Perhaps it’s because Snohomish is one of the oldest towns in the county. Perhaps it’s because of all those Victorian homes that remind you of Norman Bates’ mother’s house in “Psycho.” Perhaps it’s because of the place’s colorful history as a “wet” town when the darkness of Prohibition was descending on the land.
Whatever the reason, Snohomish is a chill-inducing hotbed of paranormal activity. Ghost-hunting teams have conducted several well-publicized research expeditions there in recent years. And stories persist of haunted buildings.
Just in time for Halloween, here are four spooky places to check out in Snohomish.
The Oxford Saloon
If the “Ghostbusters” crew ever rolls into town in the ECTO-1, this will be their first stop. These days, the Oxford’s best known for its live music and generally rollicking atmosphere. But the joint on First Street possesses a ghostly provenance tracing back to the turn of the century.
Built in 1900, the Oxford’s Victorian storefront originally housed Blackman’s Dry Goods. The rooms on the second floor were ostensibly a boarding house, but rumor had it that a businesswoman, named Kathleen or Katherine, rented them out as a high-class bordello.
The Oxford also was the scene of bloody mayhem over the years, including a fracas in which the bar bouncer, an off-duty cop named Henry, was fatally stabbed.
These days, folks have reported seeing three ghostly figures — a man in a bowler hat and two women, one of whom may be Kathleen/Katherine — on the second floor. Downstairs, the Henry entity has allegedly been spotted many times, in the stairs leading to the basement and, rather disturbingly, in the women’s restroom — where some even report being pinched by him. He always flees when confronted.
Henry also seems to have strong opinions on bartending.
“I was told by a former bartender at the Oxford that bottles would move when he was making a particular drink,” said Pam Schilaty, manager at the Snohomish Chamber of Commerce. “He said he thought a ‘former bartender’ didn’t like the way he was making the drink.”
The Washington State Ghost Society has searched for paranormal activity at the Oxford. During one 2007 session, ghosthunters, deploying video and camera equipment, an infrared thermometer and other gear, said they sensed a male entity on the main floor and a basement storage room.
The Marks Building / the old county jail
Built in 1888, the Marks Building on First Street housed the county courthouse and jail back when Snohomish was the county seat. Snohomish was one of the county’s few “wet” towns in the late 1890s, and the jail was often filled with troublemaking drunks.
In her book “Haunted Snohomish,” Deborah Cuyle writes that much of the reported paranormal activity occurs in the basement, where the jail was located — unexplained moans, jangling keys and loud bangs. Building tenants have also reported multiple instances of the locked elevator moving floors without an operator, and an older female apparition who seems to reside in the basement.
In her book, Cuyle relays stories from Marks Building tenants and employees, including this from a person identified only as “J”:
“One night the elevator door just kept opening even though it was locked … Every time it happened, my dog’s hair would stand straight up and she would go crazy … I knew of another tenant who refused to stay here after 6 p.m. unless someone else was here … He never told me what spooked him.”
Cabbage Patch Restaurant
The Cabbage Patch Restaurant on Avenue A has been in business since 1975 — an eternity in the restaurant trade. But its haunted history dates way back before that.
The restaurant’s website tells the tale of a girl named Sybil who fell down the stairs and broke her neck in the early 1900s. Despite the staircase being relocated after the building burned down in 2004, ongoing reports of the ghost of a dark-haired girl around the staircase suggest that Sybil stuck around for the restaurant’s re-opening in 2005.
In 2007, a group from Paranormal Research and Investigations performed an overnight vigil at the restaurant, resulting in numerous chilling discoveries. The investigators not only claim to have conversed with Sybil, but also said they felt the presence of an older man who is thought to be her uncle.
Could he have been the one responsible for Sybil falling to her death?
The Carnegie Building / old Snohomish Library
Built in 1910, this is one of 32 Carnegie Library buildings left in the state. All were built with money from Andrew Carnegie, the 19th century industrialist and philanthropist.
It’s been suggested that the library is haunted by Catherine McMurchy, a librarian there from 1923 to 1939, who died in 1956. Reportedly, her spirit visits the building to rearrange supplies and peer through windows — but, oddly enough, not to shush talkers.
According to Cuyle’s book, some believe Catherine haunts the library because she was buried with no tombstone — suggesting that her passing may have felt incomplete. With the help of residents and the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery, Catherine’s burying place now has a gravestone that reads “Cherished Snohomish Librarian.”
An anonymous person who worked in an art gallery at the building told Cuyle that she frequently would think she heard a customer enter the room. When she turned to greet them, no one was there:
“I would get a cold chill and a very creepy feeling up my spine. It took everything out of me to finish my shift!”
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.