Category Archives: Montréal Noire

Montr̩al Stories { No.3 } РThe Vampire of Viger

Gare Viger and Viger Square - credit to

My first apartment was on the corner of Berri and Viger; I joined a few friends living in the old headquarters of an insurance company, right next to the National Archives. I moved in during Spring Break – it was the first day of a long weird trip.

The square above was right across the street, and being the naive West-Islander I once was, I figured it was harmless, perhaps an even ideal place to hang out and relax. That’s when I came to realize Montréal has a big homeless problem, and Viger Square was about as close as we get to having a bonafide Gypsy camp. My roomates told me that at the end of the summer The Fuzz came by, swept everyone into a paddy wagon, destroyed the shelters, and drove them all to the metropolitan city limits.

Not to say that I really had anything to do with the numerous homeless, anarchists, lunatics and drug-peddlers I now co-habitated with,  but proximity and a new social circle brought a fair bit of news my way, and only a few weeks in I began getting paranoid, freaked out. It turned out there had been a vampire on the loose.

Now granted, the Vampire of Viger Square had been behind bars for a few years at this point, but still, it made me wonder whether this city had pushed its homeless, its bottom rung, so far away from the public’s view that a desperation had taken hold, and they were going to make themselves heard, or felt, at any cost.

I observed them from a distance, kept casual and started changing my habits, my comings and goings. I often stayed in, especially through that spring and early summer, watching from my second floor perch, cold beers and hot, sweaty joints concocting new terrors in my brain. I took to walking around late at night with a solid pine cane, half-concerned for my safety, half-convinced I was there to bring order to the perceived chaos. A long trip of substance abuse (unusually dominated by caffeine and multi-vitamins), and increasing fear, compounded by a deteriorating appreciation of human life, brought on by reckless engagement in syndicate duties; I found my own dark world in Viger Square, where after a couple months of regular, forced interaction, became the only place I felt secure, even if it was only the security I found in the certainty of my gloom and despair.

I had previously thought where one lived was completely arbitrary, that one apartment was really as good as any other, and that location was ultimately meaningless. How very wrong I was.

Montréal Stories {No. 2} – A child’s footsteps…

Sunburst during a bogus thaw

Overheard in a restaurant (one woman’s voice):

“I’m staying at that hotel across from the Méridien on Sherbrooke, what? no, it’s closer to Atwater, but I’ve stayed at both, this one’s better. Not bad actually, excellent room service, but you wouldn’t believe what happened last night. Maybe its because its an old house, but I’ve never been so creeped out. All night long I heard these weird creaks and cracks, though I couldn’t hear anyone in the hallway, or even in the other rooms. It was as if I was alone on the entire floor. No it’s not very big, but either way there were plenty of people in the lobby, in the restaurant, all over except my floor, which was completely void. Anyways, in the middle of the night I sort of half-wake up, that sleep-paralysis thing. Anyways, I think I see a kid walking along the edge of my bed. So weird right? I mean typically I just get the gut feeling there’s someone else in the room, but I know its not real. I woke myself up after what felt like an eternity, and turn on the light. I swear to God there were footsteps, wee little footsteps along the edge of the bed.”

Montr̩al Stories { No. 1 } РLove in the Time of Fear

Sunset Through Time

A few weeks back I was walking past the Faubourg after work and was stopped by a young guy, looking a bit lost, asking for a smoke. I obliged and he asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a personal question. I took him up on the offer, though initially for no more reason than to practice my ameliorated French with a bonafide Parisian (the accent is a dead giveaway). He asked me if I thought it was possible to experience true love more than once in a lifetime. I couldn’t have been happier to discuss my philosophical ruminations on love, though when he explained his precise situation amidst the pouring late-October ice-rain, my heart sank. It looks like this young guy, aged 18, had packed his bag for Montréal and hoped on the first available flight to try and win back his love. He had met a Canadian in Paris and had fallen madly in love her over the summer. When her time in Paris came to an end, they decided to try their hand at a long-distance relationship, she no older nor any wiser than he. It failed as so many others do, and so he came to see her at her apartment at the Grey Nun’s Mother House, not knowing what he’d do if she ultimately rejected him. He had nothing and was wearing a thin sweater, soaked head to toe. She wasn’t very amused to see him, and threw him out with a Concordia Security guard’s bum-rush to seal the deal. Though he was heart-broken, I can’t imagine why she would have needed to get a big burly security guard, though I guess distance (and stupidity) made the heart grow more determined. I consoled him as best I could and reminded him that yes, indeed, he will probably find love again, perhaps a more meaningful love than the one he thought he had lost.

Ultimately, he was irreconcilable, and I don’t think I convinced him much. I asked him where he was staying, what his plan was. He said he didn’t know, he had nowhere to stay and that his return flight left in three days, so he’d try to sleep at the airport. The moment of dawning realization was still far from fully manifesting itself in his eyes, though I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer before he realized the magnitude of his decision.

I couldn’t tell whether I was happy to see that grand romantic gestures still existed, or that I was no longer as immature and inexperienced as he. I despised that cynicism, wondering if it would cloud my judgment forevermore, or if it was simply a life well-lived that made me critical of the romantic impulse. Still, to travel all this way on little more than a prayer is remarkable for its optimism and naiveté – both so extreme it’s maddening.

I hope she made the right decision, and I know he’ll never do anything so clueless again. Such is the allure of a Montréal girl…

Montréal’s Close Encounter

With many thanks to the public broadcaster that put this up gratis on the interwebs; amazingly the public broadcaster didn’t have this video in their archives…

On November 7th 1990 a couple was out for a swim in the heated rooftop pool of the Bonaventure Hilton. Looking up, they saw a large metallic shape with several bands of glowing lights, slowly hovering around the as-yet still incomplete 1000 De la Gauchetiere. Alarmed, they contacted hotel security, which in turn contacted the authorities. Police arrived on the seen and a small crowd gathered on the roof. They were all seeing the same thing – an immense, aerial vehicle, slowly maneuvering around the tower. The constables contacted their brass, including the commanding officer of the local police station, who in turn put a call in to the military base at St-Hubert, and then to Mirabel and Dorval airports. Nothing on radar, no military exercises, nothing official and no idea what it was that, at least officially, 300 people saw that night. Over the course of a few hours, the object slowly drifted across the city, moving northeast before taking off over the Big O. The police even went so far as to turn off the floodlights at the construction site across the street – it made no difference. It was generally silent, and even caused a power failure in the East End.

Some argued that it was a highly localized type of Aurora Borealis, though as someone who has watched the famed Northern Lights, I can say that no one calls the RCMP or the Canadian Air Force for suspected Northern Lights, especially not high ranking police officers.

The following is a great video with additional interviews made by Canal D (so its en Francais), check it out and come to your own conclusions, but for the record, this one is still one of the most well-known unsolved flying object cases ever recorded.

Crime in the City { No.1 } – Dunie Ryan’s Revenge

All you see is, crime in the city...

With the recent assassination of Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. according to Montréal’s Gazette, an ‘alleged’ Mafia boss, and our city’s retarded fascination with legitimizing (or romanticizing) organized crime, I thought I’d point out a rather infamous event from our dark past.

On November 25th 1984, a bomb was delivered in the form of a VCR to an apartment at the Le Maisonneuve apartment building, killing four and injuring eight. Those killed had themselves participated in the assassination of Frank “Dunie” Ryan twelve days earlier at a no-tell motel on Upper Lachine. Ryan, the reputed leader of the West End Gang, at the time one of the most important crime syndicates in the city. The blast was powerful enough to destroy most of the floor, though mercifully no civilians were killed, and the building didn’t collapse. Of note – the the time, a police station was located across the street at de Maisonneuve and St-Mathieu!

As Montréalers gathered to gawk outside Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense church in Little Italy, I wondered just how bad crime will have to get in this city before the citizens decide to react. The Biker War began to end when a twelve year old was killed by a car bomb, and admittedly, we have extremely low murder rates here in Montréal. But it wasn’t always this way, and the recent string of bombings and targeted assassinations should be considered as a potential harbinger of a larger gang war. But as long as idiots think of people like Rizzuto as akin to Marlon Brando in the Godfather, expect it to get worse. There’s a video posted to the CTV site in which Rob Laurie questions those outside the church as to what they thought – one individual referred to this guy as a ‘historical figure’, while others drew comparisons, endless comparisons to Marlon Brando. Makes me wonder if people are actually capable of discerning fact from fiction…