This month we examine one section of Montreal’s new light rail system, the REM, which is finally operational. The line, running from Central Station in Montreal to Brossard, passes over the Black Rock Irish Famine Cemetery. Given that the REM desecrated the hallowed ground by removing over a dozen bodies to insert a concrete pylon, many people speculated that the REM would become haunted. It appears to be the case – since its opening, the REM has been plagued with numerous electrical problems and was even struck by lightning!
Welcome to the forty-fifth installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog!
With over 250 documented ghost stories, Montreal is easily the most haunted city in Canada, if not all of North America. Haunted Montreal is dedicated to researching these paranormal tales, and the Haunted Montreal Blog unveils a newly-researched Montreal ghost story on the 13th of every month! This service is free and you can sign up to our mailing list (top, right-hand corner) if you wish to receive it every month on the 13th!
We are also pleased to announce that all of our ghost tours are now operating and tickets are on sale! These include Haunted Mountain, Haunted Griffintown, Haunted Downtown and the new Haunted Pub Crawl!
Our May blog examines “The Savannah Ghost”, a very personal ghost story by yours truly, Donovan King, the founder of Haunted Montreal. It is the true tale of how I may have picked up something paranormal in “America’s Most Haunted City” and brought it back to Montreal where it would wreak havoc on my life for several months until an Irish priest was able to expel whatever it was that was haunting me.
The Savannah Ghost is a personal ghost story and it is difficult to tell. However, telling it is certainly better than leaving it buried.
One of the challenges of running a tour company in Montreal is the long and brutal winters, which are far too unpleasant to conduct regular walking tours.
Not wanting our actors to suffer through long periods of storytelling isolation, for years I have been seeking a winter solution. I had heard of haunted pub crawls existing in Deep South American cities such as Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans.
I decided that I needed to learn more first hand, so in December of 2017 I visited both Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, “America’s Most Haunted City” to research haunted pub crawls.
Savannah has a bloody, oppressive and somber history. From the settling of Savannah by British colonists in 1733 until the start of the Civil War, Georgia’s first city was heavily dependent on slave labor and the bustling port played an integral role in the oppressive Atlantic slave trade. It has also witnessed pirates, brutal battles during the Civil War, deadly waves of yellow fever and other epidemics, devastating fires and hurricanes, lynchings and deranged murders.
With much of Savannah being built on burial grounds, including shallow and unmarked slave cemeteries, there can be no denying that it has an extremely haunted feel about it. The moss-draped oak trees and beautiful, nineteenth century Antebellum mansions are the perfect background for the numerous haunted activities, including ghost walks, pub crawls, bus tours and hearse rides!
This being a haunted research trip, I booked a room in one of the most haunted lodgings in historic Savannah, the 17Hundred90 Inn, for approximately a week. My room was in a large and stately building behind the main hotel, and was airy, comfortable and luxurious. It included a King-sized bed, antique furniture, tasteful artwork and even a Jacuzzi hot tub.
According to the inn’s website, there are at least three ghosts who are believed to haunt the inn: the spirit of a boy named Thaddeus, the ghost of a young lady named Anna, and a nasty, voodoo-practicing kitchen worker’s apparition.
The first spirit, that of a boy named Thaddeus, is sometimes seen on the ground floor in the restaurant and pub. According to the website: “Thaddeus leaves shiny pennies lying on the tables, bar and the desk. He too is a friendly spirit who is sometimes experienced as a warm unexplainable presence.”
The second ghost is the most well-known at the inn. Known only as Anna, the spirit of this young woman is said to haunt Room 204. This ghost is so popular that the inn actually charges more per night to stay in the haunted room.
According to the inn’s promotional materials: “Guests staying in room 204 frequently report strange happenings such as jewelry or clothing being mysteriously moved from one place to the other. Some have experienced being nudged or having bed covers moved. She always seems to be a friendly spirit yet always wanting to make her presence known.”
According to folklore, in the early 1800s, Anna was a bride of an arranged marriage. Her elderly husband made her life a misery. As a businessman, he ran the inn and was also involved in Savannah’s shipping business.
Not only would Anna have to clean the inn and serve its clients, but she also had to be at the port every morning at sunrise to fill out important paperwork related to her husband’s import and export business.
As the story goes, one fine morning she met a handsome sailor in the port and they fell immediately in love. The sailor invited her to elope with him aboard the ship, which was departing the following day and she excitedly agreed.
Unfortunately, that evening her husband overheard some drunken sailors speaking about the plan. Enraged, he vowed that his young bride would never carry out her disloyal scheme.
Just before sunrise the next morning, Anna is said to have thrown herself to her own death from a third floor window onto the brick courtyard below. Rumours circulated that she had jumped because her husband forbade her to go to the port that morning because he knew of her plan to abandon him.
Others whispered that she had probably been pushed out the window by her jealous husband. While the details of the story have blurred with time, what everyone can agree on is that Anna died after tumbling from the third story window. The innkeepers actually placed a life-size doll of her behind the curtains on the third floor to promote the inn as a haunted destination.
Anna’s ghost seems to enjoy messing with people and their belongings. Guests staying in Room 204 frequently report strange happenings such as jewelry or clothing being mysteriously moved from one place to the other. People have also said they feel the presence of Anna while staying in the room. Sometimes after turning off the lights, guests hear the sobs of a woman emanating from the corners of Room 204.
In 2009, actress/singer Miley Cyrus Tweeted about her encounter with Anna’s ghost. The celebrity and her mother stayed in Room 204 while Cyrus was shooting The Last Song on nearby Tybee Island. Anna reportedly left a hand print on Miley’s boot.
In addition, there are dozens of confirmed ghostly encounters with Anna written in the inn’s guestbook and on travel websites such as Tripadvisor. For example, one guest wrote:
“I stayed in the room haunted by Anna and boy was it an experience. Shadows and footsteps were frequent. The tv glitched up. My partner’s computer stopped working while there and worked as soon as we left. Bangs outside the room. Something got into bed with us and this is probably the creepiest thing. I sleep on the end of the bed at home but while here I kept feeling like something was pushing me to get into bed. Then it felt like I was being touched and my partner felt something grab their foot. Amazing experience that you can read about in the guest book on June 25!”
Needless to say, Room 204 is very popular with those daring visitors who come to Savannah hoping for a ghostly encounter. The innkeepers were kind enough to give me a personal tour of the infamous room when they heard about my research.
The third and final ghost reported at the 17Hundred90 is said to be a Voodoo practitioner who seems to haunt the inn’s kitchen. This ghost is much more sinister in nature than the other two. There are reports of kitchen staff suddenly hearing the clinking sound of metal bracelets, which is often followed by pots and pans being tossed about or spice jars being thrown at unsuspecting kitchen workers.
In addition to the pots being thrown, people have been pushed or touched by invisible hands, and pranks have been pulled on staff who are working in or around the kitchen. Staff members working late at night in the area of the bar or kitchen have had many unnerving things happen to them.
The staff believes this is the ghost of a servant who used to serve the inn. The woman in question was believed to be a practitioner of Voodoo, and the clanging bracelets are believed to be connected to her rituals.
Many Savannah ghost stories are covered on the Haunted History TV program and in many other videos, podcasts, and media.
Returning to my purpose of visiting Savannah, to learn about the concept of haunted pub crawls in order to create one for Montreal’s winter months, I had the great pleasure of attending several different ghostly bar hops.
I was particularly thrilled when Gregory Proffitt, creator of the haunted pub crawl concept, agreed to meet with me at his favourite watering hole, the Six Pence Pub.
Gregory regaled me with stories from his life in the coast guard and then as a horse and carriage guide in Savannah. Realizing he could make extra money at night from his carriage clients, he began inviting them to hear ghost stories in local pubs in the evening. Seeing the potential to expand the concept, Gregory Proffit went on to found the Creepy Crawl in Savannah over a decade ago.
Haunted pub crawls are becoming more and more popular throughout the world as a great way to combine two popular activities – ghost tours and pub crawls, and now exist in dozens of cities across the planet.
While Dublin City, Ireland has around 15 haunted pubs and Savannah, Georgia, has around 25 paranormal bars, Montreal is clearly the best metropolis to mix booze with creepy ghost stories. With over 40 haunted pubs and other drinking establishments, Montreal is an ideal city to pour back some libations while pondering the paranormal.
Knowing that the haunted pub crawl concept would be an ideal fit for Montreal’s long winter months, I set to work studying the dynamics and logistics behind these curious activities. I attended four different haunted pub crawls, two ghost walks, a hearse tour and a haunted bus tour. I had the pleasure of hearing some local ghost stories from my good friend Victor Boyle, who has a home in Savannah.
My usual routine was to sit by the inn’s fireplace and do some research and writing during the day, whereas at night I would attend a haunted event. I got to know the inn’s staff quite well and they told me to make myself at home and to help myself to coffee from the kitchen whenever I wanted some. It was a comfortable and personal office and an ideal place to work in cozy quietude.
One afternoon, I went into the kitchen to refill my coffee cup. Standing there alone, pouring hot java into my mug, I had an intense feeling that someone – or something – was staring at my back. When I spun around, nobody was present. Suddenly I heard a loud clanging noise and I nearly jumped out of my skin!
I whirled around and saw that three metal pots, which had been on the kitchen counter waiting to be used to prepare the evening meal, were rolling around on the floor, creating a metallic echo throughout in the kitchen.
I suddenly felt a burning flash in my brain, like the rapid onset of a bad headache.
I quickly left the kitchen with my coffee and returned to my table by the fireplace. While shaken, I was soon immersed again in my work, feeling quite disturbed.
As the days passed carrying out my research, including the pub crawls and the ghosts haunting the 17Hundred90 Inn, I began to feel more and more uneasy. Some nights, I had trouble sleeping, despite my luxurious room. I was utterly stunned one day when it actually snowed in Savannah, effectively shutting down the whole city.
The inn’s staff jokingly blamed me for bringing the weather with me from Quebec.
There was something both sad and beautiful seeing Savannah draped in a layer of white snow, and I spent the day taking photographs of this unusual occurrence.
I passed the New Year in good company at an Irish pub, but there was a lingering feeling inside me, a negative and alienating feeling of being alone even though I was surrounded by excited revelers.
When it was time to return to the snowy depths of Montreal in early January, these foreboding feelings followed me onto the plane and continued haunting me in Montreal. Sleepless nights. Lingering anxiety. A deep sense that something was very, very wrong. I began to suspect that I had brought something paranormal back with me from Savannah.
It was the beginning of a downward spiral, a descent into a dark pit of depression and anxiety. By February, I had reached out to family and medical professionals to explain my situation and seek help.
In March, just after St. Patrick’s Day, I reached a point so low that I could no longer continue working as a teacher, historian, businessperson or tour guide. I shuttered Haunted Montreal right before the start of the season. I had been transformed into what author Tim Lott describes as a “Half-living ghost“:
“For a start, it can produce symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s – forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation. Making even the smallest decisions can be agonizing. It can affect not just the mind but also the body – I start to stumble when I walk, or become unable to walk in a straight line. I am more clumsy and accident-prone. In depression you become, in your head, two-dimensional – like a drawing rather than a living, breathing creature. You cannot conjure your actual personality, which you can remember only vaguely, in a theoretical sense. You live in, or close to, a state of perpetual fear, although you are not sure what it is you are afraid of.”
The author, himself a victim of the illness on occasion, continues:
“Inside, there is a dark storm. Sometimes you may have the overwhelming desire to stand in the street and scream at the top of your voice, for no particular reason (the writer Andrew Solomon described it as “like wanting to vomit but not having a mouth”).”
This dark and horrifying experience would completely derail my life for several months.
With the devoted support of family, friends and medical professionals, by the month of June I was able to start plotting my escape from the Pit of Hell I had fallen into. Then living with very supportive family members, one of the very best therapies for recovery was building a rock garden on my mother’s property in Malone, New York.
By early July, while still shaky, I was able to return to Montreal. My incredible business partner, Caitie Moynan, rebooted Haunted Montreal on Friday, the 13th of July, 2018, to great fanfare. Even though I still couldn’t work at that time, Caitie arranged other actors to lead the haunted tours so I could continue my recovery.
On July 26, 2018, Caitie and I attended the annual Mass in Saint Ann’s Park as part of our work with Irish Montreal Excursions, our sister company devoted to the history of the Irish in Montreal. Set on the site of the ruins of Griffintown’s once bustling Saint Ann’s Church, the event is held once a year on the Feast of Saint Ann. It is a reunion, as all of the old parishioners who are still living celebrate Catholic Mass and remember the old days before their neighbourhood was destroyed by Mayor Jean Drapeau.
In 1963, Mayor Drapeau re-zoned the Griff from residential to industrial and city workers began tearing down dwellings. Over 70,000 Griffintowners departed their beloved ‘hood until less than 1,000 remained, in just the span of a few short years. Saint Ann’s Church was demolished in 1970 after the neighborhood could no longer support a parish.
Led by the venerable Father McCrory of Saint Gabriel’s Parish, in Pointe Saint Charles, the elderly parishioners attended the service within the ruins of their glorious old church. It was at this sacred location where for decades Griffintowners had attended religious services, community meetings, lively weddings, somber funerals and confessed their deepest sins within the church’s confessional booths.
Following the service, I approached the good Father and asked him for a blessing, explaining my unfortunate situation. Father McCrory appeared very concerned and worked his skills. Miraculously, he was somehow able to expel whatever it was that was haunting me.
Indeed, immediately after his blessing, I felt back to my normal self, after half a year of pure anguish.
Looking back on the situation now, I often wonder what paranormal entity might have placed this curse on me or followed me home from Savannah. Reviewing all the ghosts I had studied in that most haunted of cities, my best guess is that it was the ghost of the Voodoo-practicing kitchen worker at the haunted 17Hundred90 Inn. Simply put, I should never have entered that cursed kitchen knowing full well that a dangerous spirit inhabited the place. And to think it was all for a cup of coffee.
In any case, since this disturbing episode, I am happy to report that everything is back to normal in my life. Haunted Montreal is open for business. I returned to teaching my students, and I got to work creating the Haunted Montreal Pub Crawl, based on all my research in Savannah.
In January, I launched Montreal’s first-ever haunted pub crawl, and it has been selling out almost every week since! Inspired by Gregory Proffit’s Guide to the Haunted Pubs of Savannah, I also blogged a list and short description of many of Montreal’s haunted watering holes, where guests can enjoy some spirits – with a spirit!
Even though this ghost story has a not unhappy ending, reflecting upon it I have three important observations.
Firstly, when visiting haunted locations it is a good idea to take precautions, such as visiting with an experienced guide, avoiding cursed places and bringing as much spiritual protection as possible.
Secondly, it is extremely important to reach out for help when in a state of mental distress. These terrifying states will eventually pass, especially with the right approaches and treatments.
And last but not least, there is a terrible stigma surrounding mental health issues, even though the medical profession agrees that both physical and mental illnesses are normal and treatable. While a patient suffering from cancer will often be surrounded by flowers and family members, those suffering from mental illnesses rarely receive such support. This is why it is important to break the stigma, which would help enormously in the recovery process.
Mental health issues haunt a large percentage of the Canadian population. In any given year, 1 in 5 people will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. By age 40, about 50% of the population will have experienced a mental illness. The results are both devastating personally and do extreme damage to the economy. The cost to Canada is at least a staggering $50 billion per year. By breaking the stigma, all of these grim statistics could be considerably lowered.
During my crisis, I was especially reassured when a loyal Haunted Montreal client reached out to me in empathy and said: “You are not alone.” When another friend sent me flowers on my return to Montreal, it really brightened my mood.
Since this terrifying episode, I have decided to become a mental health advocate to help break the stigma. I believe that we can improve general conditions for recovering sufferers to help deal with whatever demons are haunting their minds.
Where to get help:
In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre
Haunted Montreal is pleased to announce that our public season of ghost tours is in full operation! These include Haunted Mountain, Haunted Griffintown, Haunted Downtown and the new Haunted Pub Crawl! Tickets are on sale!
Our new Haunted Pub Crawl is led by a professional ghost storyteller and visits three haunted bars. Starting at McKibbin’s Irish Pub in Downtown Montreal on Bishop Street, guests not only learn about many of the haunted drinking establishments in the city, but also hear Montreal’s most infamous ghost stories.
While sipping suds, guests enjoy haunted pubs, spine-tingling Montreal ghost stories and learn about the historical forces that transformed the ancient Indigenous island of Tiotà:ke into Ville-Marie, an austere French colony founded by Catholic evangelists.
After the British invaded, the city became a booming financial center and crime hub, a site of violent rebellion and subversive revolution and finally into Canada’s most haunted city.
Clients hear the paranormal tales behind mysterious McKibbin’s Irish Pub, the famous Sir Winston Churchill, funeral-home-cum-discotheque Club Le Cinq and, of course, Hurley’s Irish Pub, where a ghost known only as the Burning Lady haunts the establishment.
The ghost storyteller regales guests with Montreal’s most deranged and infamous ghost stories, including Simon McTavish, a Scottish fur baron known to toboggan down the slopes of Mount Royal in his own coffin, the ghost of John Easton Mills, Montreal’s Martyr Mayor who perished while tending to typhus-stricken Irish refugees during the Famine of 1847, and Headless Mary, the ghost of a Griffintown prostitute who was decapitated by her best friend in the shantytown in 1879. She returns every 7 years to the corner of William and Murray Streets, still looking for her head!
Join Haunted Montreal on this unforgettable pub crawl, where you can drink some spirits with a spirit, all the while learning about the city’s deranged history and hearing spine-tingling local ghost stories!
For full details, including a description, the starting location and schedule, please visit our web page! Join us at 3 pm any Sunday of the year for a haunted pub crawl in English or at 4 pm in French! Tickets are now on sale!
Haunted Montreal also offers private tours and pub crawls for company outings, school groups, bachelorette parties and all types of gatherings. Please contact email@example.com to organize a private tour.
We are also pleased to promote a book called Macabre Montreal.
Written by Mark Leslie and Shayna Krishnasamy, it is a “collection of ghost stories, eerie encounters, and gruesome and ghastly true stories from the second most populous city in Canada.
The authors write:
“Montreal is a city steeped in history and culture, but just beneath the pristine surface of this world-class city lie unsettling stories. Tales shared mostly in whispered tones about eerie phenomena, dark deeds, and disturbing legends that take place in haunted buildings, forgotten graveyards, and haunted pubs. The dark of night reveals a very different city behind its beautiful European-style architecture and cobblestone streets. A city with buried secrets, alleyways that echo with the footsteps of ghostly spectres, memories of ghastly events, and unspeakable criminal acts.”
With the introduction written by Haunted Montreal, Macabre Montreal is a must-read for anyone interested in Montreal’s dark side.
Haunted Montreal would also like to thank all of our clients who attended a ghost walk or haunted pub crawl recently!
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. If you have any feedback, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can improve our visitor experience.
Lastly, if you would like to receive the Haunted Montreal Blog on the 13th of every month, please sign up to our mailing list on the top right of this page.
Coming up on June 13: The Ghost of Mary Gallagher
Montreal’s most infamous ghost is that of beheaded Griffintown prostitute Mary Gallagher. Brutally murdered in 1879 in her best friend Suzy Kennedy’s flat on the corner of William and Murray streets in the Griff, the police found Mary Gallagher’s corpse hacked apart next to the stove in a large pool of blood. Her decapitated head was found in an ash bucket, staring up at the ceiling. Both Suzy and a john named Michael Flanagan were arrested and charged with murder. The legal case raised a stir among Montreal’s citizens at the time, especially when Flanagan was found innocent due to a lack of evidence and Suzy was sentenced to hang. To this day, it is said that Mary Gallagher’s ghost returns to Montreal’s most haunted street corner – William and Murray – every seven years. According to the legend, the reason she returns is because she is still looking for her head. Her next scheduled appearance is coming very soon – on June 27th, 2019, to be exact! Stay tuned for Haunted Montreal’s special plans to commemorate her ghostly reappearance!
Donovan King is a postcolonial 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 Abbott 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).