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The Baritone Ghost of Darnley Mill

As far as I can determine, Darnley Mill really is haunted by something just beyond the range of human senses.

Above: Darnley Mill certainly looks haunted at night. Note the holes in the floor, which were hard to see in the dim light.
Right: A skull-cracking fall to concrete awaits the unwary ghost-hunter.

Right: The
mystery room.

A member of Hamilton Paranormal, a non-skeptical group in southern Ontario, told us there was a particular room at this long-abandoned grist mill that is so filled with strange energy that even an ardent skeptic had run from it after spending less than 10 minutes inside. Faced with a challenge like that, what else could I do but investigate? So on April 3, 2004, fellow skeptic David Bailey and I arranged to rendezvous there with members of Hamilton Paranormal.

The mill is located outside Hamilton, in a sparsely populated area now known as the Crooks Hollow Conservation Area, named after James Crooks, the Scottish immigrant who founded the mill in 1813. A boiler explosion killed two men in 1885, and the main building became a hulk following a fire in 1943. Now, the story goes, the spirits congregate there in abundance.

It was late in the evening when David and I arrived. The Hamilton Paranormal crew didn’t manage to join up with us, but a group of teens congregating nearby asked us if we were ghost hunters. We said that we were and asked to be shown the scary room. The youths pointed out the location but were emphatic that they were not willing to go in with us.

The main mill complex does indeed look quite frightening at night. In the dim light, one must be very careful where one steps, as the explosions left jagged metal edges, and gaping holes where one might easily tumble 15 feet to solid concrete.

The mystery room—the one the teens were afraid to enter—was located in an building on the outskirts of the complex. It is essentially a long concrete box measuring approximately 40 feet long by 10 feet wide by 10 feet high. The wall on one end has disappeared, and a few steps beyond there is yet another perilous plunge. About 50 feet past that are the tumultuous waters that powered the mill.

We cautiously edged our way in and started looking for reasons why people might find this place especially terrifying. David pointed out that there was a complete absence of animal droppings, so it was unlikely that wildlife was to blame for any strange experiences. I noted with surprise that there was virtually no graffiti. Apparently the local kids preferred to gather outside rather than risk offending the spirits.

After about 10 minutes of not being terror-stricken, I suggested that we turn off our flashlights and stand silently in the near-total darkness, trying to get a sense of what others might have felt. Almost immediately I perceived … something unfamiliar. Something very odd indeed. I formed a hypothesis about what was going on, which I briefly outlined to David, but said that I would have to do a bit of research to see if my notion was sensible.

I was guessing that the room was acting as a natural resonator, since it was made from solid concrete, with the open end pointing at a sound source (i.e. the rushing river). But what was the natural frequency of the room? My prediction was that the room resonated at a frequency between 5 and 20 Hertz.

As it turns out, if a tube is closed at one end, its length corresponds to a quarter wavelength. Thus, the resonant frequency of the mystery room works out to about 10 Hertz. This is “infrasound” — too low to be perceived by the human ear (which has a range of approximately 20 to 20,000 Hertz), but it can be felt in the body. Remember “SenseSurround”? In the 1970s, movies such as Earthquake and Midway used powerful subwoofer speakers to hammer the audience with infrasound so they could feel in their very bones what was happening.

So here is the situation I think gave credence to notion the room is haunted. A person who has been told the whole backstory is placed alone in the room, in the dark. They may not believe in ghosts, but nonetheless they can definitely feel something unusual. If they don’t know what infrasound is, they might perceive the sensation as an ethereal visitation.

It seems that the “low-down” on Darnley Mill is that it literally has a strange vibe!

One response to “The Baritone Ghost of Darnley Mill”

  1. Jeff says:

    Hey there.

    Just wanted to touch on something.

    I have specific instances where people have felt being touched and have been physically touched or assaulted.

    Myself, I was personally punched in the back in that room, when no one else was there. Also, while in the room with one other person, we both witnessed her purse levitate from her side and slam back down against her body.

    I saw it. I don’t need to prove it more than that.

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