7 Feb 2010
A host of ghosts? Port Angeles woman, others probe paranormal activity in old Port Townsend hotel
Cheryl Heller, left, head housekeeper at the Palace Hotel in Port Townsend, and PIHA investigator Kathy Gavin, right, compare EFS readings after psychic Robin Alexis, center, of Port Angeles, said she communicated with a woman and a priest in the basement. Below, the Lady in Blue, the subject of a large painting at the top of the second-floor landing who is said to wander the halls of the Palace Hotel. -- Photos by Jennifer Jackson/Peninsula Daily News
By Jennifer Jackson
Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND -- Sorrow lies buried in the basement of the Tibbals Building on Water Street, said the Port Angeles star of Mystic Radio.
Robin Alexis said that the halls of the former brothel -- now a popular hotel and restaurant -- echo with the cries of prostitutes who became pregnant and delivered their children into this world, only to see them dispatched to the next.
She and a team of investigators from PIHA, Paranormal Investigations of Historic America of Monroe -- spent Friday night at what is now the Palace Hotel at 1004 Water St., which is believed to be haunted by the Lady in Blue.
Tiny bodies in basement
Alexis, who has a radio talk show and a Web site on psychic phenomenon, said that the tiny bodies were buried in the earth-floor basement, where a priest walks, believing that the baptisms he performed for their souls were inadequate because he was a sinner.
Now, after Alexis chanted Friday night, there is one less tortured soul, she said.
Investigators discovered not just one lingering spirit, they said, but a whole host.
"There is so much life here, so much death here," Alexis said. "This place is rich with life."
The building known as the Palace Hotel was built in 1889 by a retired sea captain Capt. Henry Tibbals, and was restored between 1976 and 1988.
No bodies have been reported found in the building, but guests have reported seeing a woman in Victorian dress, the Lady in Blue, whose portrait hangs in the hotel.
Alexis, who lives in Port Angeles, volunteered to help the PIHA team with the investigation -- which asked to bring its equipment to the hotel -- as did a man whose avocation is scientific analysis of electronic voice phenomena and who gave his name only as Dave, saying that he does not provide his full name for professional reasons.
Kathy Gavin, president of the Lewis County Historical Museum, led the investigation for PIHA, assisted by the nonprofit's founder, Vaughn Hubbard.
Hubbard's grandson, Christian Wells, operated an infra-red camera, and Debbie Knapp, manager of the historical museum, used earphones and a parabolic dish to capture spirit voices.
Cheryl Heller, the hotel's head housekeeper, was invited to participate, as was the hotel manager, Gary Schweitzer.
Arriving in town in the PIHA Command Central vehicle, the PIHA team set up a Web cam in Room 3, considered one of the two most haunted rooms in the hotel.
Then they did a sweep of the building, including the basement.
In the basement
Going down to the basement on Friday evening, Alexis said she encountered a spirit who said he used to sleep in the basement, and knew about Katherine, the famed Lady in Blue.
Until last week, when Alexis made a preliminary visit to Port Townsend, she had never been inside the Palace Hotel, or seen the painting.
When she did, however, she said she recognized the figure in the painting as the woman she saw in the window when she was standing outside the hotel.
"I saw her image in front of a window," Alexis said. "She had her hands pressed against the window, and said 'Please help me.'"
On Friday, Alexis said she also encountered a priest in black robes wearing a large cross in the basement, and a Native American woman, who said her name was Grouse Women.
Returning to the basement later that evening, Alexis and Gavin found two chairs placed in the passage near the front foundation wall, farthest from the basement entry in back of the building.
The chairs, next to an old dresser and broken mirror, had not been there before, they said.
Taking it as invitation, they sat down.
Once the rest of the team joined them and set up the equipment, the lights were turned out.
Dave, the electronic voice expert, asked questions, while Alexis relayed answers.
Asked if there were any infants who the priest was not able to baptize, Alexis said, "He said he felt his blessing wasn't adequate because he was seeing a woman living there, "and that one of the children that was born was his."
Alexis said the priest's name may have been Patrick, and began to chant to invoke healing and forgiveness, she said.
Afterward, she said she saw two priests coming to get him, a church glowing red with stained glass windows and a dazzling bright image of Christ on the cross-- and felt that he had accepted he had been forgiven, and was at peace.
Knapp, wearing the headphones, said that while Dave was asking for the ghost of Katherine to speak, she picked up a voice saying, "It's me."
When Dave asked "How many of you are here?" Knapp said she picked up a voice say "eleven."
Second floor lobby
Back on the second floor lobby, the team set up the monitoring equipment, including motion sensors, on the staircase between the second and third floor.
Alexis said that Capt. Tibbals, whose family originally lived in the building, was there, describing him as a stately gentleman.
She said she had also seen a boy between 6 and 8 years old at the top of the stairs looking through the railing. She knew he could see her. He asked where his mother was, she said.
Dave invited boy to come down the stairs, stooping down so the recorder could pick up his voice.
"He's here," Knapp said.
Knapp said she picked up a voice saying "nice," and sensed a curious spirit around her.
Dave said that, while Knapp can listen to what is said and respond, he has to wait until he gets home to see what his recorder picked up.
He downloads the sounds onto a computer using a program that charts the sound waves. Most are whispers, he said.
"There is a lot of breath, and very little volume," he said. "You don't get more than three or four words."
Heller said everyone who works in the hotel, along with many of the guests, have experiences that can't be explained. She has had many, she added.
She said her granddaughter has also seen and felt spirits, including those of children, and also seen a shadow on the third-floor wall. None are frightening.
Ghosts are friends
"I enjoy it," she said. "I consider them my friends."
Once the film and recordings have been edited, Hubbard will create a compact disc which he will present free to the hotel owners, who are free to make copies and sell them. The investigation also is free. Investigators pay their own expenses.
The idea is to encourage people to travel to historic sites in Washington state, creating revenue for the site and the community, Hubbard said.
Tape from the investigation will be put on PIHA's Web site, at www.pihausa.com, the group said.
For more information about research into electronic voice phenomena, see www.SilentVoices.info.
Alexis's radio talk show, Mystic Radio is on 1150 AM KKNW-Seattle on Sundays at noon, Wednesdays at 1 p.m., and Thursdays at 8 p.m., and can be heard online at www.1150kknew.com. Her Web site is at www.RobinAlexis.com.
Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.
Last modified: February 07. 2010 12:35AM