A Brief History of the Occult in Seattle

Maybe it’s the dreary weather. Maybe it’s our seedy history. One thing’s for sure: Seattle and the supernatural go way back.

By Jaime Archer September 11, 2018 Published in the October 2018 issue of Seattle Met

Henry and Sarah Yesler in front of their home at First and Jefferson, 1883.

Heart of Stone

In 1884, a grave digger moving bodies from Seattle Cemetery (now Denny Park) to Lake View Cemetery told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he came across a weighty coffin. Inside, Mother Damnable, aka Mary Ann Conklin, had reportedly turned to stone—a befitting fate for the woman who supposedly threw rocks at people. The legend might also have some stone-cold science to back it up: Brian Ostrander, who founded Haunted History Ghost Tours of Seattle in 2016, explains that Conklin may have been covered in grave wax, a white or gray substance that forms during decomposition.

Image: Wikimedia

Secrets and Seances

Seattle pioneer and Yesler Way namesake Henry Yesler wasn’t just one of the city’s first mayors and millionaires—he was also a spiritualist, believing the living could communicate with the dead. Alongside their astrologer friend William Henry Chaney, Yesler and his wife, Sarah, allegedly hosted seances and attempted to contact their late son George.

Pioneer Square's Resident Ghost

In 1882, two men accused of murder were lynched by an angry mob in the yard of Yesler’s home. Unsatisfied, they returned to the jail and grabbed Benjamin Payne, who’d shot a completely different person, and lynched him before trial. Some believe Payne’s ghost still hangs around Pioneer Square with a broken neck.

Show Comments