by Virginia Carraway Stark
Imagine walking along a beautiful temperate sandy beach. There are seashells and driftwood decorating the sand and as you walk you scan the beach for interesting objects that the waves have brought to shore. You notice something ahead in a spattering of seaweed, something man made and your curiosity is piqued and you go in for a closer look.
You get up close to it and see that it’s just a shoe. A high top sneaker that someone probably lost at high tide. You inspect it and see that there is something inside of it, something remarkably heavy… and remarkably dead in weight. The shoe smells like the bottom of the ocean, and like something else, something like rotted meat. And then you see that the object inside is some sort of flesh… human flesh.
This is the experience of more than a few people off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, an area also known as The Salish Sea. From 2007 to 2011, eleven feet were washed ashore. Some of the feet were very recent and others were quite decayed and eaten by sea life.
People were horrified as foot after foot washed ashore, most of them were not matching feet and yet no victims came forward who had recently lost feet.
2007 was far from the first time that this had happened in Vancouver. In fact, reports of feet washing ashore went back to the time of the first settlers to the area. The remarkable thing about 2007-2011 was the shear number of feet in such a short period of time.
Theories ranged far and wide. It was speculated that a serial killer was on the loose and had a foot fetish, that they were coming from another dimension, that mobsters were maiming people who owed them money. But the truth was both far simpler and far more haunting than these stories. The truth of the matter became clear with the increased interest in the foot mystery. The origin of the feet was that they were the dis-articulated feet from victims of suicide.
The Salish Sea isn’t the only place in the world where feet will appear from suicides, but a combination of currents and the coastline combine to make it far more likely that after plunging into the water the feet will be removed from the rest of the body by the twisting and worrying of the water on the remains and the decay of the corpse. Thanks to a province wide DNA bank all but a couple of the feet were identified and the remains were able to be put to rest properly.
The mystery wasn’t entirely solved, however. People who walk the beaches, especially at night have reported eerie mists that rise up, allegedly only in the spots where the feet were found. Cold spots have also been reported. These classic signs often appear around the ghosts of victims of suicide. Are these odd remains leaving hot spots of paranormal activity in the Salish Sea? Perhaps this is now the real Mystery of the Salish Sea.