by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
When you step onto the site of the Wellington avalanche disaster in the Cascade Mountains of Western Washington, you can’t help but feel the weight of history in spite of the fact that everything that existed as Wellington has been long wiped off the map.
The town of Wellington was a small railroad town that sat above the Tye River Valley high in the Cascade Mountains. In February of 1910, the town was assailed by a blizzard that went on for nine days. Unfortunately for the passengers on a passenger train out of Spokane, they got stuck at Wellington, unable to pass through the heavy snow that had fallen.
Even less fortunately for railroad employees, train passengers and residents of the town of Wellington, the blizzard was immediately followed by rain. At around 1 a.m. on March 1, a great avalanche swept down the hill. The passengers and employees were mostly asleep in their trains. If they awoke, it was to a scene of unspeakable horror as the train rolled 150 feet down a steep embankment.
According to the official record, 96 people were killed. It remains to this day the worst avalanche disaster in terms of lives lost in the history of the United States.
The Northwest Paranormal Investigation Agency (NWPIA) has spent a lot of time at the site of the Wellington disaster, no easy trick since the site sits deeply buried in the snow from October to July most years. Still, the team has investigated Wellington alot. And they have stories to tell.
On Saturday, some friends invited Jim, me, and our friend Mike up to Wellington, where we met up with NWPIA.
Both Jim and I agree – if there is any place that could turn us into flat out believers in ghosts, it would be Wellington.
It seems that we wouldn’t be the first people that Wellington convinced that ghosts were, indeed, a reality. The park rangers won’t go to the site – or even into the parking lot – after dusk. Bert Coates, co-owner and lead investigator at NWPIA, said that Wellington made him into a believer. I can see why.
We arrived in broad daylight. The parking lot, while nestled in the middle of some spectacular scenery, looks like any other trailhead, which it is. The Wellington disaster site is now part of the Iron Goat trail, which runs along the former rail bed through the spectacular scenery of the Cascades.
The walk starts with a well-maintained trail. On one side is a rusted out and unused avalanche cannon facing up the hillside. On the other side – plants and trees. Dotted along the trail are signs that tell the story of the town of Wellington and the avalanche. And then, as you drop a short way, you see the snow shed – a 3/4 mile long concrete bunker/tunnel that was built after the disaster to protect the tracks.
Even in broad daylight, the tunnel is fairly dark, but easily manageable. Still, we got a clear sense of what we would be in for after dark.
Initially, we headed out to the overlook platform, about a quarter mile down the trail. The platform sits above the ravine where parts of the wreckage can still be found.
The platform is peaceful. You can hear the birds darting in and out of the trees and see part of Interstate 90 across the valley as it climbs up to the summit of Stevens Pass. There are two benches that invite you to sit and stay a spell. We did. Here’s the problem. As I sat on the aforementioned bench, something was poking me and there was something behind me. I kept turning to look, but there was nothing there. On a recording, you hear me discussing whatever kept poking me – what it could be and you hear a voice say twice – first loudly and then more quietly, “Just me. Just me.” I’m not ruling out the possibility that it could have been someone who was with us – but it was random unless someone was participating in a conversation that I was having with Mike.
We decided to head down into the tunnel. One team’s psychic medium wanted us to go without her, because she wanted our impressions of what we sensed. Jim, Mike and I headed down. For a while it was fine. As I passed one section of the tunnel, the hair on my arms stood on end – but it quickly passed. Could have been a cooler spot in the tunnel. Then, Mike started getting itchy. Literally. He said he felt as if he was having an allergic reaction to something. It lasted ten feet and passed. We came to a bridge. As I stepped onto the bridge, I got anxious. Not just a little. Heart poundingly, sick to my stomach anxious. It was all I could do to continue on down the bridge. We kept walking, and as I got across the bridge, the anxiety ceased.
We continued on as a collapsed part of the tunnel came into view. Here’s a picture of what snow does to concrete:
We took pictures of the twisted concrete and headed back. Once again, when we came to the bridge, my body physically reacted. I learned that I can move pretty quickly across a bridge when I want.
We returned to the overlook with no further incident. When I described what had happened at the bridge to the psychic, she told me that she gets to that very spot and something physically stops her. She can go no further.
We sat on the overlook waiting for NWPIA to arrive. The bench wasn’t done with us yet. Something poked the psychic’s son in the head. When I sat on it, something stayed immediately behind me until I got up and went to sit on the other bench with the psychic. As I sat there, something took one strand of her hair from her ponytail and slowly pulled it out of the elastic. No – her hair wasn’t caught on anything. I looked.
As dusk approached, NWPIA arrived with their totally cool equipment van. Were it not for the large letters, NWPIA on the side, it would be awesome for undercover surveillance. I talked with Bert a bit about his experiences at Wellington (they have a great deal of their evidence from Wellington on their website.) We sprayed on some bug spray and headed down in the dark.
Wow. It is a whole different experience in the dark, even with flashlights.
Several of us walked down the tunnel. I was apprehensive about getting to the bridge again, but I figured that I could suck it up and go across it. I’d done it twice before. As we approached, I felt a chill run along the back of my neck.
At that very moment, the psychic said, “There’s someone with us. Following us. They are curious about what we are doing.”
I saw something flit across a flashlight beam further down the tunnel. It felt as if someone was walking thisclose to the back of me.
As we approached the bridge, we stopped. The psychic requested that we go dark, so we turned off everything. I have re-evaluated what my concept of “dark” is. She began questioning whatever was with us. She thought her husband was standing immediately to her left. He wasn’t. He was several yards further down the tunnel keeping an eye on something. More about that in a moment.
After a few questions, off to my left, Jim and I heard a voice say, “Hm”. I thought it was Mike, who was the about two yards away from me with Jim in between the two of us. Mike didn’t hear the “Hm.” I picked it up on my audio recorder and Mike’s audio recorder, but Jim didn’t pick it up on the video camera, although it was pointed at the psychic and away from Mike at the time. If it was Mike, and I haven’t ruled that out, he doesn’t remember making the noise. If it wasn’t Mike, we caught a pretty cool disembodied voice.
We turned and headed back up the tunnel. The psychic said that whatever was with us had stayed back at the bridge. Her husband said he’d been keeping an eye on what was on the other end of the bridge, watching us and protecting it.
We walked back up to the overlook and stopped and talked to Bert for a few more minutes. While we talked to Bert, that bench thing was still behind me. Right behind me. Then Mike, Jim and I headed out because we had a long drive down the mountain and back to Whidbey Island. As we walked up the trail, I felt like it was still with me. In the van on the drive home, I felt like it was sitting right there with me, until about an hour into the ride home I silently said, “You can’t come with me. Please leave me alone.” It did.
Later, I talked to the psychic and discovered that a few hours later, she too felt as if she had something in the car with her until her husband pulled over and told it to leave. Interesting coincidence.
Was it all my imagination? I don’t know. Wellington is a spooky place in broad daylight. Even more so in the dark. History weighs heavily there. Still – there were some odd coincidences and common experiences I shared with the psychic.
I haven’t reviewed all of my evidence, but this is what I found so far – and after further review will make them available in our gallery section:
1. Either Mike or a disembodied voice saying, “Hm”.
2. When Mike and I are discussing what is behind me, a voice says, “Just me. Just me.”
3. Mike has some interesting (oh god I hate this word) orbs from the tunnel that came without a flash. I’m guessing bugs. The mosquitos were HUGE and very, very aggressive there.
My initial assessment of Wellington? I didn’t experience enough to say, “haunted.” But, if any place could convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have a hunch it would be Wellington.
Enjoy Karen’s blog? Her new book, Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington> is now available. Click here to buy.