NO NEED TO BE AFRAID
Isabelle Dosogne paints the Melrose Tunnel in N.D.G. with her mom Yvette Salinas and sister Penelope. It’s a time of year when the normally creepy space can feel special.
Kasey Partington, a talkative 10-year-old, already has her trickor-treating route all planned out and it starts with a stroll through a dimly lit, somewhat gloomy underground passageway that connects her St-Raymond neighbourhood to the rest of Notre-Dame-deGrâce.
With loot bag in hand, surrounded by friends and family, she’s ready to visit the haunted Melrose Tunnel at least twice on Halloween night — something she has done for as long as she can remember.
“It’s the first thing on my list,” she said, a spiny, cardboard scorpion dangling from her hand. “I go there every year to check it out. It gets creepier and creepier and it’s very cool. I love seeing stuff I made, pointing it out to my friends.”
The toilet-paper-roll scorpion was something she was working on during a decoration-making event held at the St-Raymond Community Centre on Oct. 23. On Halloween, it will be hanging in the tunnel as kids like Partington stroll through, gazing at a freshly painted mural and handcrafted creatures. This year, decorations will have a “spooky woods” theme.
The Melrose Ave. tunnel runs under the train tracks and is about 50 metres long. It links de Maisonneuve Blvd. to the rows of housing sandwiched between St. Jacques St. and the rails. That tight-knit neighbourhood, known as St-Raymond, relies on the passageway to access shopping, public transit and everything else north of the tracks.
Many residents prefer the pedestrian bridge at Grand Blvd., feeling the tunnel is too creepy to use any time of year.
Eight years ago, St-Raymond resident Melanie Stuy decided to combat that sense of creepiness by decorating the tunnel for Halloween. She got neighbours involved and her initiative has since blossomed into an annual tradition that attracts hundreds of participants every year, turning the tunnel into something neighbours can be proud of.
“We know it’s creepy,” said StRaymond resident Yvette Salinas, who co-ordinates the haunted tunnel project. “We know it’s not pretty. But it is still there. It is something important to us and we want to show its importance by making it special on Halloween.”
Salinas co-founded the Cheap Art Collective with Stuy and Amy Barrington, which puts art “back into the hands of regular people,” according to its website. The group founded the N.D.G. Art Hive to bring families and residents together on a weekly basis to be creative, usually using recycled and donated materials. The events are free, providing the public with easy access to art.
When children decorate a public space with their art, Salinas said they develop a sense of ownership. She strives to attract as many people as possible to help make decorations, string them up and paint a full-length mural inside the tunnel — something the borough of Côtedes-Neiges–N.D.G. allows as long as it is washable paint.
Cynthia Haughton, now a VilleÉmard resident, moved out of N.D.G. several years ago, but she brings her family back every Halloween to decorate the tunnel. She, like many in the area, feel that people north of the tracks are more intimidated by the tunnel than the St-Raymond residents, many of whom use it every day. She says the haunted tunnel is a way for residents to take charge of the dreary passageway and welcome residents from both sides of the tracks.
“People are afraid of the tunnel even though it’s not warranted,” she said. “Decorating it welcomes people from either side to go back and forth.”
Isabelle Dosogne, 10, loves painting the tunnel and encourages more people to check it out on Halloween because “it’s really fun.”
Corrinne Sevigny, 9, likes participating in the decoration making because it allows her to be creative.
“Last year, we made Halloween wreaths and we were walking into a Christmas-slash-Halloween theme,” she said. “It was hilarious.”
Jo Wedlock, right, and Stefanie Duguay help decorate the Melrose Tunnel on Sunday.