Featured in: Vancouver Sun
Tales of lost gold treasure, murder, sex, reincarnation, the occult, mystical messages from another world and savage beatings swirled around Brother Twelve’s Aquarian Foundation, established in the late 1920s.
One scenario had followers sipping blood from the skull of a young woman killed after she was unfaithful to Brother Twelve.
Today, sheep graze in peaceful pastures surrounded by zig-zag fencing.
An Aquarian dormitory has been converted to a woodworking facility with cold storage. An apple orchard, pear trees, greenhouses, chickens, ducks and a forested ridge are maintained by caretakers who live nearby.
“It is something that is really idyllic,” said real estate agent Mark Lester, senior vice-president of Unique Properties, with Colliers International in Vancouver. The Island is 16 kilometres southeast of Nanaimo.
Once on the property, there is a “sense of isolation while being close to everything,” Lester said. The farm is off the grid, powered via a generator. Wells and ponds provide water.
There is no ferry access. Many Island residents have their own boats. A power boat takes about 15 minutes to reach De Courcy from Nanaimo, Lester said. No houses are on the farm, which falls within the Nanaimo Regional District. Three residences would be allowed, he said.
Included in the property is 850 feet of medium-bank waterfront on the northwest of the island.
The farm is the largest property on De Courcy Island, which has been subdivided into lots.
During the winter, the population drops to 20 to 30 full-time residents, Lester said.
Brother Twelve’s supporters funded the purchase of land at Cedar-by-the-Sea on Vancouver Island, where he built a House of Mystery, as well as nearby De Courcy Island, where the main colony lived, and Ruxton Island.
Brother Twelve was also known as Edward Arthur Wilson, Julian Churton Skottowe and Amiel de Valdes. He claimed to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian god Osiris. The name Brother Twelve referred to a group he called the Masters of Wisdom, which included Confucius, Buddha and Jesus Christ.
Brother Twelve fled Vancouver Island in the early 1930s to avoid criminal prosecution and after a lawsuit led to a court order to repay money.
His followers were believed to have numbered 8,000, many from the U.S., some from England, although the number living on the farm was far lower.
Brother Twelve is said to have amassed a fortune of $500,000. Legend has it that the money was converted to gold and either taken away or buried at a secret site.
“Over the years, there have been many people who have come to look for gold,” Lester said.
Brother Twelve is believed to have been accompanied in his escape by his sadistic “priestess” and mistress Madame Zee, who treated members of the sect like slaves. “She carried a vicious-looking horsewhip and punctuated her beatings with some of the foulest language ever heard on Vancouver Island,” said a 1983 Times Colonist story.
What happened to Brother Twelve? It is believed he died in Switzerland in the mid-1930s.
As for the farm, in the 1940s and 1950s it was run by a brother and sister team from Switzerland. It eventually changed hands and was subdivided in the mid-1960s. By the 1970s, a group of four B.C. men owned it. The remaining ownership in that group has put it on the market.