I posted in the past about the ancestry of my mother’s Melanson family. The Melansons were original Acadian settlers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, having traveled from France in the late 17th century.
My mother was the only daughter of three children born to Jude Edmond Melanson and Stella Irene Fougère. The first born son was about twelve years older than her next oldest brother, Paul, who in turn was only about two years older than her.
In an email he wrote to my mother after the rest of their family had long since passed on, Uncle Paul stated categorically that he did not believe in ghosts. This being said, however, he has never found an explanation for the strange occurrences he described that happened while he lived at and remodeled my Grandmére’s house after he moved into it upon her death in 1961. As he put it in a recent email to me, ” We never (saw) things like ghosts, shadows etc, but whenever I made changes to her house strange things would happen to let me know (she) wasn’t very happy with what I was doing to her house”.
Once he started experiencing these unexplained events, Paul’s curiosity got the better of him and he did a great deal of research into ghosts or spirits remaining in the house or other buildings after they death. He learned that it is believed that a person who was strong willed or had a very strong personality could remain within a building or home they lived in and/or loved during their lifetime. A traumatic death was also known contribute to a spirit remaining after death.
Uncle Paul deduced that the unexplained events had something to do with the renovations since they didn’t happen during the long periods of inactivity between projects. The severity of the events seemed to depend on the extent of the renovations being done.
Uncle Paul and his wife had two children, a girl born in 1961, and a boy in 1963. They also adopted a 1 1/2 year old girl named Samantha in 1969.
After Paul’s marriage in May 1960, it became apparent that my grandmother was troubled. Although the reasons were never clear, Grandmére committed suicide and was found by Grandpére about noon on Saturday, July 9, 1960 – just under one year after she had flown to Germany to visit with me as a newborn and my Mom and Dad, as they had been posted there by the Canadian Forces before my birth.
Grandmére’s autopsy revealed she had taken a great deal of valium. She had also made prior arrangements for her hair to be done and the clothing she wished to be buried in was laid out on a chair. No suicide note was found.
Uncle Paul went against her wishes and moved in with Grandpere. Soon after, Grandpére’s wholesale business went under and he lost everything, leaving Uncle Paul in a position where he would have had no choice but to look after Grandpére anyway.
Although the house was based on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) house plan 215, Grandmére modified it extensively. First she flipped it, reversing the complete house layout with the living room on the right and the bedrooms on the left. She had the house length and width increased by 2 feet, final dimensions being 42′ X 26′ or 1092 square feet, as well as several other changes. She was the prime contractor and the carpenter, electrician and other trades people answered to her. Upon Paul’s suggestion, Grandmére made one final change and had the roof style changed to a hip roof.
Paul didn’t make any major renovations after he had full ownership of the house in 1967. He began making extensive changes soon after, most of which Grandmére would not have approved of.
The following list of renovations is not in any particular order, but it will paint a picture of the work done over time.
1. A wall between the living room and hall was removed.
2. The kitchen renovations included:
⦁ changing the heavy porcelain kitchen sinks to aluminum;
⦁ transferring the floor tiles from the family’s older home for use in the newer one;
⦁ replacing these same tiles again later with carpet; and
⦁ refinished the cabinets and replaced the counter tops.
⦁ installed new appliances
3. Paul’s changes in the bathroom involved:
⦁ replacing Grandmére’s beloved pink wall tiles with beige ones;
⦁ installing ceramic tile flooring;
⦁ installing shower doors;
⦁ adding a new sink and fixtures; and
⦁ painting the tub brown to match the new decor.
5. The house interior and exterior were completely repainted several times, including the woodwork trim that Grandmére had painted a rather ‘ghastly’ (Paul’s word) color she mixed and called “Coral Rose”.
6. Insulated the house with urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI).
7. Changed the exterior shingles to vinyl siding.
8. Replaced the living room picture window.
9. Put in a 20′ x 40′ swimming pool in the back yard.
With the exception of the vinyl siding, insulation and the new living room window, Uncle Paul always did the work himself. While undergoing the renovations, and usually in the evenings, strange things would happen. Most of the time these took place while everyone was in a different room.
It became so commonplace that Paul’s kids would say, “There’s Mamére again.” Nothing ever happened in the basement and there were never any apparitions, ghosts or whatever visible at any time.
Some of the more common events were:
- Dishes falling out of the kitchen cupboards.
- Cupboard doors opening and closing by themselves.
- Pictures falling off the wall in the hall and living room. The nail remained in the wall and the hanging wire on the picture did not break. The pictures just seemed to ‘jump’ off their hook and land on the floor.
Being a natural skeptic, Paul tried to rationalize these occurrences as having been caused naturally, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, etc. In most instances, he could come up with a plausible explanation until he started major projects.
While doing the kitchen and bathroom renovations in particular the events escalated dramatically. In addition to the common occurrences described above, platters that were standing behind a stack of plates would come out of closed
cupboards and land on the kitchen floor, unbroken. Strange noises were frequently heard.
One of the more frightening and dramatic events occurred when Paul removed the pink tiles from the bathroom wall. Before Paul cleaned the grouting from the wall, his son was cleaning up in the bathroom and Paul stood at the open door talking to him, when the old grout remaining on the walls began shooting around the bathroom. It didn’t fall to the floor with gravity as would normally be expected, but was ‘bouncing’ from one wall to the opposite wall, making a sharp snapping sound as it flew off the wall. This activity continued for about five minutes, Kane and Paul stood rooted to the spot and could only watch in disbelief. The general consensus amongst the family was that Grandmére was ‘pissed off’ at Paul for removing the pink tiles.
Upon deciding to replace the bathtub, it was discovered that it could not be removed and therefore Paul decided to paint it a chocolate brown. The paint was a two-part epoxy paint and took several steps and days to apply. The first step was to sand the tub, then the first coat was applied and left to dry for three days. Paul admits that upon finishing the first coat, he was dismayed at how bad it looked, with white streaks, uneven coloring etc. It was a mess.
Paul came home from work around 6:30 the day after and was standing in the bathroom door looking at the tub, completely disgusted with the results, when, “CRASH!!!!!” A loud noise was heard from within Grandpere’s bedroom directly across the hall from the bathroom. It was dark and the lights were off. Everyone else having been in the living room at the time, they all came running.
Paul turned the lights on in Grandpére’s room to see a set of TV tables scattered all over the room – on the bed, on the floor, etc., looking as though someone had kicked them. They were not broken but they were in complete disarray, with the legs disconnected from the table tops.
After all of this, Paul was beginning to take this possibility of a ghost a bit more seriously.
Paul was working at an airport at the time as Manager, making and operating target airplanes for the military. I told some of his colleagues about the situation at home with the TV tables. One of the girls got together with a friend over the following weekend and over a bottle of wine decided to play with a Ouija board.
After the next weekend, she phoned Paul to report what had happened. She said that as a lark they asked the Ouija board who had scattered the TV tables. In response, she got got ‘Sim’. She could make nothing of this at the time and thought the board was referring to the name ‘Sam’ in reference to Paul’s youngest adopted daughter. As soon as he heard the story, Paul told her that ‘SIM’ was most likely Grandmére’s initials – Stella Irene Melanson. Paul had never mentioned his mother’s name at work, always referring to her as ‘Mom’.
He had, however, mentioned Sam’s name at work. With this in mind, Paul’s friend decided that she would try again the following weekend – just in case she had heard Grandmére’s name at some time. She asked Paul for a question that only his mother would know the answer to. Grandmére had left Paul her car and he had sold it soon after her death in 1960. He did not work at the airport until 1978, so there was no way they could have know the answer to the question he gave, “What color and make of car did his Mom have?”
When she called him again the following Monday, she asked if his Mom had owned a green and white Ford. Paul told her the answer was wrong and that the “stupid board was nothing but a toy”. This colleague then explained that the board spelled out GR + WH and when asked what type of car the board spelled FD. She just assumed it was referring to a green and white ford. This was most likely misinterpreted, the GR actually standing for gray, WH for white and FD for Ford.
Grandpére died in July of 1982 and about three months later, Paul decided to remove the UFFI foam from the house, replace the living room window and to have the outside of the house redone with vinyl siding. To do this he had to remove the mirror from over the fireplace so it would not get broken if the walls bulged with the new insulation. This had been Grandmére’s flawless mirror that she had paid the princely sum of $135 for – in 1960!!
Paul was sure that this would be the ultimate provocation of her wrath, for this mirror had been her pride and joy.
Surprisingly, nothing further happened – ever.