Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Comet Lodge Cemetery

We live a few blocks away from Comet Lodge Cemetery, an old pioneer graveyard and before that a Duwamish burial ground. Over the years, the cemetery has shrunk, and now houses stand where once there were only gravestones. And bodies.

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A few years ago, Seattle's Evening Magazine show did a story about one of the families who live on top of the graveyard. The title was "House atop cemetery is haunted ... go figure."

In the movie, Poltergeist, a family finds its house taken over by unfriendly spirits.

But on Seattle's Beacon Hill, the Washington family finds its house taken over by "friendly" ghosts. [...]

“We live with it and we know they're here,” said the home’s owner Beverly Washington.

Washington had her house built on the site 7 years ago, not knowing it was part of the old Comet Lodge Cemetery. But, from day one, they've known they were not alone.

“All the lights went out the day we moved in. They all went out and stayed out and eventually they came back on?” she said.

On several occasions, Beverly turned off the lights in her display case, only to find them on again once she left the room. One night, just to make sure it wasn't one of her kids trying to spook her, she did a test.

“I turned them off again, and then I went back to my bedroom and stood at the door to peek and they came back on again,” she said.

While home alone making dinner one night, Beverly actually saw a ghost.

She said it looked like a clear cloud, swooping past here.

“So, I holler and yell, ‘who's there?’ and nobody says anything.

Beverly then followed the ghost to her bedroom. And she could see it clearly, a full outline of a person as if in a cloud, which then swooped into the bathroom.


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A few years ago, a group of local students wrote about the cemetery and the controversy that has long surrounded it.

In 1987, Beacon Hill resident Don Kipper got designs on the property, and proceeded to clear the site. His first community engagement suggested good intentions to restore the place. When Kipper began bulldozing the property, and the graves of the 200 or so individuals buried there, his real plans became vividly clear. Kipper was quirkier than anyone realized. What initially looked like restoration activity was really part of Kipper's life long dream to live on a cemetery. He intended to build his house there.

In addition to being a significant violation of conventional decency, Kipper was in abeyance of the law. Paul Elvig, with Elysian Fields Cemetery, placed a restraining order on Kipper, claiming he was trespassing. The property's ownership would be debated for another decade.

Ten years later, John Dickinson took Comet Lodge Cemetery under his wing. Though full of good intentions, Dickinson's efforts would not pan out. He received permission from King County to begin work on the project, claiming that because two deceased relatives were buried there he had the right to maintain the property. He then claimed that he owned the property, and began cutting down a number of trees, one of which fell and injured a worker. The County slapped Dickinson with a cease and desist order, and withdrew his work permit. In spite of this, Dickinson continued his fight to "save" the cemetery by telling neighbors there houses stood on babies' graves.

The County eventually took Dickinson to court, and barred him from the cemetery for good.


During this hullaboo, apparently Dickinson created a website whose photos were unfortunately hosted elsewhere, and you can no longer see the full-size renderings of the photos and maps. They worked when I looked at all this two years ago, but no more.

Eventually the county finally kicked in $100,000 to get the cemetery cleaned up a little bit. It's really weird, though. You can tell the gravestones are no longer in their rightful places.

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Some of the stones mark the graves of woodworkers and look like trees. I love this one.

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Let's get a closer look.

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And I'll show you three shots of this one.

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As you're noticing, the graveyard is pretty small and sparse. There are perhaps a couple dozen headstones. Not 494.

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Psychics and ghost tours sometimes visit the graveyard. Last summer, some local ghost hunters did an inconclusive assessment of the site, only capturing a couple orbs on camera.

Our initial reason for investigating here was from several rumored reports of
neighbors seeing apparitions and strange lights in the cemetery at night, many of
which reported to be children. (Much of the bulldozered area was the children's
section.) [...] The investigation was fairly routine. [...] Of the hundreds of bodies once buried there, only a handful of headstones remain. (This of course does not mean the bodies are not still buried there, unmarked.) Chantelle seemed to be getting very odd psychic feeling of the place, saying it felt like the ground was crawling.


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This dude shot more orbs, but "Pati Smith from Washington State" took stranger photos of the place.

Someone has collected a bunch of links to 1980s Seattle Times articles about the cemetery. The 1985 article says, "Today, nobody knows the exact boundaries and nobody is certain where the bodies are situated because the detailed map has been mislaid and most gravestones have disappeared."

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Spooked yet? Check out this quote from Chief Seattle, who warned us about all this.

When the members of my tribe become a myth among white men, when you think that your children are alone in the field, the shop, the store –- they will not be alone. When you think that your streets are deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this land, for the dead are not powerless. Dead I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.


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Related Posts:

* Respect the Spirits of Comet Lodge Cemetery (8/22/08)

* Daffodils in Comet Lodge Cemetery (3/22/08)

* Blurry Photos of Georgetown Haunted Tour (11/28/07)

14 comments:

the paper noose said...

Here is a link that contains the names of a few people possibly buried there. There is mention of IOOF Cemetary Georgetown, "potters field", and burial at "Duwamish":

http://www.genealogia.fi/emi/emi3d20r2e.htm

chuck b. said...

This is the second time you've scooped me for a post! I've been totally meaning to blog the huge/weird cemeteries in the nearby town of Colma.

Damn you, MidBeaconHill!

chuck b. said...

P.S. Any chance you're going to light out to Bainbridge Island for a springtime visit to the Bloedel Reserve?

Hint, hint...

JvA said...

The only set of parents that we have in the area lives on Bainbridge, so we go out there all the time, and I promise to do some garden blogging there this summer. I've never been to Bloedel, but next time I know we're going to the island, I will try to make a reservation. I'm pretty sure I'll also blog Little & Lewis on one of their open garden days this summer.

Anonymous said...

I lived very close to this cemetery growing up in the 60s. A lot of the kids in the neighborhood played there, we had camps! It was so overgrown, but there were trails, you just had to be careful not to fall in one of the graves that had been dug up when they moved a body to a different cemetery. We never thought it was spooky at all! I am VERY glad that the city kept the place as a cemetery/park, instead of selling it and allowing someone to build houses there, that would have been a crime.

I remember seeing a few of those headstones that look like logs, for the Woodsman of the World lodge burials, I can only remember seeing one left when I stopped by there early last year.

I remember my father telling me when I was young that they found a gravestone from the cemetery in the alley behind our house once. People did steal quite a few of them over the years.

If you are interested in old cemeteries, try to get up to Roslyn on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass sometime. It's acres and acres of old graves in the woods. It's actually 25 seperate cemeteries side by side. Many of my relatives were buried there. I love old cemeteries, probably from the time of playing in the Comet Lodge one.

Almost all of these cemeteries listed are the big Roslyn one, click on each one for a couple of pictures.

http://www.interment.net/US/wa/kittitas.htm

Carrie

JvA said...

Neat!

Thanks for the cemetery tip. I also love old cemeteries. When I was little I used to make my dad take me to cemeteries, and I'd look for people who were born or died on my birthday, and I'd chase the peacocks around.

Last weekend I visited Chief Seattle's grave (and posted some pictures here).

I love old Soviet cemeteries, where they'd engrave drawings of people's heads and emblems of their occupations (like Aeroflot pilot or whatever) on their headstones.

And I love Central American cemeteries, with all the brightly colored crosses.

And of course I love old pioneer graveyards like the one you mention.

Yay, dead people!

Anonymous said...

In approx. 1965, freinds and myself had a band. Two of the fellows had taken a gravestone of a miss cynthia brownlee born 1833 from the abandonded grave yard. They brought it in to this fellows basement where we had band practice and they burned candles atop of it. I later talked them into returning the grave marker back to the site, but they could not find where they had taken it from so it was abandoned along the edge of the cemetary At least it had been returned and should never had been taken. My apologies to all the spirits of that site.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous...it's ok ..I forgive you for taking my stone..thank you for the act of bringing it back to me.

Anonymous said...

In the 50s' we would take our girls friends in the cemetery at night and try to scare them. I remember and overgrown cemetery and camps that we thought hobos made.

bloggersucks said...

thanks for this article, I have a relative buried in Comet Lodge (assuming that no house has been built over him) but I've been unable to find a map of the graves. any ideas?

M A Gardner said...

Hi there! My family has owned a house here in Mid Beacon Hill near 33rd and South Morgan streets since 1988. Ever since I was a child I would always be frightened to go down in the basement of our home. I moved out when I was 14 years old but moved back in as recent as a couple of weeks ago (Nov. 24th, 2009). And, though I am 27 now and I have a room in the basement, I still find myself seeing things (orbs, shadows, mists) from the corner of my eye. I am very sensitive to paranormal energy. I always have been. I did a cleansing of our home-smudging windows and doors upstairs and down, and haven't felt anything since. I just recently learned of the cemetery a couple days ago as we (my family in the car) were driving to the I-5 Albro Place exit. When I asked my mother if it has always been there (I certainly never noticed it) and she replies "It has been there forever". My question is this: Are there anymore unmarked cemeteries in the area?


Ps Our father just recently passed away last year from a 2 year battle with liver cancer. Is he still in the house?


Thank you very much for your article.


Sincerely, Marcus A. Gardner

Jennifer L. said...

I lived 2blocks from this Cemetery over on Eddy street in late 80's-early 90's but my mom grew up on Eddy Street. Me and my friends use to go walk around the overgrown cemetery all the time I was always intrigued by the old headstones. I just thought the place was neat...in 2010 I took my oldest son there and we took some pictures it is much nicer now then it was when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

I found out about this cemetery on billiongraves.com, it has a link here to your blog, SOO interesting, i hope that photos from the headstones are placed on there soon! (well those that are still there at least)

judy robling said...

In 1976 I made a map of the graves in the old Comet Lodge cemetery for Mr. Dickenson. It was very over grown and a down right mess but to look at it now I'm pleased! Have lived on 14th ave so., next to Cleveland High for 44 years until my mom died recently and have LOVED the history of Beacon hill.