An unknown voice heard over a speaker before music is turned on during an exercise class. A punching bag swinging when no one is near it. Doors banging shut.
Everett YMCA staff and patrons often blame a ghost they call "George" for these and other strange occurrences that have no clear explanations.
For the past year, Jacob Nix, 12, Santana Ortiz, 14, and Timothy Wood, 12, listened closely to these stories and pushed to learn more.
The friends, members of the YMCA, researched history books about the area at the Everett Library.
One book they scoured for clues was "The First 100 Years: An Illustrated History of The YMCA of Snohomish County." They interviewed the book's author, historian Larry O'Donnell.
Through their research the boys found out that a fire on March 30, 1920, destroyed much of the original 1901 YMCA building, at 2720 Rockefeller Ave. That matched with unconfirmed stories of a man, possibly a janitor, who helped children escape the blaze but who never made it out of the burning building.
"We're curious and we thought we may not learn any more if we were to do it ourselves," Jacob said. "We should at least find somebody who is professional about this and have nifty things to help them as well."
They sent an email to Seattle Paranormal Incidence Research and Investigation Team, or SPIRIT, and asked that a group come visit the Everett YMCA. Lynnwood residents and founders of SPIRIT, Gene and Danielle Rathbun, their 15-year-old son, Anthony, and four others started the free investigation Saturday night after the YMCA closed for the evening. The SPIRIT team was joined by the boys, Catherine Rasnack, YMCA teen coordinator, and Desiree Boss, a YMCA teen center assistant.
About 10:30 p.m., armed with cameras, recorders, electromagnetic detectors, and walkie-talkies as their connection to others at "base camp" in the teen center conference room, a small team went on a ghost hunt through the weight rooms.
Santana set a small detector on the floor and watched for a light to flash on.
"If something comes by it and touches it, or if an energy field passes through it's supposed to go red," said Brett Kemnitz, a SPIRIT investigator from Renton.
He and Boss asked questions to try to get a response from "George" or any other ghosts.
"I've heard stories that you've dropped weights before," Boss said. "If you could, do it for us now. We're here and we're listening."
Groups of two or three people also rotated throughout the 1920s gym, and walked the halls of "Ghost Town," a condemned portion of the original brick building that in once served as a hostel. The teams used recorders and video cameras as they tested for any evidence of paranormal energy or activity. Those who stayed in the conference room watched video feeds from cameras set up in eight different locations.
Several people who were watching the video feed said they saw a punching bag in the gym move when no one was around it.
"It was noticeable on the camera," Santana said. "I'm really excited. I hope they find something (in the footage)."
The ghost hunt was fun even though he didn't see or hear anything that was creepy or bizarre, Timothy added. For him, the best part of the investigation was getting to go into Ghost Town several times.
This investigation was different from others SPIRIT has done because younger people were involved, Danielle Rathbun said.
"We don't normally involve anyone under the age of 16 but because Jacob contacted us and it was his group who did their own mini-investigation we included them and included our own son," she said.
The official investigation lasted from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. The group plans to review the video and recordings from that entire time to look for any abnormalities. That process will take about a month, Rathbun said. SPIRIT will probably plan another investigation in order to cover more ground at the Everett YMCA.
That's good news for Jacob, who said he is interested in going on another ghost hunt someday, even though parts of this one were a bit scary.
"I'd call people fools if they weren't afraid of doing this stuff," he said. "We are afraid of what we don't know and we know as much about (the) paranormal and (the) supernatural as Benjamin Franklin had on electricity at his time. We still have a lot to learn."
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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