skip to Main Content

Welcome to the eighty-fourth installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog!

With over 500 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! The blog is published in both English and French!

For this year’s Hallowe’en Season we are launching a new ghost tour – Haunted Old Montreal!

We are currently testing the tour in English and the following dates are available at a discounted price of only $19.50 per ticket:

Sunday, August 14th @ 8 pm

Sunday, August 21st @ 8 pm

Sunday, August 28th @ 8 pm

Haunted Old Montreal will also be available in French for the Hallowe’en Season!

Haunted Montreal is currently offering our regular ghost tours in both languages:

Every Friday:

Haunted Griffintown Ghost Walk

Every Saturday (on rotation):

Haunted Downtown Ghost Walk

Haunted Mountain Ghost Walk

Every Sunday:

Our Haunted Pub Crawl is offered every Sunday at 3 pm in English and on the last Sunday of the month at 4 pm in French.

Private tours can also be booked at any time based on the availability of our actors.

Our Virtual Ghost Tour is also available on demand!

Additionally, our team is releasing videos of ghost stories from the Haunted Montreal Blog every Saturday, in both languages!

Our hosts include Holly Rhiannon (in English) and Dr. Mab (in French).

Want to give the gift of a haunted experience for the 2022 season?

You can now order a Haunted Montreal Gift Certificate through our website. They are redeemable via Eventbrite for any of our in-person or virtual experiences. There is no expiration date.

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 explore a hotel in the Quartier des Spectacles that may be haunted because several murders occurred in the building when it was known as the Bolero Tourist Rooms.

Haunted Research

An old hotel sits in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles and it is rumoured to be haunted. Built in the 1870s, it was originally named the Bolero Tourist Rooms. The establishment had a long history of catering to the seedy characters of Montreal’s old Red Light District. During that era, the hotel rented the rooms by the hour and the alleged hauntings may be related to the sordid history of the building.

In its glory days, Montreal’s Red Light District was characterized by grinding poverty, exploitation, disease, drunken debauchery, premature death and frequent violence. Not only did dangerous mobster and gangs fight each other for control of gambling, booze and prostitution rackets, but the area also witnessed violent crimes, including several unforgettable and terrifying murders.

When Prohibition kicked in across most of North America, including Canada in 1919, Montreal (and Québec) refused to join. With a strong Catholic influence, the very thought of banning wine was outrageous due to its use in Mass as the sacred “Blood of Christ”.

As millions of visitors began streaming in from all over North America looking for a good time, Montreal’s reputation as a “wide open city” was solidified. The city became even more infamous for its boozing, gambling, prostitution, and deeply entrenched corruption. Gangs, brothel-owners, criminals, prostitutes, police, and government officials were all in on the scheme.

With such a lax attitude, social problems in the neighbourhood began to multiply quickly. Illegal drugs were sold openly and women and children, some as young as 12, were forced into prostitution by violent pimps. 

Starting in the 1950’s, city officials began trying to find ways to shut down the notorious Red Light District. Slowly, with everything from brothel raids to massive demolition projects, the area started to reduce in size and illicit activities.

In 2002, proposals were made to rebrand the entire Red Light District as the Quartier des Spectacles, or Entertainment District.

Since then, the wholesale destruction of the area has continued unabated, complete with the tearing down of old theatres, displacement of street prostitution and the erasure of the salacious history of Montreal’s old Red Light District.

Today, the old Bolero Tourist Rooms no longer exist as they once did. Indeed, the building now hosts the Hotel l’Abri du Voyageur. Fully refurbished into a boutique hotel, it now features beautiful rooms with brick walls that are adorned with tasteful paintings.

In July, 2014, a Texan man named Brock wrote a very positive review of the establishment.

He wrote that he “loved the creaking of the wooden floors as we walked around the hotel !!!!” He also explained how the manager helped him play a prank on his 9-year-old granddaughter. Brock told her that the hotel was haunted by “Marie the little girl ghost who didn’t listen to her parents” and the manager backed up his story. The granddaughter fell for the prank until Brock told her a few days later that they had made up the ghost story.

Little did Brock know that the hotel may harbor real ghosts!

The most common report about hauntings in the hotel is that electronic devices can seem to take on a life of their own. One guest reported that the TV in his room randomly changed channels and would not stay on one of them. The phone also rang randomly throughout the night with no one on the other end, prompting him to think they may have been haunted by something.

In other cases, cell phone and tablet batteries have unexpectedly been drained inside the hotel, only to spring back to life once outside. One common theory suggests that ghosts are capable of draining batteries due to their negative energy.

A psychic medium also visited the hotel in mid-1990s and detected what she described as a shadowy figure staring at her through one of the windows. When she tried to communicate with it, she felt an evil presence and it disappeared, only to reappear in another window. She felt uncomfortable as the shadow seemed to be studying her, so she abandoned the investigation for her own safety.

During the Red Light era, when the hotel was called the Bolero Tourist Rooms, it was a centre for drugs and prostitution. The corner of Clark and St. Kit’s (the nickname for St. Catherine Street) was the centre for drug dealing, making the hotel ideally located. Whenever the police arrived, the dealers and junkies made themselves scarce.

Murder was not unknown in the tourist rooms either. On Friday, December 14, 1984, a 24-year old woman of no-fixed address named Sharon Deslandes was found dead in one of Bolero Tourist Rooms. There was a layer of froth on her lips.

Police initially suspected a drug overdose, but the autopsy confirmed she had been strangled.

Almost two months later, a maid discovered something gruesome. While cleaning the rooms, she found another strangled sex worker – Francine St. Hilaire, aged 35.

Based on their initial investigation, Montreal Police immediately began looking for a suspect in his early 20s. The case would lead them to Toronto. On December 3, 1985, another body was discovered. This time it was Faith Constance Russell, 38, a University of Toronto dental technician. Her corpse was found wrapped in a sleeping bag in an apartment she shared with a man named Gregory George Ashford.

Toronto police linked Ashford to the murder of at least five young women and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest. They warned that Ashford should be considered violent and extremely dangerous.

Ashford was finally arrested in Winnipeg, after murdering another woman in Halifax.

Montreal police were able to eventually interrogate Ashford about the strangling of the sex workers at the Bolero Tourist Rooms, but if they got any information, it was never used in court. The murders of Sharon Deslandes and Francine St. Hilaire were never solved.

In January, 1987, Ashford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Faith Constance Russell before Ontario Supreme Court Justice John O’Driscoll. He was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20 years. A few months later, he received an additional life sentence after being linked to the murder of a prostitute in Halifax.

A psychiatrist diagnosed Ashford as a sociopath and has said he a “reasonably severe, paranoid personality disorder.” Ashford has never expressed any remorse for his crimes, expressed amazement at how easy it was to kill and believes he deserves to die for what he has done.

Private Investigator Annie M. Richard wrote in-depth about the murders in La dépoussiéreuse de crimes: Lumière sur 12 énigmes judiciaires.

After serving a life sentence of 25 years, Ashford began seeking release from prison. He has been eligible for parole since 2005, but always abandoned his application when the families of his victims have gone public with their opposition.

Despite concerns from the Parole Board that he remains an “above average risk,” in 2016 Ashford was allowed to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the community for his heroin addiction.

He was not to consume alcohol or drugs and had to report any female friendship to his parole officer.

Family members of the victims worry that he will strike again and the police are still trying to link him to several other murders, including those at the Bolero Tourist Rooms.

It is unknown at this time if Gregory George Ashford has been released from prison.

Whether or not the electronic hauntings and shadowy spirit are related to these murders is unknown at this time. It is not uncommon for there to be these types of disturbances at sites where tragedies have occurred, such as the brutal strangulations and murders that happened in the mid-1980s, when the Bolero Tourist Rooms were rented by the hour.

Company News

For this year’s Hallowe’en Season we are launching a new ghost tour – Haunted Old Montreal!

We are currently testing the tour in English and the following dates are available at a discounted price of $19.50 per ticket:

Sunday, August 14th @ 8 pm

Sunday, August 21st @ 8 pm

Sunday, August 28th @ 8 pm

Haunted Old Montreal will also be available in French for the Hallowe’en Season!

Haunted Montreal’s summer season is in full swing!

Every Friday:

Haunted Griffintown Ghost Walk

Every Saturday (on rotation):

Haunted Downtown Ghost Walk

Haunted Mountain Ghost Walk

Every Sunday:

Our Haunted Pub Crawl happens every Sunday at 3 pm in English and on the last Sunday of the month at 4 pm in French.

For those who want to try to communicate with the Dead, we offer a real Paranormal Investigation the first weekend of every month (Fridays in French and Saturdays in English):

Paranormal Investigation – Old Sainte Antoine Cemetery

Private tours for any of these experiences can be booked at any time based on the availability of our actors.

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 7 people.

Email info@hauntedmontreal.com to book a private tour!

Our team also releases videos every Saturday, in both languages, of ghost stories from the Haunted Montreal Blog. Hosted by Holly Rhiannon (in English) and Dr. Mab (in French), this new initiative is sure to please ghost story fans!

Please like, subscribe and hit the bell!

In other news, if you want to send someone a haunted experience as a gift, you certainly can!

We are offering Haunted Montreal Gift Certificates through our website and redeemable via Eventbrite for any of our in-person or virtual events (no expiration date).

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.

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 2022 season!

If you enjoyed the experience, we encourage you to write a review on our Tripadvisor page, something that really 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 September 13th: Manoir MacDougall

The stately MacDougall Manor is located on Gouin Boulevard in the borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville. When it was used as a filming location for the popular television show La Galère on Radio-Canada, actresses reported paranormal activity. One felt an invisible force holding her arm and another experienced a strange silhouette. The home is popular with various paranormal investigators, all of whom are trying to figure out who or what is haunting the MacDougall Manor.

Author:

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.

Translator (into French):

Claude Chevalot holds a master’s degree in applied linguistics from McGill University. She is a writer, editor and translator. For more than 15 years, she has devoted herself almost exclusively to literary translation and to the translation of texts on current and contemporary art.

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply to Normrapin@gmail.com Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top