Bringing Back History

Bringing Back History
By ana-maria

John B. Allen students in 1914, the year eight year-old Maggy attended.

Ghost investigators visit Phinney Center

By Connie McDougall

Maggy is eight years old, blonde, wearing a dress and carrying a teddy bear. Last March, she appeared in the Phinney Center’s Blue Building, later telling a story about the day students coaxed a dog into school, much to the dismay of teachers.  She described the scene as “wild.”

Nothing unusual there — kids and pranks — except Maggy attended the John B. Allen School in 1914, more than 60 years before the school closed and became home to the Phinney Neighborhood Association.

Hers was one of several spectral visitations experienced by a team from the Washington State Ghost Society during an overnight stay at the Center in March. This was their second time there, following a 2008 investigation.

The group brought in three teams of investigators and mediums: The former digitally record EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and ask questions; the latter invite contact with spirits and serve as communication conduits. Also present — a historian who tries to connect the dots for corroboration. (He did find six families with Maggy’s last name who lived in 1914 Seattle.)

The Center’s Administrative Coordinator John Jones offered the team access to everything but offices. “They weren’t like what you see on TV or in movies,” John recalls. “Their intent was to be respectful and they were.”

Indeed, medium Jeffrey Marks says they’re the antithesis of gadget-heavy Ghostbuster movies and the current proliferation of ghost-hunting shows. “On TV, it’s all about the scare and trying to get spirits to prove their existence. What we do is modern spirit research. We know they’re there. We invite them to participate if they want to. We’re here to learn from them.”

Investigator Dave King agrees. “It’s not about fear. It’s about seeking information, the untold stories of students and and teachers.”

With the school operating between 1904 and 1981, there are plenty of stories to be told. Jeffrey contacted a woman in the Blue Building who talked about recent painting work. John confirmed that the ceilings were painted a few months before. Another spirit, a woman from the 1940s, led Jeffrey down some stairs in the Brick Building to a door where, she said, there were bicycles. And there were.

“That’s great,” Jeffrey says. “I’m always looking for the evidence.”

“A female spirit came through in the Blue Building,” Dave says. “She was stern and the kids were a bit afraid of her. But the coolest thing was when medium CaryLyn Miles saw a flow of time on a staircase, students coming and going through the years. Then four people looked at her — two women from the 1920s and two men from the 1950s. They could see her but not each other.”

Explaining how it all works is necessarily esoteric. “They’re in a totally open system, no space or time,” Dave says. “Spirits are like guitar strings, vibrating at different frequencies.”

“To them, it’s all one big play,” Jeffrey adds.

They emphasize the Center isn’t haunted.  “Not at all,” says Jeffrey. “There may be some who hang out because they have fond memories of the place. But it’s not scary.”

Some hang out for other reasons. John saw a medium contact a male spirit in one of the classrooms who had no connection to the building. “He just likes it here.”

John agrees the Center has a friendly vibe. “It’s creaky and old but I’ve always felt comfortable here.”

Not only are the spirits affable, but they can also be quite frank. Maggy was when asked what she thought of Dave, the investigator.

“He’s nice,” she said, “but he uses a lot of big words.”

Check out his big words, audio evidence gathered and more at an event Dave calls the reveal in which the final report of the investigation will be offered, on October 28, 2-4 pm at the Phinney Center. See details. 

For more information on the society, visit