Pine Lodge Paranormal Investigation
BRISTOL – Pine Lodge certainly had a great success with their Halloween activities last October, with a very scary Haunted House path through the lodge. But when the face paint and costumes were removed from the volunteer actors and the props were packed away were there still some “real” spirits at the old hotel?
This was the question in the minds of the Bytown Paranormal investigation team when they made their second visit to Pine Lodge this past January.
The Bytown Paranormal group arrived with a full kit of equipment including cameras, recording devices and electro-magnetic field detectors. They were also accompanied by Guillaume St. Pierre, a journalist from Ottawa’s French daily newspaper, Le Droit, and Janet P. Smith from the Bulletin d’Aylmer.
Dividing into two teams to better cover the large building, it was the team that ended up in a randomly chosen third floor room in the lodge that got some surprising results.
James, the investigator who is ‘most sensitive to the elements’ around him, felt a presence in the room and although no answers could be heard when questions were addressed to the presence, the electro-magnetic force reader surged noticeably at the end of each question. The temperature began to drop. The electro-magnetic readings fell to zero but the room continued to chill. James felt that it was some kind of negative force not associated with the lodge that was present and sucking energy from the room. Whatever it was, the temperature dropped from 15 degrees to -3 in a matter of minutes.
“None of us had ever experienced such an extreme temperature change during an investigation. Two or three degrees is not unusual but this was way beyond anything we’d felt before,” said Sandra Lepage, Bristol resident and member of the investigation team.
Sandra Lepage has been interested in the paranormal from an early age but it was events in her own century-old home in Bristol that led to her contact the Bytown Paranormal group and eventually become part of their investigation team.
“I really like the historical side of Bytown Paranormal,” she said. “They will do private residences but usually focus on sites like the Bytown Museum and the Carleton County Gaol in Ottawa as well as other museums and public historical buildings throughout Eastern Ontario and Quebec,” she explained.
The reasons people request the services of Bytown Paranormal vary. Sometimes it is simple curiosity and other times it is more pressing, such as a house with a front door that kept opening (see page 17) or a recent request from Montreal where a young child had become fearful of staying in her bedroom. The child’s mother had also noticed unusual things happening in the house.
The Pine Lodge, also known as Hotel Splendide, covers a total of 435 acres. The land was sold to the Russell family, who originally from Scotland, for a total of $ 1,900 in 1919. The land was specifically acquired by Charles Russell at the age of 19 years. “Charlie” bought the sawmill owned by AFCampbell Arnprior & Sons and moved to Bristol. A small log cabin was brought to the Russell farm and installed on the 435 acre property. It gained momentum over the years until it becomes the Pine Lodge it is today. If I believe that I could find, the structure of the building was completed in 1930. However, the Thompson family (current property owner) has not renovated the Lodge since its acquisition. Charlie also built several small log cabins for sawmill workers – there are now about 34 on the southwest side of the Lodge. Charlie’s brother, Joe, used to send his work contacts from Montreal to Bristol where they would stay at the Lodge. Joe suggested to Charlie to build a golf course with 9 holes to entertain visitors. Other cottages were constructed to accommodate all visitors. A tennis court was also added, as well as stables to house the horses. Charlie Russell married Emily Revell on November 24, 1928. They had four children; Doris, Eleanor, John, and Shirley. It’s interesting to note that on the second hole of the golf course, there are remains of a cottage which served as home to the family when Charlie began construction of Pine Lodge. Later, the whole family came to live in an apartment on the third floor of Pine Lodge. Charlie Russell also had a small forge near the barn that is still standing in front of green Tee # 2 behind the hotel. Charlie also made maple syrup, the building where the evaporation occurred is still standing today in front of the home of John and Dawn Thompson (the current owners). In 1954 Charlie’s son John, was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Charlie sold the property to his nephew Jack Russell and Victor Parsons, who was the managing partner with him until 1967. January 1 1969, Chris and Lois Thompson bought Pine Lodge, which is still owned by the Thompson family today. Mr. Thompson died some time ago. Lodge is now managed by his son Chris Thompson, assisted by his two sons Jason and Adam. The logs of cedar that are in the restaurant named “Charlie’s Roadhouse,” come from the original house built by the grandfather Charlie. The wood in the smallest dining room comes from the barn of his grandfather, which was cut at least a century before the existence of the Lodge Pine. Originally the “Charlie’s Roadhouse” restaurant was an old dance hall, which is reason for the large number of customers passing through at the time. The ground floor had a canteen and two bowling alleys. Finally, the tennis court stood at the current location of the parking lot.
one plus one
By: Janet P. Smith
It’s a nippy Friday night in early January. Weather forecasters predict a heavy overnight snowfall, coupled with the risk of freezing rain. Route 148 from Aylmer is barely centre-line clear. Frequent white-outs from drifting snow make visibility limited. Up the line, the wind subsides and the rolling snowpacked Bristol Road glistens in the car’s headlights. As my destination on the shores of the Ottawa River draws nearer, the road becomes increasingly dark, lit only by a waxing crescent moon and a star-studded sky. The surrounding silence is so calming it seems to envelope the soul like a warm blanket.
Soon after leaving River Road, powerful yard lights, as bright as lighthouse beacons atop poles nearly as tall as the nearby pines, signal I’ve arrived. I pull into an expansive, well-plowed parking lot that sits on the same spot where tennis matches were played on a shale court decades ago. Lights glow in the windows of a sprawling three-story log building that’s sits atop a slight hill. As I turn off the car engine, the urge to breathe a sigh of relief feels premature for there’s no telling how this night will end.
My destination is the grand old Pine Lodge of Bristol, a heritage resort that’s been open to tourists since the early 1930s when Charlie Russell’s dream came true and he filled his cozy guest rooms and cabins with holidayers from Montreal and Ottawa. Repeat customers called themselves Pine Lodgers and nicknamed the inn Hotel Splendide, a reflection of the good times had by all. In the early days before the motor car took over, guests arrived by CN train where they were met at the Bristol Station by flat wagons pulled by tractors. Others came up river by paddle steam boat or via the Pontiac Bus Line that had a destination stop at Pine Lodge. Guests came year after year after year to enjoy the private sandy beach, play tennis and golf, ride horseback, bowl a string in the basement alleys, party, dance, and dine. In the mid-40’s, guests were requested to be “on time” for their meals. Fifty cents got you a hearty breakfast and for 60 cents you could eat a home cooked dinner (aka lunch) or supper.
Charlie Russell built Pine Lodge on sweat and hard labour and it’s hoped he had the opportunity to bask in the glory of his achievements. In 1969, Chris and Lois (nee Wright) Thompson purchased the inn and more than 300 acres of land including a long stretch of waterfront and a nine-hole golf course. Forty-five years later, this historic charm of a building, as well as 32 rental cabins and 92 trailers continues to be owned and operated by the Thompsons. Today John and Dawn manage the year-round business with the support of John’s mother Lois and the invaluable assistance of their dedicated sons, Jason and Adam.
Pine Lodge is still heated by burning four to five foot long logs in the original forced hot water furnace located outside the main building. Running the lodge is no doubt a demanding and costly operation that includes continuously upgrading materials like lead-cast plumbing and knob and tube wiring. The Thompsons are diligent, though, about amalgamating the new with the old in order to preserve the allure of another era.
It’s that other era that’s attracted a group of curious visitors on this frosty winter night. They’re neither weary snowmobilers, nor cross-country skiers, or wedding reception guests who’ve come to fill their tummies in a dining room built of logs felled nearly 200 years ago. But they do arrive with numerous heavy cases intent on spending the night exploring rooms that are reminders of days gone by.
There are forces out there we may not understand