Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the plan to make seven Downtown Montreal metro stations free on weekends and the summer festival season beginning with Grand Prix and Fringe.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Balarama Holness launching the Bloc Montréal provincial party, the return of Montreal’s summer festivals and the SQDC workers going on strike.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the giant and expensive ring coming to Downtown Montreal and the reaction to it, Canada lifting the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood (and Hema-Quebec doing something “distinct”) and Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Montreal’s pilot project to allow the S.A.T. to serve alcohol without a last call, Russia banning 61 more Canadians, the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial and more
Holly Rhiannon has had an affinity for the paranormal since she was a kid growing up in Winnipeg. She lived in a series of old homes, one of which her and her mother noticed had an unexplained window when seen from the outside.
“We realized that it was behind the closet,” she said in a phone interview, “so we had a party, and we had people guess what was going to be back there. And we broke down the back wall of this closet and revealed a whole secret room. It was very cool. And especially me as an eight year old, thought this is so exciting. We didn’t find anything like a corpse in there, which I think I was kind of hoping for. I was hoping for bones or treasure or something like that. It had an energy to it, and that third floor maintained that weird energy.”
Rhiannon also mentioned that her and her mother (her father was a “paranormal dampener”) frequently heard marbles rolling across the third floor from downstairs.
“We had someone come over once who was very in tune with the paranormal. And she told us that there was an old woman in a rocking chair who liked to sit in that room. And we also found out later on that there was a death of a young boy who we think may have been the one rolling the marbles around.”
When she arrived in Montreal six years ago, she went on the various ghost tours Haunted Montreal has to offer.
“I absolutely loved them. It was just right up my alley. And then during COVID, I started doing YouTube with my writing because I’m an author. And once I had that skill sort of under my belt, I thought this would be an amazing way to collaborate with Haunted Montreal.”
Rhiannon proposed a series of video ghost stories based on the company’s blogs to Haunted Montreal founder Donovan King. As anything officially released by the company needs to be bilingual, she enlisted her friend Marc Andre, known as Dr. Mab, to host the French videos.
The pair have started from the earliest blog entries (in 2015) and are working their way forward in time, but Rhiannon isn’t skipping ahead too much.
“I’m reading as I go because I’m one of those people who had gone through maybe the first few. And then I got a lot of the stories from the tours because I’ve been on all of them twice now, and I kind of didn’t want to spoil them at first because I know that some of the tour content is in the blogs as well. And now I’m actually coming across some of that…So I’m getting a chance to go through absolutely everything now, and it’s been really great.”
Here’s the most recent video:
Haunted Montreal’s Video Ghost Stories are available in English and French every Saturday on Haunted Montreal’s YouTube channel
Haunted Montreal’s 2022 season of in-person ghost tours has begun, check out HauntedMontreal.com for more
FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this post also works as a tour guide for Haunted Montreal
Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.
September is Suicide Awareness Month and today (September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day. Tomorrow, Suicide and Mental Health (SAMH) Montreal will be holding a Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk in Montreal.
It starts at 1pm in front of the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc (where the tam tams take place). It also serves as a reminder that suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in Canada and takes more lives than war, murder and natural disasters combined.
SAMH Montreal “is a non profit organization dedicated to helping people find support through difficult times and hope after loss.” They also hope to help stop that loss from happening in the first place by raising awareness through events like this one.
With the general focus being on physical health over the past couple of years, it’s important not to forget mental health.
Featured Image via the SAMH Montreal website
The Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk starts Saturday, September 11 at 1pm in front of the Sir. George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc. More info on the Facebook Event Page
Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss some of the top news stories of the day (local, national and international):
Quebec’s curfew lifting, Marjorie Taylor Greene stalking AOC, hidden systemic racism in the Federal Government, the Montreal Municipal Election & this summer’s hybrid festivals.
Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean
Of all the industries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts and tourism were among the hardest. For those that wanted to stay in the public eye, the name of the game has been “adapt or die”, and Haunted Montreal is no exception.
In the past they’ve conducted Ghost Walks and Haunted Pub Crawls led by an experienced actor and storyteller, who reveals the spookier aspects of Montreal history to crowds of eager attendees. Sadly, COVID restrictions and the COVIDiots driving up case numbers have put a temporary stop to in-person events, but thankfully Haunted Montreal didn’t give up, offering their latest virtual event, Christmas Ghost Stories: A Victorian Era Tradition during the holiday season and into January. I caught the December 27th show.
I should say right off the bat that I’m not going to go into too much detail re: the technical issues related to the event, simply because the host/actor/experienced storyteller hosting it was none other than FTB’s Editor-in-Chief, Jason C. McLean, MY editor. In short, there were technical issues re: shifting from the virtual slide show to the storytelling itself and his costume and delivery, but these will likely be ironed out for future events, and I’d prefer to start the New Year on my editor’s good side.
The stories themselves were great, a delightful and insightful look into not just Montreal’s haunted history, but the history of Quebec itself. I did not know prior to the event, for example, that telling ghost stories over the holidays is very much a Victorian tradition, nor did I know that there are so many spooky tales to be had around me. Even better was that the stories told were a delightful mix of French Canadian myth and legend, and tales with direct links to Montreal’s growth and development.
McLean started with a tale of a Repentigny man, a quintessential French Canadian ghost story blending aspects of rural Quebecois life with Catholic notions of sin and redemption.
The next was about a wealthy industrialist whose ghost allegedly haunts Mount Royal. Though the telling of this story could have been more succinct, the link between the story and actual monuments that can be visited drew many viewers in, with one asking where they could find it in the Q&A session that followed the event.
There was one tale that sounded more like a Darwin Award than a ghost story, but enjoyable nonetheless. McLean followed with another French Canadian tale, by far the scariest of all the ones told that night. Last but not least, he spoke of a building that continues to be haunted to this day despite thousands of annual visitors.
Though McLean could have left out a few “woo” sounds that nearly crossed the line from spooky into silly, the event was enjoyable over all.
If you enjoy quality storytelling with a little history thrown in, you need to check out more of Haunted Montreal’s virtual events. They are fun, fascinating, and different.
Christmas Ghost Stories: A Victorian Era Tradition runs in English and French with various storytellers until January 29. For tickets or more info, please visit hauntedmontreal.com
Montreal is a city of ghosts. Usually when I tell people this, I’m bitterly referring to the fact that while I was living abroad for over a decade, most of my Montreal friends went and moved away — or, even worse — grew up. After recently participating in the online version of the Haunted Montreal tour, I learned that Montreal is indeed a city of ghosts, but in the more literal sense.
Due to the latest round of COVID-19 red zone lockdown measures (Tabarnak!), the always-popular Haunted Montreal ghost tours have been, like much of our 2020 lives, relegated to purgatory of Zoom video-conferencing.
The tour started with Donovan King, founder of Haunted Montreal, standing in front of a green screen that at first cycled through campy Halloween backdrops.
As the presentation got rolling, King presented an introduction of Montreal’s early founding and colonial history, and why that has perhaps led to our humble island home being such a haunted place.
The bulk of the hour-long presentation involved King recounting four vignettes about Montreal’s haunted past, illustrated by historical images on the green screen behind him. The four tales were drawn from a mixture of the various in-person tours usually offered by Haunted Montreal: Haunted Downtown, Haunted Mountain, Haunted Griffintown, paranormal investigations of local haunted sites, and the always-popular Haunted Pub Crawl.
Being a history nerd, I appreciated learning about these macabre Montreal legends, most of which I had not heard before. These stories were in steady hands with Donovan King, who is a seasoned storyteller.
King’s background in both acting and history makes him the ideal vessel to disseminate these creepy snippets of Montreal lore. His delivery was part authoritative history professor and part P.T. Barnum, complete with makeshift sound effects and even a minor jump scare or two.
The tales included that of the ill-fated tale of Simon McTavish, and how his death led to sightings of cadavers tobogganing down the slopes of 1820’s Mount Royal. King went on to detail how much of Montreal’s shiny downtown was built on burial sites — both Native American and early European, as well as mass burial pits from Cholera outbreaks in the 1800s. A thumbnail sketch of Montreal’s cemeteries was also full of welcome factoids.
The climax of the presentation came with a recounting of the tragic story of Headless Mary Gallagher. The murdered prostitute is said to still haunt a certain intersection in Griffintown on the anniversary of her grisly death, every seven years.
The online Haunted Montreal Ghost tours will be running all winter long, with a special presentation being held on Halloween night at 7pm. Regularly updated stories about Montreal’s creepy past can also be found on the Haunted Montreal blog. I look forward to participating in tours led by some of the other talented Haunted Montreal presenters.
Oh…an odd thing happened just after the tour (Insert X-files theme whistle here). I closed my laptop and sat on a couch in the basement of a 100-year-old NDG house, listening to the radio and taking notes on the tour.
Suddenly, I heard static, and an old rock song from the 1960s replaced the newscast I had been listening to — the radio changed channels all on its own — which is something it has never done before. I experienced full-body goosebumps, turned off the radio, and ran upstairs like a terrified five-year-old.
So if you do take the tour…turn on your radio afterwards and see what happens. Warning: results may vary (insert Vincent Price’s Thriller laughter here)
Full disclosure: Jason C. McLean, Editor-in-Chief of Forget the Box, is a tour guide at Haunted Montreal. Matt Poll, this post’s author, is not.
The Haunted Montreal Virtual Ghost Tour is currently running in English and French. Visit hauntedmontreal.com for more
Featured Image: Haunted Montreal
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue as thousands gathered at Place Emilie Gamelin last Sunday.
Protestors spent their sunny afternoon marching peacefully in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, reignited by the death of African American man George Floyd, who died in police custody for a harmless infraction on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded for his life.
Floyd’s death sparked international outrage, with protests against police brutality and systemic racism uniting folks from across the world to take part in actions towards police reform.
Montreal’s second major Black Lives Matter protest since Floyd’s death, the event initially sparked local backlash after organizers, Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, invited the Montreal Police (SPVM) Chief to join the protest. The decision was contested by locals, and a day later the invitation was withdrawn. In an open Facebook message, the organization wrote that “citizens are terrified of the idea that [the police chiefs] will be there.”
Still, the invitation did not stop police from teargassing the crowd around 7pm.
At 11am, after a two-hour solidarity event reserved for the Black community, the thousands of protesters, most following organizers’ directions to stay masked, began to move downtown.
Organizers offered free masks and gloves to protestors to maintain safety. For many, it was the first major outing since the COVID-19 pandemic halted large scale collective gathering at the end of March, though with a crowd so large it was difficult to follow the two meter social distance requirements.
Most protests held signs, with different messages; some more humorous, shedding light on the unity and togetherness of the situation while others alluded to the seriousness of the crimes. A simple sign, “8:46”, paid homage to Floyd’s death; it represents the amount of time Floyd suffocated under the officer’s knee.
Most protestors dispersed around 2pm, where the march ended at Dorchester Square, though many continued into the day to march around the downtown area, eventually coming face to face with a wall of police in full riot gear, shields, face masks, and rubber bullet guns.
Stanley Courages, a protestor at the event, said he joined in support of the Black Lives Matter movements. To him, it’s a symbol that things are going bad, “and going bad for a lot of people,” he said.
“The system is sick, but we all know that. Nobody has the nerve to say it out loud,” he continued. “This is nice to see, Black, White, Latin, a little bit of Asian… it’s nice to see all kinds of people. […] Somehow, some way, people can relate to it, the sadness, whatever the problem they have with this kind of system. So I’m here for that symbol.”
The spotlight is on what he calls the Black movement because Black folks have been put at the bottom since colonization, he said. But Black folks aren’t the only ones suffering, he explained.
“The black movement – the same thing as the Black Lives Matter – that’s what I see as a symbol that everyone is not okay with this system,” he said.
Pascale Lavache, another protestor at the event and who is Black, said she is marching for her nine year old son.
“I want him to not have to march when he’s my age, when he’s grown,” she said.
“I’m happy to see there’s lot of the youth is present,” she continued. “it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. Everybody feels the injustice. Everybody feels the injustice, and I feel like this is a great movement and I’m happy to see everybody is standing up for this injustice that touches everybody. So I’m really marching for myself.”
To her, the Black Lives Matter movement is about standing up for what is right, and standing up for equal rights for everybody. “I think people need to understand that this is not just for [Black folks], it’s for everyone. And it needs to stop, this needs to stop. It’s a disservice for everybody when there’s no justice.”
Though most protestors broke up around 2pm, protests continued around the downtown area until around 7pm. It was then that police opened fire on the remaining protectors without warning.
The use of tear gas, a chemical weapon that is banned in war, has been criticized by healthcare experts. It irritates the tear ducts, causing coughing, and potential irritation of the upper respiratory tract; all symptoms that could further spread the COVID-19 virus, experts say.
Already a violent weapon, its use at peaceful protests in the Canadian epicentre of the pandemic is problematic at the very least. Local healthcare professionals have called for police to cease its’ use – to no avail.
Though the protests have shed light on the systemic racism present in the Canadian justice system, Premier Francois Legault said publicly that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Quebec. The thousands of protestors that hit the streets last Sunday would disagree.
From racial profiling, economic insecurity, and a lack of representation in all facets, Quebec’s longstanding whitewashing of its’ history and culture and xenophobia; including the contested Bill 62 which bands all religious symbols in public, prove a different, darker reality.
One way to ease the injustice, Lavache said, is for there to be equal representation at every level – in both media, politics, and police force.
“We need to have equal representation, whether it’s for women, LGBTQ,” she said. “Everyone needs to be represented. The more there’s equal representation, the more there will be justice.”
Montreal will be temporarily converting 327 kilometers of city streets into what the city is calling the Safe Active Transportation Circuit. These will last throughout the summer and possibly into the fall, depending on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment efforts.
At a press conference this morning alongside Éric Alan Caldwell, the Executive Committee member in charge of mobility, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante spoke of a bike ride she took down Christophe-Colomb Avenue with her kids. Despite few cars on the street, cyclists and pedestrians were all crammed together trying to respect social distancing guidelines.
According to Plante, this plan will increase the space available to pedestrians and cyclists and allow them to travel while respecting the two meter rule. It will link parks, residential streets and commercial arteries and encourage people to shop and enjoy nature locally as much as possible.
Plante noted that businesses will benefit because there will be more place outside for people to line up two meters apart as pedestrians and cyclists pass by. She also said that this plan will allow for more terrasse space for restaurant and bar patrons to spread out if and when the provincial government allows those type of businesses to re-open.
When a reporter asked Plante if pulling back some of the regulations that limit drinking alcohol outside, the Mayor said that while alcohol regulations aren’t under municipal jurisdiction, it’s always good to think outside the box.
Caldwell stressed that the city took into account bus and truck delivery routes when planning this circuit. While admitting it will limit car travel with less space available to vehicles, both he and the mayor pointed out that there are fewer cars on the road already due to the pandemic.
Here’s the video the city released:
Schools and non-essential retail businesses across Quebec are re-opening today, except those in the Greater Montreal Area. While schools in the 514, 438 and 450 area codes are on track to re-open in two weeks, Montreal-area businesses will not re-open on May 11th as planned, but May 18th.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced during the government’s regular COVID-19 briefing today that he was pushing back re-opening Montreal because Montreal-area hospitals were getting crowded. He noted that there are still beds available in Quebec’s largest city and coronavirus epicenter, but not enough to re-open in a week.
This decision comes amid a rise in virus transmission in Montreal Nord. Legault said that there is not enough leeway in Montreal to deconfine as planned as there is in other regions of Quebec.
He also updated his original two world view. Now, Legault says there are three Quebecs: inside seniors’ residences, Montreal and everywhere else.
Re-opening the manufacturing and construction sectors are happening as planned, even in the Greater Montreal Area.
Quebec will be re-opening some parts of its economy during the month of May. The province, at this point, will not be relaxing social distancing rules imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic overall and will impose new regulations on businesses when the re-open.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced the plan in general at the government’s daily press briefing before passing it over to Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade with the details. So far there are three sectors re-opening:
- Retail Stores: Retail businesses that are not located inside a shopping mall or businesses inside a mall but with a separate entrance will be allowed to open on May 4th across Quebec with the exception of the Greater Montreal Area and on May 11th in Montreal and its surroundings. Stores will remain closed on Sundays until May 31st.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing businesses across Quebec can open May 11th. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees working per day can re-open with full staff. Those with over 50 daily employees can open with 50 employees plus half the remaining staff. On May 25th, manufacturing businesses can open with full staff regardless of the size of the staff.
- Construction: Construction businesses across Quebec can re-open May 11th.
Legault repeated remarks he made yesterday when talking about re-opening some schools as a justification for re-opening parts of the economy with COVID deaths and hospitalizations still on the rise. While situation is still dire in seniors’ residences, the population overall, excluding that sector, has been flattening the curve.
No word yet on when sit-down restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses where social distancing could prove difficult may re-open. The government did say that they will be making other announcements at later dates.
This summer was supposed to be the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival’s 30th anniversary edition. Now, due to COVID-19, the celebration and theatrical performances by hundreds of groups and performers originally scheduled to run June 1-21 will have to wait until next summer.
“I sincerely feel that as leaders in the Montreal cultural landscape, it is our responsibility to temporarily close our spaces and to postpone the Fringe Festival in order to protect the health and of our artists and patrons,” the festival’s Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore said in a press release. “The conditions for in-person art-making and consumption amid this crisis are significantly challenging since many are unable to rehearse, have been laid off from work and are trying to manage shifting priorities.”
MainLine Theatre, which produces the festival, will also keep its performance and rehearsal space on St-Laurent Boulevard closed until May 31st as per public health directives. The festival will offer alternate online programming this June in place of the public theatre shows.
The Fringe is generally the event that kicks off Montreal’s jam-packed festival season. This year it is the first major summer arts festival to postpone or cancel due to COVID-19.
We will update you if any other arts events follow suit.
Tourisme Montréal released a new promotional video a few days ago. It features…no wait, summarizing it can’t really do it justice. Just watch it for yourself:
In general, response has ranged from “WTF was that?” to polite attempts to find something positive about it. Even Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said “Huh. Okay, that’s interesting interesting,” before adding that at least it was getting people to talk.
But will that talk and the video it is about work? Well, I suspect it will work wonders for singer Mathieu Samson’s career.
Curious, I googled him and found another video he released, without
Tourisme Montréal funding, but with the same cheesy 80s-inspired effects. He just got huge exposure doing something completely in keeping with the style he was already going for.
But will Tourisme Montréal achieve its goal with this video? The short answer is maybe. This becomes more apparent when you properly define what the goal of this particular video is.
The chorus of the song goes “Québec, Reviens-Moi” and the outdoor scenes are winter scenes. The goal clearly isn’t to bring people from Vancouver, the US and Europe here in June, but rather to suggest Montreal as a winter destination, possibly just a weekend destination, to people elsewhere in Quebec.
Understood as such, foregoing beauty shots of the city in favour of a giant, miniature and normal-sized Samson visiting places everyone in the intended audience already know about makes sense. They aren’t even going full cornball. If they were, there would have been a shot of our infamous “ugly”Christmas tree.
Instead, the cheap 80s effects are a fun way to remind Quebecers on a budget that an affordable and fun vacation is just a (relatively) short drive or bus ride away. Still, the video does drop the proverbial ball a few times.
It seems to harp, both lyrically and visually, a bit too much on the Ferris wheel in the Old Port. Sure, it’s open year round, but I live here and haven’t felt inclined to take a ride, can’t imagine it being as big a draw as they think it is.
Also, while the Habs are definitely a sellpoint for the city in general, bringing up the fact that we still have pro hockey here, as the video does in one verse, may hit a bit of a sore spot for people in Quebec City. Plus, do we really need the Big O to make an appearance?
While some might see this as akin to the National Anthem for the Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Borough the previous Coderre Administration paid $50 000 for out of our 375th Anniversary funds, it’s not. Sure, both are cheesy and municipally funded, but that’s where the similarities end.
The RDP/PAT anthem used (way too much) public money destined to promote the city as a whole internationally to placate some people in one borough. This video is a targeted campaign to bring a specific set of potential tourists to the city.
It may or may not work, but it’s not the vapid piece of hipster irony it comes across as to many, including me at first. Honestly, now after writing about it, I kinda like this video.