Why I’m Not Afraid of the Ghosts of Quebec

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It’s not you dear spirits of Quebec, it’s me. Or rather, it’s New Orleans…

 

Cold air brushed the hairs on my neck. It was New Orleans in February. But I was also standing in front of a haunted one-hundred-year-old French-style hotel.

 

“When the couple reviewed their trip photos, they were stunned to see one that was taken of the two of them inside their hotel room…asleep. The angle was only as high as a boy around twelve.” It was 10:30 at night, and we stood in complete darkness, save for gas lamps and the glow from nearby windows of the French Quarter.

 

“This used to be a boys’ school, but half of it burned down, with many students trapped inside.” He was deadly serious.

 

I shivered, despite the prickly heat of supernatural fear on my ears. Our ghost walking tour guide was dressed in jeans, trainers and a jacket. He wore gold-framed glasses. He looked like a young professor, or maybe an earnest Ghostbuster in training.

 

True crime stories and eyewitness accounts filled the late night as we walked block by block, learning the grisly history of this old Creole city. From then on I was ruined for taking another ghost tour. I didn’t know it then. But countless disappointments later, I’m sadly aware of it now.

 

What I Learned from Ghost Tour #2

A few years ago, still haunted by my trip to NoLa, I was quick to sign hubs and I up for a ghost walking tour in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh seemed a perfect petri dish of paranormal possibilities: centuries-old moody gray stone buildings, labyrinthine alleys, a medieval past, and a frequent Victorian fog that inspired amateur surgeons to look for test subjects. I was so ready for us to be historically terrified.

 

Until HE showed up: our guide dressed in a silly cape and suit, community theatre-painted skull face and Cracker Jack cheap exaggerated vampire teeth. Ever the optimist, I stayed the tour, waiting for some juicy stories, or at least a thorough exploration of the city.

 

But nope.

 

Instead of wandering around mysterious Scottish buildings with shady pasts, we hung out in a construction zone, the back of an apartment building and down some sketchy streets. This while his colleague – dressed like a lunatic monk with a werewolf mask – jumped out from behind dumpsters and humped colonnades in a sad attempt to make us scream. It was frightening, but more in a terrible American Idol audition kind of way.

 

My score:

Awesome Ghost Tour: 1, Cheesy Ghost Tour: 1, Annoyed Loved Ones: 1

 

Until Scotland, I didn’t realize I had a 50/50 chance of being more bored of death than scared of it. Knowing how good the first time was, I still held out hope for a creepy future.

 

Looking for the Ghosts of Quebec City

After settling into Quebec City, stop two on my girls’ Canadian road trip, I saw that there were several ghost walking tours on offer. My internal thrill-o-meter pegged.

QC Former Execution square - Ghost Walking Tour

One of our stops – the former square where executions and public shamings happened. You’d think a ghost or two would hang out here. This was not revealed, but it the current site of a lovely dancing water feature.

 

 

A storied North American township thick with struggles, battles, and French history, I had a gut feeling Quebec City would be rife with souls stuck on the wrong side of life and death. Maybe we’d hear the tragic tale of a restless being in search of a lost love; or one seeking justice from a false witch accusation, or at the very least, victims of poor building code violations that needed restitution.

 

I convinced my two girlfriends Rachel and Stephanie to do a ghost tour. My argument was that my New Orleans experience was chillingly fantastic and that we’d get to know the city better. They agreed.

 

We gathered near a cathedral at dusk, waiting with other tourists for our storyteller to arrive.

 

Quebec City Ghost Walking Tour

And so began the woeful tales of despair in olden-day Quebec.

Then SHE showed up. Dressed as milkmaid with a Party City black wig and a painted ghost face. Edinburgh flashed through my mind. I cringed; I’m pretty sure it was of the external variety. But I wasn’t giving up yet. I wanted scary stories. I wanted to see parts of the town I might not have found on my own. I wanted my girlfriends to not hate me.

 

“I came to Canada 400 years ago to find a husband…” Oh great we’re going down the re-enactor road, aren’t we? “But I wasn’t pretty enough to stay in Quebec, so I had to marry a man in the country, who was arrested for stealing from our neighbor.” I shifted my weight to the other foot.

 

“My husband was faced with a choice…to be executed or become the town executioner. I had five children to raise and to try to keep out of jail.”

 

Oh god. I wanted us to hear stories about old spirits that still messed with folks today; instead we were stuck for another twenty minutes listening to a one-woman show that sounded like it might end in a gofundme campaign.

Juliana Dever with annoyed friends - Quebec Ghost Tour

These are the faces of my once happy friends. Sorry girls, I tried!

 

I looked over at my girlfriends. Stephanie’s eyes were glazed over. Rachel gave me the hard stare. I debated whether or not we should make an escape this early in or stick it out in case it got better.

 

Over the next six hours or maybe 45 minutes, it’s hard to remember, we wandered to disparate locations: some cannons on the bank, inexplicable bleachers in the park, and ANOTHER apartment building parking lot (what’s with this setting?); all while listening to stories that sounded more like urban legends. They also had nothing to do with the locations in which we visited.

 

So…Are There Ghosts in Quebec’s old town?

 

This, my friends, is a question that I do not have a satisfying answer to. With the multitude of ghost tours available in Quebec City, I should have chosen better. Our tour was less about the undead’s refusal to be ignored and more about how hard life was in the 18th century, which I totally already understood from having watched Les Miserables 4 times.

Quebec City Lower church - Ghost Walking Tour

The gorgeous cathedral in lower Quebec City. Now THIS seems like a location for the return of an unsettled spirit. Let me know if you hear of one.

 

 

My new score:

Awesome Ghost Tour: 1, Cheesy Ghost Tour: 2, Annoyed Loved Ones: 3

 

How Do You Find a Good Ghost Walking Tour?

I’m not ready to give them up entirely. For one, I have to even out my score. But I also need to reconnect to that initial feeling I got in New Orleans. The one where I was almost suffocated by history, that magnetic moment that reminded me how thin the veil of life and death is. That charged atmosphere fascinates me, where the past could confront any one of us, it’s a terrifying and irresistible sensation.

 

Alright then, learning from my varied experiences, I’m leaving you with my quick “How to pick a Ghost Tour” questionnaire:

 

Ghost Tours – Go or No?

How to Find a Good Ghost Walking Tour

 

 

Have you been on a ghost tour that you loved?

Tell me about it in the comments below – I need to know!

 

Travel Pinterest - Clever Dever Wherever

I love going on a Ghost Tour when I travel. After this Ghost Tour in Quebec City, I've made a guide to help you find the scariest Ghost Tours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Pinterest - Clever Dever Wherever

 

I love going on a Ghost Tour when I travel. After this Ghost Tour in Quebec City, I made a guide to help you find the scariest Ghost Tours.

Read More About Quebec, Canada

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About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

19 Comments

  1. Linda Michael / September 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm /Reply

    My daughter and I went on the”Ghosts of Gettysburg” tour. Yes, our tour guide was wearing colonial garb, however she was very knowledgeable about spectres that had been seen. My daughter took lots of picture (this was before digital cameras and cell phone cameras). After looking at her developed pictures, she noticed many spots on the pictures she had taken of the building that had been an orphanage during and after the battle of Gettysburg. It had not been raining, so we knew the camera had not been wet in any way. We contacted a local author who writes”The Ghosts of…….” books, and he told us that’s how ghosts show up in pictures. Also, we were a group of about 30 people that night, and we visited a home that had been owned by a wealthy family at one time, who had a live-in governess named Joanna. Her room was at the top of the house. A fire started , she wasn’t able to escape, and she perished. While standing listening to the guide tell the story of Joanna, someone started playing with my long hair at the back of my head. I thought it might be a moth, etc. so tried to slap it. It continued, so I finally I turned around to tell the idiot behind me to stop,and there was no one near me. I also smelled a very strong vanilla smell. Our tour guide said female spirits are often around when you smell lavender or vanilla. Gettysburg is known to have one of the highest concentrations of ghosts in the country, because so many men died suddenly and quickly. At any rate, the “Ghosts of Gettysburg” tours are interesting, fun – and scary!

    • Juliana Dever / September 10, 2016 at 10:07 am /Reply

      Ooooohhh Linda this is a great story, thanks for sharing it. That’s soooo creepy. I think I need to spend more time in Pennsylvania, and definitely take this tour. This is what I’m talking about, when it seems like the past is reaching out across the decades/centuries and is almost tangible – goosebumps!

  2. Kimberley Low / September 9, 2016 at 5:38 pm /Reply

    Full confession, I used to be a tour guide in Ottawa, ON and _love_ ghost tours still.

    My biggest recommendation? Always take the tour that goes indoors or at least into enclosed areas. Even if you aren’t claustrophobic, you’re a little trapped. I went on the Auld Reekie tour of Edinburgh and, while the first part was mostly prologue and I’d heard a lot of those stories before, once we got into the South Street vaults, I was terrified. I gave two ghost tours in Ottawa and the one that went into the old jail (now a hostel) was an easier tour to give than the one that stayed outside, but I loved the stories on the outdoor one.

    Find a tour that has the same level of scepticism as you. I’m a skeptic who loves ghost stories. So if a tour is given by someone who relies on photographic evidence, EMF, EVP or mediums to drive the stories is probably going to lose me. But that won’t affect someone with a different outlook.

    You touched on it above, but you want a tour guide you can take seriously. I took the “Ghost Tours of Québec” tour about ten years ago. While the guide was in an aberdeen cloak and top hat (second confession, that was my favourite cold weather guide outfit as well), he knew his stuff and was a good storyteller and that was the only character he was in. Also we ended the tour in a cathedral in the old walled town, see above.

    Small group sizes. There’s no point going on a tour if there are a hundred people and you can’t hear the guide.

    Lastly, go in wanting to be scared. It’s the same as having a guide you have confidence in, but it’s ongoing. As soon as the tour starts laughing (happened to a friend of mine), you’re not getting them back. If you are the person on the tour cracking jokes at the expense of the guide and their stories because “ghost stories are crap”, you’re an awful person. Don’t be an awful person, you’re ruining it for the rest of the people if the guide is spending all her time managing you. (All you’s being general, of course.)

    In the end, it’s always going to be a crap shoot like any experience. Even if you’ve chosen a company that takes their research seriously, focuses on storytelling and training, you could end up with the least experienced guide or someone just having an off night. But guides want you to have a good experience. Of course, we think someone leaving the tour in tears is a great result, so we’re a little weird.

    • Juliana Dever / September 10, 2016 at 10:04 am /Reply

      These are all great tips, Kimberley, thanks for sharing! I’m still a fan of the ghost tour, even though I’ve only had one great one because I just KNOW I will go on another tour like it again. For the QC tour, it was a last minute decision and I didn’t do any research, just asked the opinion of our concierge because I got lazy. If I go back to QC, I will try the company with the Aberdeen coats, they seem to deal more in hair-raising stories than theatrics. Your comment has me itching to try another one soon! Thanks again. 🙂

  3. BF / September 10, 2016 at 9:32 am /Reply

    Love your writing. We’re going to QC in a month and would love your reccs for delicious places to eat. Will you do a post like you did for Montreal or can you send me reccs? Thanks so much! Miss seeing you on Castle, but looks like you’re having so much fun now! Congrats!

    • Juliana Dever / September 10, 2016 at 9:58 am /Reply

      Thanks! I was in QC for a short time (only 2.5 days), but I will make sure to get a rundown of the things I did/places I ate up in the next week or so, so come back here and check it out. Let me know what you thought of QC after your trip!

  4. Katie M R / September 12, 2016 at 6:54 pm /Reply

    I love your writing, I feel like I’m right besides you. This travel blog is perfection. I can’t wait to read/see your next adventure!
    Much Love from Michigan,
    Kathleen Mae

    • Juliana Dever / September 13, 2016 at 3:45 pm /Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment, Kathleen, it really made my day. I’ve got lots more coming out in the next few weeks, so it’s nice to know someone’s enjoying reading it! Thanks again. 🙂

  5. Karen Jones / September 14, 2016 at 3:37 pm /Reply

    Juliana, I love reading your travel log! So interesting. And fun! You’re a terrific writer, wonderful use of words and very easy to visualize your accounts. Now, Ghost Tours….we too have not had good luck, except for two, San Diego Old Town…very very fun and scary. Great tales and spooky happenings. Especially around the old cemetery. Love it when my neck hair stands on end! The other was in Jamestown, VA. Historical, sad and a little scary….well worth it.

    • Juliana Dever / September 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm /Reply

      Karen, thank you so much for your kind words, it means a lot! San Diego, hmmmm? That’s pretty close to me, maybe I should go check it out! I’ve heard a lot about ghost tours back east being pretty creepy. Did you read Linda’s account about her Gettysburg experience in the above comment? Crazy! That’s the kind of tour I like. 🙂

  6. Christal Moore / September 16, 2016 at 7:32 pm /Reply

    No ghost tours for me, but my brother loved the ghost tour in San Antonio that include all historic places and true stories.

    Also from a “reliable” source I hear The Queen Mary is super scary and maybe haunted! 😉

  7. Kim / October 29, 2016 at 10:58 am /Reply

    Stanley Hotel. Estes Park, Colorado. There’s a reason this hotel helped inspire “The Shining.” Hearing the history of sightings in daylight still creeped me out, lol.

    • Juliana Dever / October 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm /Reply

      Do they have an official ghost tour, Kim? Did you stay there? I don’t know if I could. O.O

  8. Kim / October 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm /Reply

    They do have an official ghost tour: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/tours
    I have visited a handful of times, but have never stayed. I’m a chicken, lol.

  9. Rhea / August 2, 2017 at 2:54 pm /Reply

    I just came back from visiting Quebec City and Montreal and I found their ghost walks a bit disappointing. They were both presented by actors and I just felt they were a bit too rehearsed. They weren’t that open to discussion after the tour and couldn’t answer any questions convincingly.

    I really enjoyed the ghost walks in Victoria, BC. The city does live up to it’s reputation as one of the most haunted cities in British Columbia. I went 2 nights in a row, with different guides in different parts of the city. They were really conversant and I actually felt really creeped out.

    I guess that’s the difference between having an actor and having someone who’s passionate and well-versed with the subject. That will help me choose which ghost walk to go on next time.

  10. Virginia / October 5, 2017 at 8:53 am /Reply

    I was just in Quebec. I took a picture of the dancing lights at the square that used to be an execution site which you have a picture of on your site. I did not know its history, as we just walked through the area on our first night in Quebec. When I saw your picture, I looked at my picture again and noticed what looks like an orb. None of my other pictures have this in them. The previous picture which was a night picture also did not have it. I also was in the street when I took the picture and was nowhere near the water, so I don’t believe it is a water spot. My question is do you know what the name of that building is?

    • Juliana Dever / October 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm /Reply

      I’ve heard before that spirits can show up as orbs in photos. I don’t know, what do you think? Also, I can’t remember what the name of that building is. From what I can tell though, I believe it’s the town hall. Such a beautiful city!

  11. Eric Jeric / March 22, 2019 at 1:08 am /Reply

    These are the great tips for finding the best ghost walking tour. I like your content and keep sharing these kinds of information. Loved it.

    • Juliana Dever / March 22, 2019 at 10:25 am /Reply

      Thanks Eric. I take my ghost tours seriously. 👻

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