Hello From Montreal: The Old Montreal
Ghost Walking Tour
by Susanne Pacher
After an enjoyable dinner at Modavie I was
ready to head to my next scheduled activity: a ghost tour of Old Montreal. Old
Montreal Ghosts or Les Fantomes de Vieux Montreal was founded about 8 years ago
by a local Montrealer, Eric Poulin, who got the idea for a ghost tour on one of
his travels to London. Recently he has started to collaborate with Louise Hébert,
owner of Guidatour and a very experienced tourism entrepreneur who has won
numerous prizes from Quebec Tourism and in 2005 was also honoured as one of
Chatelaine Magazine Top Ten Women of the Year. Both entrepreneurs together
combined to provide a special experience in Old Montreal.
Old Montreal Ghosts offers a variety of tours:
a traditional ghost walk that introduces visitors to the streets, alleyways and
piers of Old Montreal, to the locations of many historical events including
fires, ghost appearances, political gatherings, hangings, crimes, heroic acts
and unexplained facts. The Montreal Historical Crimes Tour makes visitors
relive some of Montreal's most famous crimes through the testimony of victims
I was going to partake of the New France Ghost
Hunt, with characters dating back to the founding times of Montreal. Another
ghost tour focuses on the Port area while a Scavenger Hunt is also offered
where competing teams have to find answers to rally questions.
Based on these interesting offerings, I was
sure a special experience was waiting for me. So just before 8:30 pm I went to
a booth on Jacques Cartier Quay in the Old Port of Montreal to participate in
the New France Ghost Hunt. Quebec was part of New France and Montreal's French
regime lasted from 1642, the founding of Montreal, to 1760, when France
conceded its overseas territories to Great Britain in 1763 at the end of the
Seven Years War. The ghosts we would be meeting tonight would date back to that
Two ghost tours were being offered tonight:
one in French and one in English. Together with a family from Battle Creek,
Michigan, and another family from Boston I was ready to go searching for
Montreal's ghosts. A lady dressed in a late-medieval costume called us together
and explained to us how the tour would work. She handed out some critical
accessories: a flag of New France as well as a lantern and designated a tour
leader who would have to coordinate our efforts.
She gave us maps of Old Montreal that
contained 4 stops at each of which we would have to locate the resident ghost
and call him or her by chanting "Long live the King of France". This
would make the ghost appear. And off she sent us on our treasure hunt for the
ghosts of Old Montreal.
Well, it was a beautiful evening and hundreds
of people on the outdoor restaurant patios on Place Jacques Cartier could
attest to that. Our first ghost destination was located at Champ-de-Mars, a
former parade ground for military manoeuvres, and since 1991 a place where the
old fortifications of Montreal have been revealed. We went through our ghost
calling ceremony and sure enough, the ghost of a young man appeared, telling us
stories of young forbidden love, arson and his early death. He was a rather
charming ghost that endeared himself to his audience with his French-Canadian
accent and his bright smile.
Our next ghost location was just south of
Montreal's City Hall, in the Place de la Dauversière, a public square next to
Place Jacques Cartier that holds several works of public art as well as a
statue of one of Montreal's most famous mayors, Jean Drapeau. Place Jacques
Cartier itself at one point held a public market and a statue of British
Admiral Nelson overlooks the square, however, the famous admiral interestingly
faces away from the port area.
Having arrived at the proper spot, we were
able to call up a young female ghost who told us tales of her voyage to North
America and her love story with one of the sailors. She was also reaped away by
an untimely death and her expressive playful demeanor was fitting for such a
young girlish ghost.
Then we crossed Place Jacques Cartier and
strolled to Cours Le Royer, a complex of huge warehouses that used to be the
property of the religieuses hospitalières (nursing sisters) of Saint-Joseph,
an order of nuns who rented out the warehouses to importers to generate revenue
for their organization. The complex was built between 1860 and 1871 and
features a cobble-stoned alley between the warehouses.
After some searching we found another ghost
and went through our ghost calling ritual. A young male ghost talked to us of
his journey to the New World and how he came into conflict with the
authorities. In gruesome detail he depicted the torture techniques that were
used at the time of the French regime. This ghost was the most scary of all and
his anger at his fate was palpable. When he was finished telling us his story
we started to proceed to search for our fourth and final ghost. As I looked
back, this ghost was still standing on the rue Saint-Sulpice and his haunting
gaze kept following our group, sending a chill up our spine.
Finally, on Place d'Armes, after a long
search, we were able to find our last ghost. He was one of the "coureurs
du bois", young men that used to venture deep into Native territory in
order to negotiate with Indian tribes who were supplying fur to the merchants
of New France. His stories made the early years of fur trading in wild and
uncharted lands come to life.
Each of these ghosts shed light on a different
aspect of life in New France in the 17th and 18th century, a time when
adventure and danger were part of daily life. Our tour finished around 10 pm, a
perfect time for me to walk back through the safe streets of Montreal to write
up today's experiences and catch some sleep for my adventures tomorrow: a
walking tour of Old Montreal.
About the Author
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of http://www.travelandtransitions.com,
a web portal for unconventional travel & cross-cultural connections. Check
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