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Haunted Tacoma

A ghost hunter's guide

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With its sordid and storied history, a town like Tacoma better have some good ghosts. And it does. Though most of Tacoma's hauntings happen in residences, which typically don't offer tours, there are a number of old buildings throughout the city reputed to be occupied by one or more wayward soul.

For the brave or curious, we offer the Weekly Volcano guide to haunted Tacoma.

"We get mostly residential cases down south," says Christian Schmidt, front man for regional non-profit paranormal research and investigation group Advanced Ghost Hunters of Seattle-Tacoma, (or AGHOST). "We get calls from people who want to sell their house because it's haunted and their children are terrified to sleep in their own bedroom."

For those hoping to go hunting, The Landmark Convention Center and Temple Theater has been the site of several reported ghostly appearances. In 1930, for example, audience members witnessed what they believed to be a ghost watching a live dance performance. When the girl on stage stopped dancing, the figure disappeared. And in 1972, a janitor at the Temple Theater was crushed and killed by a faulty elevator. His ghost, which has been named "Charlie," is said to take rides on the now-repaired service elevator.

Old Tacoma City Hall has also boasted a reported ghost walking its halls. Former owner of the now defunct Tacoma Bar & Grill Stephanie Clark named the ghost Gus. Gus was apparently a prankster. The day the Tacoma Bar & Grill opened on the ground floor of Old City Hall, the stove stopped working, and then started working again after the lunch rush ended. In two instances, Clark witnessed all the bottles on the bar shelf fall, one by one. She says most of the employees had one or more similar experiences.

Lake Steilacoom, meanwhile, is reportedly possessed by an evil female monster known as Whe-atchee - which is what local Native American tribes also call the lake.  Legends of the creature attacking people go back more than 100 years.  To this day, many Nisqually natives will not fish or swim in the lake.

The Norton Clapp Theatre at the University of Puget Sound, on the other hand, is said to be home to a more benevolent spirit - a spirit that in one case saved a student from falling off the catwalk.  As she fell, she said she felt something pull her to safety.

Children's Industrial Home on South Adams St., which burned to the ground and was later rebuilt, hosts youth groups. Participants have complained of hearing children crying in unoccupied rooms and staff members have reported seeing the ghosts of children playing in the yard.

At the beloved Point Defiance Pagoda (before it was victimized by arson), visitors, employees and the police reported hearing hard-soled footsteps in the building after dark. Reports say the footsteps seem to come from stairs on the east side of the building, and are occasionally accompanied by sighing sounds. The ghost is believed by some to be of a man whose wife drowned near the Vashon Ferry dock when a small shuttle boat sank near the shore. It is said that after watching his wife drown through a spyglass, the man shot himself in the head with a small pistol and returned later to haunt the Pagoda. 

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