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Welcome to the eighty-seventh 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!

Following a busy Hallowe’en Season where Haunted Montreal launched its new ghost tour, Haunted Old Montreal, we are now moving into our winter mode.

With the temperatures dropping, we are moving our public tours indoors!

Our Haunted Pub Crawl is offered every Sunday at 3 pm in English. For tours in French, these happen on the last Sunday of every month at 4 pm.

Private tours for all of our experiences can be booked at any time based on the availability of our actors. Clients can request any date, time, language and operating tour. These tours start at $170 for small groups of up to 7 people.

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

Our Virtual Ghost Tour is also available on demand!

Want to give the gift of a haunted experience for the holiday 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 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fascinating connection to Montreal and its haunted activity. In 1922, he ended a lecture tour about Spiritualism in Montreal and learned about a mischievous local poltergeist. He would record the haunting in his 1924 book “Our Second American Adventure”!

Haunted Research

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, has a special relationship with Montreal – and its paranormal phenomena!

Born in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle led a remarkable life. Both a physician and prolific writer, he is best known for the 60 stories he wrote about detective Sherlock Holmes. However, his body of work also includes nearly 200 novels, short stories, poems, historical books and pamphlets. He also wrote ghost stories, such as those found in “Tales of Terror and Mystery”.

Conan Doyle became a devout believer in the afterlife following the death of his son, Kingsley, during World War I. The huge loss of life during the war resulted in many converts to “Spiritualism”, or the belief that it was possible to communicate with the dead through séances and rituals.

Public séances in London’s Royal Albert Hall and other huge venues were common, and the appeal of the paranormal movement cut across the Atlantic and social classes.

His wife, Jean, became a self-proclaimed medium and automatic writing practitioner. At their Sussex home, they had their own personal spirit guide named Phineas who could apparently predict global catastrophes. Phineas also dictated when the Doyles should move house, travel or make other major decisions.

Conan Doyle was also a member of the “Ghost Club” and “The Society for Psychical Research”, both of which still exist today. The latter society describes itself as the “first society to conduct organized scholarly research into human experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models.”

He would go on to spend a small fortune trying to prove that the Dead were everywhere and eager to communicate with the living. He spread his message by giving lengthy, multi-city lecture tours, which brought him to North America occasionally. As one of the most famous authors in the British Empire and the United States of America, he often attracted large crowds of admirers.

In 1920, Conan Doyle met famous illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini and they became good friends. The two men were brought together by a shared interest in spiritualism.

Houdini longed to believe that he might be able to communicate beyond the grave with his beloved mother. However, he knew far too much about the trickery and illusion of the stage to be easily convinced. In fact, Houdini began exposing fraudulent mediums, whom he described as “human leeches”.

He took particular pleasure in debunking the work of Boston medium Margery Crandon, who performed scantily clad and sometimes emitted ectoplasm from her vagina.

Because Conan Doyle was a true believer in spiritualism while Houdini was trying to debunk it, a rift began to form in their friendship. Serious cracks appeared in their relationship in 1922 in Atlantic City. During a hotel room séance, Conan Doyle’s wife Jean attempted to contact Houdini’s deceased mother via automatic writing. Jean claimed success after scribbling 15 pages, supposedly written through her hand by Houdini’s mother.

Houdini did not believe that the 15 pages were a genuine message from beyond the grave. The writing was grammatically correct, whereas his Hungarian mother’s English had been terrible in life, after all. When Houdini publicly denounced the stunt, his relationship with Conan Doyle became cold and distant.

Houdini would die in 1926 after an altercation with some McGill students in Montreal that ruptured his appendix. His relationship with Conan Doyle had never healed.

In any case, in 1922 Conan Doyle travelled throughout the English-speaking world espousing the cause of “spirit return” and “spirit communication.” He delivered two lectures on Spiritualism in various cities, often to full houses, and described his experience in his book Our Second American Adventure (1924). His trip lasted from April 9th to June 24th and he visited cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago and he concluded his tour in Montreal.

He wrote: “It was a joy to feel the glamour of history once more as we entered Montreal. On the first day we ascended the mountain and looked down on what is one of the most wonderful views in the world — and I can speak now with some knowledge. At your feet lies the old grey town, which is spreading fast upon either flank, and which is impressive in its wealth of domes and spires. Beyond is the glorious St. Lawrence, studded with green islands, and winding east and west as far as eye can reach, while those low hills and forests upon the far southern skyline are over the frontier in the States.”

Conan Doyle’s lectures were held at the luxurious Mount Royal Hotel.

He had not expected large audiences, “As the heat was great, and as the community is largely Roman Catholic, and of the opinion that the psychic phenomena which occur within its own ranks are saintly, while those experienced by others are diabolical.”

He added: “However, the two lectures were splendidly attended, and the second was quite full. It was my last appearance in this series, and so it was rather a solemn moment for our little party.”

While in Montreal, he met a married couple who informed him of their problems with a poltergeist in their home.

Conan Doyle described the situation as such:

“A singular case of poltergeist haunting came under my notice whilst at Montreal. It had occurred to a couple, the man an experienced journalist, the wife a rather nervous lady of middle age. They lived alone, their only child having gone out into the world. These people were haunted by a very active and mischievous but at the same time harmless spirit or spirits. The box of bricks which had been their child’s toy was dragged out and fantastic buildings erected, which were put up again as soon as dismantled. When one of these buildings was photographed, a queer little mannikin figure came out in the photograph behind the bricks, and beside it what looks like a female head. There seemed to be two haunters, for presently direct writing began to appear upon pieces of paper scattered over the house.”

“I examined these and found distinctly two scripts, one of a grown-up person and the other of a child, which corresponded with the photograph. A picture of a house was also drawn, an extraordinary high, thin erection of twelve stories, with “the Middlesex House” written underneath. It was very well drawn.”

“Occasionally the pranks were of a less harmless nature. The electric lights were switched off at untoward moments, and the pictures were stripped from the walls. Twice the husband was assaulted by pillows until his incredulity had been buffeted out of him. Prayer seemed of no avail. Unhappily it seldom is in such cases. I have notes of one where a large fur hearthrug was the centre of the disturbance. A priest was brought in to exorcise the force, and whilst he was in the midst of his exorcism the rug sprang at him and enveloped his head and shoulders, so that he ran terrified from the house.”

“One is dealing with a mischievous and rather malicious child, and reason together with kindness is the only weapon. In this particular case at Montreal the couple were finally compelled to abandon the house. The haunting seemed to be local, for it did not follow them.”

Conan Doyle did not provide any specific details about the name of the couple or the location of the haunted house in Montreal.

Following his lecture tour, he was pleased to have achieved his three objectives: “One was to help and confirm those who were already Spiritualists. The second was to aid those who had some knowledge already, and to make it easier for them to realize what that knowledge would lead to. The third was to present our case to those who knew nothing about it, and to persuade them that there really was something there which could not be answered by jokes or by sneers, and that it was worthy of study and attention.”

Conan Doyle’s visit to Montreal undoubtedly left a lasting impression and may have even resulted in some new converts to Spiritualism.

On July 7, 1930, Arthur Conan Doyle died at his home of a heart attack, aged 71. In his obituary, the New York Times wrote:

“Sir Arthur had been ill from heart trouble for two months, but was making good progress against the malady until last Saturday, when a return of the heart attacks prostrated him. At his bedside when he died were Lady Doyle, his two sons and one daughter. Sir Arthur’s illness was attributed to his work in Scandinavia last October, when he gave a series of lectures on Spiritism. Although Sir Arthur had been in failing health for some time, that did not deter him from his work. Up to the end his enthusiasm for psychic investigation was unflagging.”

A few days later, on July 13th, the Spiritualist Association rented the Royal Albert Hall for a séance following Conan Doyle’s death.

Ten thousand people gathered expectantly in the gigantic auditorium to watch a medium named Estelle Roberts attempt to communicate with Conan Doyle from beyond the grave. Lady Doyle took to the stage beside members of his family, with a vacant chair on her right reserved for her dead husband.

She said: “Although I have not spoken to Arthur since he passed, I am certain that in his own time and his own way he will send a message to us.”

Time Magazine, which attended the séance, reported:

“Mrs. Estelle Roberts, clairvoyant, took the stage. She declared five spirits were “pushing” her. She cried out their messages. Persons in the audience confirmed their validity. Suddenly Mrs. Roberts looked at Sir Arthur’s empty chair, and cried: “He is here!”

The clairvoyant said that his ghost was wearing “evening clothes” before rushing to Lady Doyle, exclaiming that her late husband was sending a message from beyond.

According to Time Magazine, just as Estelle Roberts was about to relay the otherworldly communication: “The audience rose in a clamor, and the great organ of the Hall began to peal, the noise drowning out the answer of Mrs. Roberts.”

In the meantime, Houdini’s widow, Bess, held a yearly séance for her deceased husband. She hoped that he might make contact and send her message using a prearranged code. Unfortunately. Houdini never communicated with his wife in death.

In 1936 she gave up, declaring that “10 years is long enough to wait for any man”.

Today, the Spiritualism movement has transformed into the fields of mysticism and paranormal investigation. With Montreal being a popular hub for these happenings, it is well worth remembering Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s visit to the city. In spreading the paranormal Gospel and reporting on local poltergeist hauntings, the famous author had an important influence on the city and likely contributed to the various haunted activities that are practiced today.

Company News

Following a busy Hallowe’en Season where Haunted Montreal launched its new ghost tour, Haunted Old Montreal, we are now moving into our winter mode.

With the temperatures dropping, we are moving our public tours indoors!

Our Haunted Pub Crawl is offered every Sunday at 3 pm in English. For tours in French, these happen on the last Sunday of every month at 4 pm.

Private tours for any of our experiences can be booked at any time based on the availability of our actors. 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 December 13: The Poltergeist of Côte Saint-Luc Part II

Haunted Montreal follows up with a man named Jeff in Côte Saint-Luc regarding his ongoing poltergeist experience. Since he initially contacted us in June 2021, the poltergeist activity has only gotten stronger. From the kitchen faucet turning on by itself to rotating dish racks and drawers opening and closing, Jeff’s apartment is a paranormal wonderland. It seems that the poltergeist follows him outside as well, as witnessed one day when it likely caused Jeff to do a faceplant on the sidewalk, resulting in scrapes and bruises.

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.

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