Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

How to Use This Site

The goal of this site is to provide students and other users with an experience of historical research. Like the other sites of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project, this one is mainly made up of primary sources. The material is organised in thematic sections, as well as in chronological sections that are defined according to the stages -- particularly before the courts -- of what was widely called at the time "the Gagnon affair."

The sources to which you have access on this site are authentic documents from the time. They were retranscribed and digitized, but the content is identical to the original documents. Even the typographical errors and the spelling mistakes have been kept! You will therefore discover these documents in the same way as historians do, but without the sometimes difficult problem of deciphering the handwriting of the time. It is therefore possible for you to do detective work by examining, comparing, and analysing the various documents in order to discover who was responsible for the death of Aurore Gagnon, why such violence was used with this ten-year-old girl, and how this event has remained etched in the collective memory of Quebecers.


The Aurore! The Mystery of the Martyred Child site is divided into eight main sections. The title of each section is found on the red horizontal bar situated beneath the site's title. The sections are the following: Home, Contexts, Suspicious Death, Trials, Aftermath, Archives, Echoes, and Interpretations. Each of these titles corresponds to a clickable button and by selecting one or another of these buttons you can navigate freely from one section to another. The button indicating the section in which you are will be darker than the others.

When you click on one of the sections, its contents will appear on the left of your screen. In the centre will appear either an introductory text or the list of documents relevant to this section. For example, if you click on the button "Home," you see the following menu on the left: "Welcome," "How to Use This Site," "Questions," "Teachers' Guide," "About This Site", and "Feedback." As you are currently reading the text "How to Use This Site," this title appears in bold character.

If you click on another section of the main menu (on the horizontal bar), for example "Trials," the left menu indicates "Introduction," "The King versus Marie-Anne Houde," etc. When you click on "The King versus Marie-Anne Houde," the text in the centre of the screen will change and present you with a list of sources to consult. When you click on a source, it will appear, still in the centre of the screen. At the beginning of the text, you will see the icon "About this Source." In clicking on this icon, you can access an explanatory text on the nature and the origin of the document in question. This icon is available for all sources.


This site gives you access to a wide range of primary sources, in particular from the newspapers and court records of the time. In order to make your task easier, we have undertaken some analysis for you, the results of which (time line, glossary, biographies, etc.) appear in the "Contexts" section.

This information can be quite useful, but you should devote most of your effort to studying the original documents. You can access them in two ways. First, the sections "Suspicious Death," "Trials" and "Aftermath" group together documents according to the different stages of the affair, in particular with regard to the courts. In reading for yourself the testimony delivered before a criminal court in Quebec City, you can put forward hypotheses as to the guilt or innocence of the various actors in this domestic tragedy. Secondly, you can access the full range of sources via the "Archives" section, which is organized according to the types of documents appearing on this site. These include newspaper articles, depositions before a criminal court, personal letters, photographs from the time, and many others.

Since Aurore's death in 1920, the Gagnon affair has remained firmly rooted in the collective memory of Quebecers. One of the objectives of this site is therefore to have you think about the "mystery" of this endurance. In the "Echoes" section you can trace the reverberations of the affair, not in official circles but rather in the sphere of Quebec popular culture. We invite you here to explore the creative writing (stage plays, novels, film, etc.) inspired by the Gagnon affair from 1921 to the present.

Finally, in the "Interpretations" section, you will have, at the end of your journey, the opportunity to read short essays specially prepared for this project by four specialists in the history of Aurore and of her influence in Quebec. You are therefore invited to compare your solutions to the "Mystery of the Martyred Child" with those of the specialists. However, in order to access them, you will need to ask either your teacher or the team at Great Canadian Mysteries for the password. After all, in order to remain mysterious, we can't reveal everything!

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History