Paranormal Yakker with your host Stan Mallow

Click on Donavan King photo below to view video Interview



Season 1 Episode 2

Donavan King Founder, Haunted Montreal.
Donovan King is the founder of Haunted Montreal, a company that researches ghost stories and offers tours of one of Canada’s oldest, most beautiful, and most haunted cities. All of his tours are led by costumed professional actors. In this interview, Stan Mallow, the Paranormal Yakker, discusses with Donavan the various areas of Montreal that have long had strong paranormal activity and the backstories as to why they are haunted. The tours covered by Donavan include Griffintown, the old Red-Light-District where the headless prostitute, Mary Gallagher, has been known to walk the streets; Haunted Mount Royal, the largest intact burial ground in North America; and the haunted streets, cemeteries, bars, and hotels of Downtown Montreal. This interview is scary, informative, and fun.

Transcript of video Interview

Stan Mallow
Okay, hi, everyone. This is Stan Mallow, wanna welcome you to "the Paranormal Yakker", we're on location today in Montreal, and in the studio with me right now is an incredible guy who I'll be yakking away with, that's Donovan King of, the founder really of Haunted Montreal. So, Donovan, welcome to "The Paranormal Yakker".
Donavan King
Thank you, Stan.
Stan Mallow
And an extra special thank you, because I realize, this interview is going on at Halloween season, which I know is a very busy time of year for you. So that you took the time to do it is really very much appreciated. So I wanted to say that to you. Now, I have a question to you which I'm sure a million other people asked you in other interviews, but I have to ask that to you and that is, with your amazing academic background, and you, I've read your CV, it's incredible. How and why did you get involved in conducting tours of haunted areas of Montreal? Just curious about that.
Donavan King
Okay, so basically, I began my training as both an actor and teacher and I was inspired by my high school drama teacher who basically taught me these two skills. I've been doing this since I was about 15 years old. But then, eventually after studying theater professionally, I got sort of hooked on this project by a man named Bob Short, who'd won an Oscar for "Beetlejuice", he was the sound effects specialist, I guess you could say. And so, he set up a big haunted house here in Montreal, called Chateau Greystoke and then he realized he had a problem, he didn't speak any French, 'cause he was from Hollywood and so he needed bilingual actors, now, because I speak French, he found me and he asked if I could help him hire and train these actors which I was glad to accept. When I was working in his haunted house, I realized that as an actor, you have a lot more flexibility in this genre of sort of haunted acting than you do in regular acting where you might be given a script and you're on a traditional stage or something like this. Here, you're in a haunted environment, it's a lot of paraphrasing, it's a lot of improvisation, and of course the emotions of the spectator are much, much stronger, they want to be terrified. In a regular piece of theater, they just maybe wanna be inspired or something, and so, I found it a lot more exciting. And then, I moved overseas to London, England, and I was put in charge of the London Dungeon, which is the largest museum of horror on Earth. And again, the same type of job, training, hiring actors, writing programs to improve the experience for visitors and whatnot. And eventually, when I got back to Montreal, I was still interested in this idea, but there wasn't much happening here. There was one company called Montreal Ghosts, and so I started working for them about 15 years ago, and they do ghost tours in Old Montreal. And so I was working with them and I thought, well, maybe there's other places you could do tours in Montreal as well. So I ended up working on a tour on Mount Royal when I was studying to be a history teacher at McGill University, which is sort of right at the foot of Mount Royal, and the street our building was on was called McTavish Street and so I wondered what is this, who's McTavish? And it turns out he was this ghost from the 1800s that was so terrifying, because he would toboggan down the mountain on his own, in his own coffin. And so the story was so frightening to Montrealers in the 1800s that they literally knocked down his abandoned castle and buried his mausoleum under rubble to try and erase this story from the public imagination. And so the more I delved into it, the more I thought this is amazing, I mean, this is the best Canadian ghost story ever, I mean, this ghost is tobogganing. And so, I started realizing there were enough stories on the Mountain to stitch together a whole new ghost tour and that's exactly what I did, I thought, I'll just do it for fun. It was only for one night, and 180 people showed up.
Stan Mallow
Holy heck, wow.
Donavan King
Yeah, now I'm an actor, so I can handle that, no problem. But it made me realize there's actually a huge market for this here, because if you go to say Savannah, there's 149 ghost experiences you can have there, whereas here there was only one. And our city's actually much bigger than Savannah. We have 4 million people here and we also receive more tourists than them, and so I thought okay, I'm onto something here.
Stan Mallow
You are, yeah.
Donavan King
Yeah, and so then I began developing other tours, one in Griffintown, one in Downtown Montreal, and this is Quebec, so it's a French speaking province and so then I started hearing complaints, no France, how come it's not in French? And I thought, okay, I have to get this translated, get some French actors going, where French is their first language, and really mastered it. I mean, my French is pretty good, but it's better to have someone with a first language and so now pretty much we're operating fully bilingually with our three ghost tours and it's exploded, I mean, we have over 10,000 likes on our Facebook page for example. And so, now it's a proper company, it's all been registered, we have a wonderful administrator, named Katie Moignon who handles all the sales and customer service, I used to have to do all of that, so I had so much on my plate, and now it's finally at the stage where I can relax a little bit and focus more on the stuff I love which is of course doing the tours and writing and researching and creating new tours.
Stan Mallow
Well, I think that's great. Now, why do you think Montreal has so many areas that are indeed haunted or have paranormal activity?
Donavan King
Yeah, well, this is one of the oldest cities in North America. This city, well, I mean the current incarnation of it was founded in 1642, but actually there've been people living here for about 10,000 years and so it's got a very long and ancient history. And due to the double colonization of Montreal, I mean, first the French tried to colonize the Mohawk people, and then the British colonized the French people. And so, because of this strange situation, you have a lot more oppression that you might find in other places. For example, the French and the Mohawk people had a very gruesome war that lasted well over 60 years with scalpings and live burnings, ripping people's hearts out, cannibalism and all sorts of things like this. Then, under the French regime, there was also a very medieval sense of justice and so there was a lot of bizarre types of executions and whatnot, people being burnt alive for sorcery, people being broken on a wheel, because they committed a murder and these types of horrific behaviors. Now under the British regime, they were a bit different, they were more interested in economics, whereas the French were interested in Catholicism, and so under their command, they cracked down quite a lot on anyone who wasn't subservient to them, so there's all sorts of cases of rebellion where the leaders get hanged and these types of stories. The Victorian era also witnessed a lot of crazy murders and things like this in the City, and also one thing I should mention would be the Irish famine, it had a major impact on the City when 75,000 refugees arrived here in 1847 and the City only had 50,000 people, so you can imagine how overwhelmed the city was with these--
Stan Mallow
Sure yeah.
Donavan King
Yeah, and these were Typhus victims which is a contagious disease and so, this spread through the City and even the mayor himself died along with a whole lot of priests and nuns trying to care for the refugees. Now, if we fast forward into the 20th Century, we had a big movement here, called the Quiet Revolution, which was where essentially the French took control democratically of most institutions, health, education, finance, etcetera, and there was a big movement to separate the province of Quebec to create a new country which actually resulted in a wave of terrorism that lasted for seven years. Yeah, in the 1960s, we're talking about bombs exploding in mailboxes, politicians being kidnapped and murdered and on and on like that, so there's just this incredible history here that's very rich, but it's also based on a lot of conflict and people trying to control other people and so, when you have this type of history, inevitably, you have a lot of tragedy and this results in a lot of ghosts and so this is really one of the reasons I think, this is probably the most haunted city in Canada if not North America. We also have the largest intact burial ground in North America, just on top of Mount Royal, so they say it's a veritable city of the dead overlooking a city of the living. So, yeah, so when you combine all these factors, and also the fact that we have so many different, unique neighborhoods each with distinct architecture, history, ethnic groups and whatnot, it really creates a unique place to tell these stories and I could actually create, I think, about 10 ghost stories in this town, based on the information I have right now, I have over 200 documented ghost stories from Montreal alone.
Stan Mallow
Incredible, now my next question, Donovan, I'm not sure, it's more to your academic side, but your curiosity, theatrical side, but something I always wondered, have you ever given any thought to the following. Okay, so you go ghost tours, you're picking up spirits of people, have you ever thought about why certain souls when they pass on, they choose to ascend or maybe descend, depending, you never know, they are, and others stick earthbound. Have you ever given a thought to that, why are they sticking around? Why are they not going to another place?
Donavan King
Yeah, usually from what I gather in my research, is because there's some sort of unresolved issue.
Stan Mallow
Unresolved.
Donavan King
Yeah, and so, most of the stories are related to something that was unfulfilled or some type of disappointment, and so the ghost is sticking around for whatever reason, maybe to remind people that they're there, maybe to seek revenge or something like that, and so, one example would be McTavish, who I mentioned earlier. He was a very wealthy, Scottish fur trader, the richest man in the City, and he had married a beautiful young woman. He was 46 and she was only about 18, and so he built this big castle for her on the mountain and his objective was to live happily with his wife, while demonstrating his business acumen by being the highest on the mountain with his castle. Now, when he died suddenly, his wife attended the funeral and then she immediately married another man, a much younger man, named Lieutenant, Colonel William Plenderleith and moved to London with him, very happily, leaving her first husband to molder and decompose all alone in this mausoleum. So basically, his castle was unfinished and his wife left him, so these are two very good reasons for a ghost to stick around, because of course, there was unfinished business. So, as the years would pass and McGill University would open in 1821, the students of the era, the trouble makers, today it's the Frosh kids, but back then it was the Snowshoeing Club and so they would drink alcohol, go up the mountain with their torches, and they would always stop at his mausoleum and holler and yell, try to rouse his spirit and then one day, they actually broke in, and tipped over his coffin. And so this would be another reason for a ghost, disrespect of the body and that type of thing, so there's a few different reasons I think ghosts might stick around, and usually they're related to something.
Stan Mallow
Oh thank you for that. Okay, that makes sense, for that. Now, on any of your ghost tours that you've conduct, did you ever have going along with you, mediums or paranormal investigators to see what they might be picking up? And if they did, what was the feedback?
Donavan King
Yes, we often get these types of people, in fact 47% of Canadians believe in ghosts. And of that 47% there's a small percentage who are also mediums and paranormal investigators and psychics and things like this, so we often get them on the tours. In fact one time we did a specific event where we all went into a real haunted house, called the Notman house, after we were tipped off by one of our clients, who was a security guard there and had some weird experiences. And so we invited all the mediums and psychics to join us, and so, it was fascinating, they all had their tools, EMF readers, temperature guns, dowsing rods, etcetera, and one of the videos that was produced actually has orbs floating around this woman who's a mystic, and I'm a bit of a skeptic myself, I'm sort of an agnostic when it comes to ghosts, I'm not really sure if they exist or not, I'm more interested in the storytelling to be honest, well, when I saw this video, I thought, oh my God, that's crazy, I mean, how can you explain this? And so there's sometimes moments where I'm challenged myself as to whether ghosts exist or not.
Stan Mallow
That sort of connects to my next question to you, which I think you sort of answered was, have you yourself ever experienced a paranormal activity or seen or witnessed or been privy to something that happened, that scientifically cannot be explained.
Donavan King
Yes, ish. Okay. I'll qualify that with an ish.
Stan Mallow
Sure, that sounds good.
Donavan King
Yes, so when I was working at the London Dungeon, one of my jobs was to come in, in the morning, and I had this set of keys and I would open the dungeon and I would turn on all the power and all the machines that were required for things like audio, special effects, fog, etcetera, so this was all very high-tech stuff, but there was a low-tech element in the dungeon which was about 20 racks of these church candles. The big, thick ones that you'll find in the church, and so part of my job was to light them in the morning, and then blow them out at the end of the day, and replace them as we went. And so, there was a few occasions where I'd arrive in the morning, and the candles, in only one area of the dungeon, which was near the Jack The Ripper experience, were re-lit and I thought, well how is this possible? I blew these out last night, and so I thought, well, maybe I left them burning all night, and then I started getting more curious, I would time it, and I'm like, no, these things only last about 14 hours, so if I left it burning, there would be nothing left in the morning. And so I started to get curious about, if someone was playing a prank on me. And so I thought, who else has the keys? And there was only a handful of us with access, there was myself, there was the technician, now he was a raging alcoholic, and so he never came to the dungeon, unless there was an emergency, and then he would charge them triple and be drunk half the time, I thought, there's no way this guy would do it, he's like a con-artist. Then there was the manager, and she was terrified of the dungeon, and she also had an office upstairs where it was clean and modern, but the dungeon was filthy, it was rat-infested, it was pretty dungeon esque, I guess you could say, and so she hated going into the dungeon, and so I thought there's no way she would sneak down and she was a professional woman, there's no way she would've played a prank like this. And then I thought, maybe it's my deputies. And so I approached them and I asked them if they were playing this trick, and they explained to me that they were having the same experience. When it was my day off, my deputy would come in and the candles would be re-lit in this area. So, I did some research, I found out that during World War II, this was used as an air raid shelter, and sure enough, a bomb had landed right on the part where we had the Jack The Ripper experience, about 50 people were killed and it was only in this area that the candles kept relighting themselves, and so that got me thinking, okay, if this is paranormal, the odds are, it's those people who died, trying to maybe remind us of what happened, or maybe trying to commemorate themselves as we do when we go to a church and light a candle or something like that, and so I just thought, wow, this is really crazy, because there's no logical explanation as to why they kept relighting. And yes, it is feasibly possible that someone was playing a trick on me, but it seemed extremely unlikely and so, that's why I put the ish there, because I'd say there is a small chance there was a prankster, but it doesn't seem likely, yeah.
Stan Mallow
You used a term that I never heard before. It gets my curiosity, your deputies. I know deputies with the sheriffs in the old cowboy movies, but related to hauntings and ghosts, that's the terminology they use?
Donavan King
Well, this is the terminology they used in England.
Stan Mallow
Oh, 'cause I've never heard of it.
Donavan King
Yeah, so a deputy is basically a second in command, so if I have the day off, my deputy has my role, just like the deputy sheriff would have the sheriff's role if the sheriff was out of action.
Stan Mallow
One other thing you said that definitely has my curiosity, and I'd be not sleeping tonight if I didn't ask you. You're talking about a Jack The Ripper experience, what would be, knowing his reputation and what he did, what would the people experience there?
Donavan King
Well, they would essentially walk into a replica of White Chapel in the 1880s when these murders were committed, and so they would sort of walk through different rooms that had been decorated like Victorian London with gas lamps and fog, and inevitably, there were some bodies scattered about and they would encounter who were his victims and there was also audio-visual presentations, so they could see sort of videos about the suspects and things like that, and at the end of the experience, they went into a mortuary where there was a doctor performing an autopsy, and eventually, this big fireball explodes in the room.
Stan Mallow
Oh wow, it's--
Donavan King
Oh yeah, they had some very high-tech effects, it was quite interesting. So it was trying to give them sort of a sense of what it was like in White Chapel in the Victorian era, so very spooky.
Stan Mallow
Now in Montreal, you do different types of tours, which makes sense from what you're telling me, rather than one size fits all, this one is focused on that or that, could you share with "The Paranormal Yakker" audience, the different types of tours that you conduct?
Donavan King
Yes, so basically I do both ghost tours and regular guided tours. So for our ghost tours, we have one on Mount Royal, one in Griffintown and one downtown, so these are all very distinct areas, the one on the mountain is a nature park that gets extremely quiet and creepy at night, especially in the autumn when the leaves are falling. Then Griffintown is an old Irish shantytown that became sort of the biggest industrial area in Canada when the industrial revolution arrived, and was then completely abandoned, and now condominiums are springing up. And so this is a super interesting neighborhood, because the newer residents have no idea about its past, and yet the ghosts of the shantytown still remain in the Griff. And then downtown is more of an urban area where it's more like things are secret. So it's like, this pub is haunted, here's the story. This hotel is haunted, here's the story. This park that we're in is actually a cemetery with 70,000 bodies under it, Many of them in mass graves, and so it's kind of like showing hidden secrets in the downtown area. So those would be our ghost tours. We also created one of the Red-Light District, which is now the Quartier des Spectacles, that's run through another sister company, called Secret Montreal. And of course there's still the ghost tour in old Montreal that I worked for that's been going for about 20 years now. And then the regular guided tours I do could be anything. So I tend to focus a lot on Irish history in Montreal, but also the history of colonization, I do tours of old Montreal. So whatever the tourists want, I can organize, because I'm a licensed tour guide, and in our city it's illegal to tour guide without taking this course for nine months. Paying $2,000 and doing it.
Stan Mallow
Why didn't I know that? Wow.
Donavan King
Oh yeah, and doing it mostly in French as well. And so once you have this license, you're good to go for any type of tour, a bus tour, a bicycle tour, a food tasting tour, Craft Beer tour, whatever. And so one tour I'm working on right now, as you may know marijuana is gonna be legalized--
Stan Mallow
I read about that, yes.
Donavan King
Yeah, in less than a week, so I'm actually making a marijuana tour for next year. And the idea is not just that they get high, but actually to show them the history of marijuana in the City, the prohibition, where the police raids happened, where the hippies gathered in the '60s, the Tam-Tams which is our big Sunday event through the summer where people drum and dance, and smoke pot on Mount Royal, and so to give them this cultural experience in addition to them being able to buy this at the government store. So, the sky's the limit with this type of tour.
Stan Mallow
And I think your psychic abilities are up here, because that's exactly my next question to you. Any new tours on the horizon and did you want to share them? That's one of them, but you said there's so much history that you do, I'm sure there's a lot of others there too that you're planning.
Donavan King
Absolutely, there's also a tour in developing which doesn't have a name yet, but it's sort of an LGBTQ tour. And I found this in Charleston when I was down there. I often travel to other cities to do--
Stan Mallow
Yes, Savannah and now Charleston.
Donavan King
Yeah, so I do a lot of research in other cities and I found out that they had this kind of hidden tour, it wasn't really publicly offered, and I guess down there, there's probably more homophobia and whatnot, compared to here, we have the largest gay village in North America, and so I started researching here, and I found out, while some people do these tours around Pride in the village. And I thought that's crazy, because this could be something that you could offer year round--
Stan Mallow
Absolutely yeah.
Donavan King
And also, the history's fascinating. I mean, our first knowledge of the history of this, would be in New France. And one of the drummer boys ended up having some type of erotic relationship with a soldier, and so he was caught and they told him, we're gonna have to execute you for this, because it was a strictly Catholic colony, and they said, or we'll give you an option, you can become the city's first executioner. And so he--
Stan Mallow
Whoa, holy heck.
Donavan King
Yeah, and so he decided to become the executioner. And he ended up executing a whole bunch of people, but it's just these crazy stories like this we have throughout our history that have been totally forgotten, totally neglected, you might find it in a magazine somewhere, but it's a matter of stitching all these bits and pieces together into a full experience, so someone can get an overview of what's the history of this community in Montreal or what's going on with pot in Montreal or why is the Irish community neglected in the history books, when there's all these stories or things like that, so I really like to dig up the hidden history. I also created a tour led by a real burlesque queen, who takes people through the old Red-Light District. She talks about Al Capone and when he was here and the prohibition and the gangsters and the whole burlesque scene then and now, and again, it gives people a whole experience about burlesque and including where you can see it today. And so, by having a real burlesque queen guide the tour, it's someone who's super knowledgeable, it's not just a regular tour guide with a script. It's actually someone who works and lives in this milieu. And so that's the type of tour I try to create, very specialized and very revealing of interesting histories in the city.
Stan Mallow
I mean, I find that fascinating, 'cause as in the academic part of you, the historian, the theatrical part of you, all there. And getting into that, that leads me to the next question I'd like to ask you. Speaking about tours and how you get dressed up, because you and many of the people that are involved with you, who conduct the tours, it's very theatrical and your, when I see photos of it, it's always in costumes, etcetera. And I was curious to know the following. When you, when the people that are with you go around doing their tours and they're in costume, does their persona change at all, do they become someone from that era? And the only reason I ask it, 'cause you're talking about the South before. Savannah, different places down South over there, whenever they have these Civil War reenactments, you speak to the people who are playing those soldiers, they say they become those soldiers, they feel, whether it's reincarnation or what, there's a connection to it. So I don't think I'm stretching, but it just has my curiosity. You and the others, you're talking about a different era, a different time. Are you the people who were living at that time, or what is the dynamics of that?
Donavan King
Well, basically, there's two ways people do ghost tours and I'd say 95% of the case, it's just someone being themself telling stories. And these are often students, they're often paid low wages, maybe $20 an hour or something like that, whereas in Montreal, we've always had a tradition to pay actors union wages to do this type of work. So our actors are paid probably five times more than your regular ghost tour guide in North America, and we do expect them to create their own character. Now it doesn't have to be some historically specific, but it has to be something where the actor can use that character to amplify the story. So for example, I play a deranged professor on the ghost walks. So I have a totally different voice, a different personality, a very curmudgeonly, a lot of people think I'm about 20 years older, because of the way I speak. We have another actor who plays a grave digger, another one who plays a paranormal investigator, so we do create these characters with the sole purpose of allowing us to dramatize the stories more, because of course, a creepy character can do it way more justice to a story than just a regular person. And so that's how we tend to do it, of course, they select their own costume as well, but this is very much independent actors who are subcontracted to do the work at union rates, and so, very proud--
Stan Mallow
I was just curious how they get into that character. So they're really into it, 1,000%.
Donavan King
Yeah, so I mean, some of them are very into warming up and one of the actors does vocal warmups and things like that. Personally, because I'm always doing this type of work as an actor, teacher or tour guide, I'm kind of always warmed up, 'cause that's what I do for a living, so it really depends on the actor, but the most important thing is that when they connect with the audience, the audience gets a sense of, this isn't, there's something off here, but they don't always realize that the person's in character. Often times at the end of a tour, I'll take off my hat and bow, and say, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen", and they're shocked, they're like, oh my God, this is not the same person, so.
Stan Mallow
Well, that's good news for you, that's great.
Donavan King
Yeah.
Stan Mallow
That's good. Now, I was curious, how does your family, friends, associates, especially those who know you from the academic part of your life, how do they react to you when finding out that you're involved in conducting ghost tours?
Donavan King
They love it, I mean--
Stan Mallow
Good for them.
Donavan King
The problem with academia is that, unfortunately most of the things that are created in academia are only read by a small handful of academics. For example, I wrote a history paper for an organization I'm a director of, called the Irish Montreal Park Foundation where we're trying to make a world class park on our old Irish Famine Cemetery, which is presently criss-crossed with railroads, highways, billboards, it's a disgrace. And so, so I wrote this big historical paper about it, but again it's only the academics reading the paper. But when I sort of converted the paper into a walking tour, suddenly all the media's interested, everyone wants to attend, and they're getting the exact information, but it's just through a different format, and so the academics like it, because I can actually take issues, that're sitting there, stagnating and put it out there in the public, and suddenly people are interested.
Stan Mallow
And actually the bottom line of all of that.
Donavan King
Well, yeah, because academia is all about persuasion, and so how persuasive is a dense paper with MLA bibliographies, most people can't read this with big words and whatever, but if you can make it accessible and fun, all of a sudden, everyone wants to do it and so academics love this type of stuff, because it can really bring certain works to life.
Stan Mallow
Besides the incident that you had said earlier about somebody capturing an orb, have people on your tours who brought cameras with them, have they gotten back to you, they captured orbs or other psychic phenomena?
Donavan King
Yes, we often get them posted on Facebook, of things that they've seen. So you've had all sorts of photos of orbs, there've been photos of ghosts in church windows, things like this, and so we always encourage people to take photos and of course to send them over as well.
Stan Mallow
You have any idea, or a theory why, on ghost tours or whatever, but most people capture orbs when it's night time. Is that when they come out? Is that their time or just easier to capture it?
Donavan King
Yeah, that's a good question, I think, well first of all, night time is sort of the time, the witching hour when the ghosts come out, but also I think, in daylight it might be harder to capture an orb, because they're often translucent or transparent, whereas at night, maybe that reflects against a dark background more?
Stan Mallow
Yeah, I was just wondering.
Donavan King
Yeah, I don't know.
Stan Mallow
Why do you think so many people are fascinated with ghosts, ghost story, visiting places that are supposed to be haunted? What is that? I know when somebody goes to an amusement park, what do they go for? The roller coasters, they wanna, what's gonna scare them the most. And more and more people, I find, who I speak with, who visit different cities, they got their museum, they got their restaurants, they got the theater, but just like everybody I know, wants to put in a ghost tour in there, why do you think there's interest, in wanting to be afraid or learning about things that have happened before, the spirits that might be around?
Donavan King
Well, I think there's a lot of reasons. I mean, first of all, as you mentioned, the amusement park attraction, people go for the adrenaline, they wanna be scared. It's the same thing for a haunted tour, they wanna be frightened, but in a safe environment, it's not like there's an actual stalker chasing them, but they're gonna get that same tingly sense in a safe environment. I think people like to experience fear if it's safe, because it's kind of fun. Also, I think there's a certain taboo element. I mean, historically, in North America, and much of Europe, it's been religion that's been controlling things, and a lot of these subjects were taboo, you couldn't talk about them. There is only one way forward, which is to follow the religion to get into heaven and everyone else goes to the equivalent of hell and there's no other possibility. And suddenly we're saying, well, wait a minute, there's this maybe realm in between those places where the spirits are still here, so there's that whole taboo element of it as well. And thirdly it's a great way to pick up the history of a city in an alternative way. So our tours are both historically accurate and include the ghost stories as well. So you'll still get a very good sense of what the city's all about, even though it's a ghost tour. So, if you had the choice, say between just a regular tour of someone telling you in their own words the history of the city, or a ghost tour where it's gonna be a dramatization where you're gonna get the history of the city and the ghost stories, what's your preference? I find that usually it's the older people who prefer the traditional tour and the younger people who prefer the ghost tour, and so it's always a sea of gray hairs on my morning tour of Old Montreal, and it's always these young millennials, coming for ghost tours, so it's a generational thing too, I think.
Stan Mallow
And talk about your ghost tours, I'm sure a lot of people, probably most of them in "The Paranormal Yakker" audience, would want to, when they visit Montreal to go on some of your tours. I would not be a good host, if I did not give you the opportunity to tell people if they want to go on your tours, how could they learn about them, and how could they reserve tickets for them?
Donavan King
Okay, so basically, we have a website, www.hauntedmontreal.com, and on the website we have our three different tours. Again, Haunted Mountain, Haunted Griffentown and Haunted Downtown, and so it's possible to book directly through Eventbrite, or guests can also reserve tickets. Now another interesting thing about our website is, we have a blog. And we publish a new Montreal ghost story on the 13th of every month and that's free. It's in both English and French, and so people can sign up and receive this, and sort of be kept up to date with a new ghost story, but also with our company's news. So, what tours are being offered and what special events are happening and so on and so forth. And so, with this combination, we're really trying to create an audience for this, we're trying to build this industry from instead of being just one ghost tour a few years ago, now there's five. Sure I've created four of them, but we hope that in 10 years there might be 10 or 20, and because we're at the forefront of the movement, we think that we're gonna be able to offer the best quality and set the standard for other groups. I mean, if someone came here and hired student actors who weren't dramatizing and paid them low wages, hopefully people would pick up on that and say, well, we prefer the actors who get properly paid and we prefer something that's more professional. So, it's--
Stan Mallow
'Cause I know, I have to tell you this. I'm hooked on your blogs. I learned so much about it, about the city, that I did not know about. So, I mean to me, tourism should do something for you, special to promote you. I mean, it's great they promote the City, they promote the restaurants, this and that, but what you offer is part of the history of this City, a city that they wanna come back for again.
Donavan King
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, tourism, Montreal does promote the ghost stories a little bit, which is nice, but again, it's the type of thing that it's very underdeveloped. I mean, everyone knows Savannah is the most haunted city in America, and even the hotels have a rate for the haunted room, you can pay whatever $50 more to stay in the haunted room, I mean, they're milking this and they're making a fortune on--
Stan Mallow
More and more states are doing that too.
Donavan King
Yeah, and there's even a Facebook group around called Professional Tour Guides, and I've come to realize that these tours are popping up everywhere, they're multiplying like crazy, even in the smallest towns. And I think part of that's also the whole phenomenon of these ghost hunter shows. Nowadays, it's all these paranormal investigator shows, which creates a fan base who wants this type of experience. And so I think it's just gonna grow and grow and I think we're very well positioned in Montreal--
Stan Mallow
You're at the forefront of it. But the thing is you're doing it with class, you're not just doing it. Sometimes something is the in thing to do, and you have people you, they just do it, they walk through it. But you're in it 1,000%.
Donavan King
Yeah. And one of the reasons I did that is, because in Montreal, there's two language groups, English and French, and the English is the minority group here and I hate to say it, but our art scene is not healthy at all. You've got things like the Fringe Festival, that takes government's subventions, they take corporate money, and then they charge the actors money to play, so there's this whole pay to play environment in our arts culture here in the English side at least, and so I wanted to do something about that, because I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's right, and so I just flipped the model on its head and now we're paying actors union wages, which is unheard of in Montreal. And we're doing it consistently, throughout the year, year, after year. And so we're trying to sort of reject the way arts are done a little bit here as well, and so--
Stan Mallow
More power to you on that.
Donavan King
Yeah.
Stan Mallow
And I just have to tell you. I thank you so much. I realize I could have 50 more questions to ask you, but I realize this is Halloween, your busy season, you have things to do, so I wanna thank you for being a wonderful guest on "The Paranormal Yakker", and hopefully when I've returned to Montreal sometime down the road, we'll discuss other tours that you're conducting.
Donavan King
Perfect, thank you, Stan.
Stan Mallow
Thank you.