Cold shivers on the back of your neck, stomach in knots, unexplainable phenomena, it must be Halloween—or election season.
If the latter isn’t scary enough for you, we’ve compiled a list of the spookiest places in the Northwest where you can channel your inner ghostbuster and learn a lot of sordid history along the way.
Tales of misty ghost trains, lumber barons and gold rushers all form the canon of Northwest ghost stories. From Tacoma to Skagway, the booming Klondike Gold Rush and burgeoning lumber industry of the late 1800s drew entrepreneurs of all stripes. Insane doctors, haunted mansions and deals gone bad echo in the buildings and alleyways of historic towns.
Whether you take a tour or go it alone, October is the perfect time to get out the rain gear and go traipsing with the ghosts of Northwest past.
MARKET GHOST TOURS
Seattle | www.seattleghost.com
This is a Pike Place Market staple. When the inlaws show up from Iowa, this is the tour you sign them up for. Not overly scary, but laced with enough Seattle historical detail to keep you interested for the hour and a half. A dark favorite was learning about the unique “treatments” of Dr. Linda Hazzard and her “patients.” Other interesting trivia includes the haunted Butterworth’s mortuary, the non-haunted original Starbucks, the hilarious “Mae West” and the tragic Princess Angeline.
PRIVATE EYE TOURS
Seattle | www.privateeyetours.com
While Scooby-Doo and the gang get the Mystery Machine, you get Jake, the trench-coated female tour guide, and her nondescript, white passenger van. Quite frankly, this tour is really spooky—especially when Jake asks point-blank, without a trace of humor, “So, do you believe in spirits?”
Expect the hair to rise on the back of your neck as she takes you all over town to some surprisingly haunted sites throughout the Seattle area. You’ll never look at the city the same again.
BILL SPEIDEL'S SEATTLE UNDERGROUND TOUR
Seattle | www.undergroundtour.com
Another classic tourist draw—but for good reason. Quick-witted guides take you through the condemned nether regions of Pioneer Square, sharing factual and not-so-factual tidbits of Seattle’s history. Although not a ghost tour per se, there are more than enough dark—and hilarious—tales to loosen even the most-stifled imagination.
PORTLAND WALKING TOURS
Portland | www.portlandwalkingtours.com
“Keep Portland Weird,” the bumper sticker proudly proclaims. If this tour is any indication, that shouldn’t be difficult. While most paranormal tours tend toward the theatrical with period costumes and lanterns, these guides hand out actual ghost-hunting equipment at the start of the tour and delve into research techniques of separating fact from fiction.
The best part: the 7 p.m. tour is specifically geared toward families and avoids touchy subject matter typical of most haunted tours.
Mount Hood, Ore. | www.timberlinelodge.com
Built in the late 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression, workers used axes to hand-hew giant Douglas-fir timbers into columns for this fascinating building. As the exterior location for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” the film often plays nightly at this rugged mountain destination. Although there is no “room 237,” the creaky floorboards and altitude will have you checking corners for Jack Nicholson. Be sure to bring your skis because “all work and no play…”
Port Townsend | www.manresacastle.com
It’s a rule: castles must be haunted. High on a hill overlooking Port Townsend, this century-old property was built by the original mayor and went through several incarnations, including a monastery, before becoming a hotel. Supposedly, rooms 202, 204 and 306 are haunted. Before you get the wrong idea, this is no rundown “Bates Motel.” Instead, it’s both quaint and haunted. Try a haunted honeymoon or anniversary.
Bellingham | www.fairhaven.com
There’s something about places with pleasant-sounding names that make perfect fodder for the macabre and “Fairhaven” is definitely no exception. Tales of resident ghosts, Spanish warships and even a ghost train are part of this bayside neighborhood’s lore. Wait for dusk and explore places like The Nelson Block, Finnegan’s Alley and the Quinby Building for historic haunts. Infamous town ne’er-do-well “Dirty Dan” gives walking tours by appointment.
Kitsap Peninsula | www.portgamble.com
Considered one of the most haunted towns in Washington by paranormal groups, this ultra cute period community on the northwestern shore of the Kitsap Peninsula is a U.S. Historic Landmark. When the leaves are changing, you’ll swear you died and went to Connecticut.
With an assortment of non-threatening apparitions, including one with an ear for classical music, Port Gamble hosts an annual Ghost Walk guided by the local museum curator on Oct. 2 and 9. Infrared cameras are encouraged.