It is a scary time to be alive. Then again, when hasn’t it been a scary time to be alive? Seattle has one of the lowest homicide rates in the nation, but evil, horrifying, and inexplicable stuff goes down in the dark corners of our city. Here are six blood-jumping, mind-racing sites of mystery and mayhem, including murders, suicides, and ghostly encounters. If you never want to sleep again, read on…
Wah Mee Club
On February 19, 1983, a few days after the Lunar New Year, three men entered a high-stakes gambling parlor in an alley off King Street. They brandished guns and hog-tied everyone in the place—the cooks, the waiters, and the hardworking locals who'd headed over to the Wah Mee Club after long shifts to bet big on mahjong and pai gow. The robbers pilfered wallets and purses and emptied a cash register. Two of the men opened fire on the 14 tied-up patrons and employees, leaving 13 people dead.
Unbeknownst to them, they didn't kill everyone. As Todd Matthews describes in his book Wah Mee, two cooks later swung by the club to gamble and started knocking on the door. The knocks stirred awake Wai Yok Chin, a former US Navy officer and the second-oldest victim of the shooting. He managed to slip out of the ropes that bound his arms and legs to crawl to the entrance before falling down in front of the cooks, bleeding from a bullet hole through his throat.
Cops arrested the three suspects in the coming days. All but one was convicted of murder. One of them was sentenced to death, though he had his punishment changed to life in prison. The night in question is known as the Wah Mee Massacre.
The other day, a man who gave his name only as Ancient Relic agreed to take me to the site of the mass murder. He wore wire-framed glasses and a bucket hat and said he grew up in the neighborhood. Maynard Alley is a beautiful Chinatown roadway between buildings, matted with sheets of soiled cardboard and smelling faintly of roast duck. The former Wah Mee Club is now rubble, torn down after its building, the Louisa Hotel, went up in flames on Christmas Eve 2013. The fire shut down longtime businesses, including Mon Hei Bakery and Liem's Pet Shop.
Crushed beer cans and black shoes were piled up on the debris. Weeds sprouted from cracks in the concrete. Ancient Relic pointed out a spot on a perimeter fence next to a no trespassing sign where the club's entrance used to be. In the days after the massacre, the Seattle Times reported that Wah Mee patrons rang a bell, passed a security check, and walked through three steel doors to get into the gaming room.
I asked Ancient Relic if he'd ever been inside. "Oh yes," he said. What was it like? "Dark," he said. That's all he'd say. Tour buses used to swing by the alley to point out the site of the deadliest mass murder in Washington State history. Gawkers used to peer through the club's barred windows, hoping to catch an eerie shadow or sound. The Stranger once followed a ghost hunter to the alley and snapped a photo of the club's abandoned interior, a flash of light illuminating an old cash register. No ghosts, however. Ancient Relic finds the rumors of hauntings disrespectful and said I'd have better luck searching neighborhood basements if I want to be spooked. He then asked if I like barbecue pork. STEVEN HSIEH
The Ben Lomond Apartments
It was a little before 7 p.m. on October 3, 1935, when 7-year-old Sally Jean Kelley—described in the Seattle Times as "a striking appearing child with straight blond hair and large green eyes"—was last seen alive. She was staying with her grandmother at the Ben Lomond Apartments, a Spanish-mission-style building on the western slope of Capitol Hill with views of Lake Union. Her grandmother was preparing dinner. The building's janitor said he had seen Sally "skipping happily through a hallway, pretending a yardstick she was carrying was a cane."
When her grandmother called for the child to come in, she never answered. Later, reports emerged of the girl being spotted at the Garfield Drug Store, a block away. Grocery store proprietor Mrs. Margaret Treppman said she heard "the screams and voice of a little girl crying 'Help!' and then 'Oh, Eric!'" Another neighbor, Fay Ewer, said she heard voices, too, and when she went to her door, she saw a man standing near a sedan. He drove off after she told him to leave.
By 7:50 p.m., a search party had been formed. Four hours later, patrolmen found Sally Jean Kelley's body (she was strangled to death) in an empty garage nearby, and the last toy she ever played with—the yardstick—was found a few yards away. A piece of cloth, possibly from what she was wearing—a red-and-white gingham dress—was also found on a picket fence between the apartment building and the garage.
As the child was the granddaughter of a prominent banker in the area, rewards were offered and suspects were grilled—including an ex-convict with a history of violence, a 65-year-old Russian monk, and a 40-year-old man living on Howell Street who had been seen talking to a little girl a block away from where Sally Jean Kelley was killed. But nothing stuck. The murder remains unsolved to this day. AMBER CORTES
On weekends, when Seattleites flee the city's glass towers to go for a day hike, they often do so in the verdant glory of nearby Rattlesnake Ridge. When the sun shines, the sweeping view from the ledge—of Mount Si, Mount Washington, Rattlesnake Lake, Chester Morse Lake, and more—is stunning. But on foggy, rainy days, you can sense the mountain's hunger for bodies.
When mist surrounds the mountain, visibility reduces to zero. No longer do you have a view of a vertiginous peak carpeted with pines. Staring out into a wall of white fog, the abbreviation of distance strangely heightens one's fear of heights. The imagination's precipices terrify more than any real rocky ridge.
If you toss a small rock into the fog, you can watch it completely disappear almost instantly. The void's almost blinding light-gray color emphasizes the sense of deletion. When an object descends into darkness, it gets smaller and smaller until it fades away. You can imagine it going somewhere—down a well, into a corner, somewhere out of sight, but still somewhere. When an object is lost in lightness, it vanishes whole, wiped clean from creation.
It's no surprise that plenty of people have died here. One Friday in January five years ago, a hiker pulled a corpse off the trail near Cedar Falls Road. In the silver light of afternoon, the hiker must have noticed the gunshot wound in the body's head. According to several reports, the day before, a 21-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department with an apparent drug problem got caught stealing crack rocks he was supposed to collect as evidence. His police badge and handgun were taken from him during his arrest. That night, he drove out to the mountain with his own personal handgun. Near an unremarkable segment of the trail, several yards away from the chemical-blue lake, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Another man, a Boeing engineer, once posed for a photo at a vista en route to the summit and slipped and fell "400 feet to his death," the Seattle Times reported.
Another man, while trying to jump from one rock to another near a ledge at the top, fell 150 feet and died.
At the edge of an outcropping just past the first summit where so many hikers have fallen to their deaths, there's a concrete plaque showing a guy riding his bike off rugged terrain. I've seen it while hiking up there. The vision of a man riding off the ridge and splattering on the rocks below haunts me. RICH SMITH
The Sidewalk Outside Uwajimaya
It happened a little more than two years ago—on June 27, 2015—right in front of Uwajimaya, the premier Asian supermarket in Seattle. A surveillance camera near the sculpture and fountain in Union Station Plaza captured Benito "Benny" Enriquez's final moments at exactly 9 p.m.
This is what the camera saw: Enriquez walking with two other people, a man and a woman. The man next to Enriquez wears a baseball cap backward, and the woman next to the man wears a pink dress. They all seem to be getting along. Enriquez, who had just left a Kenny Chesney country-music concert at CenturyLink Field, is chatting with the man. The woman appears to have a slight interest in what the men are talking about. Not one sign of the violence about to erupt can be spotted in the 31 seconds the three pass the eye of the silent camera.
To this day, no one knows who the man and woman are. Like visions in a dream, they vanish as suddenly as they appear. And what makes their ghostliness even stranger is they look like the kind of people everyone should know or could easily identify. It would not be a surprise to hear some say, upon watching the footage: "Hey, that's the man I buy shoes from at Nordstrom" or "That's the woman who plays volleyball at Alki Beach." And so we have two people of interest who are at once recognizable but cannot be recognized. Isn't that worst kind of specter? As for Enriquez, he is alive one moment and brutally beaten the next. If someone witnessed the beating, that person has not come forward. How could brutal violence happen in the heart of the city and go unnoticed or unreported?
After the beating, Enriquez was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where his life could not be saved.
The utter suddenness of it all has stumped detectives, and the fact the killer is still among the free has made it hard for the victim's family to find closure. Indeed, if you go to the northeast of corner of Uwajimaya (Fifth Avenue South and Weller Street), you will find next to the spot on which Enriquez's beaten body was found a memorial that's plastered with pictures of Enriquez (Enriquez with a dog, Enriquez with friends, Enriquez wearing a Seahawks cap, Enriquez chilling on a sofa). This man, this nurse, this father of two, was really loved. If you know anything about this unsolved murder, call the police. CHARLES MUDEDE
Seattle University Campus
Seattle University is haunted, lots of people on campus believe. Chardin Hall, for example, used to be the Bessie Burton Sullivan Skilled Nursing Residence, before the university kicked out more than 100 elderly residents to turn it into student housing. When the changeover was announced in 2007, there were candlelight vigils. Protesters held signs that said things like "Don't throw my elderly father with Alzheimer's out of his home."
But the university went forward anyway. There have been reports of geriatric ghosts, flickering lights, and elevator problems in Chardin ever since. I've seen both elevators violently open and shut on their own, for hours, on the same floor. A former Jesuit in Residence, Fr. Mike Bayard, told the Seattle U Alumni blog, "You always feel like there is someone with you on the stairs."
Bayard added: "I live in Chardin year round. And in the summer, I'm often the only one there. But at night, as I close my door and get ready for bed, I can hear people shuffling back and forth outside my room on the top floor."
He also said: "Students ask me to perform blessings to get rid of the spirits, but this is how I see it—this was a nursing home, these were good people. We've already asked them to move once—we shouldn't do it again."
There have also been reports about Campion Hall, just up the street. Campus legend says that a woman died on the 10th floor a few years back, and she still remains there to this day to haunt the students. Another ghost is rumored to haunt the second floor women's bathroom in the administration building, one of the oldest buildings on campus. Six people have told me about a paper towel dispenser that turns on and off, sometimes continuously, with nothing near it. There's also the 1103 Building off Madison, which used to be a morgue and now houses the communication department. Its basement is infamously chilly and lights flicker on and off by themselves.
One late evening during finals week, I walked out of a stall in the fifth floor bathroom of the Lemieux Library, and all three automatic sink faucets turned on by themselves. I straight booked it out of the library, and have yet to return to that bathroom since. ANNA KAPLAN
The Sodo Light Rail Station
Link Light Rail has only one creepy station. It is the Sodo Station, which is between Stadium Station and Beacon Hill Station, in that zone of transition between downtown and the neighborhoods of South Seattle. A student of critical theory would describe the station as "liminal"—which comes from the Latin word for "threshold." A buff of slasher films would know this is exactly the kind of place that terrible things happen to nice people.
The station is almost always empty, even during the day, despite being close to the headquarters of one the biggest global brands, Starbucks. Its green siren's face can be seen hovering above the horizon from the south end of the station. The station's art, a sculpture called Made in USA, is a memorial for the ghosts of our country's industrial past. It includes benches and "cast bronze tools... awaiting reanimation," as Sound Transit puts it.
I have never seen more than five souls waiting for a train at Sodo during the day. At night, the place is usually deserted. If you are unlucky enough to exit a train after 7 p.m., you will look up and down the platform and find you are alone. Nothing here looks right: the lurid "SODO" neon sign on the top of the empty hill-sized parking garage, the huge shadows, the rows of mail vans that look abandoned, the haunting yellow "M" of the burger corporation in the distance. There are bushes here and there. There are small creatures in those bushes. They can see you, but you can't see them. The station is surrounded by the massive and dark shapes of silent storage and manufacturing facilities.
There is no traffic. There always seems to be someone behind you—but when you turn, you find nothing is there, which only increases your anxiety. The slasher buffs are so right; this is a perfect spot for a bad encounter. You badly want a train to arrive, and when one does, it's often on the other platform. Its brightly lit passengers don't notice you. They are in their own safe worlds as they wait for the doors to this little hell to close. If that train departs before you get there, once again you are alone with the noises in the bushes. CHARLES MUDEDE