It was a dark Beacon Hill night. It was about three years ago, maybe longer. L Fried, an ad designer at The Stranger, and her partner were moving into a new place in the neighborhood. They had given a man directions and instead of following their directions, he followed them. It was unnerving. They tried to lose him on the roads. They were near the VA hospital on Jefferson, heading south on Beacon Avenue. A shape bolted out across the street in front of L’s car. She slammed on the brakes. Breathing heavy, she and her partner looked at each other. What the fuck was that? It was small and furry and fast. It looked like a bear. It at least had the round rump of a bear. But that wasn't quite right. It was something… else.
What was that thing? It haunted L. She scoured the internet for any Beacon Hill bear sightings—there were wooded areas nearby, surely bears could subsist in this environment. Research came back negative. There were no bears on Beacon Hill. But, again, it wasn’t quite a bear. That was just the closest comparison L could come up with. She figured it had to be something else, some kind of cryptid.
The only internet search that yielded any result was a 2009 bear sighting on Beacon Hill. According to the report, the bear “may have been carousing on Beacon Hill and eating caramel ice cream.” When authorities investigated, there were animal tracks nearby and a half-eaten carton of dulce de leche ice cream. A neighbor said he had never seen a bear in the 40 years he lived in the neighborhood. Well, maybe it wasn’t a bear...
A new map of Seattle has emerged on the internet in the last week. It’s a crowdsourced document where people can list all the unusual, fantastic, and paranormal experiences they’ve had around the area. Liminal Seattle tracks these experiences and puts them on a map for everyone to see.
According to Kook Teflon, a local high priestess, healer, and queer artist, the map is very real. Since all of these things are apparently lurking in our backyards right under our noses, we could all use some tips and tricks for detecting the paranormal. Teflon is also a certified paranormal investigator who had her own public access show on ghosts and the history of Seattle. She led ghost tours in Pike Place for five years. She seemed like the right person to ask.
“Pay attention to synchronicities and messages,” Teflon wrote in a message. “Unexplained occurrences happening consistently.”
Strange cold spots and hot spots are also a tell-tale sign of the otherworldly. Teflon normally gets a burning sensation on her shoulder with paranormal activity, she said.
If all of those things add up, you’re probably screwed—unless you follow her other advice.
“Go in with respect and compassion,” Teflon advised. “A common misconception is that all spirits are evil. Mostly they have unfinished business or a message.”
Professionals should be the ones who deal with these entities.
She told me about an investigation she conducted where her lead medium got possessed at Green Lake.
"Her face and half her throat immediately turned dark purple,” Teflon said, “her voice wasn’t hers. We all knew how to deal with it. But, if we were amateurs or inexperienced it could’ve gone down a very dangerous road.”
Well, I bet.
Though I am an amateur, I felt like some of these Liminal Seattle sites needed investigating. I decided to go around the locations closest to The Stranger’s Capitol Hill office. Teflon has said that iron and salt work to trap and repel entities. I brought some with me just in case, but she also said that could make them angry. Burning sage irritates them, too.
“Normally, in my experience,” Teflon said, “the person who least believes or is a skeptic are the ones that have the intense experiences during investigations.”
I hoped I was enough of a believer to make it through alive.
"At the corner of 10th and Pine in Capitol Hill there is a large orange case that says 'Out of Bounds to Everyone Who Does Not Wish to Die a Most Painful Death'. When I walked by its door slammed shut and then it blew back open. I put my hand inside the box and all of a sudden it lit up! A few seconds later I received a call labeled 'Unknown'. I answered it and all I heard was what sounded vaguely like an old phonograph record of some guy talking being played backward." (Submitted by Eddie M/Liminal Seattle)
The garish orange color is like a beacon, the fragmented CDs adorned on its sides are a siren song. As I looked up at the box fastened high on the telephone pole I saw it was slightly ajar. The latch that was meant to fasten it shut had been carelessly—or intentionally—flung open. If I stood on the fire hydrant nearby maybe, just maybe, I could peer inside. I desperately wanted to know what was in there, it was a compulsion. But, a warning resonated deeply in my gut (this also could have been hunger). I carried on to the next site.
"I was asked to play cello for the final public event at the old Hugo House building, an old Victorian house that had been added on to pretty haphazardly. It had been a funeral home earlier in its life and was notorious for being haunted. Early in the evening, during a reading, an incredible downpour started. Water came rushing into the space from lots of leaks in the ceiling and people started rushing around to find buckets, trash cans, etc. In the middle of this, a large glass light fixture came crashing to the ground. To everyone there it felt like an utterly supernatural event—the building had more to say. It was not going to disappear quietly. The next night I came in and recorded some music there. It was torn down a few days later." (Submitted by Lori G/ Liminal Seattle)
Maybe gentrification is the ultimate way to encourage spirits to move on to the other side. The new Hugo House does away with the old funeral house and there are no leaks or creaks here. However, maybe something is lurking underneath the dark brick and big glass windows. Despite all my expertise, I did not sense any paranormal presence. The humid air was making me sweat, but I didn't know if that was technically a hot spot. Out with the old, in with the new?
"There’s a water spirit shrine in Cal Anderson park at the weird kiddy pool that’s always dry, it’s where the water is supposed to bubble out from." (Submitted by JP D./ Liminal Seattle)
There was definitely something distinctly eerie about this place. Google did not tell me what a water shrine was supposed to look like, but I assumed it's the cascade of rocks above the little concrete bridge. Still, what was meant to be a wading pool was definitely not a wading pool.
Why was it so creepy? Maybe it's the dense trees that loom over this huge, gaping concrete oval, or the pure absence of it—there was simultaneously something there while there was also nothing there. I loved its purposelessness. I loved the little walking bridge that curved up and over nothing. Did water ever flow here? Something was meant to. Maybe a river of the blood of non-believers!
I went to Casa del Rey because apparently it's haunted by a bunch of friendly ghosts who died from overdoses in the '80s and '90s. I saw no evidence of that from the outside. Some lady forgot her keys and was trying to get into the building. So, there's that.
There was also a shadow monster that haunted an apartment building on 12th and Republican. From the street and that vague description of a location, I was unable to find any spectral evidence. I felt more hot spots. That was probably because I was sweating profusely from walking. Or, was it fear?
At this point, I found some Seattle adolescents to talk to. One of them, Joan, said they always carried a crowbar with them. Did they want to open the mystery orange box of death? Absolutely they did. Joan and Tori Reaney, a Cornish student, followed me to the box.
We stared at its contents. It was largely uneventful. We went our separate ways, after Joan—who, according to Reaney, does parkour—scaled the telephone pole. During all of this, I received two unknown phone calls.
These are just some of the sites around Capitol Hill. There are many more around this area and Seattle at large. My senses are dull and far from those of a medium finely tuned into the frequencies of this world and beyond. Kook Teflon would have found more.
Or maybe I'm just too goddamn respectful and compassionate to every spirit I come across. Either way, like a hard-working American cryptid, I deserve some dulce de leche.