Student Life

A glimpse of our haunted history

Old Montreal’s spookiest and most troubling ghost stories

On Thursday, Oct. 25, The Concordian went on a haunted walking tour through the Old Port with Montréal Ghosts, an organization that has been leading people from all walks of life on ghost tours since 1999. Hidden behind bustling tourism, held within the mortar and cobblestone bricks of Old Montreal, are some of the city’s dark secrets from throughout history. While you may not believe in ghosts or hauntings, the stories of people meeting their untimely deaths are very real. How one chooses to interpret the paranormal events that followed their ghastly deaths is entirely up to you.

IMG 1: Place Royale is now a concrete platform between Rue de la Capitale and D’Youville Place. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
IMG 2: An alley on Rue de la Capitale, adjacent to Place Royale. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
Place Royale

While a somewhat unassuming concrete platform between de la Capitale St. and D’Youville Place, Place Royale (IMG 1) was once a vibrant market for Montrealers from 1667 to 1807. Before it was named “Place Royale” in 1892 for the 250th anniversary of the city, it was called “Place du Vieux Marché.” The gathering space was a market, as well as where public shaming, torture and executions took place. For example, swearing publicly five times was punished by being fixed to a pole by an iron collar so passersby could fling rubbish at you. If you were a male and above the age of seven, and swore publicly more than five times, your upper lip was branded so people knew you had a foul mouth.

In another instance, an unnamed woman was hanged outside the city; her body was caged and passed from parish to parish until she arrived in Montreal, where she deteriorated. By law, any paranormal happenstances that followed a public execution could be legitimately blamed on the spirits of those executed. This woman, and another woman to be mentioned in detail later on, are thought to be the two spirits seen wandering from east to west, mostly down an alley adjacent to Place Royale, near St-Paul St. (IMG 2).

IMG 3: A plaque dedicated to Marie-Josèphe Angélique rests on the outside of what are now retail office space buildings on Rue de Vaudreuil (IMG 4 below). Photo by Alex Hutchins.
The Great Fire of Montreal

On April 10, 1734, a fire was started in a house on St-Paul St., which soon spread along St-Joseph thanks to a strong westward wind. Within three hours, the fire burned down a nearby hospital, church and multiple houses. This fire raged for 19 hours, and by the time it was extinguished, most of Old Montreal was incinerated—with the town pointing its finger at Marie-Josèphe Angélique, a slave owned by the Franchevilles. Angélique was born in Madeira around 1700, which, at the time, was a colony in Portugal integral to the Atlantic slave trade. In 1734, under French law, people could be tried and found guilty based on public knowledge. Angélique was seen as a rebellious slave for engaging in a romantic relationship with a white servant, Claude Thibault, and for attempting to flee together. Angélique was found guilty after a six week-long trial in which no one claimed to see her light the fire, yet everyone spoke to her rebellious character, which somehow proved she was the culprit. Angélique was sentenced to be burned alive in Place Royale (IMG 1). Although this sentence was appealed by superior court, it was agreed that Angélique would be hanged, after which her body would be publicly burned. After being relocated to Quebec City for inspection, prior to the execution, Angélique was paraded about on a rubbish cart in an act of public shaming and torture, holding a sign that declared her an arsonist. Throughout the decades, while Angélique’s innocence has been a topic of much debate, in 2012, a public square facing City Hall was named after her. Angélique’s spirit has been seen walking from east to west in the alley adjacent to Place Royale, near St-Paul St. (IMG 2).

IMG 4: An alley behind what are now retail office space buildings on Rue de Vaudreuil houses the plaque dedicated to Marie-Josèphe Angélique. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
IMG 5: The gathering space just outside of present-day City Hall where Adolphus Dewey was hanged. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
City Hall

Euphrosine Martineau was once thought to be the most beautiful woman in all of Old Montreal; desired by all, yet Adolphus Dewey was the man who stole her heart. Upon the announcement of their engagement in 1833, rumours circulated that Martineau was unfaithful and flirtatious with other men, which filled Dewey with rage and jealousy. Determined to be sure Martineau could never leave him, after a heated argument, Dewey tried to bludgeon her with an axe. He believed he succeeded in killing her, so he fled. However, Martineau was still alive, though her unborn child didn’t survive the attack. After regaining consciousness, Martineau dragged her mangled body across the cobblestones to a neighbour’s house, where she scratched at the door until dawn. She died 10 days later due to complications with her healing process. After Dewey was found guilty and sentenced to death, his final wish was to address the crowd during his execution, admit to his crime and acknowledge his need for punishment. Dewey was publicly hanged in the gathering space just outside present-day City Hall (IMG 5), and his ghost has been seen wandering the streets of Old Montreal, asking for forgiveness for his transgressions.

IMG 6: Chateau Ramezay was often a location for Mary Gallagher, a sex worker, to conduct her business transactions. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
Château Ramezay

In 1879, one of Montreal’s most gruesome murders at the time took place at 242 William St., then a working-class industrial apartment building in Griffintown. On June 26, the decapitated head of Mary Gallagher, a sex worker, was found in the wash tub of her apartment, with her dismembered body sprawled in a pool of blood on the living room floor. Gallagher’s alleged murderess was her friend and co-worker, Susan Kennedy, who was found by police at the scene of the crime, covered in Gallagher’s blood and rocking back and forth in the fetal position. Old Montreal was a place of income for Gallagher, and she would walk the streets at night in search of business opportunities. Years after her murder, starting in 1929, what appeared to be the ghost of Gallagher was seen walking the streets, and wandering through places like Chateau Ramezay (IMG 6), often a location for her business transactions. Every seven years, Gallagher’s headless ghost is seen in a purple satin dress, drenched in blood, wandering around Old Montreal in search of her head.

IMG 7: The left side window is that through which Joseph Frobisher watched his six-year old daughter burn alive. Photo by Alex Hutchins.
Auberge St-Gabriel

The Auberge St-Gabriel (IMG 7), built in 1688 and established as an inn by 1754, is the oldest inn in North America, and with over 300 years of history comes ghastly tales of tragedy and spooky occurrences. The most notable tale is that of Joseph Frobisher, an affluent fur-trading businessman, who acquired the establishment in 1809. Frobisher needed his business to survive the winter until, come springtime, European tourists would come and buy his fur. Frobisher nefariously ordered the neighbourhood arsonist to burn down his competitor’s establishment, and while he specified that the arsonist should be sure no one was in the building, 12 workers burned to death.

The arsonist begged Frobisher for money to flee town, and though he agreed, when Frobisher reached into his drawer to retrieve money, he instead took out a knife and stabbed the arsonist to death. During their altercation, the arsonist’s satchel carrying explosives fell into the fire, and soon the entire establishment went up in flames.

Standing on the streets, Frobisher wept in horror as his establishment was engulfed in flames, however it was not for fear of losing his business. His six-year-old daughter was still trapped on the second floor, in the middle of a piano lesson with her grandfather. A small shred of hope emerged when Frobisher saw his father trying to hoist his daughter up to a window (IMG 7 left) to get her out of the house. However, when the window was opened, the oxygen intake fueled the fire and Frobisher watched his daughter and father be incinerated alive. A year later, Frobisher died from nostalgia, a term then used to describe cases where people speculatively died from either grief, fear or suicide. On top of the countless inexplicable fires that have since occurred at the Auberge St-Gabriel, present-day staff have reported hearing a piano being played and the occasional laughter of a child.


Bringing inner demons to light: The dark side of the art world

From haunted paintings to tormented artists, the art world has a dark side

At this time of the year, there is an abundance of eerie stories to be shared, especially when it comes to unsettling histories.
The haunted history of two famous paintings
By: Ashley Fish-Robertson, Contributor

The portrait of Bernardo de Galvez has hung on the walls of the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas, since just after the American Revolutionary War. It is known by visitors and paranormal fanatics as one of the most haunted paintings in Texas. With its Spanish colonial revival architecture, Hotel Galvez sits on the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico and has been operating since 1911. Several of the hotel’s guests have reported seeing the portrait’s eyes move, and the artwork is known to conjure up feelings of unease. There have even been several reports of visitors attempting to photograph the portrait, but the images always come out blurry and unrecognizable. For those who wish to get a clear picture of Bernardo, the hotel’s staff recommend asking the portrait for permission beforehand.


In 1910, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch completed his masterpiece, The Scream. It is one of the most recognized works of the horror-abstract genre, and served as an outlet for a horrific vision the artist had in his youth. According to some of Munch’s personal writings, his childhood vision encompassed horrific images of “air turned to blood” and the echo of “a huge endless scream course through nature.” Although this painting was inspired by a traumatic moment the artist experienced, the painting itself has several interpretations in the art world especiallywhen considered alongside Munch’s journal entries. In one of his earliest entries, Munch wrote: “Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle, and they have followed me throughout my life.”

According to a report by the Smithsonian Museum, this painting “defined how we see our own age—wracked with anxiety and uncertainty” and had a significant influence on the understanding of art in the 18th century. It is the existential dread that haunts viewers the most, according to an in-depth report done by the BBC. The painting has created a popular archetype for horror pop culture, such as influencing the 1996 slasher film Scream.



When death imitates art: The curious ending of Poe
By Lillian Roy, Contributor

It was election night in Baltimore, and Gunner’s Hall bustled with life. The tavern had been temporarily converted into a polling station, although this didn’t seem to impede usual pub activities. Mixing spirits and politics made for a popular cocktail in 1849.
A compositor named Joseph W. Walker was walking by Gunner’s Hall when, in the darkness, he spotted the slumped figure of a man. The man appeared to be exceedingly drunk and was dressed in a cheap, worn gabardine suit and a tattered banana leaf hat. Despite the man’s slurred incoherence, Walker managed to decipher the name of a friend who lived nearby. He sent the following note to Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass:

Dear Sir,
There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, and he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance.
Yours, in haste,
Jos. W. Walker

Less than a week later, on Oct. 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was pronounced dead.
The details surrounding Poe’s death are a mystery. To date, no one knows why he was in such a delirious state that night. While an inclination to drink heavily might provide some explanation, it fails to account for his peculiar clothing. The poet was generally regarded as quite fashionable—why then, was his suit soiled, ill-fitting and coming apart at the seams?
What also remains unclear is how exactly Poe died. After he was discovered outside the tavern, Poe was rushed to a nearby hospital. During his short stay, he wavered in and out of consciousness, utterly incoherent and seemingly detached from reality.

A lack of reliable evidence has led to the development of numerous theories surrounding Poe’s death. Was it the result of alcoholism, drug abuse, syphilis, influenza, rabies or poison? Was he mugged and beaten into a state of shock? Some have even speculated he died from the effects of a prolonged suicide.

It seems eerily fitting that Poe’s life ended the way it did. In many ways, his departure was as elusive and chilling as his work. Poe’s legacy is so great that historians and literary buffs continue to search for answers, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know the truth. After all, in the words of  Poe himself, “there are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told.”




Behind Francisco de Goya’s darkness
by Youmna El Halabi, Staff Writer

I believe I speak for most art lovers when I say that “colourful,” “merry” and “pleasing to the general public” are not qualities associated with Francisco de Goya’s work. I was first introduced to the Spanish artist through his infamous El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters). The dark etchings, sombre colours and daunting intensity of the drawings made me believe  Goya always produced such darkness. However, that was not the case.

In fact,  Goya was avidly admired by the royal Spanish court in the 18th century. For the longest period, his portraits of the royal family were what distinguished him in Spain, namely works like Condesa de Altamira and Her Daughter and Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga, who was Altamira’s third son. In  Goya’s portraits, colours were used in abundance. His landscapes such as Blind Man’s Bluff painted in 1789, were bright and clear.

However, as is the fate of most artists, tragedy struck  Goya, forcing him into an isolated life. In 1793, the Spanish artist emerged from a long illness completely deaf, which contributed immensely to his art. Starting in 1797, one can see a growing theme of darkness and disturbance in his work. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is among the 80 disturbing drawings of his first famous print series, Los caprichos, which encompassed fantasy, satire and ridicule of Spanish society.

Goya’s first dark series paved way for what we now consider his darkest works, The Black Paintings. Comprised of 14 paintings, the collection took about four years to complete. The Black Paintings convey violence, despair, mental illness and evil. Saturn Devouring His Son is a fairly disturbing depiction of the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus eating his child to prevent possible usurpation.

The longer Goya spent away from society, the less colourful his art became. One might agree that colourful works of art always appealed to the masses, but as the renowned Spanish artist became more reclusive, eaten away by depression, he began to paint for himself. No colours, no joy, just projections of his inner turbulence.

Graphics by @spooky_soda


Student Life

Grey Nun ghosts and a murderer’s grave

Delving into Concordia campus’ dark and haunted history

The Grey Nunnery’s orphan ghosts

Since its foundation in 1737, the Grey Nuns building has been home to the Grey Nuns, women in difficulty, the poor and needy of Montreal, orphaned children, wounded soldiers, and now students. It seems it may also be home to ghosts.

In 1918, the Grey Nunnery housed an orphanage on the top floor of the Left Wing, and sick and wounded soldiers on the lower levels, according to Newfoundland’s The Western Star. This was wartime, and the Grey Nuns played a crucial role in sheltering those who had nowhere else to go.

On the evening of Valentine’s Day, a fire broke out on the top floor of the building, enshrouding the orphanage in smoke and flames.

“The children, most of them infants, had been put to bed as usual at five o’clock. The first flames seemed to shoot up through the floor of the dormitory, near one of the windows. They caught the end of a curtain. In a few minutes smoke and stench of blistering paint were rolling through the two rooms,” an excerpt from the Montreal Gazette from 1970 states.

“Thirty-eight, charred bodies were found by the firemen at 10:30 … while firemen and soldiers were engaged in rescuing infants they were forced to leave many to die as the flames and smoke drove the rescuers from the building,” reported The Western Star on the morning of Feb. 15, 1918.

That number was later amended to 53 confirmed deaths, and it is still unknown how many other young children and babies were entirely cremated in the fire, their remains never having been found.

Donovan King, a Concordia alumnus and expert in haunted theatre who runs Montreal’s Ghost Tours, has some sordid details about the SGW campus’ allegedly haunted past.

“Back in the spring, I went to the residence and began asking students on the street about if anyone had heard any stories of hauntings,” he said. “One student who had been living in the residence said she had been having nightmares every night about dead children, she would hear trampling noises and have bad visions associated with this,” he said.

According to King, the student was unable to sleep—she tried everything from hot tea to sleeping pills. Only when she moved out of the residence did these nightmares and visions subside.

According to daycare workers at the Grey Nun’s residence that King interviewed as well, she is not the only one who felt the presence of the tragically departed orphans.

“Apparently two of the children in the daycare had made the same imaginary friend, who fit the description of an orphan,” King said. Both children in the daycare had individually described this “friend” as having a “tattered hat and ripped, charred clothes.”


The Murderer’s Cross

The Nunnery isn’t the only landmark on campus that has a gruesome past life.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the large wooden cross on the corner of Guy St. and René-Levesque Blvd. According to the same article from the Montreal Gazette, it marks the spot where long ago a murderer was buried.

“In 1752 Jean Baptiste Goyer lived in a small house just on the north side of the street, where the gates of the Grey Nuns motherhouse are now,” said King. “He was an indolent and lazy farmer, and made little money.”

As the story goes, according to the Gazette, his neighbours, Jean Favre and his wife Mary-Anne Bastien, were very successful farmers, and quite wealthy.

One day Goyer told his neighbours that he was taking a trip to Quebec City, which was a very long trip at the time, explained King. While he was away, Favre and Bastien were brutally murdered, and their property looted.

“When Goyer returned a couple of weeks later, he expressed horror at the murders, he became obsessed with the murder case, and began spending even more money at the tavern,” said King.

Because of this erratic behaviour, Goyer became the prime suspect and was arrested.

Back in that day they would torture people with the Spanish Boot, a method which involved nailing the accused’s legs to planks of wood, and asking them questions designed to make them confess. Goyer confessed under the pain that instead of going to Quebec City, he had snuck into the Favre’s home in the middle of the night, and stabbed Favre and his wife.

Goyer was executed by torture wheel on the Place du Marché.

“They would attach the guilty to a flat wheel, they would revolve the wheel slowly and the torturer would smash their limbs apart with a hammer between the gaps in the wheel,” said King.

Goyer was left there to die with his bones smashed and splintered and his face turned up to the sky.

A blood-red cross was erected on the spot as a warning to others not to commit such a heinous crime.

Over a century later, in the 1870s, the roads were widened, and the nuns discreetly moved the original cross, painted it a less striking colour, and surrounded it with religious paraphernalia and a garden.

“Today, because they moved the cross from its original place, Goyer’s body is probably somewhere under Réné-Levesque Blvd.,” said Donovan.

The cautionary message that the cross warned was soon forgotten.

Exit mobile version