Who is haunting this house?: In 1927, newlyweds Elena and Angelo Culos, above, had their picture snapped on the steps out front. Three years earlier, his parents, Anthony and Anna Culos, had built it. In Italian tradition, they may have placed special family artifacts around the base of the chimney. Forty years later, the Haan family may have inadvertently disturbed the artifacts when digging out the basement, releasing spirits, perhaps?

By Isabelle Southcott | isabelle@prliving.ca

Back in the 1940s, Don Carto used to play in the abandoned house on Manson Avenue, across the street from the old Cranberry School.

His parents told him not to go inside. That made it all the more appealing for the seven-year-old boy.

“It was spooky inside because the plaster had all fallen off the walls and the staircase had actually crumbled down,” he said.

In his childhood memory of peering into the front room, Don can still see a full-sized reproduction of The Blue Boy, Thomas Gainsborough’s moody 18th century painting, hanging in the filth.

Another large painting of a sailing ship hung on the other wall.

Don, who is best known for keeping donkeys on the Wildwood hill, isn’t alone in remembering his creepy feelings – even from 70 years ago. He is one of several long-time locals whose experiences of this house have been marked by eerie feelings, and strange, unexplained noises. Is it possible that Powell River has a real haunted house?

Driving through Cranberry, you can’t miss the tall house, which has been restored by its new owner. The Mediterranean-style home is bright yellow with decorative balconies on the exterior.

If the walls could talk, it might be able to confirm many rumours of its supernatural inhabitants.

Villa Roma was built in 1924 by Anthony and Anna Culos. Anthony and his son Enrico operated Lakeview Dairy Farm on the property, and there was a dairy barn where Manson Manor now stands. They walked the cows to their pasture where the bird sanctuary used to be on Cranberry Lake.

According to the Powell River News, (August 9, 1928) they had a herd of 18 cows, Holsteins and Jerseys, which supplied about 30 gallons of milk daily.

A rumour that suggested Anthony died in the basement of the house was quickly dismissed by longtime Cranberry resident Rudy Pearson who was born and grew up further down (or up) the road on Manson Avenue.

Seventy-nine years ago, Rudy was five years old. He was admitted to hospital and placed in a room with three other beds. One night, Anthony Culos was brought in. “He was very sick,” Rudy recalled. The News reported that he had mistaken disinfectant for a bottle of wine. Anthony died that night in hospital and not in his house as the rumour suggested.

Rudy believed that Anna remained in the home but for how long, he can’t recall. At some point, the house was abandoned and it was then that rumours about ghosts seem to have started.

John Hewitt also remembers driving by the old house with his parents and seeing the curtains blowing in the wind when he was a kid. The windows had been broken and hadn’t been boarded up. It looked spooky to him back then.

Years later, he married Elly Hewitt, who lived there with her brother Allan Haan when they were kids.

The Haan family bought the house in the fall of 1952. It had been vacant for several years when they moved in. Lots of kids used to refer to the house as ‘the haunted house’ because it looked spooky, says Allan.

He remembers disposing of broken furniture down an old dry well. “When I moved the sofa, snakes came out,” he remembered. “We got rid of everything down the well.”

The Haan family did a lot of work on the house. They dug out more of the basement (bucket by bucket) to make room for a furnace, and built a second chimney.

Allan says nothing was moved near the first chimney to the best of his knowledge. He’s glad of that because he’s heard that when building a new house, Italians will often place family artifacts on the ground, typically where the chimney is. The items are meant to offer protection and should not be disturbed.

Whether or not this happened, couldn’t be confirmed, but it does add to the mystique of the house. Did moving those objects in the 1950s disturb the spirits of the original inhabitants?

Barbara Notheis bought the house in 2015 and believes the house is haunted.

“There’s no question about it,” she said. “When I first walked through the door I felt like I was being watched, not in a bad way, just observed. There are noises that are unaccounted for and people who have visited me have heard them as well.”

When the first snow fell last year, Barbara could hear “little feet running from window to window like little children excited about the snow.”

And the noises always originate in the green bedroom.  However, she’s discovered that whenever she moves something in the green room, the noises stop for a couple of weeks.

The noises don’t bother Barbara and she believes whoever or whatever is making the noise are “friendly spirits.”

She says the house likes it when she entertains and there are lots of people there.  “You can feel it; the house is happy then.”

Barbara says there are so many coincidences that she is convinced there is a special connection between her and 5602 Manson Avenue – and it began long before she walked through that front door.

To begin with the house number is the same as her birthdate.

Her birthdate is February 20, 1956.

“I have a clairvoyant friend who lives in the north. Sofia told me about this house years earlier. She said ‘You will buy a house by yourself.’ I asked her where is this house. She said ‘by the ocean, not in White Rock but not too far away.’ She said it will be a large house and I said ‘I don’t want a large house.’ She said ‘It will be two storeys high and made of gray stone and you will have a room for everything.’”

“I’m going to live in this large house by myself?” Barbara asked her. “And how will I find this house?”

Sofia told Barbara “this house will come to you.”

She hadn’t planned on moving to Powell River. She’d sold a large property up north and was living in a condo in the Lower Mainland when the house on Manson found her. She was browsing online at houses in the Kimberley area when a house in Powell River popped up.

Powell River, she thought? She hadn’t considered Powell River.  She’d visited this community years ago and hadn’t really liked it at the time but still; she decided to see where the search led her.

Barbara contacted realtor Dawn Adaszynski and asked her if she had any homes for sale that had a library.

“I have about 1,400 books and I needed a house with a library,” she told Powell River Living.

Finding a house with a library isn’t easy but Dawn knew of just the house. “It wasn’t even on the market when I bought it,” said Barbara.

The previous owners had never lived in the house; they’d planned to move in when they retired but then the husband died.

The house had been for sale twice but both sales had collapsed and so it was taken off the market.

Barbara thought about what Sofia told her when she looked at the house. It was built of cinder blocks, the gray stones Sofia envisioned in her predictions. Although she returned to White Rock she kept thinking about the house. “Whenever I had a spare moment, it would come to my mind.”

“It made no sense at all but I had no choice. It enchanted me. This house has hugged me since day one.”

To say it ‘needed work’ when Barbara bought it is an understatement.

“By the time Dawn and I emerged from the basement we were covered in cobwebs – but it had a library! This house was totally unsuitable for me but it charmed me and so I bought it.”

Barbara has worked hard to restore the old house to its former grandeur.

Recently, Wayne Culos, a relative of the original owner, stopped by to talk to Barbara about the property, and was happy to see it has been lovingly restored.

“The layout is similar to my parent’s home,” Barbara said. “I couldn’t imagine myself living in any other house. I’ve lived in grander houses but I love this house the best of all the houses I’ve ever lived in.”

Haunted house

Barbara Notheis (pictured with friend Elly Hewitt, far right) bought the house in 2015 and is certain it is haunted by friendly ghosts.

Even if it came with supernatural roommates.

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