By Scott Schaefer

Burien’s Highline Heritage Museum is full of historic local artifacts, and perhaps something (or someone) else, according to findings from a recent investigation.

The museum is located in a new building at 819 SW 152nd Street in Olde Burien that was opened in June, 2019, so it’s still nice, modern, fresh and clean – not what you’d consider to be “haunted,” at least from the looks of it.

However, workers, volunteers and even some visitors have reported numerous, strange goings-on at the museum, including:

    • The sound of footsteps when there’s nobody else around
    • Hearing music (like a symphony)
    • Books falling to the ground
    • Smelling cigar smoke
    • Being tapped on the shoulder
    • Feeling a presence or “cold” air
    • Hearing whispers
    • Eerie feelings in certain areas

A nearly four-hour visit on Sept. 17, 2022 by an investigation team from Advanced Ghost Hunters of Seattle-Tacoma (AGHOST) showed that there was “some kind of activity,” in various parts of the museum, including near a bench in the lobby area, in the storage/archive room, upstairs in the office area, hallway, and around the Burien artifacts collection.

AGHOST uses “ghost hunting” equipment to measure electromagnetic fields, motion, audio and more, as well as personal experiences from its investigators, led by ghost hunter Ross Allison.

In addition to Allison, the team included June Nixon, VP & Lead and Senior Investigator, Lisa London, Senior Investigator, Lorrie Conklin, Investigator, Jill Marie, Investigator, and Kelly Welker, Investigator in Training.

The AGHOST team prepares to investigate the Highline Heritage Museum on Sept. 17, 2022. Photo courtesy AGHOST.

Investigators are not briefed beforehand about any alleged activities at locations, so they go in “cold.”

Yet every investigator from the AGHOST team said they had an unusual, “personal experience” during that night’s session – some of which included unusual feelings of cold as well as others.

For example, three members of the team said they heard distinct footsteps walking on the roof. Lead investigator Allison climbed up to the roof to investigate, but found nobody there and no explanation for the noise.

“At first it was thought to be the wind, but the footsteps seemed to walk back and forth,” he said. “Every investigator heard this. Even with the wind blowing at times, the footsteps were heard. No explanation for it, could not debunk.”

The team spent around four hours observing in the museum, often sitting silently, focused with equipment at stations throughout the building.

As one investigator was standing near a viewpoint on the upper floor, she said she felt a very cold presence caress her face.

“She said to her it felt like a hand lightly touching her,” the report said.

Another one was positioned close to the stairs, and swears she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. When she turned around, no one was there.

And another investigator swears she also felt a tap on her shoulder by the Native American exhibit.

Unusual “EMF spikes” were recored near an historic “principal’s bench” in the lobby area, that was once used in a local school for kids waiting to see the principal.

“The only unexplained spikes were by the bench in the lobby area,” their report states. “Very high EMF readings that would disappear – not able to explain this.”

A ghost investigator sits surround by “Script Spheres.” Photo courtesy AGHOST.

Script Spheres (ping pong balls with letters and numbers on each ball) along with Motion Sensitive balls that light up when touched were also used by the team. These tools were used to see if there are any disturbances of the lights or any movement of the balls. The teams ask questions to see if they get any responses or if any of the balls are moved or touched.

AGHOST said that several investigators sat in the middle of the motion sensitive balls, and while asking questions different balls would go off (the only way they are supposed to light up is if someone touches them).

“So no explanation for that.”

As Lisa sat in the middle of a circle of motion sensitive balls, she thought she heard shuffling behind her. She did not move and several of the balls started lighting up.

A Teddy Bear with a sensor was placed around exhibits, in case the alleged spirits included children. Photo courtesy AGHOST.

At the end of the investigation, lead investigator Allison had all team members gather, and they conducted a group Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) session, taking turns asking questions to see if they get responses.

“Using the lantern EMF reader, there were several interactions.”

Highline Heritage Museum Executive Director Nancy Salguero McKay shared her theory based on some of her own experiences as a museum curator and director with over 20 years’ experience handling historic artifacts.

“When dealing with objects, there’s been many times that when I open a box, I immediately feel something,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s paranormal activity or something else, but I just know that there’s an essence or presence you feel with things,” and added that it could be “maybe the land, maybe something that was there before?”

Investigator June Nixon responded:

“One thing about it is I think with these objects that somebody really loved or coveted, nothing bad or evil…these were objects that people usually loved. There might be one or two or three people hanging around without bodies, because they love their stuff. It’s kind of nice that they know that some of the things they love, that something of them is going on…”

In conclusion, investigator Nixon said that unusual, “ghostly” experiences aren’t necessary connected to death or to someone who died at the location. It may be attributed to energy that might be attached to an artifact, for example…or, something else yet to be determined entirely (spooky quantum activity? inter-dimensional/multiverse?).

Below is a video recap with AGHOST’s Nixon and McKay from the museum about the September investigation (McKay shares her personal experiences at 32:21, including how she can feel a presence near her due to her having hearing difficulties):

AGHOST says they were “thrilled to investigate this wonderful, organized museum; everyone (staff and volunteers) were extremely helpful and kind. Everyone on the AGHOST team would like to come back to see what else they can capture, very comfortable there.

“So many incredible artifacts, also. Definitely a favorite of AGHOST. Believe there just might be something there, but very friendly. Might be attached to some of the artifacts or the land.”

Have you yet visited the museum? Now you may have another reason to!

The Highline Heritage Museum began when an organization called the Burien Heritage Society was founded in 1994. The Society soon merged with the Friends of the Highline School District and acquired their large collections. Later acquisitions of the archives of The Highline Times and thousands of articles of local community history have made founding a regional heritage museum imperative. At that time the name was changed to “Highline Historical Society” to reflect the region that the several hundred thousand 3-dimensional objects, photos, slides, films, and documents represent.

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AGHOST is a volunteer paranormal research organization focused on providing education, training and community outreach through scientific investigation, data collection and analysis.

Our goal is to help those who may be experiencing a haunting and wish to learn more about this phenomenon. During our investigations we work with high-tech equipment and tested psychics to learn as much as possible about the home or business. Our research team works together to help clients better understand their ghostly encounters.

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