Ghost cat, tombstones, and other reasons to visit Tokeland Hotel

Oct 23, 2019, 9:36 AM

The Tokeland Hotel on Willapa Bay, circa 1900, is Washington's oldest hotel, and is believed by many to be haunted. (Tokeland Hotel) When a graveyard on the hotel grounds washed away decades ago, the old tombstones became decorations. (Tokeland Hotel) Willapa Bay, then known as Shoalwater Bay, and Toke Point, as they appeared on a nautical chart from the 19th century. (NOAA Historical Chart Archives)

If you’re the kind of history enthusiast whose idea of a fun weekend getaway includes a stay at a haunted hotel, then maybe a visit to Pacific County is in order. Some people say that ghost cats, unexplained flashing lights, and other strange sights and sounds are all waiting for you at the historic Tokeland Hotel.

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It was back in 1885 when the Kindred family – which is a great name for a hotel operator and for future ghosts (“Kindred spirits” – get it?)  — first opened the hotel on the Toke Peninsula, which juts out into northern Willapa Bay (known in those years as Shoalwater Bay). This was four years before Washington even became a state.

Elisa Law knows a lot about Washington state history. She also got married at the Tokeland Hotel not too long ago, and wrote the Wikipedia entry for the place.

Law says she loves it there especially because it’s haunted, in what seems like a fun way. For instance, in the room where a member of her wedding party was staying, the doorknob kept falling off the door by itself. Maybe if you go, you should probably bring a screwdriver, though Elisa says the staff were happy to help reattach the wayward knob.

Tokeland’s resident ghost cat

Elisa also says that when she stays there, she always gets a visit from an invisible feline friend.

“Every time I’ve stayed there, I felt the ghost cat like jump up on the foot of the bed,” Law said, punctuating the sentence with a sound effect simulating a cat jumping up and landing. “And then they’re kind of like walking around your feet. No cats around, and you’ll feel that anytime you’re there. I’ve stayed there, you know, half a dozen times. I feel it every time.”

Nic Krause is general manager of the hotel. He’s worked there for about a year and a half, starting back when new owners Heather Earnhardt and Zac Young took over.

Krause has heard a lot from guests in the past 18 months, and he’s seen and felt some strange things himself, including a recent spate of unexplained flashes of light reported by many staff and guests. Along with these recent events, Krause says that one of the furnishings that came with the hotel is a logbook of odd occurrences described by guests going back several decades.

“There are probably 50 or 60 accounts in here, from shadowy figures to taps in the night, to ‘I saw something in the mirror’ or something went crashing or zinged across the room,” Krause said. “I mean, they really run the gamut, and are largely based around ‘Charley the Ghost’ and Room Number Seven. Those are the two big beacons that kind of go throughout the last 30 or 40 years as far as I can tell.”

The haunted room

Krause says that Room Number Seven tends to be the most common place where guests witness or experience unusual phenomena, and he says that there’s no clear reason why this is the case; that is, there’s no known backstory of something terrible that happened in the room in the past.

Has anybody ever been scared enough to pack up and leave in the middle of the night, as if they were guests at a hotel in an episode of Scooby Doo?

“To my recollection, they’ve never left, but they have gotten up in the middle of the night,” Krause said. “Two nights ago, in fact, I got an email in the middle of the night, sometime around 4:00 in the morning, from two guests saying —  and these were the only two guests in the hotel – saying, ‘There is a knocking in in the walls at the hotel, it has a rhythm to it that is a bit frightening and we’re wondering if there’s anyone else here, if you could investigate.’ And of course, there was absolutely nothing there … there was nothing to be seen. There was no one [else] in the hotel. Everything was locked up tight.”

Nic says those guests were in room 9, so you don’t have to feel bad if you can’t reserve room 7 since the whole place is haunted.

The Tokeland Hotel’s resident ghostly guest

And let’s not forget about Charley, since those creepy feelings in the entire hotel might be because of him.

“Now Charley is a different story,” Nic says, compared with the lack of information about room 7.

“Charley, pieced together through different accounts was, around the turn of the last century, was a Chinese immigrant,” Krause said. “He was an indentured servant, then he escaped his indentured servitude and found himself working at the hotel, staying and working here. And when the folks who were owed his service went looking for him, [people at the hotel] hid Charlie,” in small room behind the fireplace, Krause says.

“It is still a small room … now it’s where we store the firewood,” Krause continued, but when Charley was hiding there, “they ended up lighting a fire, and he did die in the walls of the hotel of carbon monoxide poisoning [while] hiding from his captors, so to speak.”

Charley, Nic says, gets the blame or credit for most of the unusual sights or sounds that tend to be reported all over the hotel.

Searching for lost clues about the winter of 1861-1862

Nic also says that most of what people report feeling there, and what he’s personally felt, is a sense of not being alone. He’s never felt afraid of anything there, though.

A woman named Julie – we’ll just use her first name – is from Seabeck. She studies and researches paranormal activities, and she’s stayed at the Tokeland Hotel before, in search of the kinds of experiences that Nic Krause and that old logbook describe.

She wrote in an email, “I wasn’t comfortable going out of the room late at night to use the restroom — it felt menacing or like something was occurring that was none of my business … Also, when we went for a walk out toward the water, [I] felt watched from the upper far right-hand room, although I never saw anyone.”

On a, um, lighter note, Nic Krause says that they did manage to get rid of a cemetery that used to be on the hotel grounds.

“In the 70s, there was a great storm and it washed away a very local cemetery, a cemetery that used to be on hotel property,” Krause said. “Some duck hunters that were in the area found three tombstones, two of them quite grandiose quite large that we recognize as members of the family of the folks that owned the hotel. One was Leonidas Norris, who died in his early 20s of a hunting accident, and another is Albert Brown who died at nine years old. He actually got stuck in the muck in the bay and the tide came in.”

The third tombstone found by the hunters was quite austere and only marked with the initials “CLL.” Nic Krause says it might have been for poor old Charley.

Since that big storm washed away any actual human remains, Nic Krause says it was fair game for the tombstones to become decorations at the hotel and in the adjacent tavern.

Hmmmm… I wonder how Leonidas Norris and Albert Brown – and not to mention Charley – feel about that?

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Ghost cat, tombstones, and other reasons to visit Tokeland Hotel