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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Chris Bovey takes on ‘Spookane’s‘ creepy past

Chris Bovey's new print depicting Hagel's House of Horrors is shown.   (Courtesy)
By Chris Bovey For The Spokesman-Review

I grew up on 36th Avenue going door to door dressed as a Ninja Turtle. I recycled that costume for many years and am sure neighbors on the South Hill must’ve thought it was the hot ticket. I wasn’t really allowed to check out the local haunts.

It wasn’t till high school when I started to learn of “Spookane’s” creepy past.

I remember the teens talking about this place called 1,000 steps at Greenwood Cemetery. It’s an overgrown staircase with what looks like a mausoleum at the top.

The staircase was – maybe still is – a local rite of passage. Many people believe ghosts and spirits guard the staircase, preventing people from reaching the top. Several folks even claim to have seen and/or felt these ethereal entities while traipsing through the cemetery at night, challenging the keepers of the thousand steps. Oh, and the number of actual steps? 60-something.

One place that I only just recently found out about was Hagel’s House of Horrors. This was in an old substation on the West Plains and scared the pee-water out of folks from 1962 to 1993! So many Spookanites told me sordid tales out of there, from Igor’s butchery to Frankenstein, all with a professional scare factor to rival Hollywood.

Dale Hagel ran the haunted house for nearly 30 years and, amazingly, all proceeds went to charity during most of its operation. The Spokane County Food Bank, House of Charity, local parishes, various other organizations and families in need all benefited from the haunted house.

Hagel’s House of Horrors provided the community with arguably the best haunted house entertainment in the Spokane area. It was closed to the public in 1993 due to strict new fire safety regulations and costly improvements mandated by the Spokane County Fire Department. The Hagel family did not have the means to keep the charitable haunted house in operation.

My favorite local lore has to do with the Davenport Hotel, though.

I worked as a security guard in my early 20s and one of our sites was The Davenport (prior to the Worthy revamp). This was a spooky abandoned place to guard, and tales among the guys would circulate about their firsthand encounters. Some would report hearing ballroom music every Wednesday and others would report a bellhop who would push the elevator button to any floor you needed to go.

My favorite story was when a guard encountered a little girl who wanted to hold his hand and go on his rounds with him. He never saw her, but he came into a room where a cloud of dust kicked up and then he felt a smooth small hand in his. He asked out loud if she wanted to go on his rounds with him and she squeezed his hand.

The rest of the evening, he had an invisible tagalong who would squeeze his hand with any question he asked and then, just like that, another cloud of dust and she was gone.

Feel free to share your own sordid tales with me.