06 June 2011

Haunted Seattle - Spooked in Seattle Pioneer Square

On Saturday we had the first gloriously sunny and warm day of the year.  It was a long time coming and I was determined to get out and enjoy as much of it as possible.  Of course, being me this did not mean spending the day on the beach.  Instead I spent my morning and early afternoon walking to and from Ballard from a friend’s house and my evening taking the Spooked in Seattle ghost tour of Pioneer Square.  The tour lasted about two hours and there was a nice combination of walking and standing that was quite comfortable.

The tour began at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop down on the waterfront and walked over and down into Pioneer Square.  One of the first things that sets this tour apart from other local tours, like the Market Ghost Tour, is how recent some of the stories are.  Most of the other tours I’ve been on focus a lot on history – the times of the city’s founding, the Gold Rush, etc.  This tour had its fair share of history, but a lot of the stories were much more recent.  One of the first stories our guide, Ross, told us was about the Pioneer Square Hotel which was a flop house in the 1970s.  Pioneer Square is still a bit seedy, so it’s not difficult to imagine.  Apparently the hotel owner was allowing the homeless to stay in the hotel if they signed over their social security checks to him.  Sometimes those people would then die in the hotel and the owner, rather than reporting this, would bury the bodies in the basement and continue to collect their checks.  Apparently this pissed off their ghosts and some of them continue to haunt the building.

Another standout location from the tour was the Arctic Club Hotel.  This was a beautiful building that used to be a gentlemens club back at the turn of the century.  The tour led us into the hotel and up into the Northern Lights Room for some choice tidbits.  If you ever saw the Stephen King movie Rose Red, then you’ll recognize the stunning glass domed ceiling because the movie shot several scenes here.  Once we all got comfy Ross told us about Marion Zioncheck, a man who was a congressional rep in the mid-1930s.  Apparently he was a wild man of Charlie Sheen proportions, once drunkenly driving a car onto the White House lawn when he was in a hurry.  Zioncheck had his offices on the fifth floor of the building and during a scandalous re-election campaign plummeted to his death from the window of what is now room 517.  Though a suicide note was left, some members of Zioncheck’s family believe to this day that he was murdered.  We may never know the truth, but it is believed that Zioncheck’s ghost haunts his former offices and has been known to ride the hotel elevator.

The tour then wound its way through Occidental Square and stopped at the Seattle Fallen Firefighter Memorial.  The memorial was inspired by the 1995 Chinatown warehouse fire that claimed the lives of several firefighters when the building collapsed around them.  I vividly remember watching those events unfold on the local news and have an Uncle who’s a fireman, so it was something to see.  The lot where the warehouse once stood is now a dirt parking lot and there have been witnesses who have claimed to hear yelling and smell smoke at the location.

Another element that really made this tour fun was the proper use of multimedia.  A lot of ghost tours have binders of old pictures and maybe an old newspaper clipping or two.  This tour had the obligator binder of old photos, but the guide also had an iPad that he put to good use.  He was able to show us dozens of archive photos, play EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) recorded by his investigative group, and even show us video pertaining to relevant events.  It was quite eerie watching video of a performance artist’s rope snapping knowing that he then fell six stories to his death right across from where you’re standing – eerie, but really cool.

I would highly recommend this tour for anyone interested in hauntings and some of the darker bits of Seattle history.

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