On some particularly dry days, you might run into an elderly woman watering the flowers outside a frat house on des Pins. When trying to talk to her, she nods, smiles gently –and disappears. As is the case in many other cities with a rich and multifaceted history, some individuals and phenomenon from Montreal’s past have not quite moved on to the other side just yet. As Halloween approaches, the interest in ghosts and all things occult is massive, and is especially interesting for an international student – and Halloween rookie – such as myself.
Old Port is, of course, famed for its historical aura, and seemed like the perfect place to start a search for spirits. While all of the special Halloween ghost walking tours are already booked to the brim, you can still go investigate the streets of Old Montreal, perhaps in the company of some brave friends. Look out for 18th century couple Marie-Josephe Angélique and Claude Thibault, who were thought to be guilty of setting a fire in 1734 that destroyed around 45 houses along Rue Saint Paul. Angélique was sentenced, tortured and executed, but Thibault disappeared on the day that his lover was arrested and was never found again. Further west, the streets of Griffintown are the home of Mary Gallagher, a prostitute from the 19th century who, during a quarrel with a friend, was beheaded with an axe.
Continuing this quest for the supernatural, I headed to the Mount Royal cemetery. I was looking for the mythical “Algonquin Indian,” in particular: allegedly a Native American warrior who wanders the cliffs of the Mount Royal section of the cemetery. With no one around for miles and no other defense other than a faint “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” whisper, the rustling leaves and tombstones helped create an atmosphere conducive to apparitions of all kinds. Unfortunately the cemetery closes at 5 p.m., making nightly excursions impossible, but it nevertheless makes for an interesting visit.
McGill is not, by any means, spared from these haunting experiences. The sixth floor of the McLennan library is, according to rumor, visited by a man wearing period clothing. When addressed or looked at, he (conveniently) disappears. However, during the late hours I’ve spent there, I must admit I encountered nothing but stressed students in midterm mode.
If you want to unveil more of Montreal’s supernatural side, montrealparanormal.com and the “le spectre” group on Facebook are good places to start your hunt for the undead, you could also go on a ghost walking tour arranged by Montreal Ghosts (if you have another nineteen friends that have an equal interest in the occult, and are willing to shell out twenty dollars for the experience, that is). If you’re more into the kind of haunted houses that are made by people for partying, there’s Halloween celebrations of different kinds all over town, including the fright fest at La Ronde, Metropolis, Rocky Horror Picture Show at Cinema Imperial and clubs all over the city. Happy hunting!