Think you know everything there is to know about Montreal? Okay, you probably don't, but there are definitely some folks think of themselves as "experts" on all things MTL-related. And I would know, I'm one of them.
But even the most knowledgable Montrealer will find some shock and awe in the collection of forty factoids below, each one showcasing a tidbit of the city's history unknown to more than many.
See for yourself if you don't believe me in our compilation of 40 Montreal mind blowing facts you (probably) never knew about.
Montreal Had Google Before It Was A Thing
Created in 1990 by three Montreal students (Alan Emtage, J. Peter Deutsch, and Bill Heelan), the online search engine was dubbed "Archie" and is considered to be the first of its kind in the world.
The Cross Is Only On Mount Royal Because Of A Deal With Heaven
When flooding was threatening the newly found settlement of Ville-Marie (what is now Montreal) in late 1642, Paul de Chomedey got a little desperate. Fearing for the lives of all those in the settlement, Montreal’s founder beseeched the Virgin Mary in heaven to stop the flooding, and in exchange he would erect a cross on the top of Mount Royal.
Whatever flooding plagued Ville-Marie stopped, and so de Chomedey climbed to the top of Mount Royal in January of 1643, wooden cross in tow, and marked the mountain with the iconic religious symbol we still see today.
The CIA Concucted Mind-Control Experiments In The City
While the extent to which the CIA was involved in these experimentations at the Allen Memorial Institute remains a mystery, there's some concrete evidence suggesting that the organization did fund such research in the 1960s. Read more on this dark part of Montreal's history here.
The Last Death Penalty
The very last person to be given the death penalty in Montreal (and Quebec at-large) was Ernest Côté. Sentenced to death for the murder of Alexander Herron, the penalty was carried out on March 11th, 1960, years before Canada eliminated the death penalty for murder on July 14th, 1976.
Machine Gun Molly Was Montreal's Famed Female Bank Robber
During her tenure as a prominent Montreal gangster, Monica Proeitti (better known by her moniker Machine Gun Molly) robbed over 20 different banks (with the help of accomplices), amassing a small fortune of $100,000. Better yet, Proietti was said to bring her kids along for robberies, redefining “bring your kids to work day” entirely. Read more on Machine Gun Molly and her rather ill-fated end here.
A Dog Saved Montreal
In March of 1644, the Iroquois launched an attack on the settlement that was Ville-Marie, and if proto-Montreal's leaders weren't alerted to the assault by a dog named Pilote and her puppies, the city may have never have come to be. Pilot was trained to howl when anyone came to attack the settlement, and the pup is still honoured toady at the Raphaël Lambert Closse statue.
The First-Ever Snowblower
It's quite fitting that in a city like Montreal, where snow drops 'til April, would an invention like the snowblower first be used. And that's exactly the case, as folks in Outremont were the first to utilize Arthur Sicard's invention in the winter of 1927.
Montreal Has Its Own Horror Movie School
Officially titled the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, the oddly specific genre film school has been operating for quite a while, and is open to the entire Montreal community. Two semesters are held every year, with courses including topics like zombies in horror films, reality horror, and Shakespeare in horror.
To learn more about Montreal’s horror movie school, and even to enrol, check out our feature here.
The Home Of Pudding Chômeur
One of Quebec's most delicious classic desserts was invented right here in Montreal. Specifically, pudding Chômeur was first made in the kitchen of 4455 St-Hubert Avenue by Georgette Falardeau, the (second) wife of Mayor Camilien Houde in 1929.
Montreal Was One Of The Most Important Heroin Ports In North America
Back in the 1950s, the dominant crime families of Montreal, with some help from those in New York, used Montreal as an entry point for heroin and many other drugs. All the imported “goods” were then smuggled to NYC and other major metropolises throughout North America. Get more info on Montreal’s mafia history here.
St-Hubert's Logo was Made By A Disney Animator
Famed for his work on Disney classics like Fantasia and Snow White, ex-Disney cartoonist Jack Dunham was also the man behind St-Hubert's BBQ logo.
Without Montreal, There May Not Have Been New Orleans
Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, born in Montreal in 1680, would then go on to found the city of New Orleans in 1718. You're welcome, 'Merica.
Why "YUL" Is The Airport Name
The reason behind the “Y” of YUL has a fairly basic explanation. All airports in Canada share the same beginning to their unique three-letter code, as designated by the International Air Transport Association. A “C” can be added as the first letter to such codes too.
The “UL” has a slightly more complex history.
According to Propos Montreal, the last two letters are based off of a beacon placed on the grounds that would become the Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport, which was originally a Royal Canadian Air Force base. Apparently the beacon would constantly send out the morse code message “UL,” which was then carried on to name the airport.
Montreal's Other Call Letters
And while everyone knows that YUL are the call letters for the Dorval airport, and most know that Mirabel’s calling letters are YMX, only a small amount of know that YMQ are the call letters for the greater Montreal area.
More Airport Factoids
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport actually has runways in different boroughs. At the airport, runways 06R/24L and 10/28 are situated in Dorval, while runway 06L/24R is in St-Laurent.
Most Of Île Sainte-Hélène Is Made From Land Found In The Metro Tunnels
When the city of Montreal started planning the logistics for Expo ’67, they realized the city itself couldn’t house the World’s Fair, as their simply wasn’t enough room.
Getting a bit creative with a solution, the city essentially took all the land that was being excavated for the STM metro network and used it to expand Île Sainte-Hélène to the current land mass it has today. Île Notre-Dame, adjacent to St. Helen’s, was built entirely from scratch.
Montreal Was The Third Choice For John Lennon & Yoko-Ono’s Infamous “Bed In”
We all like to think Montreal was the first choice for the music history event that saw the creation of “Give Peace a Chance,” but in truth, Montreal was actually third.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono originally planned to head to New York for the peaceful protest against the Vietnam war, but couldn’t get in because Lennon had a recent cannabis conviction. The Bahamas was the next option, a locale quickly cast aside because of the intense heat.
So, as the third option, Montreal won out, and the infamous duo headed to Queen Elizabeth Hotel on May 26th of 1969, and held their week-long Bed In For Peace.
Montreal Was In A Mario Game
When Mario goes missing in the aptly-titled educational game "Mario is Missing" released in 1992, Luigi has to find his lost brother and travel the globe to do so. Along the way, the green-clad Mario brother travels to Montreal (in the NES version, that is), visiting landmarks like Mont-Royal, the Olympic Stadium, and Saint Joseph's Oratory.
Saint-Hélène Island Wasn't Always Owned By Montreal
The land was actually in the ownership of Longueuil for close to two hundred years, specifically from 1665 to 1818.
Montreal's Very Own Baron
Montreal has several noble hereditary titles, and one of them is Baron of Shaughnessy. The current title-holder is actor Charles Shaughnessy, better known for his roles on the soap opera “Days of our Lives” and Maxwell Sheffield in the sitcom “The Nanny.”
Mount Royal Park & New York City’s Central Park Were Designed By The Same Guy
Frederick Law Olmsted is the man in question, famous for being the architect behind NYC’s Central Park and many others across North America, including Mount Royal Park.
Montrealers Had Over 1500 Slaves When Slavery Was Legal In The City
Many believe Canada as a haven for freedom, but remember slavery wasn’t abolished in Canada until August, 1833, and since Montreal was founded in 1642, that accounts for about 200 years in which slavery was active and legal in the city.
According to a Concordia Masters student Gregory Coulter, who is researching slavery in Quebec, more than 1500 slaves were owned in Montreal’s history. 1007 were indigenous slaves and 517 were African slaves, though many more could have been unrecorded.
For an interesting look into slavery in Montreal, check out these ads for slaves from the Montreal Gazette here.
What The Montreal Flag Actually Means
Despite being the city's flag, not many people actually know what the symbols in the flag's four quadrants actually mean. Each emblem is meant to represent the main demographics of immigrants who first made Montreal their home. If you need even more explanation, the fleur-de-lys represents French settlers, the thistle Scottish, the rose English, and the shamrock represents Irish immigrants.
Montreal Had Its Own "Midgets Palace"
One part tourist attraction and one part actual residence, the "Midgets Palace" was the home of Rose and Philippe Nicol. The house itself was tailored to the couple's height (neither were above 4 feet tall) and was a popular destination for tourists and Montrealers alike for years. Read more on the Montreal Midgets Palace here.
Notre Dame Basilica Has An 11 Ton Bell
Housed within the west tower, which goes by the name “La Persévérance,” the bell itself weighs exactly 11, 684.5 Kg and is called "Jean-Baptiste." Notre Dame's eastern tower is called "Temperance," just so you know.
Legends on Legends
For 87 consecutive seasons (1909-96), the Montreal Canadiens had future Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in their team roster.
Montreal's Sister City Is Hiroshima
Back in 1998, Montreal became the official sister city of Hiroshima, Japan. The symbolic bond is meant to promote world peace while also establishing a relationship based on mutual development between the two cities.
Millions Are Spent On Turkeys Every Christmas
On average, $23 million is spent on buying turkeys in Montreal every single Christmas season.
Thousands Of Trees Were Cut Down On Mont-Royal Because Of "Morality"
Back in the in the 1950s, Montrealers were apparently hooking up far too much on the mountain. In response, mayor-of-the-era Jean Drapeau actually led a movement to clear out the underbrush of the mountain’s forest to stop people from sexin’, an initiative dubbed “morality cuts.”
Titanic Victims In Montreal
Montreal has the largest number of Titanic victims buried in its cemeteries, after Halifax. Their spirits must have given Celine the inspiration for “My Heart Will Go On.”
Montreal's Metro Network Has No Heating System
Not counting ticket booths and certain STM staff areas, the entirety of the underground metro network is heated entirely by the movement of the trains, heat received from nearby and connected buildings, and from the body heat of passengers.
There Used To Be The "Junior Canadiens"
Exactly how it sounds, the Montreal Junior Canadiens were a junior league team who played from 1961 to 1972. Until 1969, the team actually had to play in the Ontario junior league, as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had yet to be created.
The World's First Hockey Game
The very first hockey game in the world is said to have been played in Montreal on March 3rd, 1875 at Victoria rink. Unsurprisingly, it ended in a fight.
We're A Pornographic Hub
Everyone’s favourite porn site, PornHub, was founded right here in Montreal back in 2007. Let that fill you with pride every time you're looking for a new addition to your spank bank.
Golf Gained A New Word Thanks To Montreal
A “mulligan” in golf lingo is when a player gets a second chance to hit the ball, and it was coined in honour of David Mulligan during the 1920s. After a long drive across the Victoria bridge towards the Montreal Country Club golf course, Mulligan's friends gave him a second chance to hit his tee off when his initial drive was far worse than his usual. The term is still used today.
The Coldest Day Ever Recorded
This terrible record goes to January 15th, 1957, when the temperature hit an all-time low of –37.8ºC. Bitching rights about this past winter are officially revoked.
The Metro's Top Speed
No matter the type of train, the maximum speed a allowed in the metro network is 72km/h. The AZUR can reach the speed in just 32 seconds.
The Busiest Weekend For Prostitutes
As stated by Montreal sex workers speaking to CBC, the busiest time of the year is always Grand Prix weekend. Surprised? Not really.
Montreal Is The Fur Capital Of Canada
In fact, the city produces over 80% of the nation’s fur products
Montreal Gives Out The "Oscar Of Fireworks"
The beloved L'International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks festival that lights up the skies of Montreal every summer is the most prestigious competition of its kind in the world. Pyrotechnic competitors duke it out for the honours of winning a "Golden Jupiter," which is basically like winning an Oscar for fireworks.