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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Is it haunted? Spokane businesses offer glimpses into rumors, legends of ghosts

Oct. 28, 2022 Updated Fri., Oct. 28, 2022 at 5:55 p.m.

By Kip Hill and James Hanlon The Spokesman-Review

Restaurant owner JJ Wandler was skeptical about the existence of “Veronica.” Until he met her himself.

Before opening the Bad Seed, a Tex-Mex watering hole that pays tribute to its bibliophile background with book giveaways and novel names for cocktails, Wandler met with a health inspector familiar with the building. She asked him if he had met Veronica yet.

“I said, ‘No, is she someone in the neighborhood?’” recalled Wandler, who opened the restaurant in the old Hillyard library building last September. “She said, no, there’s a ghost in your basement.”

Wandler said he was skeptical, and hadn’t yet had any run-ins with a presence that’s now well-known among staff at the restaurant. With tables and chairs, a bookshelf bar tap and kitchen on the library’s main floor, where adults and children gathered for more than five decades to browse the collection, Wandler set up his office in the basement. It was in a tiny room, with a bare light bulb and no windows.

He was alone one night, working in that office after the restaurant closed, when he saw a shadow drift across the concrete wall in front of him.

“I looked around behind me, and there’s nobody there,” Wandler said.

At first, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him. But then it happened again.

“I shut everything down and left. I was done for the day,” Wandler said. “Shortly after, I said, I’m just pulling my office out of there.”

Wandler’s experience wasn’t unique. In his 2018 book “Haunted Hillyard: The History & Folklore of Spokane’s Oldest Suburb,” local ghostologist Chet Caskey interviewed a former business owner in the building and a Spokane historical librarian who mentioned feeling an ominous presence in the basement.

One of Wandler’s former employees, a man, said every time he walked up the stairs from the basement he felt an otherworldly tug at the back of his shirt.

“Most everyone who’s worked there has had some sort of experience,” Wandler said.

Wandler didn’t ask where the “Veronica” name came from.

The restaurant has acknowledged Veronica’s presence in social media posts, including a planned costume contest during a Halloween party on Monday night in which the visitor with the best costume representation of Veronica will walk away with a $100 gift card. The stories have attracted some interested podcasters and psychic mediums, Wandler said, including one bar patron who witnessed Veronica herself.

Wandler was telling a woman at the bar about his experiences one day.

“I said most of all the experiences happen in the basement,” he said. “And at that moment, a large oil painting fell off the wall on the other side of the bar.”

A sign that greets customers warns them not to taunt the ghost. Wandler, himself, greets Veronica by name every time he enters the basement. Just in case.

“There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to believe any supernatural stuff, which wants to deny it,” he said. “But the evidence is in.”

A hand from Bing?

The Bing Crosby Theater is listed on a ghostly downtown walking tour of Spokane, but Nickie White, executive director of the Friends of the Bing, isn’t exactly sure why.

“I’ve had people come in and say they experience all kinds of different energies,” White said. “I can’t say that I personally have.”

An oft-repeated story says a woman, forlorn that her lover didn’t appear to abscond with her to Seattle, threw herself off the balcony, died of a heart attack or fell, and still haunts the place, which was then known as the Clemmer Theater. When the story is told, it’s almost never accompanied by supporting evidence, though.

White said staff do at times appeal to the ghost of Bing Crosby, the crooner for whom the theater is named and who performed there early in his career in the early 1920s.

“We had a piece of equipment that was built in the ‘60s, which was key to what we were doing with our light system,” she said.

Staff believed the equipment to be dead, but invoked Bing to intervene before plugging it back in, and it worked, White said.

“We like to think Bing comes and visits us,” she said. “This is his home. Spokane’s his home.”

Ghost light shines at The Fox

The art deco Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox sometimes makes lists of haunted places, but these accusations are completely made up, box office manager Joshua Schulz said.

The only ghost at the theater, he joked, is a “ghost light” – the term for a theater light that is always left on for safety.

“We don’t bill ourselves as a haunted theater,” he said.

First opened as a Fox movie theater in 1931, it closed in 2000 before reopening after extensive renovations in 2007. It was renamed in honor of a Spokane pioneer railroad builder after his daughter, Myrtle Woldson, donated $3 million toward its restoration. Today the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned and operated by the Spokane Symphony.

Although there may not be any real ghosts, the Fox still joins the Halloween spirit as the Spokane Symphony will play “The Music of Harry Potter and Other Halloween Favorites” this weekend.

She fell through the skylight

Downtown’s landmark Historic Davenport Hotel is the location of several persistent ghost stories – a fact the hotel does not shy away from.

Ally Boone, a front desk supervisor, said employees working the night shift have reported the apparition of woman in a white dress wandering the mezzanine above the lobby.

The figure is thought to be the ghost of Ellen McNamara, a guest from New York who fell to her death through the lobby skylights on the evening of Aug. 17, 1920.

“It is believed that she tried to cross the court by way of the skylight, thinking the glass strong enough to bear her weight,” The Spokesman-Review reported at the time.

“I haven’t seen her personally, but I believe it,” Boone said.

Louis Davenport, the founder who lived and died in the hotel he loved, is also seen on a regular basis.

Those encounters are always playful and benevolent, according to a flyer from the front desk. “You could say the Davenport Hotel sill has Mr. Davenport’s ‘spirit of service,’” it says.

Boone said Davenport’s old room and the Circus Room are frequently reserved by ghost seekers.

Normal school dorms in Cheney

Some of the oldest buildings on Eastern Washington University’s campus used to dormitories for State Normal School at Cheney.

Completed in 1916, Monroe Hall now houses Africana and Chicano studies departments.

George Morales, a student who works in the building, said he has heard the building is haunted.

“So far I haven’t seen anything to make me believe that,” he said.

Staff in the building’s Center for Academic Advising and Retention had not heard of the building being haunted and haven’t experienced anything unusual.

An article on spokanehistorical.org, a project of the Public History program at EWU, notes enduring urban legends that Senior Hall is haunted with creeks and groans sometimes heard at night, but there is no evidence of deaths in the building. “Modern belief is that the sounds were simply those of an old building cooling down, which triggered overactive imaginations, particularly among overworked graduate students.”

Organ music heard inside Gonzaga mansion

Legends of supernatural phenomena in Gonzaga University’s Music Building date at least back to 1975, when local media, including the Gonzaga Bulletin, investigated and reported on several unexplained incidents that had occurred over the previous six months. These included staff and students hearing strange noises, even organ music when no one was playing. Father Walter Leedale, a music professor, blessed the building in a prayer ritual.

Built in 1898 as a residence for James Monaghan, an early supporter of Gonzaga, the school acquired the mansion in 1942 and it has served as the home to the music department ever since, according to Gonzaga’s website.

But it isn’t haunted, music program assistant William Barton said.

“It’s a question that comes up every once in a while,” he said. “Rumors have circulated for decades, but we try to quash those rumors.”

There are examples of incidents that have startled people over the years, he said, but “half of those were just students messing around.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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