The Ann Starrett Mansion on Clay Street hides years of stories within its walls. It’s the static that got owner Christian Andrews’ attention. (Jeannie McMacken/for Peninsula Daily News)

Spirits call Port Townsend home all year round

By Jeannie McMacken

For Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — On Halloween, we choose to be someone we aren’t.

We parade around town and go to parties in costumes and makeup, creating a different persona.

According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular adult costume this year is a witch, followed by vampires and zombies.

Dead people seem to be in vogue.

Port Townsend is said to be home to many departed souls, none of whom wear sheets as ghost costumes. They wander the streets, corridors, homes and undertown tunnels of the historic Victorian town day and night, making their presence known to locals and visitors when they want to be seen or heard , according to some.

“Port Townsend is listed as one of the top 20 most haunted locations in the country,” said Jeff Gardner, aka Grymm Depp, of Twisted History Tours, a paranormal investigation company and guide to the town’s haunted hot spots.

“Our Victorian “City of Dreams” became nightmares for many who met violent ends because of greed, crimes of passion, or, in the end, karma.” he said. “There are records of Native American curses and ship’s captains who would not sail here, calling us ‘hell town.’ ”

Port Townsend had a bad reputation back then. And, as the stories illustrate, many of these unfortunate souls didn’t leave. The potential ghosts include mischief-makers, meddlers and madams.

Gardner points to several locations of known paranormal activity uptown and downtown: Manresa Castle, the Palace Hotel, The Bishop Hotel, the Ann Starrett mansion, James & Hastings building, Waterman & Katz building, Holly Hill House, Rothschild House and Fort Worden. He says there are more than 25 spots that qualify as haunted.

According to Gardner, the most reported number of sightings happen at the Palace Hotel on Water Street. Guests and staff state they’ve had experiences on the second floor. A woman wearing a blue dress has been well-documented through oral histories and entries in guest books dating back to the ’40s.

“In the last two weeks there have been multiple reports of a lady in a red dress in the hallway near Room 5,” he reported. “The assumption is that she is Miss Genevieve, one of the hotel’s former ladies of the night.”

“She’s a benevolent, albeit mischievous, spirit,” he says.

Gardner, who also does Victorian restorations, said he had his own encounter with a not-too-happy entity.

“While working in one of the guest rooms in the Palace Hotel several years ago, I was standing on a ladder ready to remove an old light fixture. When I reached up to unscrew the bulb, the ladder was kicked out from underneath me. I fell to the floor. I was the only one in the room.”

Then it happened again.

“Someone in that room didn’t want it remodeled,” he chuckled.

“We have one that supposedly rings the bell in the old fire bell tower to warn us about some impending doom,” Gardner explained.

“Many people heard it ring before midnight several months ago. The next day, we had a small earthquake.”

Gardner’s advice: “If the bell tolls, head uptown. A tsunami might be coming.”

Tuning in to a frequency

Christian Andrews and his wife Cima purchased the Ann Starrett Mansion on Clay Street seven months ago. Christian was greeted with an unusual experience right after he moved in.

He related, “I had a shortwave radio plugged in downstairs. The first week after we moved in I heard a static noise, very loud around 2 a.m. I went down to find the shortwave was on, the volume was turned up. I turned it off. The next night the same thing happened.”

“After two night in a row, I finally unplugged it,” he said.

Special delivery

Before the construction of the Customs House, now the post office on Washington Street, the property was home to a cemetery. Records show that the dead were relocated to a grassy knoll behind the building, now the site of the Masonic Lodge on Jefferson St.

Apparently, not everyone got the message to move. Reports of odd happenings, moving shadows, physical encounters and phantom noises in the post office have been documented by Gardner and his team.

Ghost at work

Michael Langley and Greg Haapala of Miguelito’s Galleria on Water Street said they have experienced several instances of a ghost at work.

“Before we opened on Aug. 24, we started having strange things happen while getting the space ready,” said Langley.

“I’d place an item in a specific spot and then it would be moved someplace else. Greg or I never touched it.”

Motion sensors and surveillance systems haven’t revealed any clues. Haapala has noticed something out of the corner of his eye — a movement — now and then, but nothing’s there when he turns his head.

The two believe their ghost might be a former worker who wants to be involved in the orderly display of things.

“He’s mischievous and likes to come to work.”

Haapala recounted an incident involving an antique bronze Greek ring. He said the ring moved and then fell onto the floor. He put it back in its place, then it disappeared. It surfaced again in yet another place in the store.

“Nobody moved it, except the ghost.”

“Our sign keeps falling down. And we don’t know why,” said Langley.

“If we keep him happy, maybe he’ll keep moving things around for us. Spirits are welcomed here.”

Langley said, “I have nothing against ghosts.”

Luggage mischief

Salt Lake City author Kerrigan Byrne is a frequent Port Townsend visitor, attending writer’s workshops each year. She stays at the Water Street Hotel and has had a few unusual experiences.

Three years ago, upon returning from a workshop session, Byrne returned to her room to find a bath had been drawn for her. No one claimed responsibility.

“Last October, four of us were sharing a room. It was a tight fit so we put our luggage in the closet on the other side of the bathroom to make space in the main room,” she said.

Each time her group returned to the apartment, their luggage would be moved — either neatly placed or randomly tossed about the floor in the bathroom.

Byrne asked the front desk staff about it. They said no one would ever do that.

One evening, the group heard footsteps coming from the closet area and investigated to find the luggage had been moved yet again.

“This activity won’t stop us from staying there,” Byrne says. “We’ve named the ghost Mother Jones and we look forward to coming back to visit. Mother is kind of like an old friend now.”

Man in the gray flannel suit

Guests and employees at the Bishop Hotel have reported seeing a man in a gray suit with a hat standing in the corner of the main room. He stays long enough to be noticed, then disappears. They also mention the smell of his tobacco in a building that doesn’t allow smoking.

A repeat guest

Built in 1907, the Old Consulate Inn is a Victorian home where owners Cindy Madsen and Nathan Barnett welcome their guests, including one they’ve never personally seen named Annabelle.

In the summer of 2011, a friend encountered a female spirit dressed in white that revealed herself.

“The spirit said her name was Annabelle but she did not live here in life. She said this was one of her favorite places to visit, that she loves the house, and is thrilled that the new owners are putting new energy into it,” Madsen related.

Annabelle was happy that she could communicate with someone because she can’t talk with most people.

“Annabelle was in the corner, but I could not see or feel her,” said Madsen. “We asked her to keep bad spirits away. And she told my friend that she does, she protects the house.”

Barnett said four months ago, one of their new guests exclaimed, “You have spirits here, you know.”

The guest said that the house isn’t haunted and these are very happy spirits. They are protective and are very pleased that you’re here.

Barnett mentioned, “There was one predominant woman, dressed in white, possibly a servant who did not live in the house. She indicated to the guest that this place was one of her favorites and that she hangs out here periodically.”

Madsen and Barnett both find it curious that they heard the same story with the same language six years earlier.

Annabelle has not visited lately, to their knowledge.

Greg Haapala and Michael Langley of Migelitto Galleria on Water Street are pleased to welcome a spirit who helps tidy up the place when they aren’t looking. Jeannie McMacken/for Peninsula Daily News

Haunted Historian Jeff Gardner (aka Grymm Depp) studies a painting at the Palace Hotel. He believes she might be one of the ladies who worked there long ago. (Jeannie McMacken/for Peninsula Daily News)

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