Sunday, October 30, 2016

Montreal a city of ghosts


To the government, his name is Robert Wagenaar, but hundreds of thousands of Montrealers know him as Tootall — one of the best-loved and longest-serving disc jockeys in the city. He works today, as he did in the late 1970s, at rock station CHOM-FM.

“In 1972,” he says, “CHOM moved from an office building at 1310 Greene Ave. across the street to a three-storey house at 1355 Greene. The former owner of the house had committed suicide in the third-floor back bedroom. This room became the CHOM music library. I’m not sure if a lot of people at the time were aware of the suicide, but strange incidents started to happen in the house, and people started talking about the CHOM ghost.”

Montreal actor Vlasta Vrana was a student when he boarded in a third-floor room of the Westmount house a few months before the owner shot himself. The man was, Vrana says, “going through a disastrous divorce. I was there when bailiffs arrived to take his TV. He became an alcoholic, and on the day he shot off his head, his ex-wife claimed he’d been looking for her with a shotgun.”

Years later, Tootall heard reports of objects that moved in the studio, of an apparition on the stairs. Even if a spirit was crying for leaving, this was no stairway to heaven. From time to time, people in the building would find themselves in a place where the temperature seemed suddenly lower.

“I recall meeting up with an announcer who had just finished the overnight show,” Tootall says. “He was seriously pale and shaken by the strange events that had happened on his shift. I believe water taps were being turned on and off, and his coffee cup kept mysteriously emptying. I myself witnessed, a few times, my turntable’s tone arm skipping merrily over an album, back and forth.”

In 1978, CHOM’s office manager hired a psychic. Eventually “pictures of Jesus were hung in the building and we were asked not to go into the library on a certain night.” An exorcism took place with the station’s eccentric owner at the time, Geoff Stirling, in attendance. A few years later, when the station moved back to its former home down the street, staff members held a Ghostbusters party to say goodbye.

“At 1310 Greene, we had a camera on the roof,” Tootall says. “It was controlled from the studio. And on a Saturday night in the 1980s, as I was zooming the camera around town, I looked down Greene and I saw the old house on fire. I watched it burn. The roof was already gone and I could actually see the inside of the former library in flames.

“Maybe that was the end of the ghost.” Or else, over time, it had become comfortably numb.

courtesy – Montreal Gazette


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The Past Whispers
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