by Matthew Gorman - August 2008
In last month's Campfire Tales I highlighted some of the most haunted hot spots right here in our fair city of Seattle, and I had mentioned that during my research I had come across far more information on haunted places throughout the city than I could have hoped to include in a single installment. So, as promised, here is the sequel to last month's 'Hometown Hauntings' with a whole new batch of local ghost lore that you might just find a bit too close for comfort. Never forget, after all, that the dead are all around us.
Old hotels have traditionally been hotbeds of ghostly activity, and the historic lodgings of Seattle are certainly no exception. Tales of hotel apparitions and paranormal occurrences seem almost interwoven into the very fabric of Seattle's hospitality industry.
Last month I wrote about the presence of the supernatural at Seattle's celebrated Moore Hotel and Theater, and I bring now to your attention two additional Seattle hotels with a history of otherworldly occupation, The Sorrento Hotel and the Hotel Andra (formerly called The Claremont Hotel).
At the Sorrento, the apparition of a woman known as The Red Lady haunts the upper floors of this luxurious hotel. Some accounts place the ghost as wandering the third floor hallways, while many guests report seeing the spirit of a woman on the fourth floor particularly in close relation to room #408. Could it be two separate entities, a free-roving spirit, or perhaps just the natural inconsistencies that occur when trying to get to the facts in a decades-old ghost story? I suppose we may not ever really know for sure.
Guests also report the sound of footsteps throughout the Sorrento when no one is there and in the hotel's fine dining restaurant, The Hunt Club, guests have observed glasses moving by themselves in full view of everyone present. On a personal note, I was once offered a job at The Hunt Club many years ago but it was a breakfast shift so I respectfully declined the position. Had I known that the place was haunted, however, I might have somehow managed to drag myself out of bed at five in the morning. Then again, probably not, us ghost buffs tend to be night owls.
The Hotel Andra in Belltown is plagued by the ghostly sounds of a raucous party from the Prohibition era. The sounds of loud voices, breaking glass and the spectral strains of jazz music can be heard periodically emanating from somewhere upon the 9th floor. When hotel employees go to investigate, however, the noises abruptly cease only to start up again later when no one is around.
In one incident that occurred at the Andra, several guests looked on in amazement as a paperweight levitated above a desk and then came crashing down upon the glass-covered desktop. During the 1960's a worker fell to his death from the upper floors of the hotel that, as previously mentioned, was called The Claremont at the time. There is some speculation as to whether or not this man's ghost haunts the premises as well.
Colligate Institutions also seem to be prime real estate for ghostly activity, and at the University of Washington campus there are two distinctive locations each known for a separate haunting.
The first haunted area is the men's dormitory on Campus Parkway where the tortured spirit of a young student who attended the university in the late 1950's haunts an entire floor. Apparently the young man committed suicide in his dorm room in 1958 and his ghost has been encountered from time to time by students in the building ever since.
The second haunted spot at the UW is the Columns Amphitheater where an angry presence frightens visitors after dark. The entity's favorite target seems to be couples sitting together on benches. The invisible presence will shake the bushes next to where young lovers sit and will growl lowly if its warnings are not heeded. It is unclear whether this presence is a human ghost or some other form of entity, but one thing is clear, it certainly doesn't seem to appreciate visitors in its area, and many people are overwhelmed with a sense of foreboding upon entering this area.
The four huge columns that lend the amphitheater its name were taken from the original University of Washington building downtown and it's possible that this spirit, whatever it is, may have traveled with them. One theory that I myself am particularly fond of is that the presence is the ghost of a former student who was either unlucky or jilted in matters of the heart and now resents those who have found love. I am actually making plans to investigate this area late night with a digital camera as I live only a stone's throw from the campus. Something tells me, however, that I might have more to worry about from the pesky campus security than from any supernatural being.
The ghost of an eighteen-year-old boy haunts the Seattle Central Community College on Broadway. The young man attended high school in the building when it was Broadway High School in 1913. He was killed in a fight that took place after a basketball game in the gymnasium that was on the third floor at the time. Three independent psychic mediums have confirmed the boy's identity. At some point the ghost was nicknamed Burnley, referencing the Burnley School of Professional Art that occupied the building for many years. This is a bit of a misnomer though as the young man was killed decades before the Burnley school moved into the building in 1946. It was the owners of the Burnley school, however, who invited the three psychics to come and investigate the haunting. Over the years, students and faculty have observed the ghost of this young man as well as several other specters whose origins are unclear. Also, people have witnessed objects suddenly materializing out of thin air.
Taverns, bars, and nightclubs seem to attract ghosts as well. I know that for years the old Off Ramp club, currently called El Corazon in its latest incarnation, houses a particularly angry and malevolent spirit. The entity occupies the rooms above the main floor and has frightened many an employee over the years with its terrifying presence. It probably doesn't help matters that so much satanic music, rocking though it may be, has been performed at the club over the years. I remember going to after hours parties in the upstairs rooms and having a most unsettling feeling the whole time I was there. Then again since I was aware of the ghost story my shaky nerves may very well have been self-induced.
Of course, bodies of water seem to be another type of locale often rife with paranormal activity, and even our own little Greenlake has a resident phantom haunting its shores. The ghost is that of Sylvia Gaines, a young woman who was murdered by her father at the tender age of twenty-two in 1926. Her father had been raping her for some time and when Sylvia attempted to put a stop to the sexual assaults he killed her in a drunken rage and dumped her body into Greenlake. The point of land where her body was discovered is still known today as Gaines Point, and it is here that her apparition is sometimes sighted.
Also in the 1920's a shadowy form was said to be behind a series of kidnappings that occurred along the shores of Greenlake. While perhaps the work of a mortal man, possibly a serial killer, the tale abounds that the abductions were far more supernatural in nature. Whatever the case, none of the persons who went missing were ever found and the crimes remained unsolved to this day. Lastly, I impart to you the chilling tale of The Martha Washington Institute in South Seattle. During the 1940's or 50's, depending on who you ask, a janitor at this erstwhile woman's institution went nuts and slaughtered several of the female patients and staff members who resided there. He dragged their bodies to a small dock and began to dump them into the water when police appeared on the scene and subdued him. To this day the old institute and its surrounding grounds are said to be haunted, but whether by the victims or some other presence is unclear. Kids looking for a cheap thrill have reported being assaulted or having their movement impeded by an unseen presence, and scratch marks have appeared upon people's bodies testifying to the existence of some dark force. People who live in the area steer clear of the place claiming that it is cursed.
Well, there you have it, another batch of ghostly tales from right here in the Emerald City. The really scary thing is that I know about 20 more haunted places around town that I haven't even touched upon, places like the site of the Wah Mee massacre in the International District, for example, that are steeped with tragic history and filled with eerie energy. I suppose it just goes to show you that all around us, even right here at home, the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead is wearing thin...