Posted on September 4, 2012


By: Demetrius (Co-Founder of the OCPRS)

            In 2011 the Ontario Catholic Paranormal Research Society presented the legend of Mary Gallagher with the hope of returning to Montreal for the seven-year interval or anniversary, whereby the ghost of Mary Gallagher is said to appear. In the previous article, many aspects of the legend had been explored, but many questions remained unanswered. Those unanswered questions could possibly be satisfied the following year, June 27th 2012.

            On June 26th 2012, the OCPRS headed to Montreal to the area formally known as Griffintown. There was a small gathering at the intersection of Rue Murray and Rue William at 8 PM, where the murder of Mary Gallagher took place on that fateful day on June 27th 1879. The OCPRS was unable to attend the gathering. It may have proved useful to be in attendance, in order to acquire information from local residents and others in attendance.

            The OCPRS arrived at the intersection of Rue Murray and Rue William shortly before midnight. There was light rainfall, which fortunately turned to a light drizzle. The temperature was 15 degrees Celsius. Equipped with a digital camera, digital audio recorder, EMF Meter, and various religious items, a night vigil was held. Initially, the OCPRS intended on remaining at the location where the murder took place, at 242 Rue William. However, the initial reports dating from 1886 to 1928 do not strictly mention this one location, but describes the headless ghost of Mary Gallagher wandering the Griffintown area. The second part of the investigation would include various other streets in the area, concluding with one last look at the intersection where the scene of the crime occurred.

            Before discussing what the documentation revealed – or did not reveal – there were some observations made worth mentioning here. The building which once stood at 242 Rue William no longer exists. All that remains is an empty lot overrun by weeds and a few trees. The intersection was well lit with street lights, and there was an occasional pedestrian or automobile. There were also two young girls parked in a red car nearby the intersection waiting to catch a glimpse of the ghost of Mary Gallagher. They brought along their dog with the well intended belief that animals may have a perception for “ghosts.” There was also a couple who showed up, a man and a woman. The woman was using some sort of “ghost detector” feature she had downloaded onto her phone. Using her phone she was scanning the area for whatever anomalies the “ghost detector” promised to reveal. The man who accompanied her was less than enthusiastic. Unlike the woman using her phone to detect a “ghost,” he seemed to dismiss the possibility of ghosts, but strangely enough he did comment on perhaps locating Mary Gallagher’s grave in the hopes of having better success in seeing her headless ghost. As odd as that was, the OCPRS could only tell him that no definite grave can be identified as Mary Gallagher’s final resting place. This was all for the best since he also mentioned that some sort of séance may have produced better results. The possible locations of Mary Gallagher’s resting place will be omitted for obvious reasons, and also due to the fact that the possible locations are inconclusive.

            The two curious young girls and their dog eventually left, as did the couple. There was, however, another individual who was there that night. Dan, a carriage and horse driver was also there to see if the legend was true. Both very informative and open-minded, Dan explained that part of his reason for being there was due to his interest in answering his own personal questions about the afterlife. He was also very informed about the legend of Mary Gallagher, and mentioned that his horse-drawn carriage tour includes the intersection of Rue Murray and Rue William. Dan was indeed a very interesting person and helped pass the time. He intended on remaining there at the location for as long as he could, possibly until dawn. At around 1:15 AM, the OCPRS said goodbye to Dan, and continued onto the second part of the investigation at various other points of Griffintown – Rue Shannon and Rue Ottawa, Rue Peel and Rue William, etc. These other choices were random, but chosen due to their belonging to the area recognized as Griffintown. Again, in should be mentioned that the reports stemming from 1886 to 1928 mention a headless ghost wandering Griffintown, and not merely restricted to the scene of the crime. The investigation ended at 3 AM with one last drive past the empty lot.


            Nothing strange occurred throughout the early hours of June 27th 2012. No headless apparition was seen, but the OCPRS wonders if Dan the carriage driver saw anything. The EMF Meter did not react in any unusual way at either 242 Rue William, or any other area examined. EVP sessions were recorded along with numerous photographs. Most of the photographs taken focused on the intersection of Rue Murray and Rue William, but random photos were also taken around Griffintown. The OCPRS often uses religious provocation when conducting various tests – using EMF, EVP, and Photography – but on this occasion did not do so. There seemed to be no need for such provocation since the legend stressed the appearance of a headless apparition occurring every seven years, during the early hours of June 27th.

            The following day, the photographs were uploaded to a computer and examined. Nothing remotely unusual was documented. The light rain helped produce numerous photographs containing what many people incorrectly consider “orbs.” The EVP recordings were also examined and yielded nothing out of the ordinary. In regards to Electronic Voice Phenomenon the OCPRS was doubtful at the outset of the investigation. How does a headless ghost speak? The question is not entirely strange, but does pose something worth considering when examining EVP phenomena. If a ghost is headless, does this limit or impair any chance of success for an EVP recording? Yet, this is not a biological limitation since what is being examined is supposedly spiritual. Regardless of the implications presented here, there was no EVP acquired. Nothing seen or documented by the OCPRS could provide anything to support the claims that the headless apparition of Mary Gallagher continues to make her appearance every seven years.


            It is important to note that the OCPRS did not expect to see any “ghost” and was only in Griffintown for the purpose of attending the seven-year interval which local tradition and legend has maintained. Not having seen or documented any paranormal evidence suggests that there is no headless apparition, or at least no longer occurs. The initial reports began seven years after the murder of Mary Gallagher and concluded in the year 1928 A.D.

            There are some accounts which suggest that a local priest had blessed the scene of the murder with holy water, but this could not be substantiated. Some paranormal “theories” suggest that with the demolition of the building, the ghost of Mary Gallagher found peace. Despite this notion, the house itself was never reported as haunted.

            An often overlooked, but interesting aspect of the legend of Mary Gallagher is that her ghost is described as headless. Why this is interesting is due to the fact that in the majority of headless ghost stories and legends, such apparitions are wandering in search of their missing head. Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hallow is an excellent example of such a story describing why the horseman’s ghost is headless. Mary Gallagher was brutally attacked with an axe, and she was decapitated. The head was not lost, misplaced, or hidden by her murderers (Michael Flanagan and Susan Kennedy). Since there was no mention in either police or news reports that the head was missing, in all likelihood Mary Gallagher was buried with her head.

            Other details of the legend, such as her ghost appearing every seven years, are also strange. Although not uncommon in various accounts of ghost phenomena, the time of day, month, or year, have been known to coincide with certain forms of paranormal phenomena. Ghost phenomenon often includes anniversaries, holidays, and so on. Why seven years? There really is no definite answer. This was one subject the OCPRS casually discussed with Dan the carriage driver. Indeed, such intervals of seven years, the hour(s) and day in which Mary Gallagher is thought to appear is a curious thing. What this fact does reveal is that there is no consistency in terms of how or why apparitions like Mary Gallagher occur.

            The OCPRS made the assumption that the “ghost” of Mary Gallagher was maintained for commercial purposes. In some ways it has been utilized for commercial purposes through articles, books, and ghost-tours, but the legend itself was initially maintained as a sort of boogeyman story, used to frighten and correct children. Fr. Thomas McEntee (b.1924 – d. 2008) grew up in Griffintown and was himself exposed to the legend in this way. The legend, however, was not simply a boogeyman story, but was based on historical fact and eye-witness accounts of a headless ghost. The OCPRS was initially unsure as to how or why Fr. McEntee would focus on the ghost of a prostitute as a way to bring the community together. Furthermore, the OCPRS mistakenly believed commercialism was the reason. Many people contacted the OCPRS and helped provide alternative reasons. In all likelihood Fr. McEntee was drawn to a story resting at the heart of his community. As a priest he believed in God’s mercy. Even someone like Mary Gallagher, who died in a state of sin and having no opportunity to repent from her sinful ways, gained the attentions of those wishing to see her rest in peace. It was partly for this reason that he held a mass for the repose of her soul, and the souls of others. Some believe that Fr. McEntee succeeded in laying her spirit to rest, but this only raises other questions of a more spiritual nature. It was also suggested that it wasn’t necessarily about Mary Gallagher, but had more to do with the fading community and memory belonging to Griffintown.

            In most cases of ghost phenomena, it is not the spirits of the dead responsible. Whether or not the headless apparition occurring between the years 1886 to 1928 were demonic manifestations – or not – are of importance to the OCPRS. Fr. McEntee held a mass for Mary Gallagher, thereby suggesting that he believed that the headless apparition was indeed the restless spirit of Mary Gallagher. The OCPRS is aware of some biblical and Patristic writings which may be used to support such a view, but the overwhelming evidence points to demonic manifestations. Fr. McEntee’s part in the legend of Mary Gallagher is not entirely understood, and does create further problems. Besides the fact that the belief in restless spirits of the dead is implied, there have been no sightings of Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost since 1928. These two issues stand at the forefront of the OCPRS’s interest in the legend. Why did Fr. McEntee feel the need to lay her spirit to rest if there were no sightings since the early 20th century? As mentioned in the previous article last year, only Fr. McEntee could answer that question, but he is unfortunately no longer with us.

            The OCPRS was there during the early hours of June 27th 2012, in the area formally known as Griffintown. There was nothing seen or documented to suggest that the headless ghost of Mary Gallagher continues to appear every seven years. If anything could be learned from this investigation, it is that legends serve people in different ways. For some, it offers an opportunity to validate their beliefs in the afterlife. For others, it serves to bring together a community. For the OCPRS, the legend of Mary Gallagher represents a questionable and perhaps spiritually unhealthy invitation to people, drawing the spiritually immature to a multitude of false views concerning the spiritual world. What do people ultimately learn from any such experience? Would have the appearance of a headless ghost satisfied the questions to the mysteries of the afterlife? Would the lack of an appearance dampen or even destroy any faith a person may hold? The legend of Mary Gallagher carries with it a certain danger. Expectations founded on pre-conceived beliefs may be easily swayed by such stories or experiences. The OCPRS does not profess to classify what really occurred between 1886 and 1928. Whether or not the soul of Mary Gallagher or a demonic manifestation was responsible, what remains at the heart of the legend is an ambivalent spirituality leaving people to doubt and to speculate. Where such doubt and speculation leads people may further illustrate the dangers found in legends involving the paranormal.