Jeremy Puma and Garrett Kelly have learned since they started an interactive map of all things spooky, weird and mysterious that the “paranormal” is not really so unusual after all.
The longtime friends and observers of the peculiar last year launched the crowd-sourced Liminal Seattle map (now called Liminal Earth) to document places people have seen, or experienced, bizarre or other worldly phenomena. It has accrued more than 350 entries and a worldwide following.
“Spooky things happen every day all around us!” they wrote in the website’s introduction. “Instead of brushing these peculiar moments and bizarre encounters off as chance, or mere coincidence, what if we talked about them, mapped them, and tried to decode the message?”
Because of Halloween’s spooky nature and it only being one day, Puma and Kelly are trying to extend the celebration by introducing an extended version of the holiday with “Thirteen Liminal Nights,” which began Friday.
Last week, the two met at Gaines Point in Green Lake Park to revisit the known hot spot for the mysterious and talk of what they’ve learned. The point is at the north side of the lake where a small grove of trees was planted in honor of Sylvia Gaines, a young woman killed by her incestuous father in 1926.
Puma and Kelly say the ghost of Sylvia, who was 22 when she was killed, has reportedly been seen peeking between the branches of trees and the leaves of shrubs at night. The park is also home to the Green Lake Shapeshifter and an “unconfirmed” Hypogeum Entrance near Duck Island, according to their map.
When he walked through the supposedly haunted arch from the Martha Washington School for Girls, Puma’s do-it-yourself dowsing rods of copper and brass twisted dramatically. He said he didn’t feel any special energy when that happened, but also said that he and Kelly don’t seem to be as sensitive to unseen energies as some other people.
They both were quite taken, however, with what they thought were unusual events or coincidences:
- A man riding a bicycle back and forth on the trail wearing a Santa costume for no apparent reason near a crop of Amanita, a vivid red and white poisonous mushroom theorized to have played a role in the legend of Santa Claus.
- A squirrel that stared down a dog with an intensely predatory look on its face and then casually sauntered away.
Puma, whose day job is at the University of Washington, is an animist and particularly enjoys enjoys encounters with ghosts of animals and animals behaving in ways that seem almost human, according to Kelly.
“That’s Jeremy’s jam,” Kelly said. He, on the other hand, has an affinity for events and places that spark wonder and invite mystery.
One of most fun side effects of doing the map, he said, has been taking weekend trips with his 6-year-old, tromping through abandoned cemeteries in Kitsap County, looking for the Screaming Well, monsters and Balrogs (while reading to him “Lord of the Rings”). But the awe isn’t just for kids.
“I think adults can find that kind of mystery, too, if they go out and suspend disbelief a little bit,” said Kelly, a co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio who currently works at Sub Pop.
While Kelly and Puma have revised their original plan to visit every location on their map, they are still hitting as many as possible, not to debunk anything but rather to explore and experience. They bring the dowsing rods, an alligator claw pendulum and binoculars to which Puma has affixed a stone with a hole in it, called a Hag Stone.
Among the most genuinely frightening places they said they’ve gone is Starvation Heights and the Old Olalla Cemetery in Kitsap County where the mother of Seattle’s seafood restaurateur, Ivar Haglund, was starved to death in a supposed health treatment.
“It’s horrible,” said Puma.
Among their most favorites places are the ones they’ve been able to enjoy with their children: the Fairy Forest in West Seattle’s Fauntleroy Park, the Mima Mounds near Littlerock in Thurston County, the Waterworks Garden in Renton and the Black River Riparian Forest where they found plants featured in fairy lore, a slew of weird structures and had a curious encounter.
“We were coming out of the forest and we saw a man standing next to a silver car and he had on goggles with antenna,” said Puma. “He said, ‘You guys want to go flying?’ and then he opened his trunk and pulled out four other pairs of goggles with antennas. Then he showed us his drone.”
“The kids loved it. We meet him on the edge of the forest and he takes us flying,” said Puma. “It was like a modern encounter with fairies.”
And maybe it was.
At least, that’s what they have begun to believe. What has sometimes been deemed unnatural and unusual is really almost commonplace. There is magic and mystery to be found anywhere.
“This bolsters our theory that the paranormal is actually normal,” said Puma. “It’s the other side of things and it’s way more common than we’d first imagined.”