What good fortune to attended my first ever Jane’s Walk and find it is being led by Donovan King, the mind behind Haunted Montreal, one of Montreal’s best walking tour outlets. King tells us he is testing out a new walk for the fall season focused on the ghosts and creepy stories around Montreal’s Chinatown.
Jane’s Walks are neighbourhood walking tours, named after the great urban activist and writer, Jane Jacobs. Over 134 different cities hold events worldwide, in order to encourage urban literacy and a community approach to city building. This year in Montreal, from May 5-7, there were walks on offer to explore the Village, the murals of the Latin Quarter, a sensitivity to homelessness walk, Yiddish Montreal, and more. Tours were given in French, English, and bilingually.
30 people took chance on the weather and came to the Haunted Chinatown tour. We started out the Guy-Favreau complex, and learned of how the building and Rene Levesque stood over the old Protestant cemetery. Needless to say, where there are cemeteries, especially ones that have been built over, there are ghosts.
The tour continued from there up and down the three main streets that make up Chinatown in Montreal, going from its western paifang (gateway) to the eastern one. King stopped at specific points where he told us about the history of the neighbourhood, of specific buildings and their different owners. He even showed us a few “secret” places that few Montrealers know about. I certainly didn’t know about them! King also let us know the ghost stories associated with certain buildings — in particular, he focused on paranormal activity that has been observed. He collected a number of stories from those who live and work in the district. The walk was punctuated with information about Chinese superstitions and the five types of Chinese ghosts.
Since the intent is to add this to Haunted Montreal’s roster, I don’t want to give away the stories and I recommend taking the tour in the fall to hear them for yourself. King is informative and interesting from start to finish. He certainly does his research and is ready for all questions. His delivery is clear and he has a great sense of how much information to share at each stop. In addition to the history of the area and the stories about its supernatural residents, which is fascinating, he also has a good rapport with contemporary residents. The distance covered is modest, although there aren’t many places to sit along the route.
Collectively among all the walkers, the hardest thing was passing by all those great restaurants in Chinatown and not stopping. At least the tour gives you a look at all the possible restaurants to choose from to eat in after working up an appetite.