constance Welch, the Woman in White, who reappeared in the season 14 finale as a stark reminder that every vengeful spirit the guys ever sent to Hell is now back on Earth. We’ll see the Woman in White again in the season premiere.
Ladies in Red – there are a few of them around the world – are meant to be more salacious – victim of a jilted lover, prostitute killed in a fit of passion, or woman of vanity. They’re supposedly a “friendly” figure though, and Vancouver’s Lady in Red is no exception – she’s meant to be a benevolent figure. The rare occasions when Supernatural deals with a ghost who isn’t a monster or a threat – an innocent ghost, held on Earth thanks to the wrongdoing of others or the need for closure – are always the most interesting spirit stories to me, so maybe the Lady in Red could be one of those.
And I have to bring up the sulphur.
On the coast of North Vancouver, visible from the east of Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge, is a shipping yard containing two or three hill-sized piles of bright yellow pure elemental. The first time I saw it, I was baffled and thought I may have hallucinated it and forgot about it. On my second trip, none other than Jared Padalecki mentioned it in passing during the convention – the guys were asked what they like to do in their Vancouver downtime, and Jared, who adores the Seawall and jogs or bikes it regularly, referenced the sulphur pile. It’s just so weird.
So I researched it, and here’s what I learned. The sulphur is produced as a byproduct at a tar sands facilities in Alberta. It’s transported by rail to a 25 meter high, 160 000 tonne outdoor stockpile at the North Vancouver Sulphur Works. It’s then sold and shipped to markets in Asia for use in manufacturing fertilizer. Also, elemental sulfur is flammable and a train spill and fire in 2010 led to the evacuation of 500 homes.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that there’s a whole colony of demons using North Vancouver as a hide-out, masked by the smell of Sulphur Mountain. Sounds like a job for the Winchesters.
But there’s something else that Padalecki mentioned about his attachment to the Stanley Park Seawall that feels like an utterly crucial element of this Supernatural season 15 fantasy undertaking, and even beyond it.
“It has a lot of nostalgia for me. I remember, if it wasn’t day one, it was day two or day three where he [Ackles] and I and Kripke went out and had a conversation on one of the benches about what we needed to do to be a part of the show, what this was going to look like. And he [Ackles] had already been to Vancouver for many years filming other shows, and so he was like “Hey, let’s grab our lunch and go sit on the bench and look out over North Van, and I was like “Sweet, thanks dude,” like I wouldn’t have known what to do, and we did, we grabbed our lunches and went over, so I have a cool nostalgic feeling thinking about week one of filming every time I bike or jog past it.”
It seems kind of important that Supernatural films a scene of the brothers eating lunch on that bench, wouldn’t you say?
Nevertheless. Vancouver, I salute you for your Supernatural service, and I hope to see you shine.