The Haunted House aint what it used to be.
Back before the terror business became a $1.2 billion dollar seasonal industry in the United States, a haunted house was just that– a residence some warm people shared with someone else who was no longer living but who was still there. A ghost!
These days haunted houses are big money, with more than 1200 admission-charging attractions operating in the US alone. The domestic tradition goes back to the 1970s when the Jaycees pioneered the modern concept as a fundraiser. And though lots of communities (including ours) still feature attractions stewarded by schools and scouts, the for-profit crowd really got in the game in the 1990s. Today, the industry supports a frightful variety of manufactures & retailers, magazines, websites and trade shows. It is no longer commercially-viable to screw in a blacklight bulb and coax visitors to stick their hands into a bowl of cold spaghetti. To keep up with the Kruegers nowadays, you need Hollywood make-up artists, state-of-the-art hologram projection, hydraulics, and real fire. Maybe even a live alligator.
One can’t help wonder in this hi-tech market if some of the original old-school apparitions might feel a little bit left out this month, as the autumn winds come rattling through the single-pane windows of their forgotten haunts.
Bellingham has its share of legend and haunty folklore including some well-worn ghost stories. The Good Time Girls’ Gore & Lore tours of Fairhaven & Downtown feature lots of seasonally-appropriate tales (sorry, their Halloween tours have been sold out for weeks!). For generations, ghost rumors have swirled around the headstones of Bayview Cemetary, the booths of the Old Town Cafe, and what books are left in Western’s Wilson Library. The second floor of the Mt. Baker Theater is said to be haunted by a vampy ghostess who favors dashing leading men.
But the paranormal activity of Whatcom County isn’t necessarily limited to these well-publicized hotspots. Some reg’lar old real estate houses in town are said to be haunted, too. I said.
GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD
When the happy new owners of this ’70s contemporary in Tweed Twenty took occupancy of their home on a rainy Friday night in 2010, they were pleased to find their seller had commissioned a professional cleaner to shine the house up nice. It fairly sparkled in the December darkness as the ecstatic couple sipped champagne from paper cups with their equally giddy Realtor. There wasn’t so much as a square of toilet paper left in the house– unless you count the ziplock baggie of Nazi-era German coins lying in plain view on an eye-level shelf in the workshop. The seller later said she didn’t know anything about them, which left only one explanation– a poltergeist.
Not wanting to take any chances on the black metal, the new owners traded the coins in on a Persian rug and haven’t had any problems with ghosts or Nazis since.
In 2010, the historic Van Zandt House was moved from its original location at 1717 Eldridge Avenue to a 5,000sqft lot in the 2400 block of Utter Street, six blocks away. The property had just changed hands from only its third owner in a hundred years to its fourth, but the new masters were more interested in the home’s commanding presence on the bluff above the waterfront than in the 3,000sqft shingled marvel that Dr. Euclid Van Zandt commissioned in 1902. So they gave the house to a man who loaded it on a truck and moved it across the neighborhood.
The spectacle of a moving mansion drew quite a crowd, including two of the adult children of Allen family, who had grown up in the house. “It was strange to look up and see my bedroom moving down Broadway,” said Kathy. Her brother Terry added the house was “definitely” haunted. Peter Roberts of John L. Scott, who represented the buyer on Utter Street– the fifth owner in one hundred years– declined to comment on whether there’d been any bumps in the night since the house sold again a year ago.
DON’T SLAM THIS DOOR IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE SOUND OF SLAMMING DOORS
Professional House Whisperer Vera Runehugger from the Center for Deliverance Confirmation in Bakersfield, California told the owners of this Craftsman farmhouse in Birchwood that the ghost of the matriarch of a family of 14 children raised in the house didn’t like when the current residents quarreled with their three teenager daughters.
Every time the parents and their children would argue, the girls would storm out of the room and the ghost would slam the doors of their bedrooms behind them. “It really got our attention,” said the 52-year-old mother of three. “But I’m not sure it ever made things any better. God!“
REALTOR WANTED– SCARY!
Years ago, a friend messaged to tell me some local filmmakers were shooting a ghost movie at the forboding Kinnard Mansion on Eldridge Avenue and that one of the roles they were casting was for a Realtor. I showed up at the open audition and said I heard they were looking for a Realtor and asked them what type of house they were looking for. Confused, they asked me what kind of experience I had and told them I had several years in the business. Several. A series of de-clarifying clarifying questions were exchanged as they grew increasingly impatient. They filmed the whole thing. I thought fooling them into believing I thought they were actually looking to buy a house would get me the part, but I was quite humorlessly dismissed and I never heard from them again.
I have no idea if the mansion is haunted, or if the movie was ever made. But it is for sale. Again. See the virtual tour narrated by an actual ghost here
THIS PLACE. Of course. So haunted that even the next door neighbor has some residual haunting…
WOULD AN ENGINEERING DEGREE HELP ME MAKE A BETTER TACO?
The occupant of this log cabin also on Bellingham’s south side says the ghost of the refinery engineer that hovered around in the cabin was not only spooky but also prone to the munchies.
“I’d come home from the bars and make myself a burrito,” says Jay, who lived in the cabin on-and-off throughout the 1990s. “And then I’d take a nap. When I woke up the burrito was always gone.”
Sometimes the cabin ghost would also turn on the television on or leave cryptic late-night voicemails for Jay’s friends. Once it barfed on the porch.