Vancouver and the U.S. Army Vancouver Barracks (Vancouver, Washington)
Vancouver is the largest city in Clark County. It grew out of the Hudson's Bay Company stockade and homes of its employees around it. Fort Vancouver was not just a trading post. After 1825, it was the regional headquarters of all the Company's operations. The Fort was a warehouse, where imported goods like beads were stored for later distribution to smaller trading posts. Wrought iron was imported and turned into knives, axes, and traps by the post blacksmith. Cattle and grain were grown on large farms near Camas and ground into flour (on Mill Plain Blvd.). The foodstuffs made from the grain and cattle were also sent to other trading posts as provisions.
In 1846 the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty that established an international boundary at the 49th parallel. Although this treaty guaranteed the property of the Hudson's Bay Company, its power began to fade. In 1849, the U.S. Army began constructing the Vancouver Barracks. Homesteading by Americans began around the same time. Some of this was illegal. The Hudson's Bay Company still maintained many of its holdings up until the 1850's, despite the homesteaders. They later moved their headquarters to Victoria, Canada.
The Vancouver Barracks were established opposite the Hudson's Bay Company in 1849. The original Post extended from the present Vancouver Barracks to the location of Clark College. Since the closure of the Presidio of San Francisco, this is the oldest occupied U.S. Army Post on the West Coast. The alumni of the soldiers who served or passed through here include Bonneville, Ulysses S. Grant, George McClellan, Philip Sheridan, William T. Sherman, O.O. Howard and George Marshall.
In addition to troop barracks, stables, storage warehouses and an arsenal, a series of buildings were constructed as residences for married service members and their families. They are now owned by the City of Vancouver and known as Officers Row. Some of these buildings are reputably haunted. They are under the management of Key Property Services, who rent the buildings and property as townhouses and business offices.
They were helpful in giving me information, though they stressed their wish for me to not contact their tenants directly. I am passing this request along to the reader. Please do not go knocking on people's doors looking for ghosts. You can walk down the street and admire people's houses, but please respect their privacy. On Halloween of 1999 there was a "ghost walk" down Officer's Row. If there are any future ghost walks, please feel free to participate.
Building 614, The Vancouver Barracks Hospital
Building 614 was built around 1884 as a hospital. The present building was originally two separate buildings that were joined together in the 1970s. The southern wing had been the administrative offices of the hospital. When Interstate 5 was built, it was moved to its present site, adjoining the main building.
There are dark spirits that may have come from the time when this building was the post hospital. The first and second floors were used as wards, offices and operating rooms. The third floor was used as a psychological ward and storage. When the hospital was built, it was only a decade or two after the practice of the surgeon washing his hands before operating was a novelty. It was still a common medical practice to treat an open fracture by amputating the limb above the break.
There have been several different manifestations. Mike Lakey, a civilian employee talked of the frustrations he and others had in keeping the front door locked. Several times he would lock the building at night. In the morning he would find the door unlocked. He put tape on the door to see if anyone had opened it during the night and broke the tape. Each time, the door was unlocked and the tape was unbroken. The person who unlocked the door did not go inside, and nobody left.
The Vancouver Barracks Hospital, Building 614
According to Lakey and others, the basement seems to be the focus of many of the strange happenings in the building. This was the place where the blood from the operating theaters was collected. It was also the Morgue. People working have seen and heard "strange things" there. In 1993 a woman came from Texas to investigate the basement. She left after three hours; chased out by an "aggressive ghost". I decided to investigate.
A Night in the Vancouver Barracks Hospital
In March of 1996, I spent part of one night in Building 614. Although we did not see any apparitions or hear any noises that were truly ghostly we did have an interesting time. Much of the phenomena we observed could have been the result of natural causes, human fraud or chance. Having said that, I must point out that the sheer number of "coincidences" is beyond what I would expect from natural causes. Some cannot be explained as fraud.
My wife Janine, our friend Brian and I arrived at the old hospital around 6:45 PM on a Friday night. We had intended to stay overnight, so we came prepared; with sleeping bags, food and a camcorder. We moved down to the basement around 10:30 PM. It has been converted into storage and offices. We observed what we thought were the pipes from the operating rooms, set up to drain blood and water to waiting tanks in the morgue. A few of the offices have tile walls and medicine cabinets. A friend with medical experience suggested these were autopsy rooms.
Around 11:30 PM we decided to rest. At 2:15 AM, I was awakened by a squeaking noise. I sat up and looked around but could not see what was making the noise. Brian was awake and had an amazed look on his face. He whispered, "The table's shaking!" He spread his arms and lay still. The table was still shaking, and making the squeaking noise. Brian whispered louder; "It's not me!"
I whispered the first thing that came into my mind: "Well get off!!!" Brian got off quickly and the shaking ceased. Was it vibrating from cars on the nearby freeway? If this was the result of a supernatural happening, could it be a playful ghost? \par \tab
I observed other a phenomenon that is not normally mentioned in chronicles of hauntings. One of the bathrooms may be haunted. As this book progressed, I found other stories of ghosts in bathrooms. We did not have one flush the toilets, but several times toilet seat lids were raised and lowered.
This story began several hours into our stay. The nearest bathroom was the women's, on the 2nd floor. Following human nature in a haunted building, I opened all of the bathroom stalls before using one. I noticed two of the three commodes had their lids and seats up. I thought this was strange, for a woman's restroom. I closed the seats, went downstairs and mentioned it in passing.
After an hour or so Brian went upstairs to use the restroom. He came down very pale. He had found that the toilet seats were raised in all three stalls! We immediately went upstairs and checked the commodes. Brian had closed the toilet seat and lid on the commode that he had used. That was still down. On another commode, the toilet seat and lid were still up, but on the third one, the seat was now down, and the lid was up.
Another Visit to the Post Hospital
In April of 1996 I spent another night in the old building with my friend Richard. We decided to experiment. In many cases where objects have moved between visits, if you stand there and watch them nothing will happen. If you leave remote recording devices like cameras or tape recorders, they will sometimes record the phenomena. We decided upon a tape recorder.
We arrived in the early evening and walked through the building to get familiar with it. Starting at 10 PM we went to the upstairs latrine, put a tape recorder on the floor and began recording using two-hour cassettes. I sealed the window and a second door that led into the room with the clay and my ring. I started the tape, closed the door and sealed the main door from the outside. When we came back in an hour to change the tape I examined all of the seals on the doors and windows. In all instances the seals were intact.
In addition to the seals, we examined the room for any changes from visit to visit. We decided to challenge the ghost. Richard and I both noticed a roll of toilet paper. We asked the ghost to move the roll around and unwind it. Unlike Brian's challenge in the earlier visit, the roll remained wound and the toilet seat lids were in the same position each time we checked. This does not mean that they did not move and return to the same position between visits.
The tedious part of ghost hunting is checking all of your recording devices after a vigil. By the time I listened to the first two hours I was pretty numb. Then I put in the tape beginning around midnight.
A few minutes after midnight I heard several anomalous sounds. First there were sounds like the creaking, of the springs on the stall doors. There were what sounded like footsteps and a man's cough. The sounds got louder and more frequent as time went on, reaching a kind of peak with a loud series of bangs, then tapering off and ending. The entire sequence took place over a 17 minute period after the tape began recording. At no time is there the sound of the outside doors opening nor were the seals on the doors broken.
In my book I have a full transcription of sequence of noises. Several people have listened to this tape. Most of the sounds are so low they had to listen with the volume on high. Several "believers" thought they heard voices or isolated words as well as the creaks and tapping I transcribed above. I am not sure. It sounded like machine hum to me. They disagreed strongly with me.
Several skeptical people agreed that the sounds were probably the stall doors opening and closing. They thought that a draft had blown them open. I pointed out that the doors are spring loaded and it takes lots of energy to open them. They were as firm in their opinions as the "believers"; until they heard the loud slamming of the doors near the end of the tape. Most agreed that a wind strong enough to do that would have been heard on the tape.
Sears Hall US Army Reserve Center (2731 Multnomah Blvd, Portland, OR)
Sears Hall, US Army Reserve Center was built in November of 1960 and dedicated in 1961. It was named after Jerome Sears, an Oregon Native who was killed in the Korean War. Sears was a student at the University of Portland, one of three students who died in the fighting. In keeping with military custom, the US Army dedicated a building to his memory. It is fitting that they built Sears Hall on the same site where he used to play when he was a child.
Sergeant Jones told me a few of her experiences. Her supply room is located in the rear of the building, off of the Drill Hall. The Drill Hall is a large open room with concrete floor and two rows of metal wall lockers lining one wall. On more than one occasion she heard the sound of the locks on the wall lockers rattle as if someone was walking along the row of lockers and hit them to make them clang. The sound started near the main entrance and proceeded down the row of lockers to the far end of the Drill Hall. There are over one hundred lockers. The noise was so annoying that several times she has run out of her office to yell at whomever was making the noise. Each time the noise stopped when she walked into the Drill Hall.
In 1996 Major Smith was helping to plan for the deployment of several teams of soldiers to various places around the world. He worked for several weeks in the training and plans offices on the second floor west wing of Sears Hall. One evening Smith was working late. It was about 5:30 PM, in the fall. Two offices were open, his at the west end and the training office next to it. Although the office door was open it was empty. Smith heard the sound of boots walking down the hallway and entering the open training office. After several minutes of silence he became curious and walked next door. The office was empty. Shaking his head, Smith returned to his office. He guessed that someone had entered, waited a few minutes and left quietly without being heard.
About 5 minutes later Smith heard the footsteps coming back down the hallway. He called out, "The training office is empty, but I'm here."
The footsteps halted. There was no reply. He smiled to himself. He thought that Tom was pretending to be a ghost as a joke. He decided to play along. A few minutes later he heard four office doors slam in quick succession. The first was closest to him, the last door slammed shut further down the long hallway. Smith stepped out of his office and looked down the hallway. He did not see anyone. He guessed that Tom was hiding in the last office.
As the afternoon wore on Smith found himself following the footsteps through Sears Hall until he had a frightening confrontation with whoever, or whatever was with him in the building as the sun went down.
The Howard House (Officer's Row, Vancouver, WA)
The Howard House is named after Oliver Otis Howard, also known as O.O. Howard. Howard's military career is a strange mix of both violence and kindness. Howard was born in 1830 in Leeds Maine. He graduated from West Point in 1854 and served as an "Indian fighter" during the Seminole Wars. At the beginning of the Civil War Howard resigned his commission as a Regular Army captain to become a Colonel in a regiment of volunteers from Maine. He rose to the rank of Major General of Volunteers and fought at the first battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam and the battle of Seven Pines, where he lost his right arm. He and his Corps served in the Tennessee and Atlanta Campaigns of 1863 - 1864 and were part of General Sherman's "March to the Sea". After the War, because he was a volunteer Howard continued to serve the Ward Department in a more civilian capacity. After 1873, Howard was called to active duty where he became head of the Department of the Columbia.
Howard's new Command took in a large area, including Washington, Oregon, and parts of Alaska and Idaho. Although he was concerned with preserving the rights of the Native American's in the area, Howard was first and foremost a military commander. At various times he ordered many Native American leaders and their families to be held hostage. In 1877 many Nez Perce and left their reservations in Idaho because of a range war with encroaching Euro American ranchers. Their leader, Chief Joseph was able to defeat a US Army force at the battle of White Bird and fought Howard to a draw at the Battle of the Clearwater River when Howard himself pursued Joseph.
Eventually the Nez Perce split their forces and some of them crossed into Canada, while Joseph and many of his followers stayed behind, where they sued for peace with General Howard. The United States Government did not meet the terms of the agreement, despite Howard's protests. How hard Howard protested is still debated between Native Americans and Howard's historical supporters.
The Howard House was was built as a residence for him in 1879, when he was Commander of the Vancouver Barracks. A fire gutted the interior of the building in the 1980s and it was vacant for several years. Eventually the US Army gave the building to the US Park's Service who in partnership with several preservation groups took over management of the building. After several major architectural changes the building was opened as a visitor's center.
In April of 1999 a strange thing happened to one of the exhibits. The exhibit, titled "one place across time", consisted of 20 four foot by eight foot glass panels depicting the history of Vancouver. On the morning of the 26th of April one of the workers entered the building to find that one of the panels depicting the historic Kaiser Shipyards was shattered. Charlene Dahlen, a representative of the Vancouver National Reserve Trust jokingly suggested that the ghosts of the Howard House must have shattered the panel.
When queried by the Columbian newspaper, she explained that it was not a serious comment, but they were still searching for a reasonable explanation for the reason for the panel to have shattered. The building's burglar alarm had not gone off nor had there been any evidence of vandalism inside or outside of the building. Eventually through a process of elimination civil engineers suggested that the new addition had settled and that this had caused stress on the case where the glass panel had been held, which in had caused the glass to shatter.
According to another person who asked to remain anonymous, when the exhibit was first installed in 1998, one of the glass panels shattered. At that time no one made any comment, because they had thought that it was just one of the things that happens when you move into a new building. After the second panel shattered, workers went under the building and used wedges and shims to re-level the building and reordered a new panel. The only problem is that later in the year…another panel shattered.
The managers at the Howard House do not have an explanation for the strange readings from the internal security system. This particular system has the ability to not only detect intruders, but to track them through the building. There have been several evening incidents when the alarm detected someone appearing in one of the second story rooms, in the front of the building. The intruder was monitored as they walked around the room and then headed out into the hallway and down to a room, overlooking the main post parking lot. The intruder remained there for several minutes and then walked back into the first room and then disappeared again.
It is interesting that several years ago several people, including the ex-commander of the post and his son, who were walking through the barracks one night in the early 1990s. The Howard House was still vacant and covered with tarps and plywood. They two of them noticed a white figure moving back and forth between the two front rooms on the second floor. Volunteers and staff have been sworn to secrecy about the strange happenings at the Howard House. If any visitors ask about past or present hauntings the stories will be flatly denied…which probably means that this book will not be carried in their gift shop either.
Copyright © 1996-2001 by Jeff Davis | Maintained by J. Goodman