Month: March 2015

THE OTTAWA X-FILES: STRANGE EVENTS IN THE NATION’s CAPITAL

Street signs at an intersection in east Ottawa..Orleans. (photo Google Streetview)

Street signs at an intersection in east Ottawa..Orleans. (photo Google Streetview)

At an intersection in suburban east Ottawa, Scully and Mulder, the paranormal investigative duo from the hit sci-fi TV series “The X-files” have their names emblazoned on City Of Ottawa street signs. According to a 2008 Ottawa Citizen article the names ‘Scully Way’ and ‘Mulder Road’ were given to these two intersecting streets by Claridge Homes which developed the neighbourhood in 2001, a time when the hit FOX show was at peak popularity. Paul Rothwell the former planner with Claridge Homes said that the old City of Cumberland provided a list of street names not yet taken, one of them being “Scully”. Rothwell reflected in the Citizen article that “At the time, I guess, the TV show X-Files was a big hit and I said, OK, well, there was a name that had been approved, and “Mulder” was the obvious choice for a street to go with it.”

A fun suburban tribute to television’s fictional special agents makes for an interesting landmark, but what’s even more fascinating is that Ottawa has its own real “X-File” incidents, events that stretch beyond that street corner and into the realm of the unexplained. Here are some of my favourites:

JAM BAND

suburbia

In November of 2005 the City of Ottawa experienced an event where hundreds of residents were affected by a mysterious signal that jammed automatic garage door openers across the city. The phenomenon jammed automatic garage doors within a 25 mile radius, including embassy gates and residential garage doors between Aylmer and Casselman. Almost all automatic garage door openers operate with a remote that uses a radio signal on the 390 MHZ band, but on that day were rendered inoperable. Further investigation shows that the 390MHZ signal is also employed by Land Mobile Radio Systems used by the United States government, and a December 2005 US Government Accountability Office report coincidentally states:

“To address homeland defense needs and comply with government direction that agencies use the electromagnetic spectrum more efficiently, the Department of Defense (DOD) is deploying new Land Mobile Radios to military installations across the country. The new Land Mobile Radios operate in the same frequency range–380 Megahertz (MHz) to 399.9 MHz—as many unlicensed low-powered garage door openers.”

This seems to easily explain the phenomena in Ottawa but both the Canadian military and the US Embassy categorically denied any involvement using this new technology of radio signal jamming. It seems the mystery signal that affected Ottawa garage doors for 10 days defied all explanation until it suddenly vanished as quickly as it appeared. Industry Canada inspectors arrived in Ottawa to study the signal jamming but as they began to investigate the problem it disappeared and all systems returned to normal. No organization has claimed responsibility and it continues to defy alternative explanation.

UNDERWATER UFO

In 2009 an extensive search operation involving military and police equipment scoured the Ottawa River for what was reported to be a crashed UFO. (this photo I snapped is from that search near the Champlain Bridge)

In 2009 an extensive search operation involving military and police equipment scoured the Ottawa River for what was reported to be a crashed UFO. (this photo I snapped is from that search near the Champlain Bridge)

I recall in July of 2009 a number of military helicopters were circling near the Ottawa River at the Champlain Bridge and in typical Spielbergian fashion, I grabbed my bike and hastily pedaled my way down to the river to see what all the commotion was about. Search and rescue helicopters and military vehicles as well as city police equipment had gathered around the river in what looked like a complex recovery operation. Further investigation revealed that the previous night people in Ottawa and in Gatineau reported they saw an object streak across the night sky and crash into the Ottawa River with a “thunderous boom.” The object reportedly had lights on it and appeared to change course several times before it hit the water.

Multiple witnesses called authorities which prompted police, firefighters, paramedics and a helicopter from CFB Trenton to scour the waters for a downed aircraft. Using sonar and underwater cameras the investigation continued into the next day when an object was discovered about 30ft below the surface. An Ottawa Sun article stated that local police constable Alain Boucher said something was down there. “The size and the shape doesn’t lead us to believe it’s any piece of an airplane or fuselage or anything like that. It could be a rock, it could be a bunch of logs stuck together, it’s hard to say.”

Soon police remarked that due to a strong current in the river and because no aircraft were reported missing, there was no debris or oil slick the search was to be terminated. No known further investigation into what happened in the river that July night has been reported and the incident remains a mystery.

BARRHAVEN BEAST

The legend of the cupacabra states the beast preys viciously on livestock.

The legend of the chupacabra states the beast preys viciously on livestock.

Earlier this year a “mystery creature” viciously attacked a horse in Ottawa near Barrhaven within the NCC Greenbelt. Officials only described the animal as “wildlife incident” and closed off trails in the area to lay traps in an effort to capture whatever attacked the horse. The owner of the horse and neighbours told media that it was “no coyote” and the ottawa sun reported that Dr. Brent Patterson, “a wildlife expert with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environmental and Life Sciences professor at Trent University, also studied the photos of the horse’s wounds and ruled out coyotes, bobcats or cougars as the culprits.”

So what attacked the horse with such severity? A nearby farmer reported a cougar was spotted in his barn, but that animal had been ruled out as the attacker. The traps never caught anything and the area was soon re-opened. Speculation ranged from a bear, rabid dog, a fisher and even the legendary “chupacabra”, an odd beast rumoured to inhabit parts of the Americas. The name comes from the animal’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock. Described as a heavy creature, the size of a small bear with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail. Eyewitness sightings have been been reported as far north as Maine but most experts say they are simply coyotes infected with a parasite whose symptoms would explain most of the features of the chupacabra. The attack and the perplexing case of the Barrhaven Beast remains unsolved.

WORLD’S FIRST UFO RESEARCH FACILITY 

"Building 67", the world's first UFO research facility off Carling Ave. near Shirley's Bay. Demolished 2011. (photo Bing Maps)

“Building 67”, the world’s first UFO research facility off Carling Ave. near Shirley’s Bay. Demolished 2011. (photo Bing Maps)

During the 1950s reports of Unidentified Flying Objects grew each day with both the general public and government agencies from around the world quickly reacting. Canada was not without its own concerns over these new “alien spacecraft” roaming the skies, and set up a special investigation unit in Ottawa under the name “PROJECT MAGNET”. An UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT (UFO) study program was established by the CANADIAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT (DOT) on December 2, 1950, under the direction of Wilbert B. Smith, senior radio engineer for the DOT’s Broadcast and Measurements Section. Smith, the Defence Research Board and the National Research Council (NRC) were trying to determine that if UFOs did really exist, they might hold the key to a new source of power using the Earth’s magnetic filed as a source of propulsion for their vehicles. The top secret project in Ottawa also worked with their American counterparts in the CIA to determine if this new UFO “power source” could be studied and harnessed.

Smith’s geo-magnetic studies grew, and in 1952 the investigation was moved to Shirley’s Bay, a government facility on the Ottawa River approximately 15km west of Ottawa. UFO detection equipment was installed and by the end of October of 1952 the installation was complete. It became the world’s first UFO research facility. The 12 foot by 12 foot building housed instruments such as a gamma-ray counter, a magnetometer, a radio receiver (to detect the presence of radio noise) and a recording gravimeter within a 50 mile radius from the station.

Smith and his UFO research team at Shirley’s Bay conducted a number of experiments trying to attract UFOs to the area using their newly installed equipment. After months of potential UFO activity being recorded in the area, the facility soon had their most unusual occurrence.

At 3:01pm on August 8, 1954 the instrumentation at the Shirley’s Bay installation registered an unusual disturbance. In Smith’s words “the gravimeter went wild”, as a much greater deflection was registered than could be explained by conventional interference such as a passing aircraft. Smith and his colleagues rushed outside their research building at Shirley’s Bay to view the craft that was creating such a enormous reading on their equipment. Once outside the building they were disappointed to find a heavily overcast sky with limited visibility. Whatever kind of craft that was up there was well hidden under the cover of clouds. The only evidence the researchers had of this large UFO was the deflection registered on the chart recorder paper.

Local newspaper article relating the 1954 UFO event at the Ottawa facility.

Local newspaper article relating the 1954 UFO event at the Ottawa facility.

Two days later Smith and the Shirley’s Bay research facility were abruptly shut down upon orders from the Department Of Transport. Many speculate the findings and strange occurrence at Shirley’s Bay prompted the project to go “underground”, with all findings entering the “TOP SECRET” status of operation elsewhere. Smith was allowed to remain if he chose to, but all government funding to conduct his UFO research was halted. Without government subsidies. Smith continued his research, funded by “other sources”. Smith carried on working at Shirley’s Bay, developing what he claimed was a breakthrough anti-gravity device. In a 1959 presentation Smith stated “ We have conducted experiments that show that it is possible to create artificial gravity (not Centrifugal force) and to alter the gravitational field of the Earth. This we have done. It is Fact. The next step is to learn the rules and do the engineering necessary to convert the principle into workable hardware.”

Smith, who headed the UFo research lab was stricken with cancer and died before he could complete his studies.

Wilbert Smith, who headed the Ottawa UFO research lab was stricken with cancer and died before he could complete his studies.

As Smith was about to finish work on this anti-gravity device he was stricken with cancer and died at the age of 52 on December 27 1962. The research facility at Shirley’s Bay was closed. The Project Magnet building he worked in existed until 2011 at the Shirley’s Bay Department of National Defence complex now known as “Defence Research and Development Canada” off Carling Avenue. It was simply marked as Building 67 but has since been demolished.

CONCLUSION

Odd events occur in many communities, usually later explained through logical explanation; a mysterious light becomes a plane, a loud sound turns out to be an icequake and so on. Yet there are some events that defy explanation, and Ottawa is no exception to being host to some of these interesting “X-files”. Perhaps it is because our city is the Nation’s Capital and the frequency of these unexplained events lends itself to being a perplexing anomaly. Or maybe the truth is here.

SOURCES

http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=228dd1fc-156f-4e0b-b31f-0c219d402615#__federated=1

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/mysterious-signals-jamming-garage-door-openers-1.532740

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/garage-doors-work-after-mystery-signal-vanishes-1.549198

http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2009/07/28/did-ufo-crash-into-ottawa-river

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/mystery-wildlife-attacks-horse-in-greenbelt-ncc-says

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Beacon Hill Named After Lost Lighthouse

A concept sketch of how the lighthouse in the Ottawa River may have looked based on a photo taken by Lou Bouchard circa 1960s.

A concept sketch of how the lighthouse in the Ottawa River may have looked based on a photo taken by Lou Bouchard and aerial images from the 1960s.

The east-Ottawa community of Beacon Hill has a history of celebrity upbringing since the early 1970s when the suburban neighbourhood was originally developed. Tom Cruise, then known as Thomas Mapother, lived in Beacon Hill in the early 1970s along with another Hollywood Tom, the home-grown comedian Tom Green. Bryan Adams and former Saturday Night Live cast member and Weekend Update anchor Norm MacDonald also spent their youth in this east end suburb located a few kilometers downstream from the Nation’s Capital.

Having attracted a number of celebrities, the area also has a history of keeping people away from its shores with the construction of a warning beacon, the very beacon that gave the community its name.

This old 1880 map clearly shows a lighthouse in between the Duck Islands on the Ottawa River.

This old 1880 map clearly shows a lighthouse in between the Duck Islands on the Ottawa River. (Gloucester Township Map 1880)

A few hundred metres north of the shore near Beacon Hill lie the remains of one of the Ottawa River’s lost lighthouses. Constructed in 1860 between the gaps of the the Ducks Islands near the provincial border, the lighthouse structure was built as a navigational aid to warn sailors of the dangerous reef of rocks known as “Green Shoal”. Navigating ships on the Ottawa River was a relatively new adventure in the mid-19th century, but with the construction of the Rideau Canal in 1832 and the Carillon Canal in 1833, the Ottawa River became a busy shipping and tourist route between Ottawa, Lake Ontario and Montreal before the advent of area rail travel. The waterway was busy with steamships plying the waves between cities, but a number of shoals and islands created hazards for the vessels and required the need for warning lights to mark their location. The government at the time gave the order for the construction of approximately 30 lighthouses on the Ottawa River to assist in the safe passage of growing river traffic. Pre-Confederation Canadian lighthouses were usually built of stone or brick, but with the need to build so many new structures in time, the newly formed Department of Marine and Fisheries required cheaper and faster lighthouse construction techniques.

A 1904 map shows lighthouses in red, a number of which were on the Ottawa River.

A 1904 map shows lighthouses in red, a number of which were on the Ottawa River. The Beacon Hill lighthouse, on Green Shoal, is the furthest red dot on the left. (bytown.net -Department of the Interior, Atlas of Canada 1904)

Built as four sided tapering wooden clapboard towers, these structures had the advantage of being cheap to build, and in some cases could be relocated if the site needed attention. The water hazard known as Green Shoal would seen see the construction of such a beacon structure in 1860 on a conical pedestal sheathed in iron boiler plates, riveted together like some kind of Jules Verne rocket to withstand the strong river current and sheets of crushing ice carried downstream. Atop this iron clad pedestal was placed a 4 sided white wooden pyramidal tower 21 feet in height. Using a standard design used for many of the Ottawa River lighthouses, the structure housed a fixed light that was initially fueled by Kerosene, a fuel invented by the Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner in 1846. The Green Shoal light was visible to passing ships from a distance of nine miles and eventually was rebuilt in 1900 when it was most likely converted to using an electric lamp.

In 1862 the Sessional Papers of the Province of Canada reveal a house was requested to be built for the keeper of the lighthouse, yet its location or fate is unknown. In 1891 the lighthouse keeper by the name of A. Laberge earned an annual salary of $250 for his duties maintaining the light at Green Shoal.

A 1965 aerial image shows that the beacon was still in place on its pedestal on the Ottawa River.

A close-up of a 1965 aerial image shows that the beacon was still in place on its pedestal on the Ottawa River. (geoOttawa)

The beacon remained in operation for more than a hundred years, being dismantled and replaced by an automated light marker sometime in the 1970s. It was at this time that a new suburb was being developed nearby, and from atop the hill on what is now Naskapi Drive, the neighbourhood got its name from the old beacon that was visible on the river below.

The location of the ruins of the lost lighthouse that gave Beacon Hill its name.

The location of the ruins of the lost lighthouse that gave Beacon Hill its name. (Google Maps)

Today Beacon Hill residents and those on the Quebec side of the river can catch a glimpse of the iron-clad lighthouse ruins sitting in the Ottawa River. Bashed by years of crushing river ice, the rusty remnants now list to one side, a forgotten sentinel literally frozen in time during the winter months.

All that remains of the lighthouse are the iron-clad rusty remnants of the beacon's pedestal.

All that remains of the lighthouse are the iron-clad rusty remnants of the beacon’s pedestal. (Bing Maps)

The beacon ruins, literally frozen in time, encased in ice on the Ottawa River. The neighbourhood of Beacon Hill, which got its name from this very lighthouse,  is in the background.

The rusting beacon ruins, literally frozen in time, encased in ice on the Ottawa River. The neighbourhood of Beacon Hill, which got its name from this very lighthouse, is in the background.

 

Beacon Hill, a neighbourhood that could also be called “Celebrity Hill”, continues to carry the name of the structure that once warned sailors to keep away. What’s left of this namesake slowly slips under the waves from where it emerged.

SOURCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beacon_Hill,_Ottawa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Cruise

http://www.bytown.net/lighthouses.htm

Lighthouse Digest Magazine Database http://www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/database/uniquelighthouse.cfm?value=2998BING MAPS

1891 Sessional Papers Canadian Parliament -Report Of Dominion Fisheries Canada

1862 Sessional Papers Of The Province Of Canada

GOOGLE MAPS