The Untold History of the Butcher and Bullock
In 1918 business man and architect, John McLuckie designed and built the Abbotsford Hotel. He remained owner of the hotel until his death in 1927 and it was sold by his son in 1929. It stands today as the Days Inn Hotel and the Butcher Pub, a fine example of a near century-old building.
John McLuckie built many of the biggest “brick and stick” warehouses in early Vancouver. While there ought to be a lot of information about him, there’s very little material in the records, which perhaps reflects his status as a builder in the society of the time. There are no photographs of him in the archives, just of the buildings he built.
Perhaps it was this lack of photographs that aided in the Burrard St. Butcher’s success in the fall of 1923
The eight story hotel rented rooms to both long and short term tenants. The first floor was home to the restaurant and pub, and the top and second floors were reserved for long term tenants. Because of his advancing age, Mr. McLuckie opted to have a suite reserved for him on the second floor. This suite he would use when conducting business downtown, or after staying too late in the bar. Rumours of a mistress were rampant, but never substantiated. On June 12th, 1923, Mr. McLuckie checked into his suite. This was strange, however, because John McLuckie was actually in Toronto.
It is not clear how anyone was able to masquerade as Mr McLuckie. While the desk staff were relatively new, records show they should have met the real McLuckie on a few occasions. From June 12th to October 29th, 1923 the man staying in Mr McLuckie’s suite was in fact Maxwell Tinsdal, the Burrard St. Butcher.
It was a quiet Monday evening on October 29th, 1923 when the bloody truth of The Burrard St. Butcher was revealed. A total of thirteen bodies were found that day, twelve murder victims, and the body of Jarod Wheeler, an insurance clerk for the Hudsons Bay company in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just after ten o’clock in the evening when disaster struck. With a deafening sound that one witness described as, “the screams of wood and plaster,” the ceiling of the Hotel Abottsford pub collapsed, killing Mr. Wheeler and exposing the pub to the instant pungent miasma of decomposition. Many bloody victims were pulled from the wreckage and at first injuries were feared to be extensive until the grotesque realization that the blood was not that of the collapse victims, but that of the twelve butchered bodies interned in the floorboards above.
For the previous four months, the RCMP derived, Maxwell Tinsdal had been luring drunken patrons from the bar below to his suite where he would dismember them. Forensics techniques were primitive at the time but it was suggested that his victims were still alive during this process. The parts of his victims were then placed below the floorboards to fester. Autopsy reports indicate that the victims were all missing their left hands and it was later suggested that sexual and/or cannibalistic activity may have been involved.
It did not take RCMP long to identify the true identity of the killer or track him down to his sister’s house in Vancouver’s west end. He was arrested but before he could make it to trial, Maxwell Tinsdal was shot by the father of one of the victims.
Which brings us to the story of how the Butcher and Bullock got its name. The Butcher part is apparent, although why the pub chose to honor such an atrocious mass murder is less clear. When it came time to transport the body of Maxwell Tinsdal, no funeral home would give the man the honour of a hearse and horse to draw it, and Vancouver’s only motor hearse was under repair. Even when the city was able to bring in a hearse from Victoria, no one would rent out their horse for a murderer. A local farmer offered up his bull (bullock) to pull the hearse. The story made the headlines under “The Butcher and Bullock,” and the name was unearthed years later as the current pub.
Staff and patrols have reported countless instances of ghosts and psychic disturbances in the hotel and in the pub, regardless of time of day or the number of people around.