Spooky Structures

A look at haunted buildings in the cities DCI calls home

At DCI Engineers, we’re primarily concerned with ensuring a building’s structural integrity. But try as we may, there’s little we can do about a building’s intangible metaphysical qualities. Efficient column arrangements and simple lateral designs can cut down on hauntable space, but no matter the worldly efforts, spirits cling to the walls that they know.

In the spirit of the Halloween season, here’s a look at a handful of haunted buildings in cities where DCI has an office:

Kell’s Irish Pub (Seattle)

It may not be just the whiskey that’s making you see things. Longtime Seattle watering hole Kell’s is located in the basement of the E.R. Butterworth Building, which served as the city’s first mortuary. Patrons and employees have reported a wide variety of spooky encounters, from glasses being suddenly thrown off the bar, to the pitter-patter of feet late at night after closing to the apparition of a little girl wearing red velvet. The Butterworths were also accused of being in cahoots with Linda Hazzard, a notoriously unscrupulous doctor whose treatment of choice was starvation.

Old Town Pizza (Portland)
The current bearded, beer-drinking inhabitants of the Rose City aren’t all that different than the bearded, beer-drinking populace of a century ago. Portland was a rough and tumble town in frontier times, and popular downtown restaurant Old Town Pizza was near the epicenter of early Portland life. The pizza joint is located in the original lobby of the Merchant Hotel, which housed migrant sea workers after being built in 1880. Labor standards being what they were at the time, not all of those seamen got to choose their employer. Portland was notorious for the practice of “shanghaiing,” where able-bodied men were drugged, kidnapped and forced into slave labor on boats sailing to Asia. Old Town Pizza still has an access point to a system of tunnels that run from Chinatown to the waterfront; many believe these were used to haul off unsuspecting victims. Employees also claim to have seen the ghost of Nina, a prostitute who fell down the building’s elevator shaft.

Davenport Hotel (Spokane)

Spokane’s elegant Davenport Hotel has had its share of famous guests since it was built in 1914, including Babe Ruth, John F. Kennedy, Amelia Earhart. While most guests checked out just as easily as they checked in, some believe that there’s at least one that remains. Ellen McNamara, a wealthy socialite from New York, fell to her death in 1920, crashing through a skylight and falling three floors to the lobby. For many years, guests have reported seeing a stately woman dressed in 1920s clothing “peering over the railing as though looking for someone in the lobby below.” DCI Engineers recently helped with a structural overhaul of the historic hotel; no word on whether “ghostbusting” can be added to the company’s resume.

The Anchorage Hotel (Anchorage)
Alaska has more than its share of dark and cold in the winters – the perfect environment for ghosts. The historic Anchorage Hotel, built in 1936, has also seen more than its share of darkness. The city’s first police chief was found shot in the back with his own weapon in a nearby alleyway; no one was convicted and the crime remains unsolved. Guests claim to have seen a phantom lawman in the area near the scene of the crime, seeking justice. Others report seeing the ghostly apparition of a young woman who hanged herself after her husband-to-be skipped town on their wedding day to chase riches during the Gold Rush.

Alcatraz (San Francisco)

There’s no measuring the amount of negative psychic energy that have been absorbed by the walls of Alcatraz, which housed more than 1,000 hardened criminals and military prisoners since it was first opened in 1859. The most infamous section of the prison is “the Hole” – a windowless solitary confinement ward where unruly prisoners were sent for weeks at a time. In the 1940s, a prisoner placed there began screaming that someone “with glowing eyes” was in the cell with him. The next day, the prisoner was found dead in the cell from apparent strangulation. The prison’s administration suspected one of the guards in the murder, but staff, who had experienced many other paranormal phenomena at Alcatraz, denied involvement.

Hotel del Coronado (San Diego)
This famous hotel is forever connected to a specific guest – the so-called “Beautiful Stranger.” The 24-year-old woman checked in alone on Thanksgiving Day 1892, telling staff that a gentleman would soon be joining her. Five days later, the man had not shown up and staff found the woman dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hotel guests have reported a wide variety of spooky happenings – from wind that appears to come from nowhere, drastic changes in room temperature and doors opening and closing on their own.

The Comedy Store (Los Angeles)
This Sunset Strip mainstay served as a home base for infamous gangster Mickey Cohen as gang wars engulfed Los Angeles in the 1940s. The building still has peep holes that were used for spying on people and, allegedly, committing murder. The building’s basement was also known for nefarious dealings, and rumors abound that Cohen buried some of his enemies underneath the building. The building now houses a comedy club, and patrons and performers alike have reported screams and animal noises coming from the basement and apparitions of very imposing well-dressed men.

Driskill Hotel (Austin)

This stunning example of late-1800s architecture may be home to more than just history. Jesse Driskill was a successful cattleman who was given an honorary title of colonel for providing beef to the Confederate army during the Civil War. He invested most of his money into building the grand Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin in 1886. Mr. Driskill was also an avid gambler and proceeded to lose the hotel in a poker game the following year. Broke and depressed, Driskill died in 1890, but is said to still inhabit his hotel. Staff and guests report smelling Mr. Driskill’s cigar smoke and, on occasion, seeing the man himself.

About the author

Caleb Heeringa

Caleb Heeringa, Communications Coordinator | Caleb enjoys immersing himself in the A/E/C industry and informing audiences about DCI’s contribution to state-of-the-art structural development. Preferring a conversational style, he naturally narrates the firm’s design approach and project details to professionals in other industries. With a knack for adventure, he enjoys international travel and exploring the back corners of Washington’s wilderness.

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