On May 9, 1899, the U.S. government purchased the then-deserted Knappton Cannery and established the Columbia River Quarantine Station at Knappton Cove, informally known as the Columbia River’s “Ellis Island.” It now serves as the Knappton Cove Heritage Center.
From 1899 to 1938, the center was used as one of two federal quarantine stations north of San Francisco. Immigrants arriving to the West Coast by ship, suspected of carrying a contagious disease, were sent to the center to quarantine. These diseases included bubonic plague, yellow fever, cholera, smallpox and typhus.
Some visitors to the center reported strange occurrences, including seeing a woman dressed in period clothing wandering the shore.
Some paranormal investigators visited the center, placed a cup of coffee in one of the quarantine rooms and set up a recording device before stepping outside. When they checked back, there was less coffee in the cup and the recording had captured the audio of someone whispering “Coffee, coffee.”
Ilwaco served as a transportation hub for ferry travelers. A railway was operated by the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company. It ran from 1888 to 1930, from Ilwaco, Washington, to Nahcotta, Washington. The train carried passengers, mail and oysters.
One stop on the railroad was known as the “Loomis Ghost Station.” The stop was located at the mansion of Lewis A. Loomis, the railway’s founder. He died in 1913. His mansion fell into disrepair, described by some as a “spooky old dilapidated house.” The railroad soon ceased making stops at Loomis. In 1953, the mansion was torn down by Loomis’ son.
The Bell Tower Inn was built in 1928 as a Presbyterian church. In the 1970s and 1980s, it served as a barracks for fishermen. Witnesses reported sounds of disembodied footsteps, unexplainable noises and curtains raising themselves.
The Ilwaco Community Building was originally a hospital. Witnesses reported seeing ghosts of children, as well as ghostly orbs of energy. Some reported seeing a man’s apparition holding a baby. The spirit of a red-haired woman has also been spotted walking toward what used to be a patient’s room.
Witnesses have also reported seeing spirits near Ocean Beach Hospital.
1853 was particularly disastrous for shipwrecks. Three large sailing ships sank that year. One was the “Vandalia,” which sank on Jan. 9, 1853. All 12 crew members were lost. Four bodies washed ashore: Capt. E.N. Beard, for whom Beards Hollow was named, and three other crew in what is now known as Deadman’s Cove.
The North Head Lighthouse was put into service on May 16, 1898. Life for the lighthouse keepers was harsh. They had few visitors and kept a strict 24-hour schedule to tend the flame which helped ships.
Alexander K. Pesonen and his wife, Mary Watson, arrived at the lighthouse in 1888.
On June 9, 1923, Watson arose early and went for a walk with her dog, “Jerry.” The dog returned a short time later, acting strangely. A search party found her coat lying on the edge of a cliff, 194 feet above the churning ocean. The tall grass leading to the cliff was disturbed, as if someone had slid down the cliff.
Watson’s body was located and secured from a cove at the base of the cliff. Since the 1950s, visitors have reported seeing her ghost wandering through the lighthouse and the house where she lived.
In 2019, the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” program focused on Cape Disappointment. They found numerous unexplained paranormal phenomena.
The Shelburne Hotel, built in 1896, is the longest continuously operating hotel in Washington state. After breaking his arm during construction, owner Charles Beaver was physically limited, and his wife and daughter had to handle many of his hotelier duties.
According to legend, the workload which Beaver unintentionally placed upon his family deeply upset him. His ghost has been reported walking the halls. Knocking, strange temperature changes and doors locking themselves have been reported.
At Rod’s Lamplighter restaurant and bar, visitors have described seeing a ghost named Katherine who wears a long white dress and can be seen in the women’s bathroom. Legend states Katherine was murdered by her lover. Visitors have also reported seeing a male ghost dressed in a black coat walking through the bar. There have been reports of flickering lights, billiard balls rolling by themselves, and pots and utensils swinging by themselves.
Tinker Lake is named after Henry Harrison Tinker, the town’s founder. Legend has it that the ghost of a man who was killed there many years ago haunts the lake.
The Lighthouse Oceanfront Resort is reported to have at least two resident ghosts in rooms 101 and 105. Guests have reported furniture rearranging itself, TVs turning on and off, rocking chairs rocking by themselves and hearing ghostly whispers.
Likewise, Thunderbird Motel was said to be haunted by a spirit known to play with electricity. In 2005, a guest reported a radio stopped playing music, only to be replaced with a static sound. Lights also flickered and went out. The guest reported that it became so cold that she could see her breath. At 3 a.m., she was awakened by the bedroom doorknob rattling. The door opened on its own before slamming shut with great force.
“The Wreckage” is a log house made of lumber that was thrown overboard by the steamer Washington and cement from the French bark “Alice.” The house was built by author Guy S. Allison in 1912, who created a zoo of driftwood animals surrounding the house. The zoo was featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” The animals gradually disappeared over the years.
One woman witnessed supernatural activity while looking at an apartment. When she opened the upstairs bedroom door, a black dog was sitting there. She shut the door, then opened it a moment later. The dog was gone but a woman in 19th century period clothing, wearing a long white apron and white bonnet had appeared. She was carrying a casserole dish. The witness said she and her daughter were the only people there, as they had the apartment key and the door had been locked.
Another witness described getting an eerie feeling and seeing red eyes following him while walking around Surfside, Washington.
Oysterville has one of the oldest cemeteries in Washington state, dating back to 1858. The cemetery holds the graves of several town founders, early pioneers, Native Americans and unmarked graves of sailors and shipwreck passengers whose bodies washed ashore.
Sarah Crouch, who drowned in Willapa Bay in 1893, is buried in the cemetery. Crouch was the wife of an Oysterville minister. Following her drowning, there was suspicion that her husband was involved in her death, though he was never charged. Her ghost has reportedly been heard singing in her Oysterville home. It was also reported once, when she was the topic of discussion, the lid of an old incense burner flew across the room.
Other spirits detected include those of three boys who drowned in a pond in 1912. Cold spots, drafts, strange energy and disturbances have been reported in the Oysterville house where one of them grew up. Another apparition is said to be that of Frances Sargant, born in 1909, who lived in a house on Willapa Bay before dying in Portland at age 25. Residents of her house have encountered her ghost standing in the residence. The old schoolhouse is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a child.