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 for more

Featured Image: Haunted Montreal

When most Montrealers think of Mount Royal, images of warm days spent lying in the sun immediately come to mind. The mountain is the heart of the city and plays host to a variety of activities, no matter the season. As the days get warmer, more people are even choosing to spend their nights out getting trashed in the woods rather than at one of the city’s fine drinking establishments.

Most Montrealers have never thought of the mountain as creepy, spooky or haunted. But some pretty gruesome things have happened on one of our most well-known and beloved landmarks.

Karen Spilak and Donovan King are the authorities when it comes to horrifying happenings in the city’s history. As part of this year’s Infringement Festival, the pair gave a Haunted Mountain tour of Mount Royal.

The tour began just before sunset at Barfly, a landmark with its own spooky history. We then made our way up Duluth, across Parc, and onto the mountain proper, taking the stone path to the left of that decrepit old gazebo.

Spilak and King would stop every so often to offer up a historically accurate account of something weird, creepy, or gross that happened near the spot we happened to be. The pair’s storytelling is impeccable; they never broke character, not even to answer questions from the participants between stories.

The tour itself was also well designed. As daylight faded, we wound our way up deeper into the woods. At the start of the tour, the stories were mildly disturbing but became more and more horrifying as we went on.

Like the vast majority of Montrealers in my age bracket [18-35], I’ve spent many a day and night rambling over all sides of the mountain. I am pretty confident in saying that the woods on Mount Royal are very familiar to me.

haunted mountain 3Nonetheless, Spilak and King pointed out a number of features that my peers and I previously overlooked or hadn’t ever recognized for what they were. For example, the children’s cemetery that lies next to the parking lot of the McGill University Health Centre.

Apparently, in the 60s and 70s, McGill doctors were performing extreme psychological tests involving sensory deprivation, the administration of drugs and other controversial practices. These tests were done on a number of children and the ones that died during the experiments were unceremoniously buried in a small plot of land at the base of the mountain.

Other highlights of the tour included a stop at Simon McTavish’s grave. There, King told the story of the circumstances surrounding the death of the influential fur trader and member of Montreal’s elite. I will mention that King’s graphic description of McTavish’s dead body almost made me puke. Impressive.

Spilak and King are truly masters of their craft. They effectively blend thorough research with entertaining delivery to offer a very worthy storytelling experience.

* Photos by Iana Kazakova