If you are visiting the San Juan Islands around Halloween and want to get in to the holiday spirit, you don’t have to look to hard to find a reportedly haunted location to investigate. Several hotels and restaurants around the islands have reported unworldly activity that will give even the most stubborn nonbelievers an appropriately seasonal chill. I’ve gathered a couple of the best stories to get you started on your paranormal investigations.
The first story comes from Rosario Resort on Orcas Island. After Robert Moran sold the mansion in 1938, a couple by the name of Rheem took residence. After seeing Alice Rheem (pictured left) recklessly riding her motor scooter around the island and partaking in a few too many beverages at the local bar, rumors started circulating around the island that her husband had bought the remote property in order to ensconce his unruly wife. After years of drinking heavily, Alice eventually passed away in the mansion, but some guests and employees seem to think that she never truly left. Guests have complained of raucous parties going on all night in adjacent rooms, when the rooms were in fact vacant the night before according to resort staff. There have also been reports of lights turning on and off by themselves, shadowy figures passing across the walls at night, and one housekeeper even reported being touched!
The manager at the Roche Harbor Resort has also reported paranormal activity, and he believes he knows who is responsible. The former owner of the property, John S. MacMillan, hired a woman named Atta Beanning as a governess for his children, and she later passed away on the property. Creepy occurences such as lights turning on and off by themselves, doors opening and closing, and kitchen appliances turning on by themselves have been reported by the resort staff. The restaurant manager has lived with Mrs. Beanning’s pranks in his kitchen for the last 15 years, but he believes her to be a friendly presence.
For even more spine-tingling stories, join Ghosts Among Us each October, sponsored by the San Juan Historical Museum. During the event, island residents and visitors share stories and experiences they have had personally or that have been passed down through the years. Although parental guidance is suggested for the younger crowd, the event guarantees an informative, fun, and lively way to celebrate the spookiest holiday!
Charter guests who are interested in learning about the history and native peoples of the San Juan Islands region would benefit from a stop at Blake Island. Blake Island is located in the middle of Puget Sound between Vashon Island and Bainbridge Island. It is a 475 acre marine camping park, offering five miles of saltwater shoreline as well as unobstructed views of the Olympic Mountains and the Seattle skyline. Historically, the island was used as a camping ground by the Suquamish tribe, and was the birth place of Chief Sealth, for whom the city of Seattle was named. It was also used by bootleggers smuggling alcohol south from Canada during the Prohibition. It became a state park in 1959 and is now popular for bird watching, hiking, wildlife viewing, crabbing, clamming, and fishing. The island also offers two horseshoe pits and a volleyball court for those looking to get exercise off the boat and play games. The main attraction of the island, however, is Tillicum Village, located on the northeastern shore.
Upon arrival to Tillicum Village, guests are greeted by performers wearing Northwest Coastal Native tribal costume and are then given clams and broth. Since the 1950’s, each guest to the village has eaten their clams and then crushed the clam shells on the path leading up to the longhouse. The crushed clam pathway is now several inches thick. Inside the longhouse, guests can watch salmon cooking on cedar stakes over an alder wood fire before enjoying a traditional salmon dinner. After dinner, the Tillicum Village dancers put on a performance that includes traditional stories, dances, and songs of various Northwest Coastal Native groups. Guests can also visit a gallery featuring regional Northwest artwork and watch a totem pole carving demonstration. Blake Island is only accessible via tour boat out of Seattle, or by private vessel. There is a 1500-foot long moorage dock as well as 24 mooring buoys. Electrical services and pumpout is also available for a small fee.
Mid-summer is easily the busiest time in the San Juan Islands. Each year, as soon as the winter starts to loosen its grip, visitors flock to the area to enjoy the warm, dry days and take in all the natural beauty the islands have to offer.
It may be a well-kept secret, but fall is also a spectacular time to visit the San Juans. The high pressure system in place over the islands throughout the summer months starts to move off, allowing winds to pick up and creating more interesting sailing conditions. If you are considering chartering a boat late in the season, you may wonder what there is to do in the islands in the fall. Thanks to the mild and dry weather conditions that often extend through October, outdoor enthusiasts will likely be able to beachcomb, hike, and kayak to their heart’s content. Less tourists in the area also means less boats on the water, so you’ll be more likely to have anchorages to yourself, and better chances of seeing some of the wildlife that tends to get shy when there is a large crowd around.
It is true that many of the businesses tourists like to visit during the summer are on reduced hours or may even close during the off season, there are still plenty that remain open all year around. In fact, the entire month of October is dedicated an event called Savor the San Juans, which promises to be the perfect post-summer getaway. Savor the San Juans includes winemaker’s dinners, harvest festivals, farm tours, and specials at some of the finest lodgings and restaurants in the region. The bulk of the events take place at locations on San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. For more information, visit http://www.visitsanjuans.com/savor .