Alright, so for the last “Haunted History” of the week, your friendly neighborhood historian here is going to take you on a special trip to my hometown of Spokane and also to the family stead: The Pietsch House, also known as The Ghost House.
Haunted History: Pietsch Mansion/Spokane, Washington
My maternal grandfather’s great-grandfather, Franz Pietsch, came to America from Germany and built Pietsch House with his sons in 1892. They also built several buildings still around in Spokane, such as The Davenport Hotel and the GN Depot, (now just the Clock Tower).
The house, which is located in the Peaceful Valley neighborhood, is the oldest home in that neighborhood. Sold out of the family by a relative who had inherited the house, the house was used as a rental, and it sat abandoned for four decades before finally being bought and restored by new owners. Today it sits like a new penny, just the way Franz would want it. Who knows, he may have stuck around to oversee the renovations himself, or perhaps, satisfied with the care of his home, he was able to move on.
During the time the house sat abandoned, people in the neighborhood told of hearing footsteps and voices sounding from the house that was empty. A few in the neighborhood also told of walking past the house and seeing the movement of faded figures and shadows through the bashed-out windows when no one was inside. Perhaps it was the home’s freaky facade from when it stood abandoned that spun all these tales, or perhaps it really was haunted by Franz or his sons, Louis, and my grandfather’s grandfather, Max. It’s hard to say.
Pietsch House isn’t the only one in the city that is home to a ghost or two. Patsy Clark Mansion, located in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood, less than two miles from Pietsch House, has a reported visitor who stalks the wine cellar. Built first in the 1880s but rebuilt in 1897 after the great Spokane Fire of 1889 destroyed it, Patsy Clark mansion was the home of mining millionaire Patrick “Patsy” Clark and his wife Mary. They lived in the home until their deaths; Patsy died in 1915 and Mary in 1926. The mansion changed hands many times, before being a restaurant and inn called Francis Lester Inn until 1982, when another restaurant was put in its place. It was during this time, when the wine cellar was frequently used during the mansion’s days as a restaurant, that employees of the inn and restaurant reported strange activity. Cold spots, whispers, and just a feeling of unease in the wine cellar were the most common of the reports. Activity has since decreased, but the wine cellar still gives people the willies.
Monaghan Hall is another former home, now part of the Gonzaga University campus, that was haunted. Built in 1898 by Spokane resident James Monaghan, it was sold to Gonzaga University in 1942, and is now called Monaghan Hall, which holds the Music Conservatory; where practice rooms and professor offices are located. Rumors began to circulate about the haunted house almost immediately after it was sold to the university. It was started by a group of students who heard footsteps stomping around the house when it was empty. It reached a point where students were too nervous to go there even for their music classes. A professor decided to prove to his students that the hauntings were just a rumor, and so decided to sleep in his office which was located in the Hall. He was the one proven wrong, though, as he was terrified in the middle of the night when the door to his office violently bashed open for no explainable reason. Housekeepers also reported bizarre activity. Organ music was heard frequently in the organ room when it was empty and the lights were off. It wasn’t until 1975 and Father Leedale of Gonzaga personally heard growling noises coming from the third floor that he decided to perform an exorcism on the home. After the exorcism was completed, the activity is said to have ceased.
The Haunted Staircase is, last but not least, considered one of the most haunted areas of Spokane. Even skeptics have had experiences that they cannot fully explain. The staircase was built as the original entrance to Greenwood Cemetery but it also had a spectacular viewing area that was popular for couples. Legend is that those who were buried at the cemetery were so angered by people simply passing them by to go to the viewing area that they now guard the stairs to prevent them from reaching the top. Trees have since blocked the viewing area, and the trees, no matter how many times they have been cut down to clear the viewing area, always re-grow, and at an abnormally fast rate. Numerous visitors who ascend the cement staircase have claimed to hear screaming, yelling, stomping, whispering, and they also report feeling the sensation of being pushed backward as though they are being stopped from going up the stairs. A skeptic claimed that when he was almost at the very top of the stairs, feelings of nausea, sadness, and dizziness overwhelmed him, he felt someone push backward on his shoulder, and when he looked up at the top, he thought he saw an entire line of shadowy figures standing at the top of the stairs. He has said that he won’t say it’s a paranormal experience, but he does admit that he doesn’t have an explanation for what he saw and felt.
Spokane has an interesting history, and a number of old homes and buildings still stand as proud symbols to a time past. It’s a place I’m proud to hail from, and proud to say that my family has been here since at least the late 1880s.