Before she went missing in the Eastern Townships, Theresa Allore enjoyed a very Montreal upbringing. John Allore, co-author of a new book about the unsolved mystery surrounding his sister’s death, revisits her favourite haunts.
Often lost in the story of my sister’s unsolved murder is the geographic fact that Theresa Allore was very much a Montreal girl. Because she died in the Eastern Townships, every inch of her story seems to get consumed by the eight weeks leading up to her disappearance from the Lennoxville-Sherbrooke region. Even more speculation radiates from that compass point in all directions, some of that attention leading back to Montreal, but most of it focused on where, in that area, she might have gone in the months after her disappearance on Friday, Nov. 3, 1978.
The reality is she never went anywhere after Nov. 3. When her body was discovered in the spring of 1979, she had been lying face down in a farm drainage ditch next to a cornfield all those months, a little over two kilometres away from her college dormitory residence in Compton. But those eight weeks — from the early fall of 1978, when she began studies at Champlain College, to that November evening — account for a mere fraction of her life, two months out of 19 years, one per cent of all that living.
Much of what Theresa did in Montreal might have been lost were it not for the recent discovery of a 1977 wall calendar she kept, where she meticulously documented her daily business on each date. These are the only writings we have. It’s not like today, when everyone seems to document all the minutiae of their existence in blogs and notebooks. Theresa didn’t have a journal. The deepest thing she ever wrote to me was a birthday card that efficiently states, “Happy Birthday Fartface.” The calendar is this Mary Engelbreity thing, bonneted girls and spring flowers. It was a Christmas gift from my mother, more the sort of thing you’d give to a 10-year-old than a teenager, but surprisingly Theresa used it.
We grew up in the West Island suburbs, off Sources Blvd. and right behind Riverdale High School. My first job was as a newspaper carrier for the Montreal Gazette, and I routinely would con my family into doing my route for me by feigning some imaginary illness. Theresa graduated from Pierrefonds Comprehensive High in 1976. She tried a semester at Vanier College, but quickly dropped out. With the fast pace of change in the late ’70s, Theresa had a hard time settling on what she wanted to do with herself. For a time she worked at Luna Pizzeria prepping the pizza dough, and the month of May is marked with her shifts. Luna is still there, by the way, on Gouin Blvd. in Pierrefonds, across from the Twist & Crème, an ice cream stand that was a favourite when we were kids.
Theresa’s social life was pretty typical for a teenager in that era. She had a circle of friends who hung out together. They enjoyed board games, and especially liked playing dice. They drank some wine, enjoyed some pot — mostly they talked. Imagine a time when people actually shared personal stories with each other, face to face. This could go on all night, much longer than a 10-second TikTok.
Theresa loved music, and her 1977 calendar is peppered with concert dates — ELO, Tangerine Dream, Rod Stewart. But as every self-respecting Montrealer knows, the two big concerts that year were held at the Big O. After the Olympics in 1976, Montreal opened the stadium to two major summer concerts: Pink Floyd in July and Emerson, Lake and Palmer in August. Theresa’s calendar eagerly notes the concert dates. June 7 is marked “Pink Floyd tickets went on sale”; June 20, “Emerson tickets go on sale.” I share her love of a lot of prog rock: not only Floyd, but Jethro Tull, Genesis, Rush — all favourites she introduced to me. ELP? I’ve never quite understood that. We’ll let it slide. There are four cornerstone Pink Floyd records I remember her listening to repeatedly in her bedroom growing up: Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Meddle and Wish You Were Here. My bedroom was directly adjacent to hers, and I absorbed the sounds of ‘70s progressive music, from her Zenith stereo player to my 13-year-old ears.
Nightlife was what you might expect at that time on the West Island. After work on a Friday, Theresa and her friends might go to La Résidence, a dimly lit brasserie on St-Jean Blvd. serving pitchers of beer that would have suited their lifestyle and means. On Saturdays they’d hit the Lakeshore, the Maples Inn or the disco at the Edgewater. Another favourite was a place called McKiver’s, which I am told is now the West Island location of the Bar B Barn (whose downtown location recently closed). Sometimes it was Chenoy’s, located to this day in Dollard-des-Ormeaux. Theresa especially liked their cheesecake.
June 1, “call for Bike.” Theresa had a very expensive Italian Bottecchia road bike. She’d ride that thing all across Montreal, often adventuring off the island to Vaudreuil and Oka, one time as far as Long Sault in Ontario. Understandably, it was often in the repair shop for a tune-up.
She’d often go into the city, taking the commuter train from Roxboro station to Gare Centrale. June 18 is marked, “Downtown shopping on Crescent”; she also enjoyed dancing at the Lime Light. July 6, the night of the Floyd show, Theresa’s entourage had supper at the Old Munich pre-concert. On Friday, July 8, the gang was all together at Ben’s, then Dunn’s. July 9 marks the night of a big party to celebrate the departure of a friend: “Sue, Andre, Chuck, Pierre, Shady, Jeremy, Corry and the Bums that arrived at 2 a.m.” For the remainder of July, she travelled out west to Winnipeg and Edmonton to visit friends and relatives. She was back in the city for the ELP concert on Aug. 26. It was around this time she moved out of our house and into an apartment on St-Charles Blvd.
Fall arrived, the social pace began to slow. There’s barely one entry in September, which notes friends “come over to watch Carol Burnett.” Later that week she turns up at the Windsor Hotel with friends. In October she applied for a job at Canada Manpower and began working at Huber Industries, a ski factory on Hymus Blvd. in Pointe-Claire. In celebration, she and her friends all went for “Dinner at Spaghetti Factory, Disco After.” Within weeks, Theresa managed to get some of her friends evening shifts at the factory. They were a fun bunch. A friend recalls, “One day Theresa arrived with carnations for everyone on the shift. I thought that was really classy of her for doing this.”
After noting that she bought a ticket to see Iggy Pop for $6.50, one of Theresa’s last entries on that calendar is on Friday, Oct. 7: “Champlain College, and then over to Sue’s.” This would have been a weekend visit to the CEGEP in the Eastern Townships. We now know the purpose of the ski factory job was to save money for college. After having dropped out for a year, Theresa wanted to resume life as a student. The remaining weeks in 1977 simply mark her earnings: Nov. 3, $99.98 / 29 hours; Nov. 17, $223.78 / 77.5 hours; Dec. 1, $236.91 / 79 hours. Hours of a life measured out in dollars and pennies.
There is one other entry, on Oct. 12, her birthday. It says, “Piazza Tomasso’s with J and Mom.” I assume I’m the “J,” though I don’t remember this. I don’t know where my brother and father were that night. Along with the Kon-Tiki, located in the Mount Royal Hotel, the family-friendly Tomasso’s was a favourite of ours. Then noted next to that scribble: “Only 116 more shopping days left til John’s Birthday.” That kind of short, jokey exaggeration was typical of Theresa.
Why she chose to attend Champlain College 160 kilometres away in the Eastern Townships is somewhat unclear, but it was a decision, a life-turn east of Montreal with disastrous consequences. One year later, she was dead. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to figure out why that had to happen.
John Allore hosts the podcast Who Killed Theresa?, focusing on unsolved murders in Quebec and other justice issues. In 2003 he launched one of the first crime blogs; theresaallore.com is now a trove of information on unsolved cases in Canada and the U.S. He is a founding board member of AFPAD (Association des Familles de Personnes Assassinées ou Disparues). In 2018 he was awarded the Senate of Canada’s Sesquicentennial Medal for his work in victims advocacy. He lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Wish You Were Here: A Murdered Girl, a Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer, which John Allore wrote with Patricia Pearson about the unsolved death of Theresa Allore, will be published by Penguin Random House on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Brome Lake Books in Knowlton hosts an online launch Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.; see Brome Lake Books on Facebook for more information. Paragraphe Bookstore and Toronto’s Massey College co-host a virtual launch on Monday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. Signed copies will be available at Paragraphe, 2220 McGill College Ave., and Brome Lake Books, 45 Lakeside Rd. in Knowlton, as of the publication date.