SCENIC — Listen and look carefully, some say, and the past still is present at the lost town of Wellington.
Voices seem to whisper among the branches. They may speak of the tragedy a century ago when a wall of snow swept away more than 96 lives.
Shadows linger where the town once stood, where trains once rumbled, where the nation’s worst avalanche disaster swept rail cars away like leaves on the wind.
Today, all that’s left of Wellington are a few derelict buildings, the hollow of the old Cascade Tunnel and, some ghost hunters say, the busy bustle of spirits.
“It’s very active,” said Vaughn Hubbard, 62, a Monroe researcher and historian with the Northwest Paranormal Investigation Agency.
The site of the avalanche disaster is ranked by ghost hunters as one of the top three haunted locations in the state.
A woman can be heard singing, they say. She’s humming like she’s doing daily chores. They say a ghost child wanders.
This weekend, about 30 researchers will participate in an invitation-only exercise to collect more material. Forecasters also predict the mountains will see the first flakes of snow as winter nears.
The ghost hunters already are planning for spring, when the snow melts, and they can invite the public to Wellington to recognize the somber centennial of the March 1, 1910, disaster.
The old Wellington town site likely has been a hub for paranormal activity ever since the avalanche, Hubbard said.
Paranormal researchers using high-tech video and audio equipment have since 2004 scoured the area nearly weekly when weather allows.
Almost every time the ghost-hunters return, they say they’ve found new evidence that they believe proves something that defies current understanding, Hubbard said.
“I’ve never been up there where somebody hasn’t had some kind of experience and got something on video or audio,” he said.
Even those who don’t believe in the existence of other dimensions, may be persuaded by the power of Wellington’s pulse.
“If you can get that skeptic to go to someplace like Wellington and have a personal experience, we’ve had skeptics turn into believers,” said Jayme Coats, 40, who along with her husband, Bert, 42, founded the paranormal research group.
The couple lives in Gold Bar and visits Wellington frequently. The rail line has been converted into a popular hiking destination, now called the Iron Goat Trail.
Unlike other groups that claim to explore the mysterious world of ghosts, this paranormal group strictly relies on science, Coats said.
They don’t use Ouija boards or psychics to communicate with the beyond.
“We base ourselves strictly off facts and data,” Coats said.
U.S. Forest Service trail manager Tom Davis said he has no idea if there are ghosts along the Iron Goat Trail.
He knows for certain that crews have been busy maintaining and expanding the trail.
Still, he said there’s reason to be concerned about people sleuthing through the century-old structures.
It’s not the possibility of ghosts, Davis said, but the reality that the aging tunnel and decrepit snow shed easily could collapse.
For Hubbard, a retired naval engineer, the thrill of chasing the paranormal is balanced by his interest in learning about Washington’s historic places.
“My son is very skeptical,” Hubbard said. “‘Dad, you can’t really believe in that stuff?’”
Hubbard concedes there may not be a good explanation, but he believes places like Wellington demonstrate that sometimes, dimensions cross, and people can get a glimpse of what else may exist, he said.
“You don’t have to be a psychic or even believe in it to experience it,” he said. “I’m just very open minded about what is and what isn’t probable. Just because we can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 firstname.lastname@example.org.