Every city has their fair share of urban myths and strange lore, all of which are usually just fantastical reasoning for what the mundane can't explain. Montreal is no different, but when it comes to our city's many unsolved mysteries, even the craziest of explanations lack any merit.
From raging fires to vanishing villages to flying lights in the sky, the mysteries that have plagued the minds of Montrealers are diverse, with only uncertainty linking each and every event. No one can, and probably ever will know exactly what caused the following events, but what is certain is that these things did happen, we just can't say why or how.
Maybe you have the missing bits of information needed to solve the conundrums that have plagued the cities for years, but don't get your hope up, because these are ten Montreal mysteries no one has ever been able to answer.
The Redpath Mansion Murders
On the eve of June 13th, 1901, two members of the Redpath family, one of the richest families in Canada at the time, were shot in cold blood. Widow Ada Maria Mills Redpath and her son Jocelyn Clifford Redpath were the two victims, both gunned down in Ada's bedroom within the Redpath mansion.
That's all anyone really knows about the Redpath Mansion Murders, other than the investigation and following events were more than a bit suspicious.
No police officers were called, the coroner's investigation was hasty at best, and the bodies were put into the ground only two days after the murder. The Redpath family never even mentioned the event publicly, or with each other as far as anyone knows, adding another layer of mystery to the event.
Were the mother and son killed by a member of their own family? Had the two incurred the wrath of another wealthy family? Perhaps it was just a senseless act of violence perpetrated by a criminal who merely wished to rob the house. Theories exist, but nothing will ever be confirmed.
Hochelaga: The Vanished Village
During his second trip to Canada in 1535, Jaques Cartier took to the land that would one day become Montreal, which wasn't uninhabited at the time. A First Nations village known as Hochelaga occupied the area, which housed a large population of citizens with at least 50 houses set up.
Hochelaga was a thriving community during Cartier's first visit, but by the time Samuel de Champlain got to Montreal in 1603, any clue to the village's existence had disappeared.
No trace of Hochelaga was found until 1860, when construction work near Sherbrooke and Metcalfe revealed what seemed to be
remnants of the once-large village. John William Dawson did some excavating, but his findings seemed to be from a much smaller village, with the general conclusion being that this was a smaller off-shoot settlement, rather than Hochelaga itself.
Some hubbub concerning an area that could house clues to the fate of Hochelaga came about this past year, when an office tower was planned to go up on de Maisonneuve, but in truth, the amount of times the Montreal area has been built and rebuilt means that any evidence that could point to what happened to Hochelaga is likely lost forever.
The Fire of 1734 And The Death of Marie-Josèphe Angélique
When a fire tore apart Saint-Paul street in Montreal in the spring of 1734, everyone of the time assumed that Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique caused the blaze. As most Montrealers probably already know, Angélique was convicted of the crime and publicly hanged, with her body then burned entirely.
But what has always troubled historians is the fact that there was no proof that Angélique actually started the fire. Those who testified against Angélique at the time based their accusations on mere conjecture, with the tribunal who convicted her even admitting to being swayed by rumours propagated by the upper classes of Montreal.
So what truly started the fire? There's no real way to know. It is possible that Angélique perpetrated the crime, as many see it as a rebellion against slavery, but it's just as likely she was unjustly accused. Again, we will probably never know.
What Really Caused The Grey Nun's Fire
Those unfamiliar with the Grey Nun's Fire of 1918 should be aware its one of the most horrific tragedies in Montreal history. Housing an unknown number of orphans, Grey Nun's was set ablaze on February 14th, with 53 individuals dying from the fire.
Historians believe the death toll is actually quite larger, but nothing can be confirmed since many of the children caught in the fire (who were in bed at the time) were cremated so completely that almost nothing remained of their bodies, so no concrete evidence existed to create a final count of the deceased.
What we'll never know, is what, or who started the Grey Nuns fire. Was it a disgruntled nun fed up with the needs of children? Was it an orphan who had gotten up out of bed and mistakenly created the inferno? Once more, we'll probably never know.
The Disappearance of Clifford Sherwood
9-year-old Clifford Sherwood was sent to school on the morning of October 21st, 1954 by his grandmother, Frances Sherwood, only to never return. Initially it was believed Clifford, along with his friend George Gumbley, had run away from school, with the blame then placed on Tex Sherwood, Clifford's estranged father.
Tex never owned up to abducting Clifford, and even after his death the only clue that remained were two recovered photographs that seemed to be picture Clifford after he had disappeared.
Colleen searched for Clifford for 50 years, right up until her death in 2009. Neither George Gumbley or Clifford were ever seen again, though authorities did find out that a man named Edward Clifford Sherwood, who shared the same birthday as the disappeared, had been issued a drivers license in Edmonton. By the time the police got to Edmonton, the man had left, leaving no clue pointing towards his future whereabouts.
The Place Bonaventure Incident
Since the Place Bonaventure Incident occurred in November of 1990, no rational explanation for the event has been provided, except one, though it leans farther to the fantastical end of explanations.
When a woman was swimming on the rooftop pool if the Place Bonaventure hotel, which is 17 floors up, she reported seeing a "round object in the sky emitting beams of light." It didn't take long until the local police, the RCMP, and NASA caught wind of the sighting, which lasted from 7:20pm to 10:10pm, nearly 3 full hours.
A Montreal-based expert on UFO research, along with the help of a NASA scientist, concluded in a report that the "evidence for the existence of a highly unusual, hovering, silent large object is indisputable." To discredit their findings, many cite the Northern Lights to be what everyone saw, though the amount of light pollution in Montreal makes that notion almost as ridiculous as UFOs.
Cited as the most famous UFO sighting to ever occur in Quebec, the Place Bonaventure Incident will likely remain a mystery forever, at least to those who don't believe in aliens.
The Unmarked Graves Of The Ravenscrag
Housing the Allen Memorial Institute, the Psychiatry Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Ravenscrag mansion is directly linked to a very dark part in Montreal history, namely the work of Dr. James Cameron.
Cameron is a name synonymous with the shadowy side of psychiatry, and was all-but-confirmed to have been performing mind control experiments on unsuspecting subjects, payed for by the CIA. You can read a full rundown on the violent acts of Dr. Cameron during his time at the Allen here.
What remains a mystery in connection to Cameron's work are the unmarked graves found where the Ravenscrag and Royal Victoria property meet. Many believe this to be a children's cemetery, with the bodies beneath the gravestones said to be First Nations children and orphans used in Cameron's experiments from 1953 to 1964.
No link can be officially made between this alleged children's cemetery and Dr. Cameron, but when you consider what he did to many others, it isn't that far of a stretch. Without any evidence, the unmarked graves of the Ravenscrag will remain a mystery.
The Montreal Ball of Light
Here's one for the UFO fanatics reading.
Last October, during a nighttime television broadcast by TVA, a mysterious "ball of light" was seen in Montreal's sky. A video recording of the glowing orb was captured by TVA journalists, leading to a huge discussion on what the hell the ball of light could be.
Experts have gone on the record to discount the possibility of the ball of light being a meteor, offering no other feasible explanation. The green orb literally could be anything, including aliens, as no definite answer was ever discovered.
The Haunting Of Barfly
Anyone hip to the Montreal nightlife and music scene will already be familiar with Barfly, a dive-bar of sorts on Saint Laurent, which has had seen some very mysterious activity over the years.
Patrons and workers alike have claimed that odd things happen when the bar closes, including the music being turned up louder when specific songs are playing, bar stools flying off the tables when being stacked, and the radio being turned on at random.
A previous owner of Barfly is cited to be the cause. Often keeping the bar open all night, it would seem the one-time owner wants to continue the tradition, from beyond the grave, that is.
Don't believe the story? Well, head over to Barfly and ask any of the staff to tell you what they think is causing the more-than-odd occurrences. It's unlikely you're going to get a better answer than paranormal activity with this Montreal mystery.
The Ghost of Esplanade Avenue
For years, Montrealers of every sort have reported seeing what seems to be a limping soldier walking down Ave de L’Esplanade, between Rachel and Duluth. Dressed in traditional military garbs of the 1750s and 60s, this apparition has become known as "the ghost of Esplanade Avenue."
Given this "ghosts" outfit, paranormal theorists believe him to be a phantasm from Canada's "Seven Years War," in which Montreal was a battleground between French and English forces.
Most of you reading are probably calling shenanigans on this mystery, thinking "f*ck off, ghosts don't exist." Either way, citizens have continuously reported seeing the Ghost of Esplanade Avenue for years, and the reason (if it ain't "he's a ghost!!") remains a mystery.