I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Pike Place Market Ghost Tour. Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and has long been one of Seattle’s “must see” destinations for tourists and locals alike.
Our tour guide Michele was both knowledgeable and entertaining. First stop was IL Bistro a long-established Italian restaurant with a reputation for dining room ghosts. Every building in Pike Place Market has been used for assorted purposes over the years.
IL Bistro has several small tables along the wall to the far left of the entrance off Post Alley. Numerous couples have been distraught when a young woman in a white dress and long brown hair walks across the dining room heading for these two or three tables and suddenly disappears. From what I saw of her during the tour I don’t think she is aware of the modern-day patrons. She walks with determination, intent on something or someone no longer present in the building.
Similar tables in the far left corner of the dining room tend to migrate bit by bit closer to the front door of IL Bistro in warm weather. Seattle has been subject to record heat this summer and sure enough the tables have taken up inching closer and closer to the front door.
I saw a portly male ghost behind the table migrations. He was well dressed, complete with gold watch. I believe he was a local mover and shaker, a man of some importance who would have had his own table during IL Bistro’s past incarnation as a tavern with prostitutes upstairs. He was also claustrophobic, a fact he didn’t care to advertise. Interestingly the tables that try to migrate from their corner to the current front door used to sit in front of a door that once led to an outside dining area. I believe that to this day this former gentleman of means is still trying to get his reserved table outside to ease his claustrophobia under the guise of enjoying the summer air.
Our second stop was Mr. D’s Greek Delicacies in the Triangle Building. Mr. D. has an unusual way to express his artistic skills. When dignitaries, especially politicians come into town he carves their images into his huge rolls of lamb yeeros meat (sometimes spelled gyros). Then when a VIP comes in for lunch they have the dubious honor of watching themselves be carved up. Mr. D. is proud of his creations and those not served up for lunch are stored in the basement of his shop. These yeero carvings seem to both confuse and infuriate the ghosts downstairs who have the habit of tossing around pots and pans. Sometimes there are so many objects flying around that the staff at Mr. D’s cannot venture into the basement for supplies and have to wait for it to subside.
I picked up several groups of ghosts at Mr. D’s. I asked if the building had any Mafia history. Our guide Michele said no and pointed out that the current owner is Greek, not Italian. However I would swear there is a lingering gang of ghostly goodfellas in Mr. D’s basement. They predate him; I would say the 1930’s. I doubt Mr. D’s was a twinkle in his fathers eye when this crew met in the basement of his building. There was a definite sense of urgent secrecy about their meeting.
I also saw the graves of two Native Americans. This would not be surprising, as the granite hill Pike Place Market is built into was a sacred burial ground for the Duwamish Tribe a good three thousand years before the Denny party showed up to found Seattle. Seattle, like Rome is famous for being built on seven hills. It is still a steep hike up and down downtown streets, but the hills were much steeper when the early downtown core was built. In a massive two-part project called The Denny Regrade (from 1902-1911 and 1929-1930) the market hill was lowered 35 feet. All that earth was pushed into the tideflats, otherwise known as today’s Seattle waterfront. Countless Duwamish graves were tumbled into the tideflats. The total Denny Regrade project moved more earth than the building of the Panama Canal.
The odd thing about the two Native American graves under Mr. D’s foundation is they were carefully laid out. The bones are lined up, not mixed up like those pushed down the hill. These two warriors were also incredibly pissed off. They predated the goodfellas ghosts by quite a bit, but I doubt they were in the ground at the time of the Denny Regrade.
Both the goodfellas and the Native ghosts enjoy freaking people out. For this part of the tour I was standing right next to the street level wall of Mr. D’s, so close to the current basement. Once the ghosts realized I could see them they kept reaching out from the brick foundation to pluck at my slacks. I can be frightened as easily as anyone else by ghosts, but not when I know they are there and what they are up too. I will credit them as a persistent lot because my guides had to push them back four or five times before they stopped trying.
There is a popular bar in Post Alley called Kells Restaurant & Irish Pub. If you happen to be in Seattle on St. Patrick’s Day they are known for their blow out parties. Kells is owned and operated by an authentic Catholic Irish family. (Disclaimer: I happen to have grown up in the same parish and attended some of the same schools as this family. The patriarch speaks with his native Irish lilt.) Kells currently owns the entire building. Downstairs in Post Alley is the pub. Upstairs on First Ave. is a lot of empty space that has so far proven too haunted to keep a tenant.
The 1921 First Ave. Butterworth/Kells building was built during the Seattle Gold Rush. Our tour guide said it was the first “full service mortuary” in Seattle. The Edgar R. Butterworth family moved to Seattle in 1892, saw the need for undertaker services and jumped in with both feet. They opened the 1921 First Ave. building in 1903. Remember the Denny Regrade? Today’s street entrance is the original second floor of the building.
Despite an on site crematoria, the Butterworth’s couldn’t keep up with the dead bodies Seattle was racking up. Lack of a medical degree didn’t prevent Mr. Butterworth from doing all autopsies for the City of Seattle. At the time Seattle was a gold rush town, had routine influxes of just paid loggers and the inevitable services of prostitutes as women were few and demand was high.
The City of Seattle started paying ordinary citizens $50 per body to collect the dead and deliver them to Butterworth’s premises. The Butterworth’s charged $25 per body for mortuary services. That left the good citizens of Seattle with $25 cash per body, often more money than many made in a year. New arrivals from the gold fields were announced in the local paper along with their gold take and which hotel they would be staying at. This set of circumstances resulted in a boom of bodies. Local ladies of the evening became adept at picking up returning gold miners, treating them to a few drinks and enjoying a major payday the next morning. It took a full year for the City of Seattle to realize what was going on and put a stop to the “body bonuses”.
A number of restaurants have tried to set up shop on the second floor of Butterworth’s premises such as Cafe Sophie, Avenue One, Fire and Ice and most recently, Starlite Lounge. Fire and Ice lasted only seven months. Starlite Lounge did better, holding out for almost two years. The longest tenant was Avenue One who stayed open for five years. Kells has repeatedly tried to open a second bar in the space. Something always goes wrong. Permits don’t come through, troubles with construction etc…As of August 2009 the windows and front door have been papered over for nearly two years.
Interestingly as soon as tour guide Michele started talking about the troubles Kells has had in getting a paying tenant upstairs the Kells sign hanging in the second floor landing window started swinging back and forth. The longer she talked, the more it moved. I asked her about air currents up and down the stairwell behind the sign. She confirmed there is certainly lots of opportunity for air movement from both Kells Pub below and the empty floors above. However, Michele told me that every time she talks about Kells during a ghost tour one of two things happen. The Kells sign starts to move by itself or some sort of siren goes off on the street nearby. It could be emergency services or a car alarm, but one of two reactions happens each time.
Fire and Ice reported incidents of napkins placed on the bar that would routinely burst into flames yet the bar would remain untouched. One of the chefs of these ill-fated watering holes decided to stay late one night and replace light bulbs in the dining room. He shooed out the staff, locked himself inside and started replacing bulbs. He heard voices and looked up to see a group of people had entered through the current front door. He called out to them but they paid him no attention whatsoever. They walked through the dining room and back into the kitchen area. The chef quit on the spot.
I saw the group that rattled the chef. They were dressed in the clothing of the 1910’s, upswept hair, long skirts, gloves, hats, waistcoats etc… I believe they were a party of mourners come to make arrangements or attend a funeral as Butterworth’s did have a viewing chapel on site. Don’t know why they headed into the back of the building where the modern day kitchen was located. The Butterworth chapel was to the right of the front door. Maybe they were headed for Butterworth’s second floor where caskets for sale were displayed.
The ghosts of Mr. & Mrs. Butterworth are still on site, along with a few of the deceased they handled over the years. I saw a stout white-haired woman arranging flowers in the hallway outside the mortuary office. Mr. Butterworth was hanging around in the chapel space, dressed conservatively in a black wool suit.
One of the Butterworths former corpses was yelling his fool head off most of the time we were in front of the building. He was a grizzled graybeard who was the victim of one of the body bonus murderers, er, entrepreneurs. He was fresh from the Klondike and mad as hell at being murdered for the value of his corpse. He was definitely hostile. He stood in the middle of the dining room area and ranted at me in highly colorful language. Michelle passed around one of many photos taken of ghostly images in the building and sure enough… it was the face of the graybeard miner who had been screaming at me.
I sensed some group poltergeist activity, but declined to tune into their energy beyond noting it was there.
Kells Irish Pub has had it’s own haunting. The pub itself is the old Butterworth’s embalming room. The back room where there is often live music on the weekends includes the area where the body lift was located. (I am really glad I didn’t know this when I had my bachelorette party there!) Wagons or vehicles would deliver bodies back in the alley, leaving the First Ave. entrance for mourners. Dead bodies were heavy and frequently not in very good shape when they arrived. Embalming would happen downstairs and then bodies would be lifted up a floor for viewings and services.
The ladies staff room at Kells is Butterworth’s old autopsy room. Many female staff do not feel comfortable changing their uniforms in that room. I suppose that is one way to keep your employees from lingering on break!
Kells also has a mischievous red headed little girl ghost. Some years back a writer came to interview the owners of Kells. She had her young, six or seven year old daughter with her. The daughter was poking around during the interview. At one point she arrived back at the interview table with a rag doll in hand. It was a knotted rag with knots for the head, hands and feet of the doll. The mother asked her daughter where she got the doll. The answer was, from my new friend, the red headed girl. The daughter was asked to put the doll down, as it wasn’t hers. She did and wandered off again. The problem was her mother nor the Kells staff could find her. They searched and called and got no response. Finally the daughter was found in one of the back rooms, the door only cracked open a few inches. She was seated on the floor with her back to the door having an animated conversation with someone that could not be seen. When asked why didn’t she respond to her mothers calls she said she had been playing with her new friend, the red headed girl. When mother and daughter walked back into the bar area, the rag doll had vanished from the table it had been left on. I picked up on this little ghost girl’s energy. She was furious. About what, I have not figured out yet.
I don’t know why, but the mysterious red headed girl ghost seems to be attached to the family behind Kells rather than the Butterworth building or land. Certainly plenty of dead Irish came through the Butterworth premises when it was a mortuary, but this ghost doesn’t feel connected to their operation.
On a happier note, a friendly, well-known and liked ghost has started showing up at Kells again in recent weeks. He has been nicknamed Sammy by the staff. He is a young man with brown hair and a mustache. He appears in the mirrors behind Kells main bar. He is helpful, upbeat and seems to smile a lot. That is the kind of ghost I would want at my place of business.
During a dark period in Seattle history Native Americans were not allowed to stay inside the city limits past dusk. One notable exception was Princess Angeline; daughter of Chief Sealth for whom Seattle is named. She had a wooden hut at the bottom of the hill, behind the current location of Pike Place Market. The location was no accident. Princess Angeline believed the area to be sacred ground because it marked the intersection of three ley lines.
Until the tour I had no idea Seattle was covered with ley lines. Our tour guide Michele provided a map. You can hardly go anywhere downtown without being next to or on top of a ley line.
There is a small, untitled modern sculpture on First Ave. right next to the public stairs leading up to Pike Place Market. Its apex is a three-sided triangle to represent the intersection of three ley lines. There is an embedded set of quartz crystal to allow the curious to energetically cleanse their hands before trying to feel the energy of the ley lines. Most people feel a tingling sensation or a low vibration. Ironically the top of the sculpture is about an inch and a half off the location of the true intersection of ley lines. I felt this before members of the tour group started testing out the energy for themselves. Sure enough, their hands stopped an inch and a half to the right of the apex.
I decided to leave the other tour members to play with the energy since I could sense it where I was. I was standing about five feet away from the intersect line. The ghosts at Kells/Butterworth’s had been fairly unpleasant so I was a bit tense. As Michele talked about the sculpture and the significance of the location, I started to relax, almost against my will. I felt safe, calm and serene. I asked her if they had problems with anyone falling asleep at the spot because it was so relaxing. She pointed out a bench behind the sculpture and said a lot of people liked the location for meditation.
At the base of the elevators behind Pike Place Market is a modern day nursing home called Heritage House. Princess Angeline is frequently seen walking the halls of the nursing home. She is a bent over little old lady with a walking stick, wearing a red kerchief on her head. Interestingly this is pretty much how she appears in a famous black and white photo taken of her in 1896, the year of her death. Heritage House is in the general area her hut stood, so you could say she has a right to be there. Both staff and patients have seen her. There is a story that if a patient wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Princess Angeline standing next to their bed that they are not long for this world. That sounds creepy, but it doesn’t have to be. With Princess Angeline I had a strong sense of her compassion and feeling responsible for the people living in Heritage House. If that story tends to pan out, I suspect Princess Angeline is part of what I would call the “welcoming committee” I have seen for so many people who have died or are about to pass on. Frequently it is family and friends who have already died. Honestly if I saw Princess Angeline as part of my welcoming committee I would be honored. She has the best interests of those she looks after at heart.
This became crystal clear as we headed back up the elevator after visiting the ley line sculpture. I saw Princess Angeline standing behind the glass front door of Heritage House scolding our tour group. “Be quiet! They are sleeping!” She had one finger up to her lips in a signal for quiet. She was stern and adamant we didn’t wake up her sleeping patients.
There were lots more stories and more ghosts, but those are the highlights of my Pike Place Market Ghost Tour. They were flexible about us bringing our own ghost hunting equipment and gracious about having a professional medium on tour with them. Many thanks to both Mercedes and Michele! If you get a chance, definitely take the Pike Place Market Ghost Tour. It is worth every cent of the $15 per person fee. You can check them out at: http://www.seattleghost.com/
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: email@example.com
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