Ghost Hunting in Raymond


Published in the Willapa Harbor Herald, Wed. Aug. 27, 2008


    A ghost hunting expedition came to an end at about 4 a.m. early this past Sunday morning. Kitsap Paranormal, an investigative group dedicated to ghost hunting based out of Bremerton, brought nearly a dozen people in to investigate the goings on of the Hannan Playhouse’s long-time resident ghost Oscar.


    The whole thing started a few months back when team leader, Jeanne, contacted the Players’ President, Liz McCollum about the well known ghost and she asked if the Players would allow she and her team to come down to do what they do best- hunt down the paranormal. Some liken the group’s activities to the television show, “Ghost Hunters.”


    As the night progressed, the teams went one by one into the Playhouse to do their assigned tasks while the other team members and some of the Willapa Players waited outside in a sort of fire-less camp out on the front stoop. Among the investigators was a woman, Jill, whose specialties lay in the psychic realm. During the wait, she offered everyone tea and read their tea leaves. She said her tea leaf reading was a gypsy tradition and all that she asked for in return was for something of value, even just a penny, to pass from the readings recipient to hers. She’d come prepared with a laundry basket full of just about any kind of tea one could wish for, hot water, and teacups and saucers aplenty. As the tea drinkers finished their tea, she would have each person swish the teaspoon or so of tea around the cup before “reading” what the patterns of the leaves said. She reminded people repeatedly that they were the ones reading the leaves and determining what would be seen.


    Andrea and Kelly were two of the observers on the ghost hunting expeditions. Neither had taken part in many expeditions and both were accompanied a more experienced team members on the treks inside the building. Kim called herself a “tech type person” using gadgets like a K2 meter and a recorder to catch EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon)- researchers believe that the voices of the dead can be heard in recordings collected on special equipment.


    Interestedly, McCollum asked Jeanne questions about the kind of work that her group has been performing. Jeanne, who is a very logical, credible kind of lady employed by Microsoft, talked of her own first ghost experience nearly ten years ago in London. She had been working at an old theater there when one evening, after the building was closed, she saw an old woman in a nightgown with her hair pulled up standing with her back to her. She said she’d diplomatically told the lady that she was sorry, but the theater was closed and that she would have to leave. Jeanne was both astonished and terrified when she realized that she could see the railing through the woman as the figure slowly faded away.


    “I ran out of there,” Jeanne said. “I found someone and told him what I’d seen and he said, ‘oh in box 8?,’ and I said, ‘yeah.’ He said that people there saw her all the time. I did some research. That theater was the home theater for Mary Lloyd. She was a sort of Madonna of her day around the turn of the century. She sang a controversial song and it took place at the theater. My theory is that she likes to watch the shows that come there.


    Kelly, one of the observers, told a story she’d heard from a friend about his ghost experience, which she said was far more exciting than her own minimal experiences. His car battery died one day. A man he knew happened by and said he had a spare and that he’d grab it for the gentleman. He returned with the spare and all was well. The next afternoon, the man who’d had battery trouble was driving down the road in his small town. He saw three men he knew and waved at them. With them was the man who’d loaned him the battery. It turned out that the man he saw that afternoon had actually committed suicide the night before and was no longer alive at the time he swears he saw him. The “real” people he’d waved at said that they’d been alone.


    As the first team emerged from the Playhouse, Jill the psychic, or as she called herself, a sensitive, and her partner came out talking about the experiences they’d had in the building.


    “I definitely felt a cold spot in the lobby,” Jill said. “My skin was so cold- it was like ice. I felt a lot of Oscar in there. We just followed the cold spots and he gave us a tour.”


    Her teammate, Kelly, said that she too had felt the coldness. “He turned the light on for us when we went upstairs,” she said. “The light turned on as I reached for the cord, but before I touched it.”


    They both agreed that they’d gotten goosebumps and Kelly thought a ladder back stage was in a new location.


    “I had the feeling that Oscar was with us the whole time,” Jill said. “I could definitely feel a presence of a spirit.”


    The next team in was the EVP and EMF (electromagnetic field) team. They used the EMF detector to look for “hot spots.” Upon the team’s return, they said that they’d had no hits on their K2 meter, but one spot buzzed with the EMF. The results of the EVP collection would not be available for some time so that the team would have time to review the lengthy recording.

    Several community members stopped by to see what all the buzz was about. One local resident said that a friend of his had done some set construction in the Play house in the past and that he’d been working on a project that had left a thick layer of dust behind. At one point, he found footprints across the stage through the dust, even though he was the only person present. Not surprisingly, most local people involved in Saturday night’s event wanted to remain anonymous.


    At one point, after most of the team members had already done their jobs, a local resident offered to take some of the members of the group up to the Oddfellows Cemetery on the old South Bend highway. After their return, some of the Kitsap Paranormal  people talked about their experiences at the cemetery in the middle of the night. More than anything, they agreed that the cemetery wasn’t creepy, but peaceful and well kept. The local Kiwanis now owns and maintains the Oddfellows, and it sounds like their groundskeeping skills get a thumbs up.


    Team leader, Jeanne, said that Kitsap Paranormal currently has 97 members signed up with, though many of those don’t attend any expeditions. The core group is somewhere around twenty members, and this event was the group’s fifth official formal investigation. “We’re doing the Bremerton Community Theater in October,” Jeanne said. “Port Gamble does a ghost walk through most of that month as well. In November, we’re doing an investigation of the Seattle underground. We’ve rented it for three hours at the rate of $50 an hour. We’re really excited. We’ll just get to wander around down there and see what we see.”


    For next year, the group already has plans to go to the Thornwood Castle in Tacoma, the location where the movie Rose Red was shot.


    Kitsap Paranormal was staying at the Tokeland Hotel, another well known ghost hunting hot spot, and they said they hoped to be able to ghost hunt there at some point as well.


    The thermal imaging team went in and returned without any substantial results. The psychic part of that team asked to remain anonymous, but said she’d gotten a name when she went back stage. “In the dressing rooms, I sat down in one of the chairs and felt like someone was doing my hair,” she said. “I got the name ‘Kathleen.’ She had something to do with sewing, and she had dark black hair.”


    “We took pictures, and we’ll have to wait to see what they show,” her partner said. He said he thought he’d gotten a couple of “orbs” in his pictures. Orbs are known in the ghost-hunting world as “unexpected, typically circular artifacts in photographs…sometimes leaving a trail indicating motion.” After looking at one of the photos taken inside the playhouse, a very clear orb was visible. Some argue that orbs are actually just light reflecting off dust or even water droplets like rain when photos are taken outside.


    The final group in the building was called Psychic Investigation. It’s a team of two husband and wife sets, the wives being the psychics and the husbands manning the technical equipment. Wives, Daisy and Kat, came out after a long investigation discussing what they’d felt inside.


    “I got the end of a name,” Daisy said. “It ended with a “k” sound…something like ‘Placick’ and almost sounding like ‘potluck.’ He died of congestive heart failure, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling that it was hard for him to breathe when he died. We sat in the front of the theater and we felt like we were being watched,” the two agreed.


    The two psychics agreed that the spirit was remaining at the playhouse as a sort of a caretaker and he laughed a lot. He got a huge kick out of the kids playing there.


    The husbands, shoring up the technical half of their part of the investigation talked about several moments when the meters spiked to very high numbers in spots their wives said they’d felt ghostly presences.


    Come 4:30 a.m., everyone had left, taking the many beautiful potted plants McCollum had brought as thank you gifts to everyone involved. After all the work everyone had done, believers or non believers, all left smiling at the fun that had been had that night. No final proof was had that the Hannan Playhouse was haunted or being watched over by a ghostly caretaker, nor whether the spirit, if any was or was not the legendary “Oscar” of old Polish Hall stories. If you’re a believer, perhaps you’d like to come down to the playhouse for the next performance of whatever’s playing to see if you can catch a glimpse (or perhaps a vacant seat next to) the resident ghost. If you’re a non-believer, try coming down to prove your bravery to the spooked. Either way, local residents should come down the Hannan Playhouse on 8th Street. This performance group is the oldest continually running group in southwest Washington, and the sixth oldest in the state. That’s quite an achievement for an area so small.


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