EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a rerun of a story we originally published in 2010:
By Joanne Dyer
You know random and creepy bits of trivia about buildings you’ve never been in. You’re dying to see George the friendly ghost who “lives” at the now-closed Landmark on the Sound. You can even explain exactly what “EVP” means.
Congratulations: you’ve been bitten by the Ghost Hunting bug!
And you have a lot of company.
Ghost hunting’s popularity has come and gone over the years, but it seems to be on the upswing, according to Des Moines resident, Author, and ghost hunting expert Joe Teeples. Teeples has written two books on ghost hunting and has been chasing weirdness since 1970.
“I’m probably one of the most skeptical people you’ll find,” Teeples told our sister site The Waterland Blog in a recent interview.
“I’ve yet to have that moment when a huge beast with 666 on its forehead jumps out at me. But I’ve seen enough to make me wonder,” he said.
His scariest moment?
“It takes a lot to rattle me,” Teeples admitted. But after one seemingly unremarkable investigation was completed, he was later surprised to see the videotape of a black shadow clinging to the ceiling and looking right at him. He saw and felt nothing at the time.
Many ghost hunters take a skeptical-but-interested point of view, much like Teeples’. Local groups like Puget Sound Ghost Hunters and A.G.H.O.S.T. (Advanced Ghost Hunters of Seattle-Tacoma) explore paranormal activity via psychics or “sensitives,” EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena), photography, video, or energy measurements.
Sometimes the findings are inconclusive or, well, kind of boring, like when the investigators and instruments detect nothing paranormal.
And the TV ghost hunters’ shrieking and wisecracking?
“It interferes with the EVP. We don’t do that,” Teeples said. “Those TV shows are designed to sell coffee and aspirin,” he added.
Locally, some spirit activity is reported in Burien. Highline Hospital (now St. Anne Hospital) is said to be haunted, though Stephanie Davisson, president of Puget Sound Ghost Hunters, has not found much evidence there.
A young boy is rumored to have hanged himself at the former Lakeside Milam Recovery Center on Ambaum Blvd. SW, and reports of his ghost wandering the halls used to circulate. Since the building’s remodel, unusual activity seems to have stopped, according to Stephanie.
IS DES MOINES LANDMARK ON THE SOUND HAUNTED BY “GEORGE”?
Des Moines is reported to have several ghosts, including the famous George, said to haunt the Landmark on the Sound building’s fifth floor. Freemasons – a group mysterious and secretive in its own right – built the Landmark as a retirement home in 1926 (click here for more details about this fascinating building from our sister site The Waterland Blog).
DOES A LITTLE GIRL HAUNT DES MOINES BEACH PARK EVERY JAN. 7TH?
Des Moines Beach Park is probably the most well-known hot spot for ghosts in Des Moines, enough so that we’ll be posting a separate story on that soon.
Another reported local ghost is allegedly at Salon Michelle on Marine View Drive South.
Diehard skeptics might compare paranormal reports to seeing faces in clouds–the mind imagines and projects what it wants to see and hear. Stephanie explained that she tries to rely on her senses rather than her imagination.
“I look for the logical first,” Stephanie said, explaining that she often looks to a building’s plumbing to explain thumps, for example.
What some see as spirit orbs – balls of light in photos – can be simply glare, bugs, dust, or digital blips. A sensitive once told Stephanie that she didn’t believe an investigated house held spirits, but that psychotherapy might cure the “manifestations” the family was experiencing.
Which is to say, evidence is in the proverbial eye of the beholder. But the desire to connect with deceased loved ones or with other worlds, real or imagined, seems nearly universal and timeless.
“Edison was working on a way to communicate with the dead,” Teeples pointed out. And according to the Highline Historical Society, early Native Americans living in Three Tree Point believed its waters to be haunted by a mythical serpent with the front legs and antlers of a deer. The bluffs above the water were said to be haunted by great snakes that triggered avalanches.
And of course, with the darkening skies, spiders and fallen, dying leaves, it seems a lot easier to believe in ghosts this time of year.