Where to Encounter Paranormal Activity in Seattle
An incomplete list 🕵️♀️
October 6, 2022
Several years ago, I stumbled across an orange box on a Capitol Hill telephone poll that read “Out of Bounds to Everyone Who Does Not Wish to Die a Most Painful Death.” I didn’t open it since I can read and I’m no Pandora. Instead, I Googled.
Sure enough, the death box popped up on a map called Liminal Seattle, a crowd-sourced database of Seattleites’ encounters with weirdness. I found accounts of haunted apartment buildings on Broadway, a drag queen’s ghost outside the Unicorn Bar, and UFO sightings.
The map, now called Liminal Earth, grew beyond Seattle. You can search anywhere in the world and see what paranormal, extraterrestrial, or slightly off-kilter things have happened there. In Seattle, the map’s birthplace, weirdness keeps on thriving.
I’ve combed through all the Seattle-area stories to create a list of absurdities worth your while. In doing so, I tried to weed out the stories which are someone’s bad creative writing, like the person who sought out a lightning-struck tree in the arboretum and felt the tree’s agony when they touched the trunk.
The Ghosts at Gaines Point
One of my good friends has this favorite part of Green Lake dotted with tall, slender trees. The place is ideal for a serene summer picnic or a Gilmore Girlsian autumn stroll. The spot, known as Gaines Point, is also connected to a brutal murder and is thus absolutely (allegedly) haunted. You can find it on the north corner of the lake, sort of near the Chocolati Cafe.
In 1929, Sylvia Gaines, a 22-year-old Seattle socialite, attempted to leave her incestuous relationship with her father, says Susan Helf for History Link. At Green Lake one night, her dad, Bob Gaines, strangled Sylvia and bashed her with a rock. He left her nearly-naked body at the spot now known as Gaines Point. Mourners planted a grove of cottonwoods in memoriam. The City of Seattle replaced the trees with poplars in 1999 since mature cottonwoods are prone to dropping their branches and the city didn’t want any more death happening at Gaines Point.
Legend goes if you visit Gaines Point at night, you can see Sylvia’s face peering out from the bushes. The group Girls Investigating Ghosts and the Supernatural (GIGS) recorded creepy audio at Gaines Point in 2015, which could be Sylvia and her dad.
The Wedgwood Rock
The sleepy northeast Seattle neighborhood doesn’t have much going on aside from (1) that one house off of NE 75th Street which keeps goats, and (2) a giant glacial erratic on NE 72nd Street and 28th Ave NE. This incomprehensibly big boulder (20 feet tall, 1.5 million pounds) is called the Wedgwood Rock and it sits right in front of someone’s house, plopped down like a giant’s lawn ornament.
Liminal Earth writers consider this rock a magical hotspot. Geologists consider it a glacial erratic, a byproduct of an era when glaciers covered Seattle. It’s “erratic” because none of the rock’s composition matches its surroundings. It doesn’t belong. That’s gotta inspire some strange, powerful magic.
The Time Distortions on I-5
Two separate Liminal Earth writers described moments where time warped around them on I-5 just north of the Ship Canal Bridge.
Our first story, from 2005, concerns a man and his roommate who kept having deja vu about a VCR not working. Later, the two of them crossed where NE 45th Street bridges I-5 and passed a kid holding a VHS tape. The roommate said he’d dreamt about walking past the kid before.
The second story, from 2021, comes from a person who lost several minutes while driving this same stretch of the freeway. On their drive, the storyteller and their passenger smoked a cigarette, timing their smoking session to finish their cigs before they arrived at their destination in Northgate. But, after crossing the Ship Canal Bridge, both storyteller and passenger realized they were already at the exit they needed to take and they’d completely lost at least 4 miles worth of time. Making matters weirder: Their cigarettes were still burning, yet hadn’t burned down enough to match the amount of time it would have taken to travel that distance. Cigarette time and reality didn’t match up.
While crossing the Ship Canal Bridge in 2015, another Liminal Earther believes they spotted a UFO floating over Lake Union.
The U-District's Ghost Cat
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Seattle’s University District hosts a lot of weirdness. From different types of meat appearing in an alley each day between 11th Ave NE and Roosevelt Ave NE to multiple hauntings at the same apartment building on 12th Ave NE and NE 47th Street, there’s simply a lot to unpack in this neighborhood. My favorite, however, is the ghost cat who wandered 8th Ave NE.
One Liminal Earther used to see this cat which “was the shape of a cat and moved like a live cat,” except it wasn’t quite right. The storyteller says the cat was made of oil slick. “Like swirl-y, rainbow-y car-oil-in-a-puddle, but in the shape of a cat,” the story goes. The cat came into their basement once. No word if it left any gasoline smell in its wake or if anyone has seen this slimy ghost creature since. All cats, even oily ghost cats, deserve a scratch behind their ears.
The Seattle Center Armory
I’m a sucker for places that function like real-life M.C. Escher drawings—stairways leading to nowhere, interconnected mazes of hallways, claustrophobic nightmares come to life. Any University of Washington student walking through the Padelford Building will know what I’m talking about. Despite a student’s best efforts, they’ll somehow always get lost in Padelford and be late for office hours. The Seattle Center Armory is exactly like this.
As one Liminal Earther points out, the armory is a non-Euclidean space. “The ground floor is also the second floor, except where it’s the first. The stairs do not connect the floors in a consistent manner; go up one floor from the first and now you’re on the third.” And good luck trying to get to the fourth floor from an elevator. Only one dumpy little elevator near the back of the second floor brings you to the first. It’s an endlessly confusing maze of a building whose purpose (part community center, part children’s museum, part theater space, part Seattle Kraken food court) doesn’t make sense. I’m a big fan.
The Beacon Hill VA Hospital
I’m not sure what’s in the water at Puget Sound’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Beacon Hill but it could be haunted (and not just by the human impact of America’s military industrial complex).
For one thing, rumors abound that one secure research floor at the VA allegedly has a corner that workers describe as “cold, tingly, and smells like bubblegum.” Ask anyone. Those first two descriptors are classic signs of ghost activity. The bubblegum thing, well, that’s not necessarily associated with ghosts unless this is a particularly bubble gummy ghost. The VA workers report they feel “a pleasantly euphoric feeling akin to childlike joy” in this corner. According to the VA rumor mill, this research floor conducted tests “with radioactive material and olfactory function on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Another Liminal Earth post posits the secrets of the VA on Beacon Hill go deeper. If you ever find yourself on an elevator in the VA, be careful it doesn’t accidentally deposit you in a restricted subfloor basement. That’s where one Liminal Earther stumbled across the VA’s very own Demogorgon. Like, the Stranger Things season 1 monster. The Liminal Earther “managed to get out alive.”
Nathalie is a writer focused on anything she finds weird or fun. Sometimes this includes local politics and the environment, sometimes this involves scootering half-nude in Tacoma. She used to work as a staff writer at The Stranger where she did a lot of that sort of thing. She detests dentists and loves costume parties.