Most people associate haunting with houses and Halloween but for Donovan King of Haunted Montreal Ghost Tours, haunting is a year-round business. King is a professional actor, teacher, historian, and tour guide from Montreal. The founder of Haunted Montreal researches ghost stories and offers haunted tours of the city and the mountain, hiring other professional actors to conduct the tours when he’s teaching.
The Haunted Mountain Tour runs from early May to early November and is a crowd pleaser. “Haunted Mountain is our most popular tour, especially among francophones,” King says. Haunted Mountain takes place on Mount Royal / Otsirà:ke the latter name originating with the Kanien’kehá:ka people on their un-ceded territory of Tio’tia:ke King says. With its four cemeteries on top, it is the largest intact burial ground in North America according to King and constitutes a veritable City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living.
Mount Royal/Otsirà:ke is, “probably the most haunted mountain on Earth,” he says. Sounds like a true believer. Haunted Montreal investigates paranormal events in addition to hosting haunted tours. For the more skeptically-minded haunted tours are a form of entertainment and a way to learn more about Montreal and its heritage – for those who enjoy macabre local history and ghost stories. Of course, people can get into costume if they like and kids may participate with parental consent. King guesses that about 5% of those who go on the tours are children. “I just did a tour for a 12-year-old boy’s birthday last week, for example, with 10 young ones and 2 parents on Mount Royal,” King says. “They often dress up around Hallowe’en.”
Business partner Caitie Moynan does all the administration while King does all the creative work, research, media, etc. King credits his business partner with having “incredible administrative skills” – no small compliment. The formula must be working because Haunted Montreal did about 80 public and private tours last year. “We only offer private tours off-season, but I am planning a public season of haunted pub crawls, starting this December. I researched these in Savannah, Georgia, just last year, where they were invented.”
King started Haunted Montreal in 2011 after working for Montreal Ghosts since 2005. The two groups work together to grow the haunted tourism industry. “They cover Old Montreal, we cover the mountain, Griffintown, and Downtown,” King says. They have a joint venture called Secret Montreal that offers ghost tours in the old Red Light District (today’s Quartier des Spectacles).
“I foresee a lot of growth,” he says noting that Savannah, Georgia, has 149 ghost tour offerings whereas Montreal has only 4-5 which he created. King’s goal is to increase the number of haunted tours and make sure tourists are aware of what’s being offered. ”Montreal is easily the most haunted city in Canada, if not all of North America,” he says.