By Shafaq Nami
In its almost two hundred years of existence, McGill has appeared on many university ranking lists. Despite moving up and down in most rankings, McGill has always placed first on the ‘Haunted Universities in Canada’ list.
Most universities have skeletons in the back of their closets but McGill has skeletons everywhere; the library and the front of the Arts building to name a few. We at the Ledger did a little digging to bring you a list of all the confirmed sightings on campus. Read on to find out about all the haunted places at McGill and the stories behind them so the next time you feel a chill on campus you know what to expect.
The Arts Building:
If during your first year in university, the James McGill’s grave in front of the Arts Building was never pointed out to you, then I’m afraid you have missed out on an important rite of passage. James McGill was originally buried next to his fur-trading associate John Porteous in the Dufferin Square Cemetery, near present-day Place du Canada. However, when the cemetery was demolished in 1875, McGill’s remains were brought to the university he founded. When his bones were reinterred, they got mixed up with those of Porteous. It is said that McGill’s ghost complete with a tricorne hat made of beaver fur will continue haunting the campus until his bones are totally matching. James McGill was also a slave owner, and it’s quite possible that you might also spot the ghosts of the slaves he exploited to build the university.
There are also rumours of other ghosts haunting the Arts Building. In the 1840s, the Faculty of Medicine occupied the Arts Building. It is rumored that the troubled spirits of the cadavers used by McGill Medical Students still haunt the building.
The McLennan Library:
For those who have been to the McLennan library, there does not seem to be anything creepy about it. However, students have reported seeing the ghost of an old man in old-fashioned attire floating around the sixth floor. The man appears seemingly lost but when you speak to him, he gazes back at you before disappearing. While there seems to be no idea as to the identity of this ghost, the McLennan library has its fair share of spooky relics.
The Rare Books and Special Collections on the fourth floor houses a blood-stained towel. This towel, encased in glass, is soaked with the blood of Abraham Lincoln – it is the towel that was placed beneath his head when he was shot in 1865. John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s killer, is also said to have visited Montreal during the Civil War to meet Confederate spies. One report puts him in the city three days after he was shot dead in Virginia. Is it possible that it is his ghost that haunts McLennan?
Allan Memorial Institute:
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Allan Memorial Institute was the site of the ‘MK Ultra’ experiments that were partially funded by the CIA. The experiments involved subjecting patients to high-voltage electroshock therapy several times a day, forcing into drug-induced sleep that could last months, and injecting them with major doses of LSD. The experiments also involved other methods of torture*, so any spirits that haunt this building are probably not friendly and are definitely looking for retribution.
Royal Victoria Hospital (Royal Vic):
The Royal Victoria Hospital is the biggest hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and is one of Montreal’s oldest hospitals. In 2015, the MUHC relocated the Royal Vic, leaving the original limestone buildings on the slopes of Mount Royal abandoned. One of the reasons for this move was that the old building was said to be too haunted. Visitors would claim to see apparitions of patients wandering down the hallways wearing gowns from the 1800s. Strange light anomalies such as flickering would occur and buzzers would go off in empty rooms. One patient in 1996 woke up surrounded by a pool of blood on her bed and pajamas. When the nurses inspected her bandage they found no trace of blood on her skin, yet later it was discovered that she had lost 2 pints of blood and needed a transfusion. Even though the Royal Vic has relocated to a new building, it is possible that some ghosts might have followed and are lurking around the halls.
One of the more friendlier ghosts on campus, students have reported seeing William Osler leafing through his old manuscripts. Osler graduated from McGill in 1872 with a degree in medicine. Osler donated a large portion of his priceless collection of books and manuscripts to the University. He is buried alongside his wife with his collection as per his request.
*Link to article recapping the experiments: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/03/montreal-brainwashing-allan-memorial-institute
**Note: None of these ghost sightings have been ‘proven’ but disbelieve at your own risk.