Exploring a city through ghosts and graves

Exploring a city through ghosts and graves

Posted on October 30 by Mark Leslie in Mystery, Recent Releases
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You can learn much about the living by paying attention to the dead.

On the first weekend in October, I was in Montreal for the launch of Macabre Montreal with my co-author, Montreal resident, Shayna Krishnasamy. We had two successful events at the Chapters Pointe Clair and the downtown Place Trust Indigo locations. The Sunday night Indigo event was followed by a free mini ghost walk courtesy of the good folks of Haunted Montreal. The walk took us from the bookstore to three of the nearby locations that were covered in the book, Dorchester Square, the old Windsor Hotel and the old Club 1234 on De la Montagne.

As I was listening to our tour guide as she shared fascinating historic tales of the city, I was reminded of just how much I have come to appreciate a city from tales of the ghosts that haunt it. I had never been particularly interested in history until my first historic ghost walk in Ottawa almost two decades ago. It was then that I came to appreciate how history could come alive with rich and intriguing tales of ghosts from the past. Because one of the elements of a good ghost story involves history, and an underlying appreciation of the people and circumstances that led, built up and created where we are today.

One of the other things I enjoy when I visit a place is to explore its graveyards. You can learn a lot about a society, culture or people by paying attention to the rituals they ascribe to death. In this particular case, the rituals of burial.

On my visit, as I explored the vast 343-acre Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery on Mount Royal, I was overcome with the fact that the “population” of the cemetery, and even the system of roads far exceeded those of the small Northern Ontario town where I grew up.

It was beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.

Spending hours exploring the cemetery on foot and by car, I was intrigued and fascinated with the parallels between the neighbourhoods of the cemetery and the neighbourhoods of the city. I reflected at how some graves were tightly packed together, while others were buried in giant family or single person crypts and mausoleums, like certain housing situations in the city. I marvelled at the fact that there were dead people in the cemetery who “dwelt” in more magnificent abodes than so many of the city’s living. And I noticed the various race and cultural sections of the graveyard specifically designated, it seemed, for Chinese, Greek or Polish, for example, or for military personnel and soldiers.

These parallels between the living and the dead are fascinating to me.

And it is a reminder that one of the ways to appreciate and explore a city, isn’t just through the architecture and the streets and the current political and cultural climate or local music and arts, but also through the dead.

Mark Leslie

Posted by KathrynB on October 30, 2014
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Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie is the author of Creepy Capital and Tomes of Terror as well as many other books on the fascinating and paranormal. He is also the editor of Campus Chills and Fiction River: Feel the Fear. Mark lives in Waterloo, Ontario.