Monday, October 24, 2011

Hunt 1--Dog Team Tavern in Middlebury 7/23/11

Location & History:

"The Dog Team Tavern was built during the 1920s at the request of Lady Anne Grenfell, wife of the famous doctor and missionary, Sir Wilfred Grenfell. The Grenfells originally operated the home as a teahouse, but also used the building as a venue from which to sell handicrafts from Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada, to raise money for the needy people in that region.
Eben and Catherine Joy acquired the property in 1946, and quickly transformed it into a country inn and restaurant. It earned a wide following for its hearty food — including its popular sticky buns and spinning relish wheel — and the many antique furnishings and knickknacks that adorned the building. Among those antiques were some remnants from the Grenfells’ collection, including hand-hooked mats depicting native life in the far North, such as dog teams, icebergs and polar bears. During its history, the Dog Team Tavern served dinner to such luminaries as poet Robert Frost, actor Charles Lawton and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt." The restaurant was most recently owned by Christopher Hesslink, who purchased it in 1987 and ran the place until it burned in 2006.

On September 1, 2006 an early morning fire destroyed the Dog Team Tavern. The body of Christopher Hesslink, owner of the Tavern, was found inside with a gunshot wound. His death was ruled a suicide and the fire deliberately set. There are many unanswered questions regarding the event. Friends of Hesslink, who have known him for years, insist he would never take his own life. Why did he leave his two beloved dogs outside in the truck waiting for him? What really happened in those early morning hours remains a mystery to this day. Our goal during this investigation is to see if we can get in touch with Christopher Hesslink.


Remains of the Dog Team Cellar
The Dog Team Tavern is situated just outside of Middlebury on Dog Team Road, a dirt road next to the New Haven River. Because this was our first investigation and we would be operating some equipment we were unfamiliar with, our team decided to perform this investigation during the daylight hours. We were glad we had made the choice since the location turned out to be a hazard! I think we were all expecting a bulldozed area with perhaps a cement platform where the building used to sit. Instead the walls of the cement basement had been left standing and debris, including broken glass, bricks and stone, were left everyplace in crumbling piles. We negotiated the terrain and explored the area, each of us taking in the sight, sounds and general feelings of what remained around us. Lisa P. and Lori K. took digital photographs of the scene and after our initial sweep of the area we settled in together to conduct an EVP session. Our main goal was to get in touch with the former owner Christopher Hesslink who had died at the location. Was it murder? Was it suicide? How did the fire start? We were full of questions and very curious as to whether we would get any answers.

Dog Team Remains Basement
EVP SESSIONS: We conducted two types of EVP. The first one was straight question asking with the digital voice recorder. We then play it back to see if we get an answer to our questions. We performed three of these. The second was with the Ghost Box whereby we ask the questions and listen for responses 'real time' with the bits of words and sentences picked out of the radio frequency of which we conducted 2. I have not yet figured out how to get the digital information from the recorder to the computer, so we don't have any audio bits to add. Instead I will provide some transcript of what transpired during the EVP sessions. Sessions 1-3 Straight EVP: We asked several questions ranging from basic to detailed. Lori K. asked "Chris, are you here with us?". Chris F. asked "Did you commit Suicide?" JoAnn K. wanted to know "How did the fire start?" and Lisa P. said "Chris, is there anything else you would like to tell us?" Maribeth G. said "We are here to help you and we are not afraid." We asked questions regarding the events of the evening, if there were any clues at the site we should pay attention to and if Chris had anything he wanted us to pass along to friends and family. We also asked if there were other Spirits at the site who wanted to communicate. Without having the ability to download the digital recordings into the computer for audio analysis, it was difficult to discern any audible answers to our question. There were certainly no outright voice responses during those three sessions. Sessions 4 & 5 Ghost Box: We got a few promising tidbits from the Ghost Box session, but again were limited by not being able to filter our findings through the audio editor in the computer. This is not a complete transcript as we asked several questions in both sessions. Here is a sampling of what we heard.

Question Lisa P: "Chris, can you tell us anything that happened that night."
Answer: "Fire. Body." 

Question Chris F: "Do you know who did this to you?"
Answer: "early morning."

Question Chris F: "Did you do this yourself?"
Answer: Fire. Gone.

Question Chris F: "Is there something we should look for here at this site?"
Answer: "Star"

We all hear very loudly "It's Hot!"

Question Chris F: "Chris, had you already passed before the fire started?"
Answer: "19th. Foul. Sorry.

PHOTOS: Lori K. and Lisa P. took photographs of the site. Lori K. discerned one pic of interest included here. An outline of a man against the wall?

Photo of Interest Human Form

Photo of Interest Human Form Enhanced

Personal Experiences:

There was not that much to see at the site besides the basement walls and rubble, but a few of us had interesting  personal experiences that could not be explained away. Lori K. smelled burning wood as they approached what used to be the entrance to the Inn and Maribeth G. confirmed the feeling of smoke in the air. It hung for a moment and then quickly disappeared. Chris F., while roaming the basement area, was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of beer, as if a fresh keg was tapped. As quickly as the smell came to her, it went away. All of us got a general feeling of 'peace' surrounding the area. No one experienced a creepy chill or a feeling of discontent that usually accompanies an 'unsettled' location.


The Dog Team Tavern was a very interesting investigation. I think we all wish we had received more communication from Christopher Hesslink. A few weeks after our trip out there Chris F. ran into a former employee of the Inn who regailed her some stories of hauntings from other Spirits she experienced while working there. I think it would be worth another trip out there to see who else we can get in touch with!


  1. I'm very interested in your findings. Thanks for starting this blog!

    Betsy Guptill

  2. Very interesting, I learned a lot about the Dog Team restaurant. It seems that you got a lot of answers to your questions. Great site.

  3. Cool! Another trip planned anytime soon?