The Lachine Canal walkway, where many mysterious deaths have occurred. Photo by Katerina Gang.
Griffintown’s most historic and haunted sites come alive during Haunted Montreal’s frightful new ghost walk, “Haunted Griffintown” this Halloween season.
Haunted Griffintown might best be described as a walking theatrical performance. The tour is led by trained actors and historians Donovan King and Tim Hardman, each of whom plays a character throughout the walk.
While the tour delves deep into Griffintown’s folklore, it is deeply rooted in historical events. Every story told has been researched by historians and “contextualized within Montreal’s culture,” said King. Haunted Griffintown tours depart from Griffintown Café on Notre Dame Street Ouest at 8 p.m. when the cold darkness helps set the mood.
The tour follows Professor Beeblebock (King) and his graduate student, Jacob Bayou (Hardman), as they take you through “Canada’s most notorious shantytown.” The tour’s first stop is a park at the former site of St. Ann’s Church. The park is home to many ghost sightings, including one tale of a vanishing funeral procession. It is hard not to feel a little spooked as you walk under the looming trees, past benches arranged like pews, in total darkness.
Mary Gallagher, a prostitute who would hang at this corner, was decapitated. Photo by Katerina Gang.
As the tour winds along the Lachine Canal, King and Hardman treat listeners to stories that masterfully blend history and folklore. The canal has witnessed many disturbing deaths. From typhus-stricken Irish immigrants dying in fever sheds in 1847, to a young boy crushed by a swing bridge in 1908, to a mysterious drowning in the Peel Basin in 2010, the stories told are delightfully horrific.Mary Gallagher, a prostitute who would hang at this corner, was decapitated. Photo by Katerina Gang.
The stories give rise to some captivating paranormal sightings. As King and Hardman share stories of orbs hovering over sites of fever sheds, and of a vanishing young boy walking along the abandoned Wellington tunnel, it is hard not to feel as if someone is watching you.
The tour continues around buildings that seem to have lost their history. Condominiums disguise the forgotten site of the RAF Liberator bomber crash of 1944. King and Hardman, however, breathe life back into the story, for the forgotten stories are a disrespect to the dead, notes Beeblebock, and “the dead do not like to be disrespected.”
The site of the Liberator Bomber Crash in 1944, now where condominiums lie. Photo by Katerina Gang.
Indeed, King felt it was important to host a tour of Griffintown before it was too late. “The Griff is at risk of losing a lot of its historic areas due to gentrification and condo-building,” said King. “I wanted to do a ghost walk in the area before the history is erased.”
The tour ends with Montreal’s most famous ghost story: the murder of prostitute Mary Gallagher. King’s description of her gruesome decapitation and mutilation are enough to keep you up at night. His description of her reappearance on her street corner, however, really makes you lose your head.
The site of the former St. Ann’s church in Griffintown. Photo by Katerina Gang.
King has been giving ghost tours since 2006. “I think people are fascinated by the paranormal because most people experience things in their lives that are uncanny and sometimes unexplainable,” said King. “The paranormal offers possible explanations for impossible situations.”
Haunted Griffintown tours are being offered Oct. 29, 30 and 31. Visit http://www.hauntedmontreal.com for tickets.
Originally published 27/10/15 at The Concordian