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 seventy-third installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog!
We are thrilled to announce the Hallowe’en Season is upon us!
With over 450 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 Hallowe’en Season we are offering all of our outdoor ghost tours and haunted experiences:
The Hallowe’en Season schedule is posted below in the Company News section.
We are also offering our Virtual Ghost Tour on demand!
Both public and private sessions are available for all of our tours and experiences!
Lastly, we now have an online store for those interested in Haunted Montreal merchandise. More details are below in our Company News section!
This month we examine the old Windsor Hotel, once the most palatial in Canada – and the only location where American author Mark Twain had a paranormal experience!
Montreal once hosted the Windsor Hotel, which for decades billed itself as “the best in all the Dominion of Canada”.
Opened 1878, it is often considered to be the first grand railway hotel in Canada. Modelled on New York’s luxurious Waldorf-Astoria, the Windsor Hotel catered to well-heeled travellers arriving by train at the nearby Windsor Station.
The Windsor Hotel had 382 sumptuous guest rooms and six restaurants, not to mention luxurious lecture halls and ballrooms. The centerpiece was a magnificent 15-ton cupola above the main reception lobby.
Management even supplied tourist information to clients in the form of The Windsor Hotel guide to the City of Montreal : with a shopping index and directory.
Over the years, the Windsor Hotel hosted many famous guests, including British royalty. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the hotel in 1939 with great fanfare. At a state banquet, Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde famously gave a speech in which he told the royal couple: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming. And my wife thanks you from her bottom, too.”
Other celebrity guests included Sarah Bernhardt, Rudyard Kipling, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde. Even McGill University academic anhumorist Stephen Leacock lived out his later years at the famous Windsor Hotel.
Important meetings also happened within the Windsor Hotel. In 1917, the National Hockey League was formed there when owners of the Montreal Canadiens, the Quebec Bulldogs, the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Wanderers met in one of the hotel’s restaurants and hammered out a plan.
Another famous guest was none other than American author and wit Mark Twain, who had his only paranormal experience while staying at the Windsor Hotel in December, 1881.
Mark Twain wrote about his experience in Harper’s Magazine’s September 1895 issue called “Mental Telegraphy Again.”
In a nutshell, he spotted a woman whom he had not seen in over 20 years wearing a particular dress in the Windsor Hotel while giving and afternoon lecture. Desperate to speak with her, he was disappointed when he could not locate her in the crowd. Later, that evening he finally met up with her. Wearing the exact same dress, she claimed that she had just arrived in Montreal an hour earlier and had not been at the afternoon reception.
Mark Twain’s article had the headline “A Glimpse at Second Sight”.
Here it is in full:
“Several years ago I made a campaign on the platform with George W. Cable. In Montreal we were honored with a reception. It began at 2 o’clock in the afternoon in a long drawing-room in the Windsor Hotel. Mr. Cable and I stood at one end of this room, and the ladies and gentlemen entered it at the other end, crossed it at that end, then came up the long left-hand side, shook hands with us, said a word or two, and passed on in the usual way. My sight is of the telescopic sort, and I presently recognized a familiar face among the throng of strangers drifting in at the distant door, and I said to myself, with surprise and high gratification, “That is Mrs. R.; I had forgotten that she was a Canadian.” She had been a great friend of mine in Carson City, Nev., in the early days. I had not seen her or heard of her for twenty years; I had not been thinking about her; there was nothing to suggest her to me, nothing to bring her to my mind; in fact, to me she had long ago ceased to exist, and had disappeared from my consciousness.”
“But I knew her instantly, and I saw her so clearly that I was able to note some of the particulars of her dress, and did note them, and they remained in my mind. I was impatient for her to come. In the midst of the hand-shakings I snatched glimpses of her and noted her progress with the slow-moving file across the end of the room, then I saw her start up the side, and this gave me a full front view of her face. I saw her last when she was within twenty-five feet of me. For an hour I kept thinking she must still be in the room somewhere and would come at last, but I was disappointed.“
Mark Twain was hoping to see her again at an evening lecture to get re-acquainted. He explained:
“When I arrived in the lecture-hall that evening someone said: “Come into the waiting-room; there’s a friend of yours there who wants to see you. You’ll not be introduced — you are to do the recognizing without help if you can.” I said to myself, “It is Mrs. R.; I shan’t have any trouble.” There were perhaps ten ladies present, all seated. In the midst of them was Mrs. R., as I had expected. She was dressed exactly as she was when I had seen her in the afternoon. I went forward and shook hands with her and called her by name, and said, “I knew you the moment you appeared at the reception this afternoon.”
Suddenly, there was an awkward moment between them. Mark Twain described it as such:
“She looked surprised, and said: “But I was not at the reception. I have just arrived from Quebec, and have not been in town an hour.” It was my turn to be surprised now. I said: “I can’t help it. I give you my word of honor that it is as I say. I saw you at the reception, and you were dressed precisely as you are now. When they told me a moment ago that I should find a friend in this room, your image rose before me, dress and all, just as I had seen you at the reception.” Those are the facts. She was not at the reception at all, or anywhere near it; but I saw her there, nevertheless, and most clearly and unmistakably. To that I could make oath.”
Mark Twain was baffled, and continued:
“How is one to explain this? I was not thinking of her at the time; had not thought of her for years. But she had been thinking of me, no doubt; did her thought flit through leagues of air to me and bring with it that clear and pleasant vision of herself? I think so. That was and remains my sole experience in the matter of apparitions — I mean apparitions that come when one is (ostensibly) awake. I could have been asleep for a moment; the apparition could have been the creature of a dream. Still, that is nothing to the point; the feature of interest is the happening of the thing just at that time, instead of at an earlier or later time, which is argument that its origin lay in thought-transference.”
Following this incident, Mark Twain never had another paranormal experience during the rest of his lifetime. Whether or not the Windsor Hotel had anything to do with his bizarre case of “thought-transference” is unknown at this time.
What is known is that the hotel was built next to the old Saint-Antoine Cholera Cemetery, which is a well-known haunted location full of mass graves. Perhaps there is a correlation between the paranormal activity and the restless souls buried in trenches in what is now Dorchester Square.
Another interesting fact is that the Windsor Hotel suffered two major fires, which might also be related to the haunted cemetery’s ghosts.
In 1906, a fire destroyed almost 100 guest rooms, which prompted major renovations. These included the addition of a new wing called the Windsor Annex, to the north of the original building.
Unlike the rest of the hotel, the new wing was designed in the Second Empire style.
The number of rooms more than doubled, going from 368 to 750. With the expansion, the hotel occupied an entire city block.
In 1957, another massive blaze destroyed a third of the hotel.
With extensive damage, the original part of the hotel had to be demolished. This included the massive cupola, which came down on August 15, 1959 with a loud bang that shook the downtown core.
On the vacant site of the original hotel, businesspeople and investors oversaw the construction of the Tour CIBC skyscraper within the next five years.
Today, the Windsor Annex is no longer a hotel, but rather a luxurious site that caters to weddings, press launches, galas and other high-profile events. Featuring the famous “Peacock Alley” (named after the peacock designs in its stained glass windows), along with two ballrooms, the annex is a reminder of the old days when the Windsor Hotel was once the most palatial lodging in all of Canada.
Whether or not the Windsor Annex is haunted is unknown at this time and certainly requires further investigation.
Haunted Montreal is thrilled to announce that for the Hallowe’en Season we are offering all of our outdoor haunted experiences:
The Hallowe’en Season schedule is here:
Both public and private tours are available!
For private tours, clients can request any date, time, language and operating tour. These tours are based on the availability of our actors and start at $170 for small groups of up to 5 people.
Email email@example.com for more information about how to book a private tour!
We are also offering our Virtual Ghost Tour on demand in both English and French.
Please spread the word to those who might be interested in a Haunted Montreal experience!
Finally, we have opened an online store for those interested in Haunted Montreal merchandise. We are selling t-shirts, magnets, sweatshirts (for those haunted fall and winter nights) and mugs with both the Haunted Montreal logo and our tour imagery.
Purchases can be ordered through our online store: shop.hauntedmontreal.com
Haunted Montreal would like to thank all of our clients who attended a ghost walk, haunted pub crawl, paranormal investigation or virtual event during the 2020 – 2021 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: Parc des Veterans
Located near the Montreal entrance to the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the Parc des Veterans has an unassuming appearance. Like most parks, there is a playground, chalet and sports facilities. However, local residents have reported feelings of unease, terrifying sounds and frightened pets in the park. A strange ghost has also been spotted wandering around the vicinity after dark. Once the location of the Papineau Road Military Cemetery for British soldiers and St. Mary’s Cemetery for local Protestants, today the hallowed ground is called the Parc des Veterans. While authorities transferred many military bodies to the Pointe Claire’s Le Champ d’honneur Cemetery in 1944, quite a few other corpses were left behind and still lie beneath the Parc des Veterans to this day.
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.