Montreal

Owners of famously haunted Quebec asylum say red tape is forcing them to sell

The 43-hectare riverside property in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., had the makings of a dream retirement project, except for the ghost hunters who kept trespassing to visited a crumbling asylum they believe to be haunted.

Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton officials fenced crumbling asylum on riverside property to keep out ghost hunters

Roger Thivierge and Marie-Claude Martineau are selling the vast property they bought in 2009 as a retirement project after the municipality fenced off the 'haunted' abandoned building on the property to keep out the ghost hunters. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

Roger Thivierge and Marie-Claude Martineau are selling what was their retirement project after the municipality fenced off the "haunted" abandoned building on the property.

Thivierge and Martineau thought they'd found their dream retirement project in 2009 when they purchased a 43-hectare property on the Nicolet River in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, a quaint village near Drummondville, Que.

The couple saw an ideal place to set up their French bulldog breeding business. They planned to look for funds to renovate the abandoned institutional building on the property and turn it into a seniors' home.

The building on Martineau and Thivierge's property was abandoned in the late 1980s, after a fire ravaged it and killed nine people inside. Paranormal enthusiasts say it’s one of Quebec’s most haunted places. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

Nine years later, the couple says their dream has turned into a nightmare.

Last fall, the municipality put up a high chain-link fence around the building, in an effort to stop the curious from prowling through what paranormal seekers say is one of the most haunted buildings in Quebec.

For years now, Thivierge and Martineau have made the most of the building's unofficial status by allowing the ghost hunters in, for a fee.

Now, with thousands in legal bills piling up as they try to defend their right to go into their own building — not to mention the cost of the fence they had to build — they've been forced to put their dream property up for sale.

They're asking $2.8 million for it.

"We've had enough," Thivierge said.

Trespassers became customers

Martineau and Thivierge say they noticed strangers trespassing on the acreage within weeks of moving in, back in 2009.

People were trying to get into the abandoned building. Some even offered to pay.

"We told them, 'The building is private property,'" Thivierge said, asking them to leave.
Despite 'private' signs and a chainlink fence, ghost hunters keep turning up at the Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton property and trying to get inside. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

One person suggested the couple look into the building's history.

They learned that it was built by a religious order in the 1930s, first serving as a monastery, then as a church-run school during the Duplessis years, in the 1950s, ultimately becoming a government-run asylum for people then labelled "mentally deficient" in the 1960s.

In 1988, according to an article published in Quebec City's Le Soleil at the time, a patient set fire to the building, killing nine other inmates.

Ghost hunters kept coming. Some of the unsolicited visitors had taken to breaking windows, "making our lives miserable," says Thivierge. Police were called.

With plans to renovate the crumbling building going nowhere for lack of investors, it was a police officer who suggested the couple make a business out of the building's eerie reputation, Thivierge says.

So the couple started charging an entrance fee, and people came from as far as Europe and South America to tour the old asylum.

Hundreds of pictures, videos and recordings of alleged paranormal activity at the building can be found online.

"All the different groups in Quebec that are into paranormal [activity] have come here," Thivierge said.
Visitors to the property have come from as far away as Europe and South America to peek inside the abandoned institution, said to be haunted. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

The voice of 'Amélie'

Patrick Sabourin, the co-founder of a Quebec-based group called APPA Paranormal, was among them. He says he first visited the old asylum in 2002, before the couple bought the property.

Sabourin says he and his team recorded electronic voice phenomena, which hunters of the paranormal interpret as spirit voices, on one of their visits.
Patrick Sabourin, the founder of a Quebec group fascinated by the paranormal called APPA Paranormal, said he has visited the abandoned asylum in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton many times. (Appaparanormal.com)

"We stumbled on the voice of a little girl," he said. "We heard some snickering and my spouse, who was there with me, asked the voice to give out its name, and we heard clearly the name 'Amélie​.'"

Sabourin says he's been back about 20 times since, alleging he's heard more from Amélie, as well as what he believes was the voice of a boy named James.

"We had a few very good moments at Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton," said Sabourin.

Municipality says enough

Trouble with the municipality came last fall after a promoter presented Thivierge and Martineau with a proposal to hold a spooky Halloween party in the old asylum, they say.

The couple were fine with it as long as they could get a municipal permit for the event.

Despite the fence and signs to keep out, Martineau and Thivierge say people still find ways to enter the building illegally. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

Despite the fence and signs to keep out, Martineau and Thivierge say people still find ways to enter the building illegally.

The municipality refused and doubled down: not only would it not issue the permit, but it would seek a court order to fence the building, which the local fire department had deemed unsafe.

Town manager Matthieu Levasseur said the situation had gotten out of hand.

"They're coming at night," he said. "They're crossing all the fields around to go to this place."

Martineau, a retired nurse, and Thivierge, a retired member of the Canadian Forces, say they are ready to give up on the property. Their pockets are simply not deep enough to carry on.

Martineau and Thivierge want a simpler — and less expensive — retirement project.

An ideal buyer, they say, would be someone with a budget big enough to tear the place down and make their own passion project out of it.

The couple say they have found another place where they can continue to breed their beloved French bulldogs. And yes, they've checked: there is no local folklore suggesting it is haunted.

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