Welcome to the fifty-eighth installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog!
With over 350 documented ghost stories, Montreal is easily the most haunted city in Canada, if not all of North America. Haunted Montreal dedicates itself 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 for desktops and at the bottom for mobile devices) if you wish to receive it every month on the 13th!
Haunted Montreal is happy to report that Public Health officials have allowed us to resume tours, on the condition that social distancing is practiced.
As such, we will be offering tours in both English and French on Saturday nights starting in July. There will be a maximum of 15 clients per ghost tour. Private tours are also available for groups up to 15 people.
Tickets are on sale now!
Our June blog explores one of the city’s most haunted green spaces. Nestled in booming Griffintown is a beautiful park that doubles as an old reminder when the condo-choked neighborhood was once Canada’s most infamous Irish shantytown.
St. Ann’s Park contains the ruins of a church that bore the same name. Once the bustling hub of the Griffintown community, the beloved church was unceremoniously demolished in 1970 as part of an “urban renewal” project. Since then, the grounds have witnessed numerous paranormal activities and many new condo-owners are convinced the park is haunted.
According to some of the Griff’s new residents, these mysterious ruins sometimes produce paranormal activity. It was originally the site of St. Ann’s Church, the social hub of the Griffintown community for over 120 years.
New residents sometimes claim to hear solemn church bells tolling, even though the church no longer stands here. In another strange incident, on one foggy, October night in 2011, a prospective condo buyer was visiting the neighborhood and claims to have witnessed a ghostly funeral procession on the site of the ruins. He was impressed by a unit in Carré de la montagne condo building and was walking down De La Montagne Street back to his car when he suddenly noticed movement through the fog behind some trees in the park.
Peering through the gloom, he could make out six ghostly mourners surrounding a coffin in the area where the church’s altar used to be. A phantom priest appeared to bless the coffin, at which point several altar boys materialized. Even though the visitor could not hear anything, it appeared as though the boys were singing. When the song was over, the coffin was picked up by the mourners and the priest led the procession towards the exit. Just as they were about to reach the street, the entire entourage disappeared into the fog. Needless to say, he decided not to buy the condo after that.
St. Ann’s Church has an interesting history. Built in 1854 on the site of an old shrine, the much-beloved church soon became the center of the community.
The old church was bustling and witnessed countless baptisms, communions, marriages, funerals, and masses, not to mention the confessions of many of the sins that occurred in the Griff. Some nights, when all was quiet, a silent figure would slip up to the Presbytery, seeking a priest to administer Last Rites for a family member.
Funerals were very important affairs in the Griff, and when someone died, their corpse was collected by Feron’s Funeral Home for embalming, before being returned to the home in a coffin for the traditional Irish Wake.
The cramped quarters were decorated with black crepe paper and often the coffin would have to be hauled up a flight of narrow stairs or through a window of the home. The Wake was a three-day affair and involved a party of sorts between the living and the dead. With the corpse propped up in an open coffin surrounded by six candles, mourners paid their respects by drinking copious amounts of alcohol, playing music and singing, and partying as they paid their last respects. It wasn’t uncommon to take the corpse out of the coffin for a last dance around the room.
Oftentimes, guests drank too much alcohol and passed out at the Wake. A favourite prank in the Griff was to take the corpse out of the coffin and to replace it with a slumbering guest, whose face was painted with black boot polish. When the person awoke in the coffin, they often felt a state of terror, thinking they had contracted typhus and died.
In one such incident, a man who awoke in the coffin was so frightened that he had to be taken away in an ambulance. Unfortunately, the good times were not to last.
In 1963, Mayor Jean Drapeau re-zoned Griffintown as industrial and announced a project to build the Bonaventure Expressway right through the neighborhood.
Many homes were demolished by the city or abandoned and the area soon became a blend of industries, parking lots and abandoned homes. Thousands of Griffintowners left the neighborhood to find work and lodging elsewhere.
By 1970, the population of Griffintown had mostly disappeared. St. Ann’s Church had virtually no more parishioners, so it was demolished and made into a park.
The foundations of the church were preserved and benches were placed where the pews used to be.
Today, the ruins of the church are a ghostly reminder of the Griff’s old days as an impoverished community. Whether it is the tolling of bells that no longer exist or ghostly funeral processions from days long gone, the wealthier new residents must contend with paranormal activities here. As for the former citizens who were displaced when the old ‘hood was demolished in the 1960s, they claim the Griff is “the ghost of a neighborhood that just drifted away”.
The old parishioners still come to the ruins once a year, on St Ann’s Feast Day (July 26), to celebrate mass in the open air.
Like the crumbling ruins, the parishioners are ageing and one day this important religious event may come to a halt unless others join in to keep the tradition alive. It is organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
While the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic, there are hopes it will return in 2021.
Unfortunately, many of the new residents of the Griff are oblivious to all of the important history that unfolded on the site, and the City of Montreal even replaced a plaque depicting the church in 2018 with one depicting the entire neighborhood instead.
To ensure those visiting the park can visualize the magnificent Saint Ann’s Church, Haunted Montreal has asked City of Montreal Councillors Craig Sauvé and Sterling Downey to return the original plaque or to add its historic image to the new version.
After all, the ruins of St. Ann’s Church are perhaps the best reminder of the old days when the Griff was a bustling Irish shantytown.
Haunted Montreal is pleased to announce that our tours are slowly beginning to re-start after the Public Health Office gave us clearance. Clients must stay 2 meters (6 feet) apart, so we have reduced the number of clients to only 15 per tour.
Public tours will be offered in both English and French on Saturday nights only for the months of June and July. Please note that bathroom facilities may not be available.
Here is the schedule:
Saturday, June 27th at 8 pm: Centre-ville hanté (FRENCH)
Saturday, June 27th at 8:30 pm: Haunted Downtown (ENGLISH)
Saturday, July 4th at 8 pm: Mont Royal hanté (FRENCH)
Saturday, July 4th at 8:30 pm: Haunted Mountain (ENGLISH)
Saturday, 11th at 8 pm: Griffintown hanté (FRENCH)
Saturday, 11th at 8:30 pm: Haunted Griffintown (ENGLISH)
Saturday, July 18th at 8 pm: Centre-ville hanté (FRENCH)
Saturday, July 18th at 8:30 pm: Haunted Downtown (ENGLISH)
Saturday July, 25th at 8 pm: Paranormal Investigation (ENGLISH)
Saturday, July 25th at 8 pm: Enquête paranormale (FRENCH)
Tickets are on sale now!
New tours will be added if there is enough demand.
Private tours are also available for groups up to 15 people. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.
We will be updating our schedule soon for August through the Hallowe’en Season, depending on directives from the Public Health Department.
Haunted Montreal would like to thank all of our clients who attended a ghost walk, haunted pub crawl or paranormal investigation during the 2019 – 2020 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.
Lastly, if you would like to receive the Haunted Montreal Blog on the 13th of every month, please sign up to our mailing list.
Coming up on July 13: The Haunted Award
In April, 2019, Haunted Montreal was bestowed with a Travel and Hospitality Award for “Quebec’s Most Unique Experience” of the year. Haunted Montreal paid the associated delivery fees to receive the beautiful crystal trophy. Unfortunately, this prestigious award is now missing. The administrator who handled the paperwork to claim the award quit the company, and then announced: “I deserve this award”, even though it was bestowed upon Haunted Montreal. Despite our best efforts to recover the award, the former administrator has not returned it. Because Haunted Montreal employs people working in the ancient realms of magic and the paranormal, a spell has since been cast on the glassy award, making it very haunted indeed. According to the spell-caster, it was made haunted to ensure anyone who keeps the award away from the company for more than 7 days will suffer from constant bad luck until it is returned.
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). He is also a certified Montreal Destination Specialist.