Haunted History

Everyone loves a spooky story this time of year. The requests for ghosts, ghouls, and tales of macabre misdeeds even find their way to the Northwest Room, where ghost hunters pore over our city directories, maps, and archival resources for historical evidence.

Evergreen Cemetery, 1912

Evergreen Cemetery, 1912

We’ve rounded up a few of the most ghastly tales—all true stories—from the Northwest Room to both frighten and enlighten you:

Evergreen Cemetery Podcast Tour

Narrated by retired Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard, this downloadable audio recording meanders through Everett’s historical cemetery to describe many monuments and memories in local history. Use this award-winning podcast as a guide for a stroll through the cemetery any time of year.

Evergreen Cemetery Digital Collection

A visual companion to the Evergreen Cemetery Podcast Tour, this online exhibit contains photos of the same sites described on the podcast. You can research sites and stories from the podcast or from your own explorations of the cemetery without ever leaving your chair.

Dark Deeds: True Tales of Territorial Treachery and Terror!

In this slim volume, David Dilgard recounts three true crime cases from the territorial era. T.P. Carter’s murder in 1860 prompted the creation of Snohomish County, separating the large mainland portion off of Island County. Peter Goutre’s violent demise on Gedney Island in 1875 remains unsolved. And the 1874 axe murder of Lowell’s Charles Seybert continues to intrigue neighbors there.

Postcard, November 1916

Postcard issued by IWW; funeral of three Wobbly victims of Everett Massacre.

The Everett Massacre Centennial Commemoration

The Everett Massacre of 1916 left seven dead and many more wounded in the bloodiest battle in Pacific Northwest labor history. The library has put together a digital exhibit and curated a series of public programs and videos on the topic. This 101-year-old violent labor dispute remains a seminal event in local and regional history.

Of course, there are many more stories of tragedy, treachery, and true crime threaded throughout Everett and Snohomish County history. For example, in the Nelson-Connella fracas of 1898, local newspaper editor James Connella shot and killed his political adversary Ole Nelson near the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore. Connella was tried and acquitted, but local animosity forced him to leave town.

The prosecution of the Jim Creek double murders in the 1930s are famous for launching the political career of Senator Henry M. Jackson. The library has an oral history interview with Fred French, the detective who solved the crime in 1940.

To me, the most haunting true crime tale in our collection is the Halloween murder of 1934. On October 31, 1934, a young baker was murdered by a man who would go on to serve time and escape from Alcatraz. The victim’s family moved back home to Germany, and they became disconnected from the criminal investigations in the United States due to the events leading up to World War II. The family didn’t learn that justice had been served until 76 years later, when the daughter contacted the Northwest Room.

We don’t tell these stories merely to entertain, entice or frighten you for Halloween, although we know true crime stories certainly do that. We share these stories as a way to educate and to acknowledge the tragic aspects of our history while offering credible resources for anyone wishing to research our past.

Who to Be for Halloween

Do you dress up for Halloween?

I do, but it’s not always easy to think of a great costume, is it?

Stella Ehrhart, age 8, of Omaha, Nebraska, has no such trouble. She opens her book, 100 Most important Women of the 20th Century, then she opens her closet and poof! She is Oprah Winfrey! The next day she will be Joan Baez. This third grader has done this every single day of school since the start of second grade. Here is the article from the Omaha World Herald if you don’t believe me.

If all of this sounds like way too much work for you, why not read about these 100 most important women instead? I love a good biography because not only do you learn the facts about a person’s life, you get to know that person and open your mind to a bigger understanding of others. Sometimes you even learn a few juicy tidbits of shocking gossip.

One of the ‘most important women’ is Julia Child. I actually dressed up as Julia Child a few years ago when my book club read My Life in France, Julia’s autobiography.Written in her own words, this is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found her true calling.

Now I’m on to listening to the recently published account of Julia’s entire life, Dearie by Bob Spitz. This is a wonderful biography that brings the Julia we know and love to life.

Another of the 100 most important women, and one with a French connection like Julia, is Coco Channel. The recently published Sleeping with the Enemy by Hal Vaughan gives you a quick biography of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, but mostly deals with the details of her sympathizing with the Germans during the WWII occupation of Paris. Quite shocking.

A deeper, more in-depth, and I think, more interesting biography is Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney. Chanel revolutionized women’s dress. She came up with the ‘little black dress’ and who can live without that? She was the twentieth century’s most influential designer of clothes and perfume. Her fascinating and unconventional journey from poverty to a new kind of glamour helped define the modern woman. There are shocking details in this book also.

Reading about Julia and Coco is much easier and more interesting than dressing up like them. Just splash on a little Chanel #5, eat a baguette with lots of butter, and dig into these books.

Leslie

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

What do mummies dance to?

Wrap music.

Why did Dracula go to the doctor?

Because he was coffin.

Find more fun Halloween riddles and answers to questions such as “Why do we wear costumes and trick-or-treat?” or learn the truth about Frankenstein and Dracula in The Halloween Book of Facts & Fun by Wendie Old.

For instructions on how to carve the most unusual pumpkin on your block, you’ll want to consult Extreme Pumpkins and Extreme Pumpkins II by Tom Nardone. The author’s philosophy is that carved Halloween pumpkins should be gross, tasteless, terrifying, and outrageous. If you don’t want to go quite that far, but still want an extraordinary pumpkin try How To Carve Pumpkins For Great Results by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell, You Can Carve Fantastic Jack-O-Lanterns by Rhonda Massingham Hart, Halloween Pumpkins and Parties by Better Homes and Gardens, or Pumpkin Chic by Mary Caldwell.

Next you’ll need to decorate your house. How to Build Hair-Raising Haunted Houses by Megan Cooley Peterson will help you create the creepiest house in the neighborhood. A front lawn full of lost souls, a flying ghost, and faces in the fog are only a few of the ideas you’ll find to terrify your neighbors. Don’t forget sound effects. From our compact disc collection you’ll want Scary Sounds including 70 haunting sounds and 16 spooky orchestrations, or Casper’s Spookiest Songs and Sounds.

For costume ideas Homemade Halloween has instructions for quick and easy costumes, masks, and face painting. Quick Costumes for Kids by Deborah House contains 30 costumes that require little or no sewing. Patterns for a black cat, a wizard, a scarecrow, and a butterfly are included.

Don’t forget food and indoor decorations. The magazine collection is the place to look for Halloween menu and decorating ideas. The Oct. 2011 issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray has recipes for Tarantula Cookies, Arachnid Ice Cubes, Brain Cupcakes, and Severed Finger Cookies. The Oct. 17, 2011 issue of Family Circle includes a Cemetary Cake using Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies as gravestones and crumbled chocolate cake as dirt. Yum! The Oct. 17, 2011 issue of Woman’s Day has easy Halloween crafts with spiderweb placemats, bat napkin rings, and cat face treat bags.

Maybe you don’t want to try any of these suggestions. You’d rather turn off the lights and pretend you’re not home. That’s O.K. too. It’s the perfect night for a horror film marathon. Your first choice would have to be John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween. It stars Jamie Lee Curtis as a teenage babysitter trying to survive a Halloween night of terror. Being stalked by knife-wielding mental patient escapee Michael Myers doesn’t help matters. Other choices to consider are Alien, Poltergeist, The Shining, The Bride of Frankenstein, and Night of the Living Dead.

Who ya gonna call for a movie to watch with the entire family? Ghostbusters! The 1984 sci-fi comedy hit stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who start a ghost catching business. Continue with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, or Beetlejuice. The youngest family members will enjoy the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants Halloween.

One last tip:  How do you mend a broken jack-o-lantern?

With a pumpkin patch.

Kim