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 , 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”