She’s baaack! Well, maybe. Part of her, anyway. And she’s becoming increasingly more unhinged. (Pun, possibly intended.)But her angst is entirely understandable. Mary Gallagher, Montreal’s most infamous ghost, is slated for a brief return Thursday night in Griffintown in her endless pursuit to track down her severed head.Gallagher, a lady of the evening, was brutally murdered and beheaded on June 27, 1879 in a Griffintown tenement and, according to the lore, has returned to the scene of the crime on the date of her death every seven years since, scaring the bejesus out of squeamish residents in the process.
Donovan King, Haunted Montreal organizer and authority on ghosts, poses on Wednesday near the spot where Mary Gallagher was murdered in Griffintown.
Christinne Muschi /
According to Haunted Montreal’s Donovan King, founder of the historical tour and one of the city’s leading authorities on ghostly spirits, in tact or otherwise, Gallagher, the headless harlot, was allegedly murdered by her best friend Suzy Kennedy. Kennedy was sentenced to hang for the crime, but that sentence was later commuted by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.Despite the fact that Kennedy was found by authorities at the scene with a bloody axe, she apparently claimed the perp was a mysterious sea captain. Some speculated she had been set up and that others — one of whom met a most gruesome demise — were involved in this heinous crime.Cue theremin: Eww … eww … eww!!Of course, here in Sin City, any historical event, no matter how grisly, merits a tribute.Haunted Montreal is offering “fully immersive ghost hunting experiences in the Griff.”So Haunted Montreal is offering “fully immersive ghost hunting experiences in the Griff” on Thursday in French (at 6 and 8 p.m.) and in English (at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.) at what was once the scene of the crime, now an empty lot on the corner of William and Murray Sts. Gallagher’s tenement home was razed long ago.Also set to take place on this haunted corner at 6 p.m. is a Catholic benediction for Gallagher’s soul as well as speeches from leaders and heritage activists of the Irish community.Then a cadre of Haunted Montreal actors and storytellers will re-enact this ghost tale in French and English, from 7 to 10 p.m. on the corner. And from 10 p.m. to midnight, there will be silence as a vigil will be held by attendees awaiting the return of the spirit of the headless Gallagher. Aiding and abetting her return will be resident medium Victoria Sage, who will be performing a ceremony of sorts to summon Gallagher back. Guests, prone to back, butt or nerve issues, are advised to bring lawn chairs for the occasion.Not finished yet. Following the vigil, ghost hunters will convene at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent St. to try to recall, or forget, the evening’s spirited proceedings.King has yet to rub shoulders — which is, technically, all he could do – with Gallagher, but he reports she was last spotted by two different witnesses 21 years ago.Prior to Gallagher, the city’s most notorious ghost was one Samuel McTavish, a ruthless fur baron who was reputed to be Montreal’s richest man and whose afterlife appears to have been rather unsettling. After his death in 1804, there were sightings of a ghostly McTavish sliding down the snowy slopes of Mount Royal, not on a more traditional toboggan but rather in a less conventional coffin.“But the city, quite literally, tried to bury the story years later,” King says. “So just as the spirit of McTavish was forgotten, the city got wind of the Mary Gallagher murder and she became the ghost story du jour, and has remained so since.”Gallagher and McTavish notwithstanding, Montreal is renowned for its lot of troubled souls who refuse to go gently into that good night and who get their kicks rising from their dirt naps to spook locals, particularly around Halloween.Montreal is considered the most haunted city in all North America.”“No question, Montreal is considered the most haunted city in all North America,” King says. “I have almost 300 ghost stories on my list, and I hear one or two more every week.”King claims our history has a lot to do with these apparitions.“One of the reasons is that it’s not a good idea to build on top of Indigenous burial grounds, and Montreal’s downtown core pretty much is built on Indigenous burial grounds.“A lot of it is also related to the endless struggles of colonization and decolonization. The city is so haunted because that has been brought on by so much conflict over its history. And it still continues.”All the same, King, who had some weird paranormal experiences during a stint years back as a tour guide at the famed London Dungeon, has yet to run into a ghost himself.But he remains hopeful as the tune Along Came Mary rings through his head.For information about the Mary Gallagher events, visit firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/billbrownsteinRelated