SPOKANE, Wash. — The Davenport Hotel is the queen hostelry of Eastern Washington’s Inland Empire. Built in 1914, the 283-room hotel hosted presidents and kings and dignitaries from around the world. When it closed in 1985, however, it was a mere shadow of its former grandeur, and many wistful Spokane citizens feared it was destined for demolition.
New, local owners came to the rescue, and in 2002, the Davenport reopened after a total renovation. Yet one element of the old hotel persisted: a ghost.
As communications director Tom McArthur explains, the woman wanders around the mezzanine above the grand lobby, dressed in the fashion of the 1920s, seeming to look for someone or something as she peers over an ornate wrought-iron railing. Then, she appears to vanish into thin air.
Intrigued, one enterprising employee searched through local newspaper records and discovered that in August 1920, a visitor from New York had walked through a third-floor doorway and fallen to her death through the skylight above the lobby. Ellen McNamara’s last puzzled words, uttered to an attending physician, were: “Where did I go?” Perhaps, said McArthur, she’s still seeking an answer to that question.
“Since we discovered her story,” McArthur said, “I’ve placed a rose at the hearth every Aug. 17 to remember, not that Mrs. McNamara died here, but to remember that she lived here. We take good care of our visitors, whether from this side or the other.”
McNamara may not be the only ghost in the Davenport. The hotel’s namesake and original owner, Louis Davenport, died in the hotel he loved and is said to make occasional playful but friendly appearances.
With a little research, I discovered no fewer than 30 inns in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that claim to be haunted. Although I have yet to confront a phantom myself, I’m willing to reserve judgment about things I don’t understand. Here are some of my favorite ghost stories: Be careful where you lay your head.
Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B
Rue, the “Lady in Gray,” was the wife of an assistant light keeper in the 1890s. When her young daughter drowned while playing on the beach below the lighthouse, Rue killed herself in despair. Today, legend says she haunts the lighthouse and the adjacent caretakers’ cottage, now a bed and breakfast. Innkeeper Steven Bursey even makes a point of introducing her story to guests on his historical tour of the property.
Every keeper since the 1950s, and many guests, have reported friendly encounters with Rue on the grounds and the stairs. She is often seen looking out the attic window with a sad expression on her face, Bursey said. Objects are moved or missing, lost tools reappear in strange places, closed cupboards are found open, rat poison has disappeared from the attic.
Bursey confirmed one widely reported story that took place in the 1970s. A laborer cleaning attic windows saw a strange reflection in the glass. When he turned and perceived a lady with silver hair, in a gray dress, seeming to float above the floor, he screamed and fled, terrified. Thereafter, he refused to return to the attic. Months later, the worker accidentally broke an attic window from outside the building, but refused to climb the stairs to clean up the glass. That night, the couple who lived in the keepers’ house heard scraping sounds from upstairs, and the next morning found shards of glass swept into a neat pile in the corner of the attic.
It makes sense that a group proud of its historic preservation efforts would have its share of ghosts. The White Eagle Hotel, in Portland’s Albina District, opened in 1905 as a bar and boarding house, and popular lore paints it as a den of iniquity that included a brothel and opium den in its early years. New psychic events are regularly reported, according to a McMenamins source who asked to remain anonymous. Objects fly across rooms. Employees smell smoke and cheap perfume at the empty bar.
McMinnville’s Hotel Oregon, built in 1905, has a resident gentleman ghost known as “John.” He’s said to be an affable fellow, frequently seen on the first two floors of the hotel. And both the Grand Lodge, in Forest Grove, and the Olympic Club, in Centralia, Wash., also claim ghost sightings.
But the most haunted of McMenamins properties may be Edgefield, in Troutdale. The old Multnomah County poorhouse and farm housed not only the indigent, but also the elderly, disabled and mentally challenged, in the early 20th century. A nursing home after World War II, it was purchased in the 1980s by the McMenamin brothers, who refurbished the complex as the corporate flagship.
Both in the farm’s administration building (which now has a few lodging rooms) and in the main lodge (formerly a hospital, now a 100-room hotel), guests claim to have had their hair played with and their feet tickled. Footprints appear and disappear on the wooden floors. Some say they’ve been serenaded by a flutist or a woman reciting nursery rhymes. In the Edgefield winery, occupying the basement beneath the old infirmary, a nurse has been seen wandering the halls. The McMenamins spokesperson said a majority of encounters take place here.
Other specters include a child in white, perhaps an administrator’s daughter who died young, wandering the grounds; a woman, also dressed in white, peering through windows; and a man in tattered clothing. There are even ghost cats and ghost dogs. In Room 215, in fact, guests have reported a cold nose being shoved into their faces as they sleep.
Geiser Grand Hotel
The spirits seem to have a particularly good time at this 19th-century hotel, once a high-class stopover for travelers between Portland and Salt Lake City. Considered the finest hotel in the Northwest when it was built in 1889, it reopened in 1997 after a three-decade closure.
The most frequently reported sighting is of a woman with long dark hair and wearing a long blue gown. Management calls her “the Lady in Blue.” Other women, dressed in flapper-era fashion of the 1920s, have often been seen looking over the dining room from a balcony, where they laugh and sip champagne. “Not a week goes by that I don’t get some kind of report,” said owner Barbara Sidway.
“Most of the reports of activity occur between midnight and 4 a.m.,” said Sidway, who purchased the hotel with her husband, Dwight Sidway, in 1993 and undertook an extensive renovation before reopening. “The first night we slept in the hotel, before it was open, I was awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of a party. I heard the conversation, the laughter, the clinking of glasses, the soft music. I know a party when I hear one. I put my ear to the wall and I could feel the vibration of the music.
“I told my husband, ‘Somebody’s broken in. We need to deal with this.’ At my insistence, he searched the entire hotel and found nobody. In the months after that, I began to hear reports of the same thing from guests, employees, even bartenders who worked here in the years before the closures.
“At that time, I didn’t attribute it to ghostly activity, but by now, I do.
“There are many aspects of the world that continue to amaze me. I’m certainly not one to scoff. The fabulous thing about the ghosts is they really don’t frighten anybody. They just want to have fun.”
Sidway said the Geiser Grand has engaged a team of paranormal investigators for an ongoing series of visits, most recently on Halloween night, and again on Nov. 22. For $50 a head, amateur ghost hunters can join a small group trying to contact the hotel’s spirits. “They’re really quite serious,” Sidway said.
Ghosts have been reported in many of downtown Portland’s fine old hotels, including the Benson and the Governor, but the elegant Heathman has the most unusual story. Its ghost haunts only rooms that end with “03,” from Room 303 up through 1003.
Room 703 is a particular target of the poltergeist, confirmed sales coordinator Amanda Soden. Guests return, after a few hours out, to find clean towels used, furniture moved, a full glass of water on the desk. A check with the front desk indicates that no one has used the electronic key to get into the room, and over the years, this has occurred with surprising frequency. A visiting psychic, who claimed to have seen a ghost at the end of her bed in Room 803, suggested that someone jumped to his or her death from Room 1003, and now is haunting every room passed on the way down, Soden said.
Port Townsend, Wash.
Built in 1892 as the home of Charles Eisenbeis, Port Townsend’s first mayor, this 30-room Gothic palace later was a Jesuit monastery between 1927 and 1968. Two ghosts, in particular, have been associated with the Victorian-style inn.
According to one story, a severely depressed priest hung himself from the ceiling of the tower room (302). Guests in that room have reported hearing footsteps or the sound of a strained rope, and one claimed to have seen a man in a black hooded robe standing over his bed. Another story tells of a young woman who leaped from a window of Room 306 to her death, after learning that her lover had been lost at sea. Guests in this room insist they have perceived a woman dressed in early-20th-century wear, staring out toward the waterfront.
“These are the two main ghosts that everybody knows about,” said Ashley Con, a night-shift desk clerk since March. “We’ve been told there are other ghosts that come and go. We had a psychic from Virginia who came here on vacation, so she was ignoring the ghosts, but they wouldn’t let her. They kept ringing her phone when nobody was calling her. She said they told her other spirits pass through the Manresa Castle all the time, almost like it’s a hotel for ghosts.”
There are reports of doors opening and closing, lights and televisions turning themselves off and on, voices, odd lights, strange odors, and pictures suddenly falling off walls. One former owner cast aspersions on these stories, insisting they were all the invention of an imaginative bartender. But that doesn’t explain why glasses sometimes mysteriously shatter — in patrons’ hands.
Rosario Resort & Spa
Orcas Island, Wash.
Alice Rheem was a woman with a reputation, and she did nothing to hide it. Her husband, California industrialist Donald Rheem, purchased this private mansion in Washington’s San Juan Islands in 1938, perhaps as a place to hide Alice and her drinking habit. According to Rosario Resort historian Christopher Peacock, Alice caused quite a stir in the nearby village of Eastsound, arriving on her Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a flaming red nightgown, playing a few hands of cards around the potbelly stove at the general store before returning home. Sometimes, when her husband was away, she brought young men back to the estate, where before many years passed, she died, the victim of alcoholism.
From all indications, Alice is still around in this hotel, now closed and undergoing extensive renovation. Guests have heard the footsteps of a woman walking in high heels and heard the sounds of passionate lovemaking from vacant rooms. “Her former bedroom definitely has the most energy,” said Peacock. There has even been a report, Peacock said, of Alice riding her motorcycle down the second-floor hallway.
Thornewood Castle Inn and Gardens
Thornewood Castle just feels haunted. The filming location for the 2002 television mini-series “Rose Red,” based on a Stephen King novel, the three-story, 27,000-square-foot English manor was completed in 1911 by Chester Thorne, a co-founder of the Port of Tacoma. Sixteenth-century European bricks and 13th-century stained glass went into the construction of the mansion, which hosted presidents and other dignitaries in its 54 rooms, including 22 bedrooms.
Thorne died in 1927, but he and his wife, Anna, apparently still live in spirit at their beloved Thornewood. Chester has often been seen about, and in his former room, light bulbs are often found to be unscrewed, according to owner Deanna Robinson. Anna is seen sitting in a window seat of her room, gazing at the garden, and her reflection is seen in an original mirror.
Tragically, a youngster who drowned in the lake in the 1970s is also still around; guests occasionally see a small boy standing alone by the lake, and rush to the water’s edge only to find no one there. “That’s a true story,” said Robinson. “I always run down and look myself, but there’s never anyone there.” The child’s mother, Robinson said, still lives in the Tacoma area.
Oregon Caves Chateau
In 1937, a young couple celebrated their honeymoon at Oregon Caves National Monument and stayed in Room 310 at the chateau. The husband wasted no time in proving himself unfaithful: Elizabeth, his wife, caught him in a tryst with a hotel maid. Devastated, Elizabeth took her own life, probably by hanging herself from the heating pipe. But she’s still around.
Guests in Room 310 report unpacking their luggage and leaving the room, only to find everything packed up again when they return. There’s pacing in the hallway at night; cold breezes blowing through the room when the windows are closed; objects flying off shelves; doors opening and closing on their own; loud sobbing from a linen closet across the hall. During the winter off-season, furniture in the room has been completely rearranged to its 1937 appearance, or even removed from the room to the corridor outside. And the baby grand piano in the chateau lobby has been known to play by itself.
Other Northwest haunts
For the devoted ghost hunter, here are a few more places to touch a spirit.
Ola Bell lives in Room 319 of the renovated Hood River Hotel in Hood River. The only thing is: Ola died in 1942. Owner of the hotel for the 35 years prior to her death, she still is occasionally heard and seen walking the hallways and making guests feel welcome, says sales coordinator Ramona Dyer.
The resident ghost at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel, in Boise, lives in Room 136. Numerous hotel guests have seen her, and at least one claims to have spoken with her, according to reviews on the Tripadvisor.com Web site.
In her 1995 book “Ghost Stories From the Pacific Northwest,” author Margaret Read MacDonald reports that the Carson Mineral Hot Springs Resort, on the Washington side of the Columbia River, has a 1901 hotel in which its builder, Isadore St. Martin, died after being stabbed. His distraught wife, she wrote, still wanders the hallways and “helps” the housekeeping staff. And MacDonald said that the Hot Lake Springs Resort, just outside of La Grande, has a resident phantom piano player, and occasional screams may be heard from a former sanitarium surgery room.
In Oregon, other reports of haunting come from the Crater Lake Lodge; the Wheeler Hotel, near Nehalem; the Old Welches Inn, on the Mount Hood highway; and the Wolf Creek Inn, an old stagecoach stop south of Roseburg.
In Washington, check out the Captain Whidbey Inn in Coupeville; the Harvest House B&B in Prosser; the Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbor; the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle; the Skykomish Hotel in Skykomish; and the St. Helens Manor House in Morton.