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Ghost Watch

Scene of the Murder of Mary Gallagher
Scene of the Murder of Mary Gallagher

Every seven years, according to the legend, a headless ghost appears on the spot in Montreal's Griffintown neighborhood, where a murder took place on June 27, 1879.  It's at the corner of William and Murray Streets, and the entity is thought to be the ghost of Mary Gallagher, a local prostitute at the time.  Ghost hunters who know the legend keep vigil all night on the appropriate date in the hope that she will show her, her form.

Mary, 38, had apparently been drinking hard that night, capping a three-day binge with her friend, Susan Kennedy, another prostitute.  Mary picked up Michael Flanagan at one of their haunts and the three returned to where Susan lived to continue their party.  The next morning, after a downstairs neighbor reported hearing a body falling to the floor and the sound of chopping that continued for about ten minutes, Mary was found decapitated by an axe, her right hand also removed.  Her head ended up in a slop bucket, while her hand was dropped on the floor. 

Susan Kennedy, who had blood on her clothes, was arrested, on the assumption that she'd been competing with Mary for Flanagan's attention (or money).  That seemed sufficient to convict her, but some believe it was a hasty and unproven judgment (although Flanagan, who was still there and passed out, had no blood on his person, and certainly someone in that room had killed her.).  Initially, Flanagan was a suspect, but he was quickly freed, and he probably left town as fast as he could.  Susan, given the death penalty, was never hanged; instead she served sixteen years and was released. 

The first reported sightings of the mutilated spirit looking for its missing head occurred at the turn of the century, and as the neighborhood was rezoned and developed, the building where Mary died was torn down, becoming a vacant lot — all the better for ghost watching.  Yet the last recorded sighting occurred in 1928.  Perhaps some persistent soul will get lucky, because it's likely that the tradition of waiting for the apparition will continue for some time.  There's even a mass held specifically for her.  In 2005, she was supposed to appear for the 17th time, but no one reported seeing her.  They'll get another chance in 2012.

Other mutilated victims, perhaps joined by a common killer, apparently roam from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

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