The following is an adaptation from a piece I wrote for “Ghost Stories,” a Summer Storytelling Event recently presented by Dundas Little Theatre:
Tett House has a strange pull, and people who visit tend to have a strong emotional response to it. Two parts spooky and one part beautiful, I knew from the first time I saw it, that it was a special, magical place.
In fact, I first saw it in a dream many years ago, but… we’ll get to that later.
If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you already know the serendipitous story of how my husband Trevor and I discovered Tett House at the same time in completely different ways: He found it while driving through the area in South Frontenac – a real life ghost town. I saw a listing for it on the internet not long afterwards. It took us several weeks to realize it was the same house.
But I knew it was mine right away. I knew that even if I never actually owned it or lived in it, it was My House.
It’s a Victorian-era country home, tall and pointy, with yellow painted clapboard siding. It sits like a stately chatelaine on a cliff of Canadian Shield, overlooking a gothic stone mill like something out of a Brontë novel. The wind around it actually wuthers. The house itself is entirely surrounded by forest and lakes, with a view of trees and water from every window. There is even a waterfall beside the mill. It’s where you’d expect Rapunzel to live, or perhaps a witch that eats children.
When we bought it, Tett House hadn’t been lived in for many years. It was neglected and needed a lot of work. I could feel its sadness. With the exception of a few rooms, the interior was raw and worn, with lacy cobwebs and dusty chandeliers. The porch was barely hanging on to the side of the house. It looked like the proverbial haunted mansion.
But, as we worked on our initial renovations, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the house – or someone in it – was grateful to us. I felt certain it was a woman; I distinctly felt a female energy, a sense of gladness. Someone was happy that Tett House was going to be lived in and taken care of once more. Before officially moving in, I would wander the empty, high-ceilinged rooms and talk to the place, or sometimes even sing a song. I wasn’t sure why I was doing this, but I felt like I had to introduce myself somehow.
Over time, I’ve learned more about the history of Tett House, and the first woman who lived there. Her name was Charlotte, and the home was built in the late 1880s by her new husband as a wedding present. At 17 years her senior, Benjamin Tett Jr. was a prominent local businessman, and she had started out as the governess of his brother’s children. Even in small-town 19th-century Ontario, wealthy men of status didn’t marry governesses, so “hats off” to Charlotte. They were together for at least 25 years. According to his obituary in the Montreal Gazette, Benjamin Jr. died at home at Tett House in 1915 of heart failure, after dinner with this family. It was clearly either the very best or absolute worst meal he’d ever had.
In the months following our move, as we slowly began to unpack and settle in, I was acutely aware of Charlotte’s presence… not necessarily as a spirit or a ghost, but her energy. Increasingly, I could sense how happy she was that we were making her house a home. I could feel that she had been grieved and disappointed by the way it had been treated before. One day, I unpacked my grandmother’s Royal Albert china in the kitchen, with its old-fashioned pink roses and 22-karat gold trim and I thought Charlotte was going to burst with delight. I know she was watching me carefully uncover each teacup and dinner plate from their paper wrappings and her joy mounted with every stacked dish. Her energy and excitement were palpable.
For the first little while after we moved in, we still had a number of tradespeople coming to the house: plumbers, painters, electricians. Slowly, as smaller projects were completed, this steady stream of contractors began to taper off, and one day in early September, all was finally well and Tett House was quiet at last. I remember my husband took the opportunity to do some work in the backyard. I was tidying up our bedroom at the front of the house and stopped to enjoy the view from the second story window. As I looked, I suddenly saw a tall man all in grey walking across the front lawn. I was surprised… no contractors were expected that day, and although I couldn’t see the face clearly, I knew it wasn’t Trevor. He walked out of my range of sight, so I went to the next window where I expected him to appear, but he was gone. He had completely disappeared within an instant.
I went downstairs and outside to see if it was someone local dropping by, but no one was there. I went behind the house and saw Trevor trimming weeds at the furthest corner of the backyard. I asked him if he had seen anyone, or if he had just been walking around the front of the house, and he said no. I told him what I saw and said, “Don’t laugh, but I think it was a ghost. He just vanished.” Trevor said, “Next time ask him if he does yard work.”
In the almost four years since we’ve lived at Tett House, I have seen this grey man, the “Outside Ghost,” as I call him, at least half a dozen times. Sometimes he walks up the driveway beside the house, along the fence-line, other times, he walks across the grass. It’s always a fleeting moment, and he is always near the lilac bush on the front lawn. Each time, he just fades into the air.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not this is Charlotte’s husband, Benjamin Tett Jr., or another former resident, Bill Boss. Bill Boss was the celebrated Canadian war correspondent who made Tett House his summer home for decades from the early ‘80s until he died in the early aughts. Bill Boss entertained a lot; his parties were legendary. I met his friend, Mahinda, who told me the lilac tree was a gathering spot for their guests and that their dog was buried beneath it. When I described to him the tall, grey “Outside Ghost,” he was amazed and said it sounded an awful lot like Bill.
Although I connect with Charlotte’s presence, I have not witnessed anything supernatural inside our home. But… I have had other experiences. Occasionally I can hear piano music playing faintly in another room, even though we do not own a piano. (Someone once told me their grandmother went into labour back in the day while playing piano during a visit to Tett House, so maybe there’s some connection there!) At times, I distinctly smell cigarette smoke, which may or may not be the Ghost of Shindigs Past. By the way, I should mention that Charlotte has made it very clear to me that she did not approve of Bill Boss and his parties! Evidently, bourgeois Victorian principles endure beyond the grave…
And so… back to my dream.
I’ve always been highly sensitive, intuitive, and connected, experiencing vivid dreams that often come true, or are prophetic of future events. I was always drawn to the mysticism of the natural world and alternative spirituality. I’ve also been a Tarot card reader for over 30 years. For a long time, I kept these things to myself out of concern for what certain people might think, downplaying my dreams and intuition, or writing it all off as “coincidental.” As I’ve gotten older, I am no longer interested in hiding this very important part of me and realized I needed to give it more space in my life.
Many years ago, I dreamt of seeing an antiquated and neglected Victorian house. In this dream, newer, more modern homes were available, but I decided instantly I had to live in this crumbling old one. At the time, I believed the dream was a symbol of my personal destiny in taking “the road less traveled.” But one day shortly after we came to Tett House, the dream suddenly came back to me and I recognized immediately this was the house that I’d envisioned. It had been waiting for me the whole time.
With its mysterious beauty and wild natural setting, I knew Tett House was a place where I could actively explore my “witchy-ness” and commit to living a fuller, more magical life. Plus, I always wanted to live in a romantic old house that had a name, like Anne of Green Gables or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. We should always feel like we’re the heroine in the novel of our own life, right? A friend of mine once said, “Oooh… you’re going to be Dana of Tett House,” and I got goosebumps!
It has been such an interesting and rewarding time. Many people have reached out to me to share stories and local history, or to learn more about the house. This includes a paranormal investigator who contacted me this year, and whom I hope to have visit the house someday soon.
At Tett House, we feel less like owners and more like caretakers of the property, but I’m quite happy to share the place with Charlotte and the Outside Ghost. Every day is a new day, and I look forward to discovering all the secrets this unique and mysterious place has to offer.
For more information on the Tett Family and Bedford Mills, click here.
For more information on the incredible Bill Boss, click here.