With every place we visit, I have an interest in its dark history. Last Friday we went on an engaging ghost tour of Montreal’s Griffintown neighborhood. This gentrified area of town is made up of modern buildings, mostly new condos. Compared this area to other parts of the city, Griffintown looks very different. And we happen to like the contrast and area.
Griffintown was never modern and trendy. In the 1800s, the area housed Irish immigrants and was Canada’s first industrial slum. Many immigrants came over and brought typhus with them. A lot of people were sick and quarantined, and the mayor back then created special trenches for the sick to separate them from the non-sick and locals. I’m sure you can imagine a lot of deaths occurred from the disease. Thousands of people died. And with so many deaths, the dead are always lingering. Many sightings have been reported from locals in Griffintown. Late at night, phantom footsteps follow them. Sightings have been observed in and outside of buildings. These stories are always fun and intriguing to listen to. Whether they are real or not is not of my concern. I’m interested in the history, and my imagination carries on with the ghost stories stemmed from documented stories and deaths of the once-living.
We met up with a small group of people led by Donovan King, an actor and our guide who played a British professor very well. He kept us entertained and engaged, and I loved his character. In character the whole time during the tour, King led us through Griffintown just as the sun was setting. One of the places we visited early on was the site of St. Ann’s Church. This was the heart and soul of Griffintown back then for the people who resided in the area. The location is now a park across from a condo building, but its ruins can still be seen, with the original pews still intact. Residents at the condo have seen a priest and black mist materialize on the site, and people have heard church bells ringing on occasions.
Further on during the tour, we made our way to the Lachine Canal. This canal passes through the southwestern part of the island of Montreal. Not too far off from Griffintown, the neighborhood we’re staying at is walking distance from the Lachine. The canal has been transformed into a bike and pedestrian pathway, which is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It was a major transport artery back in the early 1900s and Irish immigrant laborers worked on the canals and the industries surrounding it. Later on, the canal became very polluted with heavy metals and toxins. Till this day, the toxins remain and the water is most definitely not safe for human consumption. Along with that, there have been several interesting “drownings” throughout time.
The Swing Bridge below in the picture used to swing 90 degrees back then, allowing boats through the channel. A 10-year-old boy back in 1908 had jumped on the bridge to catch a ride across the canal. The bridge keeper did not see him and the boy jumped too soon. Instead of landing on the street, he was crushed to death by bridge. In recent times, a boy wearing a black suit has been seen on this particular Swing Bridge, which is what the boy wore when he died.
At the little bridge in the picture below is where the Wellington Tunnel used to be. It is also the location of where the trenches were at, where sick Irish immigrants were quarantined from the non-sick. The spot is a popular photography site and photographers pick up a tremendous amount of orbs in their pictures. This is thought to be the people who died and were then excavated from the site later on. Another popular sighting is of a man wearing a top hat. This is thought to be the mayor back then who also died of typhus. He is often seen walking in a hurry.
I did not take pictures of our last site of the tour, but it is on the corner of William and Murray streets, where a ghost of a prostitute has been sighted. The location used to be a building where the woman was murdered in 1876 by a jealous rival. She was at her “colleague’s” apartment when this rival decapitated and chopped up her body. Gruesome story, but the tour ended well in my opinion. The location itself was a bit creepy, too.
This tour with Donovan King is one of the better tours we’ve done. I’ve been on many tours and not too many have impressed me. Aside from my two favorite tours in Long Beach, California at the Queen Mary and in Old Town San Diego, this one gets placed third on my list. If you’re into the macabre and seek these kind of things, I’d recommend this tour. Just make sure it’s with Haunted Montreal with Donovan King.