Lurking behind stone walls on Sherbrooke Street stand two old towers that are reputed to be haunted. As some of the oldest intact structures in the City of Montreal, these fortifications have a deranged history. Designed as the first Residential School in what is now modern-day Canada, the towers actually feature gun-ports. This military architecture was designed to repel anyone – at gunpoint – who might dare to interfere with the “instruction” happening within the fortified “school”.
Welcome to the thirty-first installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog! Released on the 13th of every month, the November 2017 edition focuses on research we are carrying out into UFO sightings in Montreal, especially one prominent encounter at the Hotel Bonaventure in 1990. With the Hallowe’en Season officially over, Haunted Montreal is moving into its winter mode and is not offering any more public tours until May, 2017. Stay tuned for some of the ideas we are planning for the winter months!
Montreal’s Hotel Bonaventure is nestled on the top two floors of the sprawling, 17-storey Place Bonaventure, once the city’s main convention center. With 397 spacious rooms, including 5 luxurious suites, conference halls, the fancy Kube Restaurant and a heated rooftop pool, the 4-star hotel is described as “a true Garden of Eden overlooking the bustling streets of the city.” The Hotel Bonaventure has also witnessed unexplained paranormal activity, notably a well-documented UFO sighting on November 7, 1990!
Before the construction of Place Bonaventure, there was an enormous, gaping hole in Downtown Montreal that contained the tracks of Canadian National Railways leading from the Mount Royal tunnel towards the now defunct Bonaventure Train Station.
In February 1963, the railway company began seeking proposals to develop the air rights above the train-filled pit. The Concordia Estates Development Company submitted plans for a major project originally called the Canadian Trade Centre. Measuring two million square feet, the company planned to lease space for conventions and exhibitions and rent out office space and a wholesale trade centre. With a building boom in the 1960s spurred the Expo ’67 World’s Fair, Montreal was about to undergo a major transformation.
The concept for Place Bonaventure was finalized in October, 1965. The gigantic, concrete complex would be built over the railyard.
When it opened two years later, Place Bonaventure was listed as the world’s largest building at the time. At 3.1 million square feet, it exceeded the size of the Empire State Building. Constructed with sand-blasted concrete in the Brutalist style, the exterior walls were built ribbed and angular, creating a very imposing structure.
When the complex opened during the Expo ’67 craze, it began hosting exhibitions of various types from around the world in Concordia Hall. One of its most interesting events for those fascinated by the paranormal was called the Montreal ESP Psychic Expo. The event, which ran for several years, promised “an entertaining and enlightening weekend filled with mystics, psychics, astrologists, numerologists, clairvoyants, vendors, mediums, healers and much more.”
Organizers invited people to “listen to free lectures about the paranormal, receive personal psychic messages and learn how to use psychic gifts to create a more fulfilling future.” Their slogan was “Step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.”
For the extraordinary, the Montreal ESP Psychic Expo could not have chosen a better location. Indeed, many people at Place Bonaventure witnessed an unprecedented UFO sighting on November 7, 1990.
It all began at around 7:20 p.m. when an American tourist was enjoying a swim in the magnificent, heated rooftop pool of the Hotel Bonaventure. As she splashed about in the warm water surrounded by 2.5 acres of beautiful gardens, she suddenly spotted something unusual in the cloudy sky gliding towards the hotel. A combination of green, amber, and yellow light beams appeared to emanate from a gigantic round, metallic object. The UFO coasted silently toward the hotel, coming from the direction of the nearby Stock Market Building. When it arrived, the UFO stopped directly over the Hotel Bonaventure, where it hovered silently and almost without motion.
Unable to believe her eyes, the American woman alerted the female lifeguard to the strange UFO floating above the hotel’s pool. In a state of awe, the lifeguard called the hotel’s security guard. It wasn’t long before around thirty people had made their way to the hotel’s roof to gaze at the strange object. Hotel guests, staff and management stood in amazement at the bizarre sight unfolding above them. Occasionally, the lights emanating from the UFO would appear to glow brighter.
Fearing this might be some kind of warning or preemptive signal, hotel management immediately contacted the police.
Francois Lippe was the first police officer to arrive at the hotel. Baffled, he contacted his superiors and asked them to come and look for themselves at the object that was floating above the City of Montreal. The Chief of Police, Robert Masson, soon arrived at the scene and he immediately spotted the bizarre object in question.
Masson would oversee the initial police investigation that evening. Thinking it could be an optical illusion, he ordered nearby spotlights illuminating a construction project across the street from the hotel to be turned off. However, the object in the sky was still visible, ruling out that it might have been some sort of reflection.
Masson contacted both the local airport and a nearby military radar outpost. Neither facility claimed to have seen anything unusual on their radar. As news of the UFO spread, it wasn’t long before the RCMP, the military and even NASA were investigating the situation.
At one point in the evening, a cargo plane that was visible on the radar of the airport passed between the roof of the hotel and the UFO above. Knowing the cargo plane was flying at 6000 feet, Masson estimated that the object to be around 8,000 to 10,000 feet above the ground and that it was the size of “around five full football fields.”
Marcel Laroche, a journalist from La Presse, was dispatched to the hotel to investigate. He arrived just after 9 pm, when the object had been visible for nearly two hours. Armed with a camera, he snapped several pictures of the strange phenomenon. His photographs are still regarded by many people as proof that the UFO was definitely a solid object.
As the evening progressed, the clouds continued to thicken. Just after 10 p.m., the cloudy sky began to obscure the UFO until completely enveloping it around 10 minutes later.
How long it remained over Montreal after that is unknown because it was never seen again.
While the story was all over the media the following morning, all official files related to the case were classified as Top Secret within less than 24 hours of the UFO sighting, prompting all sorts of conspiracy theories. Was the government hiding something from the public? Did they know more than they let on?
Several years later, Police Chief Robert Masson would state that he had the feeling that the military was “hiding something from him”, and not being completely honest in his answering his questions. In 2005, he told a Canadian television program investigating the story: “I am convinced that I saw something that wasn’t made by any inhabitants of this planet. There’s no doubt in my mind it came from somewhere else (other) than Earth!”
In 1992, a 25-page report called “Details Surrounding a Large Stationary Object Above Montreal” was prepared by UFO researcher Bernard Guénette and Richard F. Haines, a former scientist with NASA.
The report suggested that some sort of huge physical object, about 540 metres wide, was responsible for the beams of light but it failed to identify where the UFO came from or why is was visiting Montreal. The report concluded that the “evidence for the existence of a highly unusual, hovering, silent large object is indisputable.”
Given the credibility of many witnesses involved, plus the photographic evidence of the object’s presence, the incident is seen as one of the most credible and widely-reported UFO sightings in Canadian history. Indeed, the story was covered by a French television program in an episode called L’Enquêteur du Paranormal – L’OVNI de la Place Bonaventure.
CBC also made a documentary about the strange encounter.
One little known fact is that Montreal is actually considered to be a hot-spot for UFO activity. There have been several notable sightings in the city, both before and after the incident at the Hotel Bonaventure.
The earliest recorded sighting dates back to the era of New France. In 1663, a series of earthquakes shook Ville-Marie, the French religious colony that preceded Montreal. Following the trembles, records suggest that serpents appeared in the sky “which entwined themselves with one another and flew through the air with wings of fire.”
According to the late historian E.A. Collard, “This fabulously poetic account reached its height in the vision of the battle for the heavens.” He quoted a narrator, who wrote: “For 40 days, we saw men on horseback who rushed through the air richly robed, and armed with lances, like troops of cavalry; steeds ranged in squadrons which dashed forth against each other; combatants who joined battle hand to hand; shields shaken; a multitude with helmets and naked swords.”
Following this strange incident, things appeared to quiet down for a while, only to explode again in the late 20th Century. In 1973, a UFO investigator named Marc Leduc heard reports of dozens of lights in the skies over Montreal. Upon investigation, he noticed a “legion of strange lights” that moved “as fast as shooting stars” which he concluded was an entire fleet of UFOs.
An even stranger UFO sighting occurred at the beginning of January in 1977. A 58-year old woman named Florida Malbouef claimed to witness a large “oyster-shaped” craft gliding through the sky. According to Malbouef, the craft landed on the top of a nearby building a mere sixty feet away and two tall, thin beings, each dressed in “tight white uniforms” emerged the craft. The strange beings briefly surveyed the area, then returned to their flying machine before taking off again into the sky.
The next morning, Malbouef told her son about the UFO encounter. He decided to investigate and put on his winter coat and boots. Trudging through the deep show, he went to the roof of the building where his mother claimed the UFO had landed. Malboeuf’s son was surprised to see a circle in the snow that exposed the rooftop, not to mention a pattern of unearthly footprints in the snow that surrounded the circle.
Other reports place a UFO over Mount Royal in 1985. In April 1985, a middle-aged woman known as Mildred would file a report about “a fiery red ball low in the sky” above Mount Royal. She had been asleep with her husband at her home next to Jarry Park when she was suddenly awoken at around 1 am by the sound of “hundreds of firecrackers” exploding over the house. The couple bolted from their bed and ran to look out the window. Mildred described the object as having a “beehive-effect” and explained that it lit up the sky lit up for around an hour and a half.
Furthermore, in addition to the firecracker noises, she claimed there was also an uncomfortable sound like “static from hundreds of radios.” Between 11 pm and 1 am officials at Dorval Airport received two separate reports of a red “oval-like” object that evening in Montreal’s skies, reinforcing Mildred’s story.
Another uncanny encounter occurred at midnight on November 1st, 2012. One witness captured magnificent footage of a bright, glowing orb hovering above the city and posted it on Youtube.
There was also a rare daytime sighting in 2012 when a Montreal resident named Scott Waring managed to film a “strange red object” floating in the sky that would change from red to black and back again. It was also moving “with and against the wind” which made Waring think that it was independent and being controlled by intelligent beings.
That same year, on September 30th, Dr. Cleve Ziegler also reported a UFO over Montreal. While driving home, he spotted a strange sparkling object in the night sky. He stopped his car and took a closer look, reporting seeing that the object was changing shape as “many little sparkly red and blue lights” blinked. Zeigler contacted the police who concluded that the object was “likely manmade.” Zeigler disagreed, however, and insisted that although he was not a believer in aliens, he is certain he saw “something other-worldly.”
Just a year later, in 2013, a report surfaced describing “three orange lights” moving back and forth in a “weird manner”.
More recently, on October 2014, thousands of viewers witnessed a strange glowing green orb during a live TVA broadcast by journalist Colette Provencher. While speaking to the camera, the weird object appeared on the left side of the screen.
Other reports that same evening of similar glowing orbs came in from Ontario and even as far as New Jersey.
Why Montreal is such a hot-spot for UFO sightings is unknown at this time. Perhaps the reason the UFO in 1990 selected the Hotel Bonaventure as its destination was because of the sheer size and density of the gigantic structure. As one of the largest buildings on Earth, maybe Place Bonaventure attracted extra-terrestrials because of its visibility.
With so many UFO sightings occurring over Montreal, a good question to ask is why is the metropolis so attractive to the otherworldly? There are no prominent theories. Only one thing is certain: it probably won’t be long before another mysterious object appears in the sky above Montreal, sparking more widespread shock and bewilderment among the citizens.
With the Hallowe’en Season now over, Haunted Montreal is moving into winter mode, meaning there will be no more public tours until May, 2017. Private tours are still available for groups of 10 or more people, subject to the availability of our actors and weather conditions.
We are going to try and develop some activities for the winter, such as haunted pub crawls. Indeed, a research trip to Savannah, Georgia is in the works to explore the haunted pub crawls there.
If you have any suggestions for haunted activities during the winter months, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thank you to all of our clients who attended a Haunted Montreal ghost walk during the 2017 season! If you enjoyed the experience, we encourage you to write a review on our Tripadvisor page, something that helps Haunted Montreal to market its tours.
Coming up on December 13th: The Cursed House
Montreal once had an extremely cursed house, according to a persistent 20th Century urban legend. While the location of the cursed home is unknown, several sources tell the terrifying story of a little 5-year-old girl named Gisèle Fortier. In 1905, she had the misfortune of moving into the house with her parents, an author named Paul Fortier and his wife Denise. When Denise noticed paranormal activity inside, such as cold spots that appeared out of nowhere, she began researching the home’s past. She was upset to learn that it once housed a correctional facility for wayward children and that during the 1800s two boys had murdered the owner and his wife before setting the building on fire. While the home had since been rebuilt, ghosts apparently remained. One evening, Gisèle didn’t want to go to sleep because cold spots kept appearing in her bed. Her mother insisted and tucked her in. Lying the the dark, Gisèle soon smelled smoke and ran to her parents’ room. Upon flinging the door open, she saw her father lying in a pool of blood with a pair of scissors jutting out of his neck, while her mother was being viciously attacked by two ghostly boys. She ran for help, but it was too late. Both of her parents soon died of their injuries. Orphaned, Gisèle would move to Seattle to live with her grandparents. In 1906, the cursed house burned down for a second time and it was never again rebuilt. Just where does this Montreal urban legend originate from and is there any truth behind it?
Donovan King is a historian, teacher, tour guide and professional actor. As the founder of Haunted Montreal, he combines his skills to create the best possible Montreal ghost stories, in both writing and theatrical performance. King holds a DEC (Professional Theatre Acting, John Abbot College), BFA (Drama-in-Education, Concordia), B.Ed (History and English Teaching, McGill), MFA (Theatre Studies, University of Calgary) and ACS (Montreal Tourist Guide, Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec).