Pictured is the house Joe David burned down.

The following excerpt is taken from Cape Breton Book of the Night edited by Ronald Caplan. This story was taped, transcribed, and translated into English by Jocelyne Marchand.

[Joe continues his haunted-house story:]

“We had problems after we got there. The first night we slept there, the next morning we couldn’t get out. We couldn’t open the doors… They seemed locked… it was a little girl called Berthina Arsenault… who came and got us out. She was passing for the girls – to go to school – and she came right in. The door wasn’t locked but we couldn’t get out. And that was the first time we slept there.

“After that things didn’t go well. The old man hurt himself and he couldn’t work. After that my mother died [in childbirth in that house]; she was only 41. I was only 16. We’d had trouble, but then it really started. It would come at noon and then at midnight. You could hear it walk upstairs. It would come to the door; at that time there was a door at the top of the stairs which was closed. It wouldn’t go any further, but we wouldn’t hear it go back… Then it would stop a while. At night, at midnight, the same thing would happen again.

“I said to myself, ‘This won’t do.’ I was 16 at the time and they couldn’t scare me. But the other children, my brothers and sisters, it would start and they were scared… In those days we had water buckets and they wouldn’t even go in the porch to get something to drink… I’d go in the porch, drink, leave the pitcher there and come back in and say, ‘Damn, that’s good water!’

“But they were scared, they didn’t want to stay there. We had to send them to the old woman, Marceline Boudreau, they stayed with her. They would come to the house during the day but leave at night.

[Where was your father then?]

“He was working in Mulgrave.

“Anyway, I was starting to run around a bit. I went to Petit de Grat. There were pretty girls there… Some nights I came back very late, but one night it wasn’t so late. I hadn’t gone as far as Petit de Grat. I had found pretty girls closer than that. I had come back and gone to the old woman’s house. It was past midnight. When I got to the house, the door was locked. I didn’t want to wake them so I went to our own house. I went in – I had the keys – I went in and I went to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I said, ‘You can roam around if you want but I’m not leaving.’

“In those days there weren’t lights like now, we had kerosene lamps. And the kerosene canister was upstairs in the attic. My deceased mother – we were very poor then – would take the clothes when they were worn and cut pieces from them and keep them. When the other clothes would get torn she would get pieces and mend them. I went up to get the canister of kerosene and it seems to me that I could see something on the box that looked like feet. I thought, ‘Is it my eyes that are playing tricks on me or is it real?’ I started to go back downstairs and I turned around quickly. There was a large pair of feet turned like this, the soles of the feet turned towards me. I said to myself. ‘I didn’t know whose feet they are, but they are feet.’ I took the canister and went downstairs to put the kerosene in the lamp. I went back upstairs, the feet were gone.

“But I slept in the house all alone, the others were gone. Every night they would leave. I slept in that house and the next day I told them.”