Montréal is a ghost town. No, really. Spectres and spooks, shades and wraiths: whatever your flavour of phantom, Montréal comes alive in the spirit of the dead when it comes to Halloween. Indeed, there’s no shortage of Halloween hijinks in Montréal again this year, so let the following be your guide to the many tricks and treats being offered.
The 30th edition of The Great Pumpkin Ball, at Montreal’s Space for Life (comprised of the Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Gardens and Planetarium, which are hosting many Halloween-themed events), is in full celebratory swing at the Botanical Gardens. Esmeralda the witch watches over the 800-plus decorated pumpkins, and invites curious munchkins to check out her giant new hat house and other activities. The Great Pumpkin Ball takes place daily, 9 am to 9 pm, until November 1.
The most frightening real-life vampires for many, spiders are also among the most fascinating. Fearsome and amazingly diverse hunters, the Insectarium will be putting the spotlight on these incredible creatures this Halloween season as part of a daily guided activity, until November 1.
Partake in pumpkin treats with all the animals of the Biodôme. Visitors are invited to see how mammals, birds and fish use their natural tricks to open pumpkin-shaped treats containing their favourite food. A guided activity on October 31 and November 1.
Afterwards take your little 10-and-under ghouligans outdoors to the Botanical Garden’s Little Monsters Courtyard, a challenge-filled play area featuring a suspension bridge, a “treacherous river” in need of conquering and more. Daily from 9 am to 6 pm, October 2 to November 1.
Come young and old (and hungry). The Château Ramezay Historic Site and Museum of Montréal invites everyone to discover the world of squash with the “Pick a Peck of Pumpkins” outdoor exhibition. Designed with kids in mind, the young’uns will get to meet Reddie, the friendly red pumpkin, and his many squashy cousins while following clues and solving a mystery. Enjoy squash tasting while the kids are sleuthing. Presented for free until November 1.
Get lost in the spirit(s) of Halloween with the return of SOS Labyrinthe, a 2-km indoor labyrinth adventure taking place in Hangar 16 in Montréal’s historic Old Port. An a-maze-ing array of ghosts and witches, interactive installations and seasonal decorations will enhance the family friendly experience, which takes place daily until November 1. Kids aged 4 to 12 who are in costume enter for free.
It would make sense that ghost trains come from haunted stations, right? Take the family to find out at the Railway Ghosts exhibition at Exporail, Canada’s largest railway collection, in St. Constant just outside Montréal. Expect spectral infestations, skeletons and creepy crawly critters scattered amongst the trains and kids interactive activities in an atmosphere befitting the season from October 17 to November 1.
Old Montreal’s Pointe-à-Callière historical museum offers the kids a whimsical look at the origins of Halloween. The 45-minute tours are led by one Jack O’Lantern, “a young Irishman condemned to wander through purgatory with only a lantern carved from a turnip,” who reveals the haunts of strange twins Rucht and Friucht, a superstitious witch and a Druid magician. From October 24 to 31.
Frightful fun for everyone
Every year, Six Flags theme park La Ronde tries to outdo, and out-scare, itself in the lead-up to Halloween. Every year it succeeds. This year’s Fright Fest activities feature kid-friendly fun during the day until 5 pm when nearly 100 terrifying creatures and fiends invade the park, and its four haunted houses, ensuring frights all night. New attractions include The Zombie Trail, The Taxidermist and The Enchanted Labyrinth. Fright Fest takes place on weekends until November 1.
Halloween is nothing if not a celebration of the out-of-the-ordinary, and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra gets with that sentiment this year. The world-class orchestra will present music from classic mystery and horror films (like Jaws and Psycho) at three concerts October 29 and 30, two of which will feature the accompaniment of tenor singer Marc Hervieux on songs like the Ghostbusters theme and I Put a Spell on You. Concertgoers are encouraged to attend in costume.
For seriously scare-raising fun, look no further than Action500 Montréal, the largest indoor paintball facility in Canada, which has special Halloween-themed activities planned for November 1 starting at noon. More than $1,000 in prizes will be given to the top costumes, and what’s being billed as “the paintball event of the year” is open to everyone.
Dead men and women walking! The fifth edition of Montréal Zombie Walk stumbles underway this year starting with a 1 pm rendezvous in Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles on October 31 (the walk itself departs at 4 pm). A makeup booth, “biergarten” and for the first time an outdoor horror movie screening will all be part of the undead fun.
Do The Time Warp again when Saint-Laurent Boulevard’s Mainline Theatre stages their faithful (and funny) annual production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show complete with a crazily costumed cast, dancers and a live band performing the campy soundtrack. The racy Transylvanian action takes over the main stage October 21-24.
Want to be scared? Be careful what you wish for…
The minds behind Peur Dépôt take their fear seriously. And so should anyone who partakes in this one-of-a-kind sensorial adventure unfolding on select days on Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port until November 1. This latest version of Peur Dépôt, “Virus – The Game,” makes you the hero in an immersive adventure with spine tingling visual and sound effects. And if you get too scared, just yell “chicken” and you’ll be saved. Designed for ages 12 and up (ages 7-11 must be accompanied by an adult).
Haunted Montréal will be chilling the bones of history buffs and Halloween freaks alike with their latest ghost walk, Haunted Griffintown. Spooky ruins, abandoned tunnels and other creepy Griffintown locales will provide the setting for the scaring, which concludes with the city’s most notorious spectre, headless prostitute Mary Gallagher. Tours run October 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31 starting at 8 pm.
The old world ambience of Old Montreal gets the eerie treatment for the annual Halloween Ghost Hunt presented by Montreal Ghosts, a group of costumed professional actors who, in ghost form, tell the haunting tales of their fascinating pasts. The ghoulish evening hunts are approximately 90 minutes, and run from October 29-31.
The promise of “SIN”: to guide you through a labyrinth of hellish sins and mortal punishments, exposing the deepest, darkest sins of all fallen humanity… Fun! Theatre Sainte-Catherine will once again host its annual – and very popular – haunted house tour, the only such scarefest in town. SIN opens its doors October 28-31, starting at 8 pm, and it costs 20 bones… to get out.
Halloween nightlife excitement (October 31)
It’s Halloween Hysteria at Old Montréal’s Phi Centre for the arts when drag queen (of the damned) Billy L’Amour turns the multidisciplinary space into “Asylum Phi.” Burlesque, drag performances, a contortionist, marionettes and a virtual reality horror film will all be part of the immersive madness at Hysteria. And craziest of all – a dim sum counter! Minds will be lost starting at 8 pm.
Old Montréal’s wonderfully wood-ceilinged, stone-walled Auberge St. Gabriel will be transformed into the perfect House of Dracula for the Auberge’s “Yelloween – Le Bal de Dracula” event. A special Halloween menu will be served at 7 pm, and at 10 pm the Count himself will welcome partygoers for DJs, dancing and other dastardly acts. Frighteningly glamourous costumes are encouraged.
Don’t let the chic exterior fool you: the W Hotel is turning into a two-headed party monster. The warm atmosphere of the upstairs Wunderbar takes on a “Doll House” Halloween theme with music courtesy of DJ Donald Lauture. Downstairs, in the more intimate Plateau Lounge, DJ Toddy Flores will be providing the soundtrack for their “Mille et une Nuits” party. Prizes for best costume will be awarded at each event.
Set Halloween night on fire with a “Motown & Disco Inferno” stoked by R&B/soul singer Jason Lee Jackson at Old Montreal’s Le Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall. Le Balcon will channel the ’70s and ’80s ghosts of New York’s (in)famous Studio 54 for this tribute to the hits of the Motown and disco eras, and dinner-show packages are available.
And after all of the aforementioned, you’d best be off to CHURCH, presented by the delightfully dastardly Cirque du Boudoir. Billed as their “biggest, most GOREGASMIC Halloween event ever,” the CHURCH mega-party – featuring performers, DJ and otherworldly entertainment – takes place in the Paradoxe Theatre, a former church, at 9 pm.