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 sixty-first installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog!
With over 400 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!
This month we examine the strange ghost of a wartime bomber pilot that appeared out of thin air in a downtown Chapters bookstore in 2007. A woman named Kim J. had stopped in for an iced cappuccino to beat the summer heat when the apparition gave her the fright of her life while browsing the shelves.
We are also pleased to announce our special 2020 Hallowe’en Season and share our new promotional video!
Haunted Montreal was contacted by a woman named Kim J. who wanted to share a first-person ghost story that she experienced over a decade ago. The story was so frightening that the memory is still crystal clear in her mind to this very day.
According to Kim J:
“It was a hot summer day in mid July 2007. Everything was typical about that day in the heart of downtown Montreal’s commercial district. Crowds of business people and shoppers alike were out in full force on one of the city’s busiest streets, Sainte Catherine, as they usually are at that time of year, taking full advantage of the warmer weather.”
“It was that way every year. There was nothing unusual about it. The sidewalk was overflowing with its daily sea of people darting to and fro, each on their own mission – whether it be for business or pleasure. The street was full of life – alive, vibrant and ready to be re-discovered as I had done every summer before. I was finally on vacation and wanted to take full advantage of the beautiful weather so I set out onto the main drag to get some sun, take in the sights and sounds of the city and find some great summer sales along the way. Little did I know I would get way more than I had originally bargained for on that unforgettable summer day…”
She continued: “After a few hours of strolling down Saint Catherine’s Street and popping in and out of every store in sight, I needed to beat the heat so I ducked into an older style building which stood between the corners of Peel and Stanley Street. At the time, it was a large multi-level Chapters bookstore with a main entrance located at the corner of Stanley at 1171 Saint Catherine Street. This particular building had its own unique and timeless aura. Its older architecture stood out among the more modern looking building facades in the area. A large new burgundy and yellow Chapters sign was on full display above the main entrance and was hard not to miss.”
“This was the perfect spot for a short break from the hot weather – I could cool off, sit down with a good book and quench my thirst at the café on the second level. So I headed upstairs. Once there, I ordered an iced cappuccino and headed over to the book shelves located beside the cafe by the large windows located at the front of the store in search of a great read.”
“While browsing the selection of titles, I saw something darker move out of the top corner of my eyes. I brushed it off at first thinking it was just another customer and didn’t bother looking up but as the mass came closer it became clear that this was far from a regular store patron. I looked up towards the aisle in front of me and there stood a relatively young man in his late 20’s to early 40’s who gave me this unwavering, dazed and intense stare. The man’s style of dress was very unnerving as it was completely out of place for a contemporary summer day in downtown Montreal – he wore an older style tan to medium brown bomber pilot flight suit similar to uniforms worn during World War II complete with an aviator hat with earflaps, goggles and tall dark aviator boots.
At first I thought it was a reenactment actor but he was far too pale and the way he stared at me was really weird – expressionless, like he was in a trance. When he walked, he had no gait too which was really odd – he appeared to hover a few inches from the floor! I will never forget it! His pale gray skin had a corpse-like pallor and sent cold shivers down my spine. The anachronism was bone-chilling. I could not believe what I was seeing but it was true. I knew at that point that I was looking at a ghost– a solid full bodied apparition!”
“He seemed completely lost – his gaze hollow and confused as if he was unfamiliar with his current surroundings and didn’t know where he was or what had happened to him. Perhaps what was creepiest of all was the trance like state he was in and the fact that he had absolutely no gait or manner of walking when he moved. My heart was pounding so hard it felt as though it was beating right out of my chest. I was in total and utter shock, paralyzed with fear and couldn’t scream. I remained frozen in place until he broke off eye contact with me a few seconds later and started moving down the aisle until he disappeared behind a busy crowd standing by a set of washrooms.”
Kim J. continued: “I managed to regain my composure and rushed over to the area to see I could catch a second glimpse. I waited there for twenty minutes but never did see him again. He was gone – completely vanished into thin air! I knew from that moment on that ghosts were not a figment of the imagination and that they had ability to show up on a moment’s notice at the most unexpected times.”
“I will never forget that day for as long as I live and I often wonder why I saw the ghost of that bomber pilot. Could it be that one of the many non-fiction books about World War II in that Chapters store somehow triggered this apparition into showing itself? Or could it be that this spirit was attracted to the energy of this location?”
“As some paranormal researchers suggest, spirits tend to hang out around busy public places such as hospitals, schools, movie theaters, libraries and stores because they enjoy the liveliness of places where there are a lot of people around. Or could it be that this entity was somehow tied to this particular building or location as a result of a significant event such a trauma or sudden death? These are questions I will never truly know the answers to and I can only speculate. However, there is one thing I know for sure after having gone through this frightening and life changing experience– ghosts are 100% real and there is a spirit of a wartime bomber pilot that lurks in the commercial district of downtown Montreal.”
She concluded: “Don’t believe me? Wait and see … you just might spot him one day in the area as I have when you least expect it…”
Kim J.’s experience prompts the burning question as to why the ghost of a wartime bomber pilot would appear inside a downtown Montreal bookstore.
The Chapters bookstore was located in the Castle Building at 1410 Stanley Street on the corner of Saint Catherine Street West. The building is now home to a Victoria’s Secret lingerie boutique after the Chapters bookstore closed in 2014.
Named for the Castle Tea Company and erected on the site of the former Emmanuel Congregational Church, it was completed in 1927. With 11 floors, the brick building has a neoclassical facade.
Perhaps the best theory about the ghost of a wartime bomber is related to Montreal’s worst air disaster. During WWII, Canada was fighting against Nazi Germany, which involved co-coordinating with Great Britain and sending troops, supplies, weapons, ammunition, ships and planes across the Atlantic Ocean to support the war effort.
On Tuesday, April 25, 1944 a Liberator bomber took off from Dorval airport at 10:24 am, headed for the UK via Newfoundland. It had 9000 liters of fuel and an unknown cargo aboard. The pilot was a Polish flying ace with lots of experience.
However, a few minutes after take-off, the plane appeared to experienc
e mechanical problems over the downtown core and made a sharp right turn, presumably to try and land in the river.
Unfortunately, the plane descended too quickly and at 10:30 am, just six minutes after take-off, it slammed into a row of triplexes on Ottawa and Shannon Streets in the working-class neighborhood of Griffintown.
Three houses were immediately destroyed in the explosion and eleven were badly damaged. Flames shot up 50 feet in the air and charred body parts and wreckage were scattered all over the place. How far they were flung about is a matter of speculation, but it is possible some may have reached the Castle Building and landed on its roof, which is very large and flat.
Firefighters managed to put out the inferno by noon. The death toll was 10 people in the neighborhood, along with the 5 airmen flying the Liberator.
When Kim J. was presented with a photograph of three of the five Liberator airmen who perished, she identified the man in the middle of the photo as the most likely suspect.
He is believed to be Officer-Pilot Andrej Kuzniacki, aged 31 at the time of his death. He had been flying in the Polish Air Force since 1936.
She said: “While I cannot say with absolute certainty if the full bodied apparition I witnessed in Chapters was indeed the man picture, I can say with full confidence that the man pictured in the middle is very close in appearance to the pilot I saw. They both share a strikingly similar type of uniform, the same eyes, same shaped face, and level of intensity in their gaze. However, the ghost I saw seemed more dazed and had a look consistent with confusion or trauma.”
Today, a Victoria’s Secret lingerie boutique occupies the site and according to witnesses, the paranormal activity continues.
The most common occurrence is the disembodied sound of heavy footsteps, usually when things are quiet in the store. One former sales-woman said: “I am pretty sure the footsteps are from a man because they were heavy, almost clomping. Given we didn’t get too many male shoppers and given that we often used to hear the foot-steps before opening or after closing, there is definitely something mysterious going on.”
When pressed if she had ever seen the ghost of the bomber pilot, she replied “no”, but did recall a woman who once shrieked inside a changing room. After her scream, she bolting out, half-undressed. The woman seemed frightened and flustered and did not want to talk about why she was so upset. She left the shop as quickly as possible after re-arranging her clothing.
Did she encounter the ghost of the wartime bomber while trying on the sexy lingerie that Victoria’s Secret is famous for worldwide?
While nobody knows if the ghost is indeed one of the airmen from the devastating plane crash into the heart of Griffintown in 1944, there are few other explanations apart from Kim J’s theory that the apparition may have been triggered by one of the non-fiction books about World War II. However, while not unheard of, haunted books of this nature are extremely rare and unlikely to appear in a corporate bookstore.
Whatever the case, the enduring legend of Montreal’s wartime bomber ghost gives reason to reflect on that devastating period of human history – and to be wary when visiting the Castle Building in the heart of Downtown Montreal.
Haunted Montreal is extremely pleased to announce our Hallowe’en Season and to share a new promotional video!
Our ghost tours are being offered on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in October. Our Paranormal Investigation is also available. Please see the following Hallowe’en Season schedule:
Tickets are on sale now!
Private tours are also available based on the availability of our actors.
All of our tours and experiences are restricted to a maximum of 25 clients. We also practice social distancing and offer face masks and hand sanitizer to our clients to ensure Public Health directives are met.
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 October 13: Montreal’s Contemporary Ghost-hunters
Montreal has many different groups that seek out local ghosts, unexplainable mysteries and paranormal occurrences. From psychics and mediums to ghost-hunters equipped with tools such as EMF readers, spirit boxes, and temperature guns, there are several remarkable organizations devoted to exploring Montreal’s endless paranormal activity. For our October blog, we interview Dominique Desormeaux of 13 Spirits Paranormal. As one of the city’s leading ghost-hunting experts, he hosts Haunted Montreal’s monthly Paranormal Investigation in the old Saint-Antoine Cholera Cemetery.
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.