Interior of the Mill – https://almonte.com
Incidents like these are not uncommon at the Mill of Kintail. In fact, it’s almost a daily part of Steph’s life at the museum. She described the numerous light incidents as almost routine – they happen so frequently it’s actually become a part of her day. She verified that unexplained incidents of lights going on and off aren’t confined to one switch or breaker, and it even happens in different buildings throughout the site. Some lights are on motion sensors and they flick on and off when no one else is around or even when the sensors are covered with tape. Other switches require the forceful push of a button, but that doesn’t stop them from turning on in empty rooms. When I spoke with her in early October 2020, Steph explained that electricity issues have increased over the last few months across the entire site. This increasing activity makes the upcoming paranormal investigations at the site that much more intriguing.
Investigating for Spirits
Phantoms of Yore at Mill of Kintail
On the other hand, Elliot Luijkenaar of Phantoms of Yore says anytime is a good time for an investigation. The Mill of Kintail site has been so active that his group and some eager visitors are returning to conduct a fresh set of investigations in fall 2020. This time it will be smaller groups with COVID protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Teams that have investigated previously reported unexplained lights going on and off, EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon), temperature anomalies, and other signs of intelligent communication. However, Elliot has a feeling that the activity at the site is only going to increase in the coming weeks, as more families and close friends explore the buildings.
The Mill of Kintail is drawing people eager to communicate with the spirit world in the 21st century, but these visitors aren’t the first guests to attempt paranormal investigations here. Shortly after the McKenzie’s restored the property in the 1930s, they played host to some very notable guests: Sir Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Both men not only were Prime Ministers of Canada, but shared an interested in spiritualism (as were many of their contemporaries) and frequently conducted séances in an attempt to communicate with the other side. A letter from Borden, where he regrets being unable to “[commune] with the spirits of those who knew and loved the Mill”, indicates that it was a site for some kind of séances in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, there are no written accounts of what happened at these sessions, but this time around, Phantoms of Yore are ensuring things are recorded and not forgotten.
Letter from Robert Borden – Phantoms of Yore
The History of the Haunted Property
The main building on the property now known as the Mill of Kintail was constructed sometime in the early 1830s by John Baird. The recently arrived immigrant from Scotland was quickly making a name for himself and soon had a gristmill, a general store (now the gate house) and a homestead in the small settlement of Bennie’s Corners. His family soon joined him in Canada and lived on the present site for years. However, John Baird’s children never had any descendants of their own and the family line abruptly ended in 1900 with the death of the last daughter. The mill was already abandoned by then – John Baird had lost the property during a long legal battle with some of his neighbours in the early 1860s. By many accounts, John Baird was a very unpopular early resident of Bennie’s Corners and people weren’t upset as his property quickly fell into disrepair and he died soon after.
Basketball Inventor James Naismith (left) and Robert Tate McKenzie at Mill – http://mvc.on.ca
In 1930, Robert Tait McKenzie, an accomplished physician, sculptor and educator, returned to his hometown of Almonte for a celebration. While there, he was persuaded to purchase the old mill in the former settlement of Bennie’s Corners. McKenzie was familiar with the abandoned property, as the site was once a favourite makeshift playground for himself and his childhood friend, James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. The setting was a perfect place for a studio and summer retirement home for Tait and his wife, Ethel. In 1938, Robert Tait Mackenzie died suddenly. Ethel eventually sold the property to Major James Leys in 1952. He and his wife tended to the property and founded the R. Tait McKenzie Memorial Museum. Eventually the mill passed into the hands of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority in the early 1970s and they’ve maintained the site as a museum ever since.
The Mill Building
Ethel’s Room and Shrine – Phantoms of Yore
A lot of the activity in the mill building has taken place in what is now affectionately called “Ethel’s room.” It contains a small shrine of sorts and a few artifacts that were owned and loved by Ethel McKenzie during her time at the mill. A stool at the piano is frequently pulled out when the curator, Steph, does her morning walk through. As the last person to leave and the first person to enter, Steph is keenly aware of where everything is left every night when she locks up. Steph’s sister, Sharon, had her own experience in the room recently. There is a computer in the room that was playing a video when Sharon came upstairs. She watched as the computer shut off on its own – and then suddenly came back on again. It shut off and turned back on a few more times as Sharon watched in disbelief.
The teams investigating this room have also had some incredible experiences. Phantoms of Yore use all kinds of tools for their events, including interactive light up balls that can be rolled or bounced on the floor. During one investigation, a light up ball was pushed by an unseen force very slowly and methodologically under Ethel’s shrine. When other investigators tried to replicate the event, they quickly learned that the floors sloped the opposite direction – meaning the ball had travelled slowly and methodically up hill.
In another instance, a live feed was kept on in Ethel’s room for almost the entire night. In front of eager viewers watching online, with the building locked and empty, the light in Ethel’s room suddenly came on in the middle of the night. Shortly after, it flicked back off again, before coming on a second time and remaining that way until the live feed was cut. When investigators returned to the building on a new live feed in the morning, they found the light was back off.
The Gate House
Present-day Gate House, Photo by Ron Lamb – 1932
Although the mill building is probably the highlight of most people’s experience because of its immense size and incredible history, the gate house holds its own appeal. When I spoke with him in October 2020, Elliot from Phantoms of Yore explained that the gate house was one of the biggest surprises in their early investigations and it continues to draw unexplained activity. He notes that many teams who conducted investigations previously felt an unprovoked draw to one part of the second floor. Negative energies, ghostly touching, temperature changes, and other indicators tend to draw people to the same spot. In his opinion, the gate house is layered with a different kind of energy than the mill building and people notice it immediately.
This might also explain why one team recorded a very distinct EVP one evening in the gate house. Captured on video (see below), one group clearly heard a deep voice telling them to get out. This same deep and angry voice had been captured before and since, making it clear that someone or something in the gate house wants people out. Although the spirit appears to be more sinister than the ghost of the mill building, its intentions are still unclear. Perhaps the answer lies in a Ouija board that is frequently used in investigations. Two groups, fully independent of one another, have captured the same name and number. The secret of what it means has yet to be unlocked, but Elliot is hoping a new team of investigators might add to the collection of clues.