Harper's Island: The Town of Ghoulish Delight

The fictional small town of Harper’s Island may have a bit of a public relations issue from a tourism standpoint, and rightly so. Despite slashing prices and cutting out the middle man the island resort has had its share of short stays made by unhappy mystery shoppers. But the island does offer some good deals. Harry Hamlin’s stay was half off.

With its foggy boat docks, scenic rocky beaches, quaint general stores and its modern luxury hotel the small town offers the best of both worlds, blackberries and Blackberries, skinny dipping and satellite television. No doubt it’s to die for, literally breathtaking if you can excuse the local ghoul infestation.

As it happens the town is less fictional than you might think. Or at least, this isn’t an old Western and those buildings aren’t cut up cardboard boxes with doors painted on them. Harper’s Island is filmed on location in Bowen Island, British Columbia. Bowen is a popular day trip for residents of Vancouver who can afford to get a nice room for the weekend or own a second home.

With 3,551 permanent residents and roughly 1,500 guests each summer, Vancouver spends much of its year putting on a presentation, with locals renting kayaks, leading hikes through the misty woods, safeguarding the beaches and selling arts and crafts. Much like the series it sounds like a very romantic place to hold a wedding. But also much like its on screen counterpart, Bowen has seen far more than its share of murders, most of them of the rubber knife variety. Turns out Bowen is spook city.

In 1988 Rod Steiger filmed American Gothic there, a horror movie take-off of the famous Grant Wood painting in which puritanical farmers Ma and Pa don’t take at all kindly to the modern ways of their guests.  In The Fog the sailors of a razed ship rise from the dead to take revenge on a coastal town. Also see Disturbing Behavior, The Wicker Man, The Uninvited and Double Jeopardy. As it turns out Harper’s Island has previously been known as Summersisle, Antonio Bay, Whidbey Island and Cradle Bay, among other aliases.

When film crews were shooting Harper’s Island, they changed the nameplates over the doors with the Snug on Bowen Coffee House becoming the Snug on Harper’s Coffee House, and the Legion becoming  The Cannery Bar and Grill. But the good thing about filming every coastal horror movie with foggy woods there is that the basic infrastructure didn’t need to change.

So if you’re in the mood for a thrilling and chilling weekend try Bowen Island’s popular haunts and have a scream. If anything you should run into any misfortune tourists might ask for your autograph.

-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of CBS)