Architecture Stories: Day of the Dead at Ghostly Atherton House


My name is Dominga de Goni and I was once married to Faxon D. Atherton, who was once a wealthy force to be reckoned with in San Francisco. My family was quite wealthy and although I had my choice of suitors I chose Mr. Atherton as he was a ‘bad boy.’


After the gold rush was over we moved to San Francisco and had 7 lovely children. I was extremely happy in my marriage but my husband was not. He had many extra-marital affairs and left our family often to escape the children and me.




Because I could not control my husband’s philandering, I took control of my own life and ruled my family with an iron fist. Because I felt so helpless I began to spin out of control and treated my son George with great cruelty. My son retreated into a fantasy world, stayed at home and somehow continued to take my abuse. When my husband passed away I decided I needed to escape my home and had Atherton Mansion built for me on the corner of Octavia and California Street.


My son George came with me and ended up marrying a young woman named Gertrude Horn, who was similar to me in personality. He was originally dating her mother 14 years his senior, but when he saw Gertrude her 17-year-old daughter, he ended up marrying her. With both of us women having domineering abusive personalities it was a wonder George did not attempt to kill himself. Oscar Wilde deemed Gertrude similar to an unattractive man and when I introduced to her to famed author Edith Wharton, Gertrude spread rumours that Wharton’s work was plagiarized. They ended up producing two grandchildren, but Gertrude sent my young Granddaughter to relatives so she could spend her time writing. She was so neglectful my grandson died when he was very young.




My daughter-in-law ended up being a minor success and wrote over 40 novels (including The Californian) focusing on the lives of domineering women. At this point, when my son’s life became part of her words in print, he decided to become like his late father and left home to find a life in my home country of Chile. George didn’t fare well on the trip and he ended up dying on the ship from kidney failure. In those days they could not turn the ship around so my son was pickled in a rum barrel to preserve him for the trip home.


The barrel was eventually returned to my home but had no identification on it. My butler, attempting to serve rum for dinner, was aghast when he found the late rum-soaked George in the barrel. After the staff dried him up we gave him a proper burial but my son in spirit refused to leave my home. George’s ghost would continually knock on our doors and I felt like I was being watched by an angry presence. In the end I could stand it no more and moved out of the evil house with Gertrude.




We decided never to go back but had great difficulty selling the home as George would not leave. The tenants moved out almost as quickly as they moved in, as they were made extremely uncomfortable by the haunting presence of my son, and his chilling airs. It wasn’t until 1923 when Carrie Rousseau and her fifty cats bought the house that he simmered down. Rousseau was as tough as nails and lived only in the ballroom of the house until 1974.


After Rousseau’s death the mansion was renovated but my son George refused to leave. One will never know what he did all those years when Rousseau lived there. Whether she ignored him or  possibly he could not be heard over the loud mewing of the cats. George remained silent for years.


As I float continually through the air I see the studio apartments of Atherton are always for rent. Obviously George is back as the tenants keep hearing arguing voices, and I assume one probably belongs his wife Gertrude, who came back to help haunt the place. It most certainly is not me although Psychic Sylvia Browne says it is. She described the voices as female spirits that just don’t like men and my silly son has been thrown into the middle of the fray. Of course what does Browne know? Was she not ‘outed’ a few years ago as a fraud?

I rest my case and Happy All Saints Day!


This is a true story..

Images and Text by Linda Seccaspina 2016

Want to see more? Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News


About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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