Peninsula's history includes tales of ghosts and apparitions
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Edel Sokol stands on the historic, vertigo inducing and perhaps haunted spiral staircase inside the Ann Starrett House in Port Townsend. -- Photo by Erik Hidle/Peninsula Daily News

By Marcie Miller
Peninsula Daily News

While there are several locations on the North Olympic Peninsula to experience a Halloween haunted house this weekend, there are other places that are said to be haunted year round.

The Victorian seaport city of Port Townsend has a triad of haunted houses, with ghostly goings on reported regularly at the Palace Hotel, Manresa Castle and Ann Starrett Mansion. All three buildings date back to the city's heyday period of the late 1800s.

While those days are gone, it seems some residents still linger.

The Palace Hotel on Water Street reports so many paranormal activities that they keep a "ghost book" in which guests record their experiences.

"I have never been more scared in my life than while I stayed at your hotel," one entry reads.

The main ghost walking the halls seems to be a woman, thought to either be connected to a large portrait that hangs in the hotel, called "Lady in Blue," or to one of the past occupants.

The ghost version has been said to prefer the second floor of the hotel, which has a colorful past as a brothel.

She has been reported by several guests in Room 4, known as Miss Claire's room, for the "painted lady" who used to occupy the room.

Cindy Winslow has worked as a receptionist at the hotel for three years and said she has not personally experienced anything out of the ordinary.

"It's so cozy here that you don't think of it as being scary," she said. "It must be a nice ghost."

The hotel is in the Capt. Henry Tibbals building at 1004 Water St. and was built in 1889.

The identity of the woman in the large portrait, dressed in turn of elegant 19th century costume, is unknown.

And the ghost isn't talking.


Haunted B&B

For just short of $1 million, you can own a piece of Port Townsend history that comes with a ghost.

The Ann Starrett Mansion at 744 Clay St., is for sale and reported to be haunted by a woman with red hair.

Owner Edel Sokol has not seen her in 25 years of owning the mansion, which also dates to 1889, but there are enough sightings to keep the story alive.

"A women's group this year reported seeing her floating down the stairs, and there is a no trespassing sign on those stairs," she said.

While Sokol doesn't personally believe in such apparitions, she doesn't rule them out entirely.

"If you want to see one, you'll see one," she said. "How can you dispute something you haven't experienced?"

The imposing Manresa Castle seems ready-made for ghostly inhabitants, and two people are said to have died there: a priest who hung himself in Room 302 and a distraught woman who jumped from a window in Room 306.

The Greek revival-style castle was built in 1892 and has been a private home, Jesuit college and hotel.

A Manresa bartender said he made up the fanciful stories about suicides in rooms 302 and 306 to entertain his patrons.

But Michelle Paden, front desk clerk and housekeeping supervisor, said guests have reported being tugged on while they were sleeping, light fixtures swaying, thumping sounds overhead, and other unexplainable events . . . most often in rooms 302 and 306.

Guests this past summer reported taking pictures that showed "complete clean orbs or mist in pictures taken on a dry, clear night," she said, reading from a journal the hotel keeps.

While many guests come looking for ghosts, others are taken by surprise.

"I've had people come here not knowing it's haunted, but then ask [about ghosts] when they leave because they felt something," she said.

Ghosts underground

Port Angeles doesn't seem to have the ghostly reputation that its Victorian cousin to the east does, but it's not without its spooky happenings.

Don Perry, who gives guided tours of the Port Angeles Underground, said a group of paranormal investigators from Vancouver, Wash., visited this summer to see what they could turn up.

The underground area spans the downtown from Laurel street on the east, Oak street on the west, Front street to the north and First street to the south, and was street level before it was raised on pilings to its present level in 1914.

The group from SPOOKS -- or Scientific Paranormal Observation Of Kinetic Spirits -- brought paranormal sensing equipment along.

Perry said they reported capturing an image of faces staring back through windows of the underground with camera equipment.

What Perry saw on the screen was less distinct.

"I told them, 'I'm a skeptic, but that looks out of the ordinary,'" he said.

The group said they were coming back for further exploration, but he has not heard from them.

Perry has probably spent more time than anyone in the underground, as he leads tours of the downtown which include the subterranean path twice a day year round.

If there were ghosts in any building in town Family Shoe Store, at 130 W. Front St., seems a likely candidate. It's the oldest building still standing in downtown Port Angeles, built in 1913.

The building was a haven for bootleggers during prohibition and the second floor was a brothel until 1942.

It's been in the family of owner Kevin Thompson for four generations, but he said he has never heard any reports of ghostly occupants.

"But then, I haven't spent the night here," he said.

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Features Editor Marcie Miller can be reached at 360-417-3550 or marcie.miller@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 30. 2009 12:37AM
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