Monday, January 24, 2011

Historic and Haunted: Port Townsend WA

How a weekend getaway turned into a real life ghost story.


It was not a dark and stormy night.

In fact, it was the longest day of the year, and I had taken a Summer Solstice jaunt to the historic seaside town of Port Townsend, staying in what appeared to be a charming Victorian hotel on the main drag.

The Palace Hotel
(photo credit: The Palace Hotel)
After a 4 1/2 hour drive, I walked into the main lobby of The Palace Hotel – sun blazing a trail in the late summer afternoon sky, and immediately asked the front desk clerk (Bob), “Are you going to tell me this hotel is haunted?”

And why did I blurt out this odd question? Because the main lobby had a strange kind of filmy feeling – as if a layer of gauze or a veil was laid over it.

Before I continue, I must digress. I have stayed in numerous “historic” B&B’s by myself, both here and abroad. I have also been in countless older homes for my job at Rejuvenation – and I have never encountered a place quite like this.

OK, now back to the story.

In regards to my question, Bob gives a nervous chuckle and tells me the hotel “does have an interesting past” (seaport brothel). In a half-hearted attempt at transparency, he offers me the hotel’s “binder” which contains guest reviews.

For reasons I can’t fully explain (the reoccurring theme of the weekend) I tell Bob I’m not up for the binder, and that I’d prefer to remain objective. Bob then asks if I’d mind paying up front. And again, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I tentatively hand over my credit card and commit to my stay at The Palace Hotel.


I follow Bob as he scurries up the main staircase which is presided over by a large portrait – “The Lady in Blue” – and plants my small suitcase in Room 4, Miss Claire’s room.

The Lady in Blue
a.k.a Miss Claire
(photo credit: KOMO News)
Despite its tawdry past, Miss Claire’s room is airy and bright. I enter, but immediately freeze in my tracks. The vibe overwhelms me. It feels like something is in the room – but I can’t see it. More specifically, it feels like a patch of sad energy gently hovering overhead – kind of like an invisible, clinically-depressed blimp.

My first instinct is to bolt, but after a few minutes of self-talk (there is NOTHING WRONG with this room, Laurie) I decide to stay. To get the weekend off to the right start, I send “the presence” a telepathic greeting (no joke). Something to the effect of “Hey Miss Claire, you seem kind of down, and I’m sorry about that, and I know this is your room, and I’ll be a really good roommate." I hit the telepathic “send” button and start to unpack.

Usually, for work purposes, I would take pictures in a historic hotel, but I decide not to use my camera (or for that matter, turn on the TV), fearing the camera flash or electronic devices might trigger a paranormal event. (Again, no joke.)

And now, I am truly beginning to grasp the Victorian concept of “going mad."

“Shake it off,” I tell myself. I pull myself back from the brink, buck up and head out to dinner. After a lovely meal and a healthy dose of wine at The Silverwater Café, I head back to Room 4. With the table lamp on, I go to sleep. Thankfully, the night is uneventful.


Saturday morning arrives, and summer light floods the room early. “How ironic,” I think, “my own little version of The Shining.” I get up and do a gut-check on the room. I feel Miss Claire is not present. Perhaps she’s out running errands. (Do ghosts run errands?)

Room 4, Miss Claire's boudoir
(photo credit: The Palace Hotel)

I head out for a day of sightseeing, and make sure to leave the room extra tidy, thinking that if Miss Claire moves anything while I’m out, I’ll be able to tell. I return later that afternoon after an invigorating bike ride to Fort Worden. The room feels normal. I breathe a sigh of relief and relax, and start to get ready to go out for an early dinner. Although at this point, I'm trying my best to apply makeup while NOT looking in the mirror, since I know from childhood slumber parties that mirrors and apparitions go hand-in-hand. (Mary Worth, are you listening?)

And wouldn’t you know! While primping, the closed door to my room pops open – in that scary movie kind of way – creaky sound effect and all. “Hmmmm,” I think to myself, “pretty sure that was closed.” I shrug it off and attribute it to an old building with old locks. I continue to blindly apply mascara, when suddenly, I feel something behind me.

So now I break out in goose bumps, quickly brush my hair and leave. “She’s back,” I think, “so I’ll just let her have the room to herself for a few hours.”

I fear I am starting to lose it.

Dinner is another lovely meal at the The Silverwater Café washed down with two very large glasses of wine. After taking in some live music and knocking back another stiff drink, I feel fortified and ready to return to Miss Claire’s room. “One more night,” I say to myself.

It’s still twilight when I return, but I decide to turn in early. I switch on the table lamp, get into bed, pull the covers over my head, and hope for the best. I drift off.

Fast forward a few hours. I’m sound asleep – that is, until the locked door once again mysteriously pops open. I sit bolt upright in bed and say loudly, “Hello? Hello?” No answer. I walk to the open door and look out into the still-lit hall. I see nothing.

And then I have a funny thought – an epiphany of sorts. I realize that I don’t really WANT to see anything. I’m tired of this ghost stuff, and I am now more annoyed with than scared of Miss Claire. She reminds me of so many roommates from days past, stumbling in late on a Saturday night, probably a little tipsy, but meaning no harm.

At least she didn’t bring home a guy.


Sunday morning arrives – bright and sunny! My first thought of the day is, “I’m getting the hell out of here.” I skip the shower (no more creepy bathroom for me), quickly pack up, and say good-bye to Miss Claire. This time I speak out loud for I am no longer in denial about her existence.

But before I go, I do review “the binder” which is chock full of experiences similar to mine – and then some. I also learn legend has it Miss Claire was engaged to be married, but was jilted by a sailor who left her at the dock. Her never-used wedding gown was stashed in a trunk found in Room 4.

I hit the road. By the time I’m in Tacoma, I realize I've spent the weekend with a broken-hearted ghost, and have a full-blown case of the heebie-jeebies. For closure, I call Front Desk Bob when I get home and tell him my tale. Bob confirms that my story is “consistent with other events” at the hotel. I guess that’s paranormal-speak for this stuff goes on all the time.

As for me, I still sleep with a light on.

The Palace Hotel
1004 Water Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368


  1. at some point I'll have to tell you my experience about meeting Satan (or at least some physical incarnation of evil in the form of a creepy guy) face-to-face out at Dodge Park.

    great ghost story!

  2. Where is Dodge Park? I would love to hear your Satan story sometime.I would also like to know where Satan hangs out when he's not stoking the fires in hell.

  3. Wow…still spooks me hearing this story! Glad you wrote it up.

  4. Hi Laurie,
    I'll be at the Palace Hotel with my guy this summer solstice. We're really excited!

    I'll let you know if we experience anything interesting.


  5. Hi KM - thanks! I'd love to hear about any experiences you might have. Please send my regards to Miss Claire!

  6. We stayed in room 4 a few nights ago. We didn't find out about its past until the next morning. I think I would have preferred a ghost to the screeching seagulls we woke up to, though. I thought it was a great room!

    BTW, Bob rocks! That guy had some stories.

  7. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed your stay. It's a very interesting place - and well worth the visit. If I have the nerve I may go back one day - at least just to say hi to Miss Claire.

    Yes, Bob is a good guy. He must have nerves of steel.

  8. I helped remodel the Palace many years ago. Kind of creepy when water turns on by itself and my later gets bumped several times while on it.

    1. Hi Geoff. Not sure why I didn't see this sooner. Thanks for the comment. Wow - remodeling that place must of disturbed a lot of spirits!

  9. Thanks for your comment Geoff. Miss Claire seemed harmless, but my understanding is that there are meaner ghosts on the third floor. Maybe they shook your ladder?

    That place is crawling with ghosts...

  10. Port Townsend is so full of haunted locations. So much fun living here.

  11. I was in Port Townsend last week and visited the Palace twice... I plan to return to Port Townsend and the Palace to finish a book I've been working on...I think it will be just the right spot to pull things together..The first day I was there..the town was quiet and full of ghosts...had classical music on my car stereo..lots of atmosphere...

    1. Yes, I think Port Townsend is crawling with ghosts!