In 1862, author C.E. Bockus penned a ghost story set in Montreal called “Nips Daimon”. Published in London in the May edition of Once a Week, the creepy tale features a Mount Royal tobogganer named Eugene Roy and his misadventures with an undead spirit. Based on the true ghost story of Simon McTavish and his haunted castle, “Nips Daimon” adds another dimension to the deranged legacy of the forgotten fur baron. Known to toboggan down the mountain slopes in his coffin at night, McTavish’s ghost allegedly terrorized city residents in the 1800s. The McTavish tale is widely considered “Canada’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and C.E. Bockus’ fictionalized version adds to its mystery and intrigue.
The ice castles were also rumored to be haunted on account of the fact that Dominion Square was established on the old Saint Antoine Cholera Cemetery which had closed in 1799 because it was full. With tens of thousands of corpses buried under Dominion Square, many stacked in burial trenches, rumours spread that the Dead were unhappy with these celebrations taking place on their old cemetery.
Meanwhile, in Victorian Montreal, there was no shortage of ghost storytelling during the Yuletide season. Indeed, Montrealers embraced the winter with fantastic carnivals that featured giant ice castles, mock battles involving hundreds of participants, skating parties at the opulent Victoria Rink and magnificent fireworks displays. When revelers arrived home after a day at the Winter Carnival, the hearth was stoked, mulled wine and brandy were prepared, and Victorian Montrealers gathered around to listen to and tell ghost stories as the flames crackled, casting eerie shadows across so many a parlor throughout the city.
"It was a young girl, perhaps around ten or eleven, dressed completely in white - from the ribbons in her hair to the dress, which had a very old-fashioned appearance, white gloves, white socks or stockings, white shoes, and an almost blue coolness around her. She was bent forwards at a strange angle. She had a very determined outlook, as though she was being forced to walk by someone who was threatening her, if this makes sense. It was so out of place on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the summer. She walked quite fast, and was heading towards the bridge to take you off-island, and Brigitte and I watched her until she was completely out of sight. The dress was not of this day and age, and at first we thought it to be some sort of fancy dress day for a party perhaps."