SPOKANE, Wash – If you want a scare this Halloween, you don’t have to turn on your favorite scary movie. Instead, take a drive down Market Street in northeast Spokane to a neighborhood full of history – and, creepy ghost stories.
The storied past of the Hillyard neighborhood begins long before it was incorporated as its own town in 1892. Long before that, the Upper Spokane Tribe called the area home in a place early traders called the Wild Horse Prairie. It was even home to Chief Garry of the Spokane Tribe. Stories of hauntings in Hillyard, though, came after the trains came and the buildings along Market Street followed.
Historian and ghostologist Chet Caskey wrote an entire book about the ghost stories here, in a collection called “Haunted Hillyard.” He’s written about and gives tours of haunted locations all over Spokane, but seems particularly fond of the spirits of this part of northeast Spokane.
“We have some dark venues, right here within sight,” Caskey said, pointing down Market Street.
Walking through Hillyard with Caskey is like a “who’s who” of Hillyard ghosts. He points out ghost stories around the old Masonic hall, while in nearly the same breath, describing a poltergeist in one shop.
“This is Kate’s Boarding House, the oldest standing building in Hillyard,” he says, pointing to a dilapidated building on the side street of Olympic. The house now has broken windows, a junkyard out back and, inexplicably, a rusted out ferris wheel. “Great history… the ghost history [here] is very active.”
Caskey points to buildings like this all over the Market Street area, each with its own history – haunted or otherwise. He takes more time to talk about one site, which looms on a hill overlooking the neighborhood.
“You see that creepy Mount St. Michael’s there? This is a place that really haunts Hillyard,” Caskey said.
Once home to the early Jesuits in Spokane, the buildings now house a breakaway sect of the Roman Catholic Church.
“It has ghost stories that go back to when the Jesuits were here, it’s got modern ghost stories,” Caskey said. It’s so creepy to Caskey, he includes a medallion in the back of each copy of his Haunted Hillyard book, designed to protect the reader if they ever enter the facility.
While the current residents of Mount St Michael’s don’t exactly welcome visitors on ghost tours, other businesses in Hillyard have certainly embraced the legends.
One of Caskey’s favorites is Market Street Antiques, owned by Susan Hess.
“You learn something every day,” Hess said, of owning the antique store. “You meet people that are looking for treasures.”
Some of those customers, Hess said, are also looking for ghosts.
“They want to come in and feel the energies and ask me questions,” she said. “And, I tell them, go explore and tell me what you experience.”
The store was built in 1903. It’s been home to a furniture store, a printing press, a family with 17 kids. And, if you ask Hess, plenty of spirits. That includes the woman whose face stares back at her from a framed perch across from the register.
“We call her Bessie. She came to us… we’re not sure how,” Hess said. “She just showed up one day in the store. [Her face] was hard to see.”
But over time, Hess said, Bessie revealed herself.
“As she sat back there [behind the register], her picture became more defined and we could see her face more and more.”
Bessie isn’t the only spirit who haunts the crowded hallways. Caskey points out the legend of one famous Hillyard ghost in a small room upstairs with windows that face Market Street.
“The stories dating back to the 1920s are that the citizens of Hillyard, just walking down the street, they would see a female ghost dressed in a Victorian dress, looking out the window,” Caskey said.
Over the years, shelves covered up the windows. Caskey said unexplainable things began to happen, like furniture being thrown around, even when no one was in the room. A psychic came in and examined the room, Caskey said, and learned the woman in the window was upset that she couldn’t look out any more. The shelves were cleared, the windows now exposed, and Hess said they haven’t had a disturbance in the room since.
Hess wants customers to explore and feel the energies in the store. Many leave with creepy dolls that line the shelves. But, there’s one place customers aren’t allowed to go: the basement, with a room that only Hess feels comfortable opening up.
“This is the chair room,” she said, opening a door filled with stacks of old wooden chairs and old mannequins in various stages of undress. “Most of the help don’t come downstairs. It’s just me.”
The basement feels like so many of the basements in Hillyard. You hear old floors creaking above. It’s dark and damp. There are even stacks of wood blocking what Caskey believes are tunnels that would have connected Hillyard bars and businesses during prohibition.
So many Hillyard stores have stories like this. Even if you don’t believe in the paranormal, hearing them is a great way to appreciate all that Hillyard has to offer.
“It’s not only a fun way to learn about history, about our neighborhoods, about Spokane and even our state,” Caskey said. “It also is a real part of who we are as Spokanites.”
You can buy Caskey’s Haunted Hillyard book – and, his other books about Spokane’s haunted history – at Market Street Antiques or order a copy from Auntie’s Bookstore.
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