I See Dead People…

Well, only two. And I followed one of them around Quebec City on a fabulous Les Promenades Fantômes tour. The ghost of Marie Riviere lead a small group of us through the streets of Old Quebec. This wasn’t your typical ghost tour. She wasn’t stopping in front of haunted buildings to tell us about the ghosts there. Instead, she was the ghost and she shared bits of what crimes and punishment were like in New France while she was alive. It was fascinating.


Loved walking through historic Quebec at night

Marie Riviere certainly knew of what she spoke. This ‘King’s daughter’ was sent to New France to marry and build a better life. But who did she marry? Jean Rattier — Quebec’s future executioner.

Crimes at the time included things like blasphemy, drunkenness and failing to attend Mass. Punishments were ghastly and were meant to fit the crime, though it’s hard to believe that being branded with a hot iron for blasphemy was a fitting punishment. Or that putting wooden planks between the knee and ankle, then driving wooden wedges between the planks and the shin, which tightened the planks elicited true confessions of crimes.

I won’t tell you about the wheel. It was the most barbaric thing I’ve ever heard. Besides, hearing the description of it gleefully coming out of Marie Riviere’s ghostly mouth made it all the more macabre.

I felt privileged to be invited to participate in the “Crimes in New France” tour. It was absolutely fascinating. There is also an interactive street theatre tour called “Legends and Superstitions” that I’m dying (pun intended) to take next time.
Poor Marie Riviere. She and Jean had five children, none of whom amounted to anything much. Her daughter became a prostitute. Her criminal son became Canada’s executioner after his father died. And what became of Marie? She died, like her husband, of small pox. Not quite the fitting ending for a couple whose livelihood relied on torturous deaths. But then, what would be?
Are you “dying” to take a tour like this? Or would it be pure torture?



6 responses to “I See Dead People…

  1. Oh, scary stuff, Juliann, reminiscent of the Puritan days in New England and the Catholic Inquisition. Sometimes I worry about how easy it might be to drop back to those days. Anyone for water-boarding? Interesting post. Thanks. Curt

  2. This is definitely one situation where I’m happy to just let you report back! I am (un)fortunately blessed with a vivid imagination and just your descriptions had me wincing. It’s hard to imagine that actual people came up with these ideas for torture.

  3. I really wanted to take a haunted tour in Quebec. It seems like a city that has a lot of stories to tell and the ambiance to back it up. Even going to the bathroom at the La Buche made me think of insane asylums. This sounds like a very interesting tour.

    • Ghost tours are always so interesting. I’d like to learn about some of the haunted places around Old Quebec, too, but thoroughly enjoyed hearing about crimes and punishments of the time.

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