“We started to hear a voice”: Meet the family who moved into a spooky Dresden funeral home

“We started to hear a voice”: Meet the family who moved into a spooky Dresden funeral home

$570,000 for 12,000 square feet is worth making a deal with the devil

Heather, Arryn and their children, Noa and Rafferty, pose in their former embalming room, now a converted speakeasy, as seen on We Bought a Funeral Home. Photos courtesy of Discovery Plus

In 2021, Heather Blumberg was a typical Roncesvalles mom, working in finance and raising a family with her husband, Arryn. And, while her family did have an intense Halloween obsession, the fateful decision to visit a Gothic mansion in Dresden, Ontario, was mostly just a way to stave off pandemic boredom. Two years later, the Blumbergs—Heather and Arryn plus their two children, Rafferty and Noa—are the stars of a Discovery Plus reality series called We Bought a Funeral Home, a home renovation show with some Addams Family vibes and (depending whom you ask) a couple of paranormal co-stars.

Two years ago, you were a regular family of four living in Toronto. How did you end up in a potentially haunted mansion in Dresden?
We were very happy in Roncesvalles. We moved to Toronto from the UK in 2011, when the kids were little, and we really loved the neighbourhood, our friends, our home. But then it was the pandemic, and one night we were sitting around as usual. I was watching cooking shows and Arryn was scrolling through Instagram. He saw an article about an old mansion for sale in Dresden—a giant old Victorian. It was right up our alley in terms of style, so we decided to go take a look. It was more just something to do: go for a drive, see a cool house.

Did you know the mansion was also an old funeral home?
No, that is something that was conveniently left out of the listing. I figured it out myself. I wanted to know more about the history of the home, so I just started googling and came across an old newspaper article that had been published when the couple who ran the funeral home retired. When I spoke to the agent who was selling the home, I could tell there was an awkwardness, but I just cut him off and said, “We know.”

Did you see this as a pro or a con? A competitive edge in an insane real estate market?
It wasn’t a deterrent. As a family, we have always leaned toward the dark and mysterious. We love horror movies; we really get into Halloween. When it came to the funeral home, my feeling was, Okay, aren’t funerals about love and celebrating life? In that sense, better an old funeral home than an old hospital. But it wasn’t the reason we bought the house. When we got there, even before we went inside, we were totally in love with the house and all of its potential. We did think that the unusual history might help us in terms of limiting bidders, but there were other interested buyers. In the end, we got it for $570,000—a little under asking, but not by much.

$570,000 for 12,000 square feet sounds almost worth making a deal with the Devil.
That’s exactly it. We loved Toronto, but the space we were able to get—both indoors and outdoors—is just unreal. Thirty-eight rooms and a swimming pool, which was a really big selling point for the kids.

When did you come up with the idea for a reality show?
We didn’t come up with the concept. The same blog that posted that first article about the house posted a short story about us when we bought it. A producer at HeartHat Entertainment tracked us down through my LinkedIn and the pitch was: Let us tell your family’s story and follow along on the renovation. I was really excited because I have a passion for design. I was planning to return to work in mergers and acquisitions, but suddenly I was able to do this instead, which is a long-time dream.

Did the producers of the show ask you to adopt the Addams Family vibe?
No, not at all. This is who we have always been. Maybe we wear a little more black than usual because it makes it easier for continuity when you’re shooting, but it’s not a big change in terms of our wardrobe or anything else.

So your dog was named Satan before the show?
Yes. We have had Satan, our black Labrador, for eight years. But our other two dogs—Great Danes—are called Pork and Beans. It’s not like everything about us is this one way of being—we’re not always with our crucifixes, looking dower.

You said not always with crucifixes. Are you sometimes with crucifixes?
Well, we’re Jewish, so no. That’s not a thing for us.

When did you start to believe the house was haunted?
It took a little while. There were some creepy elements to the house to begin with because of its background—the embalming room was still exactly how it was left, there was an old body box in the basement which is now framed and hanging in the entrance. But, in terms of actual ghosts, that didn’t start until a couple of months in. First it was seeing shadows on the staircase when there was nobody there. Then I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear music coming from the basement. And then we started to hear this voice that would say, “Hello, hello.”

Any theories as to who these ghosts might be?
We spoke to an old resident who told us that the shadows on the stairs were “the lady in blue.” She may or may not have been the daughter of a former resident who had an unfortunate accident in the house. But our family is somewhat divided about this. Rafferty, my son, doesn’t buy any of it. Arryn wants to say that he doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he seems to be interested in learning more.

In terms of the renovation, what are you most proud of?
I love the way we have been able to lean in to the character and history of the home but also create a place that is warm and cozy. My husband and kids were all against the idea of painting the kitchen and living room area black, but I think it has worked out really well. We turned the embalming room into a cigar room. I just finished the staircase, which was inspired by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth in particular. It has a Gothic forest vibe with real trees, taxidermy rabbits and over 1,000 butterflies.

What does a normal evening at home look like for the Blumbergs?
Pretty typical. Arryn likes to make cocktails and cook. We have game nights—the Game of Life or Monopoly, though Noa can get pretty competitive.

I was thinking you were going to say Ouija board.
Definitely not. That’s my rule. No need to open that door any further.