Almonte: Ghost of the Mill

Mill of Kintail – Toronto Public Archives photo

Who is the Ghost of the Mill?

Over the course of many years of the mill’s history there have been reports of certain strange events that to this day remain unexplained.

Some of these involve lights flickering, footsteps, noises, and some areas of the buiding are particularly active.

The Baird Family

Originally known as Baird’s Mill

Mill of Kintail

Located about ten minutes from Almonte, the Mill of Kintail was built the early 1830s by Scottish immigrant, John Baird. He was a shrewd business man and soon had a gristmill, a general store and a homestead, in nearby Bennie’s Corners. He and his family lived at that location for years, but his offspring had no children of their own and when his last daughter died in 1900, the family line ended.

The Baird family had already lost ownership of the mill because of a legal dispute with his neighbours in the 1860s, and the building was abandoned. The property was no longer kept up, and not long after that, Baird passed away.

Tait McKenzie

Basketball Inventor James Naismith (left) and Robert Tate McKenzie at the Mill 

photo: Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority

Robert ‘Tait’ McKenzie was a well-known doctor, Almonte native, and also known for his artistic talents as a sculptor. In 1930, he returned to Almonte, his hometown, for a local celebration. During his visit he was approached by some members of the community and asked whether he would be interested in purchasing the old mill as a summer home. The locals knew that the site was his old stomping ground where he played with his childhood friend, James Naismith, inventor of basketball.

After some thoughtful consideration, he realized that the property was the perfect spot for both his art studio and a retirement home for he and his wife, Ethel.  Although he and Ethel purchased the property and used it mostly as a summer home, McKenzie died suddenly in 1938, and Ethel sold the property in 1952 to Major James Leyes.

May 5, 1938, p. 1., “Almonte Gazette”

Ethel McKenzie

Ethel McKenzie

In 1952, Ethel McKenzie passed away, and was buried beside her husband, Tait, in St. Peter’s Churchyard.

November 11, 1952, p. 1, “Almonte Gazette”

St. Peter’s Churchyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Museum Built

The Leyes family decided to establish a museum on the site, which became the R.Tait McKenzie Memorial Museum. Many distinguished guests visited the site over the years, and were always impressed by the history, as well as the beautiful landscape surrounding the property.

December 11, 1952, p. 1, “Almonte Gazette”

Whose spirit is haunting the Mill of Kintail?

Ethel’s Room

Paranormal researchers have identified one of the ‘hot-spots’ in the mill located in what’s known as ‘Ethel’s Room’, named for Tait McKenzie’s wife. The room contains some artifacts that were owned by Ethel during her years at the mill.  It’s been reported that the piano stool is often pulled out when the Curator arrives in the morning. Others have noted that the computer shuts off by itself and suddenly comes back to life on its own. In a live-feed video that was set up in the room overnight, the light came on in the middle of the night, then turned off again, although the building was locked and no one was there.

Over the years, staff and visitors to the Mill have experienced doors opening, closing, and locking by themselves, furniture moving in the night, unexplained noises in the floorboards and stairs, knocking, chilly drafts, and motion sensors being triggered when the building was closed.

On Dec. 4, 2019, Elliot Luijkenaar, and Eric Oickle, from ‘Phantoms of Yore’, an Ottawa-based paranormal group, spent from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. conducting an investigation into the presence of spirits at the Mill of Kintail.

Ethel McKenzie’s room, at the Mill of Kintail

The paranormal investigators set up an electromagnetic field (EMF) meter, an REM Pod, a thermal imager, an electronic voice phenomena recorder, a video camera with the capabilities of infrared and night vision, and a spirit box.

The team later reported that some of their equipment had in fact been activated, and they believed that the energies came from more than one person. They also heard someone say the name, “Nick”, and heard footsteps at the same time. There was a sudden temperature change in the studio when it turned very cold, and their EMF meter was quite active, particularly when it was positioned near the staircase.

The team was so convinced of their findings, that they offered the public an opportunity to take part in one of their evening sessions at the mill. Participants attending the paranormal workshop would be shown how to use the tools of the trade; participate in discussions, and enjoy a historical presentation.

As far as the staff of the mill, it’s been reported that they are content to spend their time with a visit from an occasional spirit, and claim they are friendly, though noisy at times.

Preserved for

the Future

In the 1970s the deed to the mill was transferred to the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority and they have maintained the mill and surrounding property beautifully ever since.

Whether or not you believe in the possibility of ghosts at the Mill, it is a lovely spot to spend the day, taking in the museum’s rich history, as well as the beauty that surrounds the property. The Mill of Kintail is surely one of Lanark County’s gems, and well worth a visit, to do some exploring, and maybe make some new memories, spending time in this historic and beautiful site.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member of the Lanark County Genealogical Society

Member of the Association of Professional Genealogists

Author of 10 books, “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, and “Recipes & Recollections”

2 comments on “Almonte: Ghost of the Mill

  1. Kathryn Stock says:

    Another really interesting story Arlene. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


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