Past Comes Alive at Haldimand House

Strange things started to take place when the Leousis family began renovations of Haldimand House. Phyllis Richardson had told the Leousis’ that when the apartments were installed, the old Haldimand House bar was dismantled, and the wood used to create fireplace mantels. With plans for a café in Haldimand House, the Leousis family took apart the fireplace mantels and reconstructed them into a bar for the café. They often heard a strange tapping sound coming from the reconstructed bar. Phyllis Richardson mentioned that Walter Richardson (who had died in the 1950s) was a habitual pipe-smoker and used to tap his pipe against the bar top to clean it out- could the sound have been Walter resuming his old habit?

When the Richardson’s handed over the keys, they had also left various pieces of furniture up in the attic. One such piece was a wicker rocking chair. Now Louis’ son Chris often worked to restore antique furniture up in the attic space and had always been given the willies by this rocking chair. Often when he was working downstairs, he would swear that he could hear the chair rocking across the rough-hewn plank floors of the attic. Once he walked upstairs to check, and just as he came to the top of the stairs, the chair tipped forward as if someone was getting up to greet him. He never mentioned this to anyone, knowing that they were likely to think he had lost his mind. Haldimand House played host to a mystic fair for several years, where various psychics and mediums would come together and give readings for a charitable fundraiser. Before the first event was planned, Chris met with local futurist Bettee Giles and had mentioned to her that he was skeptical of psychic ability. She looked him straight in the eyes and told him that there was an elderly man up on the third floor sitting in a wicker rocking chair who was not happy with him for inviting a bunch of psychics into his home. From that point forward, he believed in psychic ability.

The very back portion of Haldimand House, once James Little’s general store, was once home to the Haldimand House Café and Beanery, opened by the Leousis family in 1996. A curtain used to separate the doorway from the café into a back storage room, which had only one other door which led outside. The exterior door was not a hinged door, it was padlocked in place to allow for easy removal to accept deliveries. One afternoon, Chris was meeting with Donna Richardson, a local baker who was hoping to sell her baked goods at the café. They were leaning against the bar having a conversation when they were eventually joined by Karen Richardson, curator at the Haldimand County Museum in Cayuga, who had been browsing the store. They began talking about Haldimand House and the plans for the café, when suddenly, a wind came through the room- the curtain covering the storage room doorway flew up in the air and floated like a magic carpet, then the back door slammed shut. The three looked at each other, bewildered by what they had seen. When the exterior door was inspected, it was still padlocked shut- nothing had fallen, and there was no reasonable explanation for what had taken place. Phyllis Richardson had died not long before, and Chris recalls that she was big into roller skating. What was the café used to be the kitchen in Phyllis’ apartment- could it have been her heading out through the back door to practice her skating outside?

One final story has to do with the sale of antique furniture. Antiques have always played an important role in the stock at Haldimand House. One fall afternoon, a woman was browsing the store when she came across a strange stone gargoyle sitting on an antique end-table up on the second floor. Later, when she got home, she decided that she should have purchased the gargoyle and so she called the store to ask that it be put aside for her. Chris answered the phone, went up to the second floor, but couldn’t find a gargoyle anywhere. He told the shopper that she must have Haldimand House confused with another store, but the woman insisted that she had seen it there. He checked his inventory sheet and noted that the last gargoyle he had was sold back in the Spring when he had home and garden inventory in the store. A few days later, a couple who regularly visited Haldimand House for antiques happened upon the antique end tables on the second floor- they were beautiful carved wood and came with a hefty price tag. The couple bought them and took them home the same day. It was nearly a year before the couple returned to the store. When they did return, they told Chris that strange things had happened since they had last seen him: lights were flickering at home, they often heard strange whispers, and sometimes from the corner of their eyes, they could see a gargoyle sitting on one of their end-tables. Chris recalled the woman who had called asking about the gargoyle and told the couple what had happened. They rushed home and held an impromptu garage sale, selling the expensive end tables for $10. Buyer beware- if you get a great deal at a garage sale, you never know what’s coming along with it!