Words & Photography: Amanda Cloutier-Santos
Montreal is known for its many festivals, its underground city, and its views from Mount Royal, but you may not know that Montreal is also home to the dead.
According to Donovan King, the founder of Haunted Montreal, a company that takes people on ghost walks, from Griffintown to Downtown, tourists and locals alike can run into—or through—an old soul. King is more than accustomed to spirits, having worked in the London Dungeons in the 90s, before turning to ghost walks in Canada.
King says that if you are a looking for a chance to spot some of Montreal’s spirit habitants, there are a couple must-see places.
The first is Concordia University’s Grey Nuns Residence.
Grey Nuns dormitories are on Guy Street in downtown Montreal.
The Grey Nuns sisters purchased the buildings in 1861 to escape the flooding at their General Hospital in the old Port. Below the cluster of buildings lies an expansive crypt. When the sisters moved from the Old Port, they brought with them the remains of the nuns from the previous crypt. “Today, in this vast underground cemetery there are the earthly remains of 276 people, including 232 Grey Nuns,” says King.
Concordia University bought Grey Nuns and renovated it into the dormitory it is today. King says there have been numerous reports of paranormal activity. “The most common report is of strange, trampling noises above the west wing of the building, including the muffled sounds of crying and screaming,” says King.
“The most prominent theory about these hauntings goes back to a devastating fire on Valentine’s Day, 1918,” says King. It started in the orphanage on the fifth floor of the west wing. Apparently a curtain was draped over a radiator and caught fire just after the children were put to sleep. World War II soldiers recovering on the floors below tried to help, but the fire’s intensity made it difficult.
“As the soldiers worked to evacuate the children, the nuns fell to their knees and prayed for a miracle. The soldiers, beaten back by the thick smoke, were forced to leave many of the children in the raging inferno,” says King.
The residence is turned into affordable accommodations in the summer. Tourists can rent out rooms from May to August before students trickle back in and settle for the fall semester.
Where to grab a drink
Most know Club Le Cinq as a fun place to go dancing, but the discotheque on de la Montagne Street is also known as the most haunted night club in Montreal.
Haunted Montreal has recently started a Haunted Pub Crawl. “It just seems like such a nice way to mix two of our favourite things. You know, enjoying a few pints and also listen to some ghost stories,” Donovan says.
It’s not on the tour, but if you possibly want to dance with a ghost, King suggests Club Le Cinq, “which is probably the most haunted discotheque in all of Montreal,” says King.
According to King’s website, The building that now houses the club was originally built in 1859 as a family home for David R. Wood, a wealthy business man. He rarely left his home due to his throat cancer and died in September of 1893 from the illness. The house was bought in 1902 by Joseph C. Wray & Bros and turned into a funeral home until it closed in 1970.
The women’s washroom in the basement is where the mortuary used to be and is said to be haunted, “Patrons sometimes encounter a terrifying ghostly woman with a jagged scar running the length her chest that appears to be the handiwork of a mortician,” says King on his website.
In 1879, a prostitute by the name of Mary Gallagher was beheaded on the corner of William and Murray Streets in Griffintown.
“Montreal has this deranged tradition,” King laughs, “where every seven years, they say, the ghost [of Mary Gallagher] returns to the corner,… They say she comes to look for her head.” People come and wait on the street corner to try to catch a glimpse of her.
King attended the gathering in 2012 and says there were about 500 people waiting for an appearance, but he didn’t see Gallagher.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a new tradition. People have been showing up at this street corner, waiting for Gallagher, since the 1800s.
The headless Mary Gallagher is due to make her appearance this summer on June 27 on the anniversary of her death.