How one haunted man resurrects his ghost and becomes a ghost himself. Based on a true story.
Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer
Like a scene out of a Davie Street pantomime, Matt met John on Tinder two years ago. Both men were new to the area, John the bartender from Australia and Matt the teacher from Alberta. Their stories converged on a first date at The Three Brits, then a second where a mutual love of Schitt’s Creek, Ariana Grande, thoughts about marriage, and Nicole Kidman drew them closer to materializing from the Tinder ether into a relationship. All of their similarities should have led to a bright future together. On the morning of October 13, 2017 Matt dropped off John at his West End apartment, and that was the last time he saw John. “I thought things were going really well and that we had something special,” explained Matt. “I had no idea if John was kidnapped, in the hospital or even alive”. Matt spent the next few weeks struggling with how to handle the situation. He sent texts that read:
“Hey! Thanks for a great evening 🙂 I can’t believe I hadn’t seen Practical Magic before!” (Oct. 14 10:33am)
“When can I see you again? I want to try out that brewery you suggested!” (Oct. 20 5:17pm)
“Oh my God have you listened to Taylor’s call it what you want??? I have it on repeat <3” (Nov. 2 10:02pm)
The all-consuming radio silence from John left Matt in a fog of perpetual anxiety. After a month of communicating, Matt had learned John’s texting style – and this was not it. John was the type of texter that replied promptly after getting an incoming message, or he would apologize for any delays if he could not reply in a timely fashion.
From November 2 onwards, Matt spent much of his time outside of work trying to uncover what happened to John. On the weekends he would frequent the local haunts: bars, dives and clubs in hopes of seeing John, just to be sure he was doing alright. Matt would ask the bartenders and baristas in the West End area if they had seen John. None of them had. John had lived in Vancouver for two years, but in a matter of weeks it was like any trace of John’s existence in the city had disappeared like footprints on the shoreline of English Bay. When Matt found himself in John’s workplace, his employers could only tell him that John no longer worked there, but did not know what happened after his last shift.
As each day passed, Matt was starting to forget John and the hurt he felt from losing the connection. The feelings started to dissipate, but every time Matt heard an Australian accent his heart skipped a beat and he would frantically look around in case it was John’s voice. Social media was no help, as a private account gave no details into the actions of the missing man’s life. Matt settled down with a Vancouver local, Ben, in the middle of 2018 and left behind his feelings for the ghost of his past.
In March of 2019, Matt went to a birthday dinner for his friend Samantha. There he met a mutual friend, Alexa, who sat next to him and they spent the rest of the evening chatting. Suddenly, Alexa brought up a name Matt never thought he would hear again: John. He asked many leading questions to find out if it was the same five-foot seven blonde from Australia with an obsession with Miley Cyrus. What was the chance of two men having the same description? His heart began to pound heavily in his chest. He was finally going to find out what happened to the man that disappeared from Vancouver and his heart. Alexa confirmed that this was the same John from nearly two years prior from photos on Instagram. It turns out Alexa had known John through an old boyfriend and knew about his whereabouts over the last year and a half.
Shortly after his birthday in late October 2017, John was forced to return to Australia when his Visa had run out. Together, Alexa and Matt attempted to piece together the lack of communication and how quickly he was able to vanish from Vancouver’s realm. Was moving home too much to bear? Was there not enough time to say his goodbyes before his flight? Did something happen to a family member that required an emergency flight?
The biggest question that came to Matt’s mind was whether John had done this to other men in the past? Would he do it again? What Alexa didn’t know was that Matt was using the information she had given him to prepare for revenge the next time John came to Vancouver. Alexa had let slip that in July of 2019, John would be making a return from Australia. He would be returning for three weeks to see the landscape he missed so much, and the friends he had left behind. “I just thought he wanted to know what John was up to, as a curious friend” Alexa recalled. “I never expected to hear about the events that followed. I just feel so guilty – it’s all my fault.”
What developed next started off innocently enough. Alexa thought it would be nice for the three to catch up together on her rooftop with a few Lone Trees while watching the sunset, sharing laughs and stories over a platter of hummus. Alexa walked them to the front entrance and watched as the two men walked away with big smiles and easy body language. As this first encounter went well, the three decided to meet again to watch the fireworks at English Bay.
The evening was heavy with flirtation between the men, subtle innuendos and secretive smiles. John was starting to feel a connection to Matt that he had not felt since their first date two years prior. He felt remorse for his actions and apologized to Matt for his unexplained disappearance. “I was going through a really rough breakup with my ex Mark,” John disclosed. “I was being dragged back and forth through this toxic relationship and left everyone behind to heal.” He thought everything was patched between them. Little did he know that this was not the case. With every flirtatious glance, Alexa was sure the two would be going home together at the end of the evening.
As she encouraged the two to reconnect romantically, a friend of Matt’s let it be known that he was in a committed relationship with someone else. John did not find out until after Matt had left for the evening and was shocked with this information. He reached out to Matt for an explanation, and the recently exorcised ghost became haunted by his mistakes. John sent message after message to Matt trying to work things out and was given the kind of proverbial silence he’d given Matt years ago. For the remainder of his Vancouver vacation, John was left to wonder where Matt had gone and why the communication ended. Matt was not to be seen at any of the Pride events in August. There was no sign of the man that had been left unaware two years prior. There has been no word from Matt on whether this was done intentionally or if something more tragic happened post-fireworks.
Kind of like a memory, John knows Matt is alive as a spectre that roams the list of viewers in his Instagram stories. He’s floating somewhere in the ether of social media where they first met. Social media is a strange reality where people can disappear without ever really vanishing. Typically, it takes seven years just to molt all the cells in the body, and roughly half of those cells aren’t even human. We’re forever lending ourselves to others without knowing it. Maybe we owe it to these ghosts to spend time looking for them. After all, they might be looking too.
*Haunted is based on a true story. Names have been changed and quotes are fictional.