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1. If anyone’s in the market to buy an island, I think I have the perfect suggestion for you. Recently a farm on De Courcy Island, just off of the coast of Richmond, BC, has been listed for sale if you’re looking for some hectares of land with forests, fields, views of the water and a historic barn. It’s a virtual paradise, according to the realtor.
Except his listing doesn’t mention one teeny, tiny historical fact. This island was the home of a deranged doomsday cult, led by a man who called himself ‘Brother XII,’ who may have buried treasure, had spiritually transcendent orgies, and may have dabbled in some black magic.
I can’t imagine why they’d leave that off the listing.
2. Known as the ‘Devil of DeCourcy Island,’ Brother XII (or Brother Twelve), was born in Birmingham, England under the name Edward Arthur Wilson in 1878. He originally trained as a mariner and sea captain and travelled the world exploring his craft. Very little is known about his early life, only that while travelling the world, he gained an interest in world religions; specifically Theosophy (looking for the mysteries of life an nature through the occult and mysticism) and eastern philosophies.
In 1902 he ended up in New Zealand and married a woman who bore him 2 children. They moved to British Columbia, where nothing is really known of their life there until 1924, when Wilson left his family and went on a pilgrimage.
3. While in France, he had a vision that supposedly changed his life. While in his bed, he claimed to have seen an Egyptian Tau, levitating in the air. Over the next few weeks, other epiphanies appeared and he believed that he was being contacted by a master, who was the twelfth brother of the Great White Lodge; a group of spiritual beings that directed the world. He then learned that it was his mission to help prepare the world. He joined the Theosophical Society and began teaching.
4. Wilson changed his name to Brother XII and wrote two books about the three basic truths of Theosophy and told people about the special work he was given, to construct an ‘Ark of Refuge’, where persons could seek spiritual enlightenment and get ready for the ‘Age of Aquarius.’
He moved back to England and began to recruit followers, especially affluent ones and he became well known in the occult circles. He was so committed to his mandate of creating an Ark of Refuge and making it safe and isolated, that he decided the distant shores of Canada was the ideal place.
5. He first established a colony (with substantial contributions from his followers) in Cedar, BC just south of Nanaimo, and asked that his patrons build their own homes on the land, while he travelled recruiting and preaching. Soon, he recruited enough to start the Aquarian Foundation; his own private cult.
6. This group built luxury homes in this commune including one for Brother XII exclusively, called the ‘House of Mystery,” where he could commune with the Great White Lodge and get directions from Brothers I-XI.
At least that’s what he said. In reality, followers started noticing that he was using this sacred space to have sex with his mistress, who, surprisingly enough, also had lavish gifts given to her.
Brother XII’s followers started to get suspicious and tried to take him to court for misappropriation of funds and to have the corporation of the Aquarian Foundation dissolved, but while there, most of his accusers fainted mysteriously in the courtroom, while the judge could only bark like a dog. Most suspected Black Magic.
7. Fearing that the original Aquarian Foundation location wasn’t isolated enough and wanted to distance himself from these allegations, he had his followers move across the gulf to De Courcy Island, where a small farm existed. Here, he decided, was the ideal place to sow the seeds of the next generation of humanity, once the rest of civilization died off. Then he and his chosen followers could build a new and enlightened order in this new colony. This building became the dormitory, where everyone lived.
In the meantime, Brother XII had started acting strange.
8. Despite this being his idea, Brother XII spent a lot of his time travelling to recruit more members; asking them to donate to the Foundation and join his new world order.
For the most part, the colony functioned as most cultish communes do; people had chores and responsibilities, livestock was raised and children were educated.
9. There was even a Spring Pageant.
But underlying all that was fear. The colonists had bought into the commune with their life savings, and believed that Brother XII had the power to help them transcend, or to consume their souls, so they followed his instructions willingly. It was psychological manipulation to ensure religious submission and full pockets.
10. When he was home, Brother XII (there in the middle) would preach about their faith, their journey, and the new world order they were going to create. But all he did, was reinforce his own personal kingdom of paranoia, sex and violence in the name of faith.
The downfall of the Aquarian Foundation began with his latest mistress, who he claimed was his soulmate. Whether it was the fervour of his faith and devotion to Theosophy, or perhaps Syphillis, he began acting strangely and had his mistress (named Madame Zee) as his enforcer, having her whip the less devout, make them do manual labour and even force commune members to commit infidelity and rape.
Brother XII also began to worry that they would be taken by force by the rest of civilization and would perish with them, so he began training his followers to use guns and other weapons.
11. He even placed stone gun emplacements around the periphery of the property, turning the commune into a fortress.
12. All the funds of the Aquarian Foundation (almost a million dollars) through donations and buy-ins, were converted into gold and buried all over the property, in places only he knew, including this field. Also buried in this field, were dissidents and those who were discovered not to be devout enough.
13. By 1929, everything came to a head and the Province of BC dissolved the Foundation, demanding that they disperse and dissolve the commune. This edict was met with violence, as any police that were sent over to the island to enforce the ruling, were shot at.
Shortly after that, the remaining members of the colony rebelled against Brother XII and demanded that he step down as leader and release the colony to their own independence and return their money. He agreed.
14. Then, one night In 1932, Brother XII and Madame Zee went on a rampage and destroyed buildings and farm equipment, set fires and escaped with supposedly all the gold, into the night on his private boat. A death certificate was issued for him in 1935 in Switzerland, but no one knows for certain that it was him, as there’s rumours of sightings of Brother XII going into the 40’s and 50’s.
In the intervening years, various secrets have been discovered on the property from secret rooms to hidden safes, and possible graves, but no one’s found any gold… yet. Besides the physical secrets, there’s also the spiritualistic, haunted aspect of the farm. Visitors claim to hear spooky noises and feel unsettled by the property, without knowing it’s macabre history.
Realtor’s got his work cut out for him.