Mary Gallagher, the Headless Ghost of Griffintown

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

The historic Irish community of Griffintown, Montreal, was once located near the Lachine Canal. It was a neighbourhood not unlike any other 19th century industrial slum: filled with stables and taverns, flour mills and smelting works, warehouses, drifters, labourers and families. But on June 27, 1879, the town gained a notoriety that lives on to this very day, even as the buildings have long since dissipated. On that ill-fated day, a pair of sex workers—Mary Gallagher and Suzy Kennedy—brought a newly acquainted client—one Michael Flanagan—back to Suzy’s second-floor flat for some early morning drinking.

On all accounts it appeared to be nothing more than three drunken companions sharing a bottle of whiskey, until a few hours later when tenants below heard a sudden thud. Next came thwacking so forceful that the plastered ceiling above them cracked; dusty bits and chunks of plaster falling down on them. A female voice above said, “I’ve wanted revenge for a long time, and I finally got it,” as a crimson stain appeared, spreading across the ceiling as blood dripped from the cracks.

When the police arrived, a crowd of onlookers were already swarming the front of the apartment building; everyone eager to see what had happened. Inside Suzy’s flat, they found Mary’s body lying prostrate on the floor in a thin cotton gown—both her head and one severed hand in a wash bucket nearby. Suzy’s own clothes were covered in blood but she said it was simply because she’d slipped and fallen in the gore. Her claim was that while she and Flanagan dozed in the front room, an unknown man—some sea captain—had entered the flat and had an argument with Mary, calling her an “old grey-haired rot.” Suzy said he was the murderer and that she’d seen him washing blood from his hands before leaving.

No one believed her. The police found a hatchet belonging to Suzy in the apartment—covered in Mary’s blood and hair. Kennedy was charged and sentenced to hang, while Flanagan was released. Suzy’s death sentence was commuted, however, and she went to Kingston Penitentiary for sixteen years instead. In a remarkable coincidence, on December 5th, the date in which Suzy had been set to hang, Flanagan lost his footing aboard a boat in the Peel Basin, fell through the ice, and drowned.

As legend would have it, the headless ghost of Mary Gallagher soon began appearing on William Street in Griffintown st near the building where she was murdered—seemingly in search of her head. Children were warned to avoid that particular street after dark. In time, the two-storey apartment building was demolished and the area re-zoned. Sightings of Mary grew less and less frequent, until she was only thought to appear once every seven years, on the anniversary of her death.

Sources:

Scholastic Canada

MTL Times

Montreal Gazette

VICE

Anomalien

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La Corriveau of New France, Quebec

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

In 1761 Saint-Vallier, New France, fifteen months after the mysterious death of her first husband, Marie-Josephte Corriveau married a second farmer. Two years later he was found dead in the barn with his head smashed in. At first, his death was deemed accidental—multiple kicks from a horse’s hooves—but rumors of murder quickly spread about the town. The local British military authorities soon charged Marie-Josephte’s father, Joseph Corriveau. His daughter was thought to be an accessory only and given 60 lashes; the letter M branded onto her hand with a hot iron.

Joseph, however, admitted that his daughter was the murderer, claiming she’d killed her abusive husband with two blows from the back of a hatchet while he slept. Thus, thereby found guilty by the tribunal, she was put to death in Quebec City by hanging. Her corpse was fastened into an iron cage-gibbet and dangled from a tree branch at the crossroads of Saint-Joseph Street and De l’Entente Boulevard in Lévis. There it rotted on public display for an entire month; feasted upon by flies and maggots, torn asunder by crows.

It wasn’t long before the hauntings began. Travelers soon learned not to take the river road leading past the cage at night, lest her vacant eyes should glow blood red and her shackled, leathery arms should stretch out towards them. Even after the gibbet was taken down, her body buried within the cage, the hauntings continued; her spirit rising from the grave each night to torment travelers.

One such night, a well-known citizen named Dubé was walking alongside the St. Lawrence River when the air turned chill. He stopped short just as a pair of bony fingers closed in around his throat from behind. Tendrils of greasy black hair tickled his cheeks and a ragged voice whispered, “Take me across the river.” Dubé swung around, glimpsing over his shoulder a set of red eyes and yellow teeth within a face of putrefied flesh. He fell to his knees—tearing at the slimy hands that refused to let go. “Leave me!” he screamed, then passed out from fright. The next morning his wife found him and shook him awake on the vacant road. His story spread and a curate was called in to exorcise the spirit.

A century later, the cage was dug up during an expansion project and put in the church cellar. It was stolen and sold to an American who put it in his museum in a glass display case with a placard that read simply: “From Quebec.” In time it was returned to Canada and placed permanently in the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City.

Sources:

Wikipedia

American Folklore

Strange Horizons

Spooky Canada

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

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The Fort Saskatchewan Wendigo of Alberta

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

Swift Runner crouched down in the trampled snow next to the dead body of his hunting partner. After weeks of being stranded in ever-accumulating snow drifts with nothing to eat, Runner was starving. Now, having made up his mind, he pulled a knife from the sheath of his belt. When the feverish deed was done, he fell asleep with a bloated belly next to the stripped bones of his partner.

He awoke in the murk of dawn to a hissing sort of breathing–like a man whose lung has been punctured by an arrow. The sound came from a tall form standing in the gaps between trees, snow falling heavily all around. It moved out into the clearing, leaving bloody footsteps in its wake, and peered down at Runner with glowing eyes in a deer-like skull. The smell of decaying flesh wafted from its desiccated body as Runner heard a voice enter his mind, saying, “You have become me.”

In the spring of 1879, years later, Swift Runner’s estranged Cree community began to question the whereabouts of his wife and five children, who had not been seen by anyone since the early winter. Unsatisfied with Runner’s explanation (he claimed they’d all starved to death that winter) and noting his rounded torso—they sent the police in to investigate.

After days of searching the woods, a pit of charred wood and ashes was discovered, with human skulls and weathered bones scattered about. A tiny Moccasin shoe had been stuffed inside one of the skulls; a beading needle protruding from the eye socket. The police gathered the remains together and determined them to be Runner’s missing family; accusing him of cannibalism. He denied nothing, saying, “I did it,” and became the first man to be legally hung in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

Sources:

Wikipedia

Legends of America

Murderpedia

Image by Tomasz Manderla from Pixabay

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