Montreal residents generally don’t need an excuse to get out and enjoy their city. But if ever there was one, it’s Halloween, which very comfortably slips the city – and its seasonally-appropriate Old World sensibilities – into an otherworldly embrace each and every October 31, with a colourful array of activities and events, tricks and treats…
What follows is your key to a terrifyingly fun Halloween, commencing with the family-friendly stuff first…
World-class Montreal amusement park La Ronde is frightening at the best of times, but turns up the terror with its annual Fear By Day/Fright By Night Halloween festivities. On the busy all-day itinerary of things to do on both October 22 and 29 is pumpkin carving, scary face painting, a Halloween-themed parade, “freaky Monster” performances as well as newly created thrills like The Cemetery, The Last Ride, The Carnival of Terror, The Vampire Lair and Death Row. And loads more – as most Montrealers know, La Ronde takes its Halloweening seriously.
For those inclined towards a no-less-entertaining, and possibly even educational, Halloween experience, the city of Montreal is again offering 90-minute Ghost Walks (a narrator leads tour participants on an exploration of Old Montreal haunted hotspots) and Ghost Hunts (an interactive tour whereby hunters track down the ghosties and ghoulies at various sites and speak with the spectres themselves). The hunts and walks are conducted in both French at English, and tickets can be purchased at 360 St-François-Xavier. For pricing and other info, please call (514) 868-0303.
The superb Pointe-à-Callière historical museum in Old Montreal is offering kids a “whimsical look (with some thrills and chills, naturally) at the cultural origins of Halloween and associated beliefs”, courtesy of Irish tour guide Jack O’Lantern and his carved-turnip-puppet lantern. The 45-minute march around the museum gets weirder with the addition of a superstitious witch, a druid magician and a couple of spooky twins (like twins aren’t spooky enough already). English tours are offered on October 22-23, 29-30 at 12:50 pm and 3 pm. For more info, check out the full schedule.
The Montreal Insectarium is totally bugging out this Halloween with a number of activities tailored towards the creepiest of creepy crawlers: spiders. The “We Are the Insects” exhibit pays tribute to this natural acrobat, whose life often “hangs by a single thread.” Assorted “spiders” will also be dressed up as superheroes as part of this exhibit, and attendees are warned to be careful if they feel a tugging at their leg. If jumping spiders are your thing, there will also be a display dedicated to these lively little guys, and the “pop capsules” series will see costumed museum staff “popping” up in various scenarios. This happens every day up until October 31. For times and other info, check out the full schedule.
Right next door to the insectarium, the Montreal Botanical Garden is going whole Halloween hog again this year with their month-long Great Pumpkin Ball (which closes after October 31). There are a scary range of events and activities for everyone’s enjoyment and amusement, including, but not limited to, an house of plants, a Little Monsters courtyard for kids, Halloween origami and The Great Pumpkin Ball itself – a ginormous display of crazy carved pumpkins that overwhelms the Main Exhibition Greenhouse. Plus lots and lots more.
For those looking for more grown-up oriented, predominantly night-time frights, there are the following for your consideration on Halloween weekend…
Popular live music venue Il Motore is going loveably left-field with their “Hallow-Meme” themed Halloween party, whereby participants are invited to dress up as their favourite cyber meme or internet celebrity. They suggest folks like Double Rainbow Guy, LOL-cat and the Bed Intruder Song Guy. There will be prizes for best costumes in the form of concert tickets from independent music promoters Blue Skies Turn Black. Dancing comes courtesy of DJs Mitz, Seez, Tess & Danielle and Schwarzy. And best of all? Admission is free.
Tipping the scary-fun scale is Theatre Ste-Catherine’s annual haunted house show, which this year invites participants to “A ghostly tour that will transform your ideas of what is wrong… and what is possible. This experience is not for the light-hearted or morally weak… Invite your friends and enemies!” The house is open for only four nights, October 28-31, with tours starting hourly at 8 pm (the last goes at midnight). It will cost you $15 to get out.
Internationally renowned punk and metal concert venue/dance club Foufounes Électriques – famous as much for its, let’s say, colourful clientele as the heavily Halloween-themed bands that play there all year ’round (cases in point: upcoming performances by Exhumed, Cephalic Carnage and Beneath The Massacre) – will host its annual Halloween party on October 29. The challenge will be to see if you can tell the difference from any other night of the week.
A definite Hallowin could be found when popular roots party band Lake of Stew presents their Halloween Hootenanny with musical guests Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir and The Unseen Strangers at Mainline Theatre on October 28 starting at 10 pm. Costumes are strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.
Those looking for Sexyween, should definitely check out Cirque De Boudoir on October 29 at L’Auberge St-Gabriel. This year’s silverscreen theme touches on frightfully wonderful classics like the Bride of Frankenstein and Dracula and features two rooms, tons of DJs, body painting, coffin photo booth and “rope suspensions by Dunter”. Fans of costumed dancery might also want to investigate the The Goods’ Halloween Masquerade at Sala Rossa and Casaweeeeen at Casa del Popolo across the street, also on October 29.
It couldn’t officially be considered Halloween if cult film classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn’t screening somewhere. Well, this year that somewhere will be the Imperial Cinema, from October 29-31, with projections at 8 pm and 11 pm, and with a live cast accompanying the film onstage. If you’ve never been before, you should know that for the full experience you might want to come equipped with rice, a water pistol (loaded), confetti, toast, rubber gloves, a party hat, a newspaper and playing cards. You’ll find out why quickly enough. The screenings, which will also feature a “wild” costume contest, are to be hosted by inimitable Montreal drag queen, DJ and rock star Plastik Patrik.
And finally, and funly, if you’re having trouble getting into the ghostly spirit of Halloween, or are just super-excited and want to get an early start, the Montreal Zombie Walk on October 22 might be just what the coroner ordered. Starting at the Mont-Royal metro station, a lopsided mob of undead folks will stumble, zombie-style, through the Plateau and Latin Quarter on their way to Club Soda where classic zombie movies will be screened. The Montreal Zombie Walk is free (including admission to the films at Club Soda) and open to everyone, so get your dead on!
Guest blogger Jamie O’Meara is a Montreal editor and journalist who covers arts, culture and, er, Halloween. Formerly the editor in chief of Hour Magazine, he is now an editor at Roverarts.com.