This incident could repeat itself in any year, in any city, where Those from The Other Side cross paths with The Living:
“Ghost Stories and The Unexplained: Book Two” ~ Excerpt
Seattle Homes ~ On Seattle Graves
By Emily Hill
The cabbie looked at me expectantly as I reached for the door handle of his taxi, raising his eyebrows in the timeworn expression of, “Where to, lady?”
After I settled into the back seat and closed the door he edged the cab away from the curb.
“Greenwood, please – 82nd Street – but along Greenwood Avenue, not Highway 99,” I requested.
I was rummaging inside my purse, looking for my wallet, when the driver began his cabbie shtick. “Big party?”
“Yes. A retirement party. I work downtown.”
“Uh huh. So? The company paid, right?”
“Well, for the first part. Then a bunch of us stayed late for drinks and gossip,”
“So home is Greenwood? You don’t drive?”
“Well, I take the commuter bus in the morning and the direct busses back to Greenwood don’t run this late . . . I don’t think,” I said, my voice trailing off. But what I was actually thinking was ‘Seattle busses run 24/7 and everyone knows it.’
“Maybe you’re thinking it’s not safe - making a bus transfer on a Friday night?” He had me pegged.
I laughed hollowly.
Highway 99 was “Ladies of the Night Land” back when this rather unsettling experience took place. And the busses coming into my Greenwood neighborhood from downtown ran along Highway 99. The city had posted signs on the utility poles declaring the highway corridor closest to my Greenwood cottage a SOAP Zone (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution). Vice squad officers would sit in their cruisers with clip boards and jot down the license plate numbers of cars who pulled over to talk to the ‘girls’. Funny to think that just three blocks west of this tawdry zone was a quiet little community of turn of the century cottages within walking distance of one of the most popular destinations in Seattle – Green Lake Park.
“Well, my house is three blocks off Highway 99 and I don’t want trouble, you know?”
“Whadda ‘ya mean?” he asked.
Well, maybe he wasn’t so inside my head, after all. “You know, drugs and girls. I don’t want trouble.” It seemed like I was trying to convince him of one of Seattle’s hottest crime zones.
He laughed – loud and full. It was obvious he thought I was a bumpkin.
“Lady,” he said, shaking his head. “You’ll have more trouble with ghosts chasing us, considering your preference for driving up Greenwood Avenue, than you’ll have with drugs, girls, and pimps along the highway,”
“What do you mean?”
“Ghosts! Greenwood Avenue! What? You don’t know?”
Greenwood Avenue runs parallel to tacky Highway 99. Either route would work fine bringing me home from downtown. But as close to midnight as it was, I wanted to walk through my neighborhood from the stylish boutiques and trendy restaurants along Greenwood Avenue – and not from gritty, run-down Highway 99. One would easily agree that walking through the neighborhood of rose-trellised garden cottages representative of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood felt safer than walking along the highway, particularly that late.
“Ghosts? Along Greenwood Avenue?” I had never heard of such a thing.
I had my own unsettling experiences at my Greenwood cottage, but this was the first time I’d heard a public acknowledgement that any hauntings extended beyond my own little cottage.
“Well, cabbies just know these things. It must be a rare occasion that you stay out late is all I can say.” At this point we were approaching the Aurora Bridge. At 46th Street we veered west to Phinney Avenue, which would become Greenwood Avenue thanks to the dogleg at 60th Street.
I was watching the fare on the meter increase. “Do you take Visa?” I asked sheepishly.
“No lady. Just cash. My machine’s broken.”
Right! His machine’s broken – if he ever had a credit card terminal. I needed to watch the meter and stretch the thirteen dollars I had left from my revelry in order to get as close to my house as my cash could take me. How much should I ‘back out’ for a tip? Five-dollars?
“When the fare gets to eight dollars, I think you need to pull over. I’m a bit short of cash,” I admitted.
“Right,” he said, no doubt having heard this line a million times. “Got it.”
The eerie blue glow from the digital meter flashed into the cab, $5.96, and ticked upward as we crossed the Aurora Bridge. I thought for a moment about the Aurora Bridge and all of the souls that must be gathering at midnight on the bridge – or just under the bridge – fifty-one meters down. In 1998 a bus went airborne from the Aurora Bridge after a passenger shot the bus driver. Three people died - the bus driver, the shooter, and one passenger. Thirty-four survivors successfully held on for dear life as the bus plunged down fifty feet to the banks of the cut leading to Lake Union. Thank goodness, everyone survived. The bus, with its busted windows and twisted metal, didn’t land in the water. Think of how many people could have drowned if it had! If ever there were a place where ghosts would have expected it was the Aurora Bridge – the suicide bridge – and not Greenwood Avenue. But then, I didn’t know the full story of Greenwood Avenue – its history.
“So, ghosts?” The terms of our transaction settled, I turned back to the cabbie’s story.
“I’m just saying”. Cabbies don’t like to pick up fares along Greenwood Avenue some nights.”
“Really? Which nights are those?”
“Oh, you know. Full moon nights, winter nights when the wind is blowing and leaves are swirling in the air.”
I laughed, “You sound like a poet.”
“I do? Well, a little community theater maybe goes a long way,” he said.
I couldn’t help it, I just couldn’t. I peered out the window of the cab and located the moon. A waxing gibbous. “I guess I’m safe, the moon is waxing,” I reassured myself aloud.
“Besides, the leaves have already fallen – it’s November. So. . . tell me. Why don’t cabbies like to pick up fares along Greenwood Avenue some nights?”
“Because of the graveyard. . . and the ghosts that roam this neighborhood.”
“This neighborhood?” I think my voice squeaked.
“You don’t know the history of your own neighborhood?”
“Uh, maybe not,” I admitted, glancing at the meter.
The fare reached $7.15.
“This avenue wasn’t always named Greenwood. At the turn of the century it was Woodland Avenue. The Woodland Cemetery was just over there – to the east.”
“That’s where I live!”
“Hmm. Well then, you know the land is mostly bog as the run-off empties into Green Lake. For seventeen years the Woodland Cemetery Association tried to turn this land into a thriving graveyard.” He laughed.
I wasn’t amused. “What happened?”
“The coffins got water logged with the continual Seattle rain and run off. The constant moisture seeped under the coffins and, over time, the coffins pushed back up.” We caught each other’s look in the rear view mirror. He nodded to affirm the neighborhood folklore. I leaned forward waiting for him to continue.
“Plus, the rain beat on the earth of the newly turned graves and, in no time, the graves would have to be re-dug and the coffins reburied.”
“Ech! What the hell? Then what?”
“Well, Seattle was growing, busting at its seams. The city needed land, pure and simple . . . and, the forefathers were greedy, like always, eh?”
“But what does that have to do with the Woodland Cemetery?”
“Opportunity! The cemetery was losing money because word got around that the dead wouldn’t stay buried! And, with Seattle becoming a turn-of-the century boom town, land was needed for houses!”
He turned around and looked at me, shook his head and scratched his head. “Am I explainin’ too fast for you?” he asked sarcastically.
I glanced at the meter - $7.41. If I extended my cab ride, to get closer to home, it would cut into the five-dollar tip I originally had in mind for the driver. We continued north.
“Houses,” he repeated. “The Woodland Cemetery Association disbanded. The investors promised the Secretary of State that the graves would be moved to the Crown Hill Cemetery four miles away, or so. Get it? ‘Hill’ - no bog, dry land for the dead. The coffins were dug up for the last time and moved from the bog to the hill. And thirty days later dirt was brought in by horse drawn cart so that houses could be built on this land.” He swept his arm in a grand gesture toward my neighborhood.
“So the graves were moved. End of story?” I asked, hopefully.
“Now you’re moving too fast, lady. Word is that not all of the bodies – I mean caskets – were moved. Thirty days is not enough time to dig up forty square acres of graves. Some of the dead were left behind – houses built over the caskets!”
I had heard just about enough.
“Uh, you can pull over here.”
“I’m just saying.”
We were at 80th Street and the meter flashed at $8.71 for the ride and the gruesome history lesson. I handed over $13.00, which amounted to a $4.29 tip – nearly fifty per cent. It didn’t seem fair. I had been grandiose in my initial intentions. Now, I wanted him to drop me closer to my house. I didn’t want to walk though my neighborhood with this new impression so fresh in my mind. I should have changed the subject, but I also had my pride to consider. I looked at the bills – two crisp fives and three crumpled one-dollar bills, from my hand to his.
The next instant I was standing on the sidewalk and he was making a U-turn on Greenwood Avenue. He was speeding back downtown for another fare. Or, perhaps like me, he felt spooked and wanted to get out of this ghostly neighborhood.
I watched his taillights. A feeling of abandonment overwhelmed me as I looked up and down Greenwood Avenue. It looked charming with its small shops, closed for the night, and bakeries that served great coffee. I could almost hear the laughter and the morning’s chatter that would fill the air the next morning. I turned toward home as an icy blast of wind hit me full force, causing my eyes to tear up. I wrapped my coat around me even more tightly and turned up the collar. I blinked and peered up and down Greenwood Avenue. Not a soul in sight.
I realized, for the first time, that as one turns into the neighborhood from Greenwood Avenue, the land does go downhill into what – a hundred years ago – could have been a bog. I headed east along 82nd Street as the lights from Greenwood’s business district dimmed and ahead of me the neighborhood grew dark and quiet. All the while I was thinking ‘cemetery land’.
Except for light from the street lamps situated at every other block, 82nd Street was pitch black. My high heels clipped against the sidewalk, and the sound travelled and bounced between the houses, revealing my whereabouts. I started thinking about the stories I had heard from my neighbors over the years, like the little girl who had lived next door to me. Her mother, Charlene, claimed that a child ghost inhabited their house and taunted her and her daughter. Charlene had described a ghost that was dressed in a turn-of-the-century smock and pinafore. Of course! It made so much (more) sense now.
A light drizzle began to fall. I wasn’t carrying an umbrella. I had only five blocks to walk from Greenwood Avenue to the east end of Fremont Avenue – but they were five long city blocks.
A dog barked from inside one of the houses, and a light was turned on. I shrunk into my coat as a shadow appeared against the curtains. The curtain shifted as though someone were peering out at me. I clutched my coat closer and scurried past that house.
In the distance, I noticed a dog coming toward me, a rather mangy one, approaching from the direction of my house, now four blocks ahead. As it grew near I spoke to it. “Good ole dog,” I said with as reassuring a voice as possible. I wanted the hound to know I meant no malice. The dog turned its face up to inspect me – its one eye shining in the night. Had the other eye been lost in a neighborhood dogfight? It limped along, and finally passed me. I didn’t dare look back at the creature.
The darkness created a shroud around me. There was a street lamp one full block behind me and one in the distance – a block ahead. I could hear the sound of footsteps. At first I thought the sound was the echo from my own high heels, but I wasn’t sure. I stopped. Behind me, I heard three footsteps and then it sounded like someone dashed up a driveway. I turned, but it was too dark to see anything. The night was perfectly still except for the response of my footsteps – and theirs. I took a few more tentative steps. The echo, this time, came from in front of me. I strained my eyes to see into the distance between the street lamp and me. I could feel the rain landing softly on my head. I could smell the musk that comes from over-soaked spongy earth. Was it the smell of turned earth? It certainly seemed so.
I slipped out of my high heels figuring that if someone were following me, or coming toward me out of the darkness, it would be better to throw them off by not making a sound. I continued on, walking in stocking feet. My feet were cold and wet. Bad idea to be walking without shoes in the freezing cold, I concluded, too late. But I also realized that if I slipped my heels back onto wet feet, I would probably ruin my shoes. I had made my bed by getting out of the taxi too far away from my house, and now I was almost barefooted to boot!
It was turning colder; a wave of arctic air hit me. I tightened my wind-whipped coat around me. I needed a Kleenex; my eyes were tearing, and blurring my vision. I blinked again as I stepped lightly. I was hoping to quickly make it to the next street corner up – into the light of the street lamp. As I stared unwavering toward the light I saw the most curious thing! An orb of light moved across my path and maintained a steady distance, moving forward, about two feet off the ground.
My first reaction was, “Fog?” I needed to put the glow into a context with which I was familiar. Actually, even a few wisps of eerie fog would have been more welcome than this orb – which stopped in front of me, just as it crossed my path – maybe fifty feet straight ahead. I only had the taxi driver’s story on my mind – nothing else.
I was walking on land that had, at the turn of the 1900s, been a boggy cemetery. I shivered from the effects of more than just cold weather.
I stood completely still, shaking in the cold shadows, watching to see what the orb would do. It remained perfectly fixed and I was growing colder, wanting to be home. I heard a skittering noise behind me, not the sound a sleek cat might make, or a lumbering raccoon. The sound was more like a rat skittering its way up a retaining wall, a frantic scratching noise. It was that sound that drove me forward, in baby steps, toward the orb which waited for me near the lit intersection. I heard the tinkling of wind chimes just beyond the brightly lit shape. I placed one foot in front of the other, ever closer to the sphere.
The orb became diffused with each step I took. Diffused and larger – as though it were taking shape. It was, actually – taking shape. I stopped again and finger-combed my wet hair back from my face. The shape of a woman began to appear. She was dressed in a long dress. That’s all I could see, a milky white ‘presence’ of someone in a full-length turn-of-the-century gown. I really didn’t have a feeling other than fascination. She was moving across my line of vision, proceeding on as I drew closer. She never looked at me – she stared straight ahead as she moved. I would almost say, “floated”. Yes, that was it. She stared straight ahead as she floated past me. The stationary orb was no longer waiting for me to move forward. In front of me was an apparition, the spirit of a woman who had lived in this same neighborhood – my neighborhood – going about her business, just as I was going about mine – only she was on The Other Side of the Great Divide.
* * *
Emily Hill, author and ‘The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter’ writes from personal experience about supernatural occurrences. Her stories, from Beyond The Grave, are also derived from historical accounts, newspaper archives, and the stories whispered to her by acquaintances. You’ll want to read the full accounting of Emily’s books on Amazon. Her most recent release, ‘The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter’ is available in eBook and paperback format at http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Chasers-Daughter-Emily-Hill/dp/147915931X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350337446&sr=1-2&keywords=The+ghost+chaser%27s+daughter