After the sun went down on October 24, we joined a group of 30 people near Concordia for a ghost tour of downtown Montreal led by Haunted Montreal. After we arrived, Jason McLean, our tour guide, abruptly adopted the animated persona of a ghostly storyteller and led us through the dim streets of Montreal, where we would soon be immersed in a narrative journey filled with harrowing histories.
As someone who avoids horror movies at all costs, I wasn’t sure how I would handle a ghost tour of Montreal. Though there are multiple locations, downtown seemed like the best option, with the bustle of the city to distract from my paranoia. But alas, it turned out that there was still horror lurking amidst the busy downtown streets.
We began at a haunted bar where the ghost of a tall, muscular man allegedly lurks, bumping into customers and knocking drinks out of their hands. We then moved on to the Concordia Grey Nuns residence, once a convent housing the order of the Grey Nuns. Gazing out across the dark courtyard at this ominous stone building across the dorms, I was glad I stayed in Douglas Hall. The tales of fires, death, and a crypt beneath the building reaffirmed this sentiment.
A later stop on the tour took us to what was once Le Cinq, a popular nightclub in the city. I immediately felt a connection to that place, as two of my best friends worked at the coat check in first year. This made the stories of haunting apparitions all the more chilling.
The final stop on the tour left most of the group at a loss for words. As we stood in the middle of Dorchester Square, the guide informed us that we were standing over the graves of 60,000 people who died in one of the city’s cholera outbreaks. People exchanged looks of horror as the guide described the disturbing acts committed there.
Like Holly, I’m usually not drawn to horror. Neither am I a believer in ghosts or the supernatural, though I’m often jealous of those who have a paranormal experience to share with friends. As we started the tour, I expected fun and exaggerated storytelling, but was willing to suspend my disbelief.
While our tour guide’s theatrics were indeed cheesy at times, the haunted histories of the city are surprisingly chilling. We learned about the legend of the Murderer’s Cross at the intersection of Guy and Rene-Levesque W, where a convicted murderer was reportedly killed in a torture wheel, and the reported hauntings of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth hotel. Hearing ghost stories the old-fashioned way—huddling around our tour guide’s voice—felt akin to a sort of exclusive campfire experience. As we made our way around the city, from Guy-Concordia to the downtown centre, I felt like I was in on some of the darkest secrets of the city.
While listening to all these real-life witness encounters and reported hauntings throughout the city, there were moments where I wondered whether claims of ghostly orbs and lingering screams were really just coincidences and tricks of the mind, or if something more unexplainable was behind the tales.
Quote of the night:
Despite the sombre nature of the stories, McLean infused humour into the tour.
“To get [to the next stop], we’re going to go through something that’s been haunting Montreal for decades: Construction,” McLean joked.
Standing in front of the former Le Cinq nightclub, the tour guide informed us that the business owners had to board up the windows after passersby complained of seeing strange faces in the windows. We looked up, and sure enough, wooden boards covered the window panes of the empty building.