Walking this quaint bayside town’s maple and elm tree-lined streets, you’d think you’re in New England instead of the Pacific Northwest. And there’s a reason for this.
Port Gamble was populated by its sister town, East Machias, Maine, when the local workforce couldn’t keep pace with the lumber industry that made the town boom. So, workers came in droves from Maine, bringing their families and moving some 2,500 miles from home. It was quite the ‘gamble,’ but it proved successful.
As a result, many buildings in Port Gamble are replicas of those from the East Coast. And the ghosts in Washington State’s most haunted town seem to like the New England feel of the place, too. They’ve been here for over a hundred years and don’t appear to be going anywhere else soon.
Port Gamble: A Brief History
Built in 1853 as a company-owned logging town, Port Gamble is situated on the Kitsap Peninsula on the scenic Hood Canal’s shores, which made transporting logs to faraway places like Hawaii, Peru, Australia, and England much easier.
One sawmill founded by William Talbot and Andrew Pope was the center of interest from which the town grew. It was the longest continuously operating sawmill in the United States until it closed in November 1995. Fewer than 1,000 settlers lived on the Sound in 1853, and today, the population in Port Gamble remains about the same at 931 residents.
Port Gamble exists as it did during those early years and is considered the best-preserved lumber town on the bay. Those who visit there to satisfy their historical or paranormal curiosities say it’s like “Stepping into the past.”
Almost every store in town has a sign indicating its historical significance, so it follows that their ghosts have been around a long time, too. They’re Port Gamble’s long-time residents.
Paranormal Activity and Evidence
Although almost every building, including some private residences, claims to be haunted, a few paranormal hotspots in town have attracted paranormal investigators worldwide.
The Walker-Ames House
One of those hotspots is The Walker-Ames House on Rainier Avenue, which was featured on the show My Ghost Story, and of which there are hundreds of reports of paranormal activity.
Cyrus Walker, mill superintendent from 1854 until 1888, built this home in the center of town with the front rooms facing the bay, which offered the best possible view to impress visitors as they approached the town from the bay.
The stained glass and other furnishings were shipped from Boston and St. Louis. When Walker retired from the mill, the majestic Victorian and the superintendent’s positions were transferred to his son-in-law Edwin Ames. This transition gave the house the hyphenated name for which it’s known today.
According to a noted tour guide at Walker-Ames, someone reports seeing a figure in the attic window, where the ghosts of children are more often experienced, every six weeks. And it happens like clockwork. People think the ghost of the children’s nanny still keeps vigil over her charges.
She has been seen as an apparition who stands still without an expression and then disappears. Her footsteps are heard in the attic. And, as mentioned, she is seen peering out the window as if looking for someone or something.
Toys are strewn about the attic as triggers for the children to play with, little shadows are spied in the corners, and playful voices can also be heard there. Pedestrians have spotted three children in the attic windows. There is photographic and electronic voice evidence for all of the above. In addition, the lights flicker occasionally when no one is home.
Members of two local paranormal groups investigated the house with some of the following results:
“Two of the four teams experienced the olfactory phenomena of a floral scent on the stairs that could not be detected either at the bottom or at the top of the enclosed stairwell. In addition, a significant cold spot was reported in the attic near the top of the stairwell that registered a full three degrees colder than the rest of the room. The cold spot could be measured to an area of three feet by two feet that seemed to float 18 inches above the floor.”Source: Adrian Johnson
Other haunted locations in Port Gamble include The Port Gamble Museum, Morse Theater/Community Center, Franklin Masonic Lodge #5, St. Paul’s Church, and the New York House Painted Lady, but the focus of interest and the location with the most paranormal activity is the Walker-Ames House.
The Franklin Lodge #5
This is Washington State’s oldest Masonic Lodge, where disembodies voices are frequently heard. During meetings, when the doors are locked, the ghostly shadow of a man walking back and forth can be seen by the door. Reports of being pushed by unseens hands have also accumulated over the years.
The Morse Theater/Community Center
The resident ghost here is called the ‘stage manager’ mainly because he plays with the stage curtains and opens and shuts doors in the theater.
Contrary to many other haunted locations in the world, the ghosts in Port Gamble remain here because they love the place. There’s no dark history keeping them tied to their pain and no vengeful spirits roaming a netherworld seeking retribution from the living. Instead, these ghosts are a breath of fresh air, and so is the town.
Port Gamble is also host to the Port Gamble Ghost Conference, which, as of 2022, is in its 13th year. This three-day paranormal extravaganza provides opportunities to investigate the haunted locations within the town, workshop with some of the country’s most knowledgeable paranormal experts, and buy just about anything related to the paranormal from the many vendors. Virtual participation is also available.
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