Martha Washington School for Insane Girls – Seattle Part 1



Part of the Lake Washington shoreline at Martha Washington Park, Seattle 

I recently had a chance to explore the former site of the Martha Washington School for Insane Girls in south Seattle. This time I was lucky enough to be working within a group that included two of my favorite fellow mediums, Mari and Al. Sam was also there with all his tech gear. I got to meet a couple of awesome new people I foresee as house guests in the not too distant future.

At first the site was deceptively calm and pleasant as we enjoyed the broad green space and warm late May weather. That did not last. The Brighton neighborhood location opened in 1922 and underwent a number of functional and oversight transitions until the site was sold to the Seattle Parks Department in 1972. It started out as a part of the Luther Burbank school for troubled boys in a nearby community. I grew up roaming that park and I never liked the Burbank school building from about age three when my Mom took me to dance classes there. If half the things I saw at the Martha School happened at Luther Burbank, small wonder I had an early gut level aversion to it. (To be fair I have never investigated the Burbank building as an adult.)

It soon became clear combining the sexes when caring for teens wasn’t a good idea and the Martha School  became its own institution, operating briefly in the Ravenna neighborhood before building the Brighton location. Most of what I saw there happened in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Today all that remains of the Martha School is the original circular driveway of the main brick building and a dirt covered blank spot in the grass over the capped former well that supplied the campus with water.

Because I was working with two other talented mediums, most of what I write about in this post will be a combination of our shared psychic perceptions unless stated otherwise.

Fundraising With a Twist

Martha School 1925

Girls’ Parental School (Martha Washington School for Girls), Seattle, 1925

Courtesy Seattle Public Schools (Image No. 392-1)

Located off the circular driveway this was the showcase building where wealthy donors were courted for support. If only they had stuck to fundraising. Beatings, rape and prostitution occurred all over the former campus. The gala evening I saw most clearly happened in the 1930’s. It was full dark when a number of gleaming black Packard sedans brought the glittering guests to the event. A select few husbands were neatly separated from their wives by going to the smoking room to the left of the front door. They were tended to by an attractive usually blond girl called the “Cigarette Girl”. She was dressed in what I can only call a variation of a French maid’s costume and carried a standard vendors tray from which she sold cigarettes, cigars and snacks. As needed she turned bartender, mixing drinks to order. The ambiance of this otherwise all black tie clad male gathering degenerated quickly. Like any modern waitress at a bar will tell you there was plenty of grabbing, pinching and fondling of the cigarette girl as the men become more intoxicated and egged each other on. The really bad part came next.

The smoking room was adjoined by what I consistently thought of as the procurement room. It was beautifully appointed in floral prints and frills. The beauty ended at the bed where the girl selected to service the men was chained. The men in the smoking room would take turns raping her, return to their fellow guests and encourage each other for the next one. The evening I saw the girl on the bed was also blond. Sometimes if the clients wanted a more “exotic” girl a Pacific Islander or Asian girl would be chosen. None of this would be out of the ordinary in any brothel, but it certainly should not have been happening to young girls who were wards of the state.

Non-gala evenings also had their share of “regulars”. One car in particular stood out to me. It was a 1934 cream and maroon Packard 110 Coupe. The man who drove it would park in a reserved spot at the back of the building for his bi-weekly visits. It was distinct enough that I was able to find a similar car among stock photos online.

Martha WA School Car

Stock photo of a 1934 Packard 110 Coupe

Burn Box

The Martha School campus had a number of buildings and in some of them the girls were well cared for with appropriate adult supervision. However as students statuses changed so would the building they lived in. There was a vast difference in how the girls was treated in each building. Depending on where a girl was in the school pecking order her quality of life deteriorated sharply. In some cases the students were basically reduced to abused slaves treated worse than dogs. They didn’t always survive such treatment and some of their bodies remain under today’s peaceful grass.

Behind the main building in the direction of the shoreline of Lake Washington, but still on high ground was a long rectangular wooden dormitory. That was where the worst horrors took place. In the back of the basement of that building we saw girls chained to the walls. They were filthy, often in their nightgowns or slips. I saw half a dozen all in one bare, concrete floored basement room.

On the other side of the basement was a huge coal fueled boiler for the heating system. When the raped girls got pregnant, the results of clandestine abortions were disposed of in the burn box for the boiler. So were a few of the bodies of the girls who died.

Eventually that dorm burned to the ground. It was not an accident. At one point there was an incredibly vile male staffer, a huge, muscled guy who treated the girls in that building like his personal harem for many years. They were terrified of him, but eventually they had had enough. One of his “favorite” victims was in on the plan. She got him into one of the bedrooms with an exterior window. The rest of the girls emptied the contents of their kerosene lamps down the hallways and into each of the subsequent rooms. (The building did have electricity, but it either wasn’t fully wired, or lamps were used to save money.) Once they got the girl who acted as bait out, they trapped the man in the bedroom and lit the place up with a kitchen match. A wall of fire instantly seared him. I think he died a little later of from inhaling smoke and fumes but by then he was in agony. The flames eventually got to him and in a truly macabre scene his former victims and executioners watched him burn from outside via the bedroom window. It was quite the party and I can’t say I blamed them in the least. The next day all that was left of the building was blackened smoking bits of timber. The girls responsible were quickly and quietly shipped off to mental health or similar warehouse hospitals, not different juvenile homes where they might talk.

Worse Than Dogs

Slightly uphill from the capped well, was the most horrific scene that neither myself nor Al could get out of our heads for a few days after our investigation. (Trigger warning for my readers, this gets extremely bad. Consequently abuse survivors may wish to skip the next three paragraphs.)

Al and I saw a naked teen girl chained to the ground outside, face down. Her head had been shaved and she was so gaunt at first I mistakenly thought she was a boy. She was being beaten to within an inch of her life. Al could hear her screams. My guides apparently decided I didn’t need to hear that. I could see her thrashing around in agony as she futilely tried to avoid the blows. I could see she was screaming but thankfully I couldn’t hear her screams. This wasn’t the first nor the last time she was beaten that way.

We didn’t get a name, but the girl told us she had first been raped and gotten pregnant at age 15. The same thing happened the following year when she was 16. We saw her at age 17 by which time she had already had a third abortion earlier in the year. Two to three weeks following the beating Al and I saw, she was subjected to the same treatment again. She didn’t survive more than a few days past the final beating. Her unborn children and her body were all disposed of in the burn box of the boiler mentioned earlier.

I wish we could have helped her move on, but she wasn’t ready. She was still in the midst of the agony of her life and death. She asked Al over and over, “Why”? Why did they do that to her? We had no answers other than they could. As a medium I have seen in graphic detail how many, many people have died. This was one death I will not forget anytime soon.

The Well

The now capped well was occasionally used as a method of disposing of inconvenient bodies. Worst part was some of the girls were not dead when put down the well. At least one went in head first. I saw one of the girls drowned in this manner wore a gold tone charm bracelet on her left wrist. The bracelet had a single round medallion charm on it. Much later her skeletal remains were identified via that bracelet. I could see it on what remained of her arm.

Over time the well system was expanded to serve the Martha School campus. It became more of an open air cistern with a complex series of pipes that provided water to different buildings. The really gross part was bodies were left in that cistern/well that the rest of the facility was drawing water from. At one point decomposition clogged one of the major pipes and a crew of men in green protective suits had the task of clearing the biological matter from the system. They were heavily bribed to keep quiet about it, which they did.


Our group was told about the ghost of a former grounds caretaker who still haunts the site, closer to the lake. Today it is just a grassy patch by a walking trail along Lake Washington. No sign was needed. The very air felt heavy where his hut used to be. This was not a nice man. He abused and assaulted the girls. He was severely paranoid and mentally ill on top of everything else. Whatever his crimes they didn’t take place in his quarters. I doubt his chronic alcoholism helped matters in the least. When he was home he definitely wanted to be alone. I had no desire to walk into the area where his hut once stood, so at first I stuck to the walking path. Nevertheless he was well aware of my presence and shouted “Leave me the fuck alone!” I was inclined to do exactly that and kept walking.

Unfortunately I wasn’t done with that section of the grounds. Several hundred yards on Al brought to my attention that one of our group members was in danger. We knew going in thanks to the organizer that the ghost of the caretaker had a habit of pushing living people into the lake if he was annoyed with them. Earlier Al had gotten the impression it was probably the ghost of a young boy who was behind the dunking’s of prior investigators.

I have been known to get a heads up at assorted locations when the resident ghosts or spirits are about to give living investigators grief. So when Al brought his sense of impending danger to my attention, I tuned in and he was right. I felt the caretaker, two additional ghostly men and even some much earlier Native presences were about to throw one of our group members in the lake. I really did not want to go back to that spot but I couldn’t leave a living investigator in peril. So back we went. In the end everyone stayed dry.

As our group walked along the shoreline path a deeply embedded stone caught my attention. As I looked at it I saw a girl had died there. Her head had been crushed against the stone. Death followed quickly.  Asked Mari if she got anything. She obligingly stood on the stone and tuned in. Sadly she got the same thing as did Al.

Mari and I worked together at regional psychic fairs for years, so we are used to bouncing impressions off each other. We also try not to influence what the other person may or may not be getting, so often we will just ask the other, “Do you get anything about x, y or z?” Al and I have worked together four or five years on mutual investigations of interest, so it is really easy for me to fall into rapport with each of them. What usually happens is we all independently get the most important information about a location or situation and then each get different details, or as I like to put it pieces of the puzzle. We can and do check each others details and then add what we are each getting to the picture. There is really only one other person I can work with so easily but they live thousands of miles away, so that doesn’t happen often. Most psychics, especially mediums have ego’s the size of a small city. Consequently many investigative groups will only allow one medium per event to avoid such clashes. Thus it was a real treat to work with several of my favorite people. It granted the whole group a much more complete picture of past events at the Martha School.

Not So Insane

As far as the sensational name, the Martha Washington School for Insane Girls, not so much. I think perhaps a half-dozen or so of the girls would have ever qualified as severely mentally ill or actually insane. Many were orphaned, abandoned, didn’t fit in standard education programs or were otherwise unwanted. They had tough situations in their early lives but none of them deserved the abuse some of them endured. I want to make clear not every girl who attended the Martha School was treated in such a manner. In fact, most were not. The terrible things our group saw transpire there happened over many decades and to a smaller number of former students. Such events leave the strongest energy signatures, so it is not surprising the horrible hidden events are what still remain in the grounds.

There was a lot of Native American activity on the grounds of the former Martha School. Part two will explain some of what we picked up on from a much earlier era.




(c) 2018 Lynne Sutherland Olson. All rights reserved.











About Lynne Sutherland Olson

Professional Psychic Medium
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