COLFAX — If you’re in Eastern Washington and looking to get spooked, you’ll have to settle for someone in a ghost costume at Scarywood or Haunted Palouse; the opportunity to see the real thing in Colfax might have vanished.
This past weekend, Travel Channel’s latest episode of “Ghost Adventures,” a paranormal-investigation TV program, claimed to show “authentic” evidence of ghosts at Colfax’s St. Ignatius Hospital. An anomaly in a photo from a full-spectrum camera, which can capture ultraviolet and infrared light, appears to be a “a white misty apparition.”
Colfax Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Valoree Gregory said about 100 people called Tuesday after the TV show aired asking to visit St. Ignatius.
The Chamber, which gave the tours, no longer has a lease to use the building and hasn’t been able to contact the owner. The last of the building’s famous haunted tours was given at the end of 2018 and had been hosted on and off since 2015. The hospital had been built by the Sisters of Providence and Mother Joseph in 1894, about eight years after Sacred Heart Medical Center was opened in Spokane.
Chamber President Nancy Cochran estimated the tours alone earned about $20,000 a year for the Chamber after splitting sales with the building owner.
“We knew that we weren’t going to be able to do tours, and now we have tons of people calling (since the episode aired),” said Gregory, who had also been a tour guide.
During the past few years, Gregory said that at times when she was in the notoriously haunted building, she heard a handful of conversations, saw a dark shadow come down a hallway, and felt a ghostly kick to the back of her foot when no one else was around.
“No two ghost hunts were ever the same,” Cochran said. “We saw different activity, and it was different people.”
One year, the volunteer tour guides gave 85 ghost tours in six weeks and could have given more if not for their full-time jobs, according to Cochran.
“Our biggest goal was that it brought tourists to Colfax,” Gregory said.
When the building was open, out-of-town visitors made up the majority of the tour groups and these visitors benefited the small city’s economy by shopping, staying in hotels, filling up on gas and dining at restaurants.
The ghost tours also helped St. Ignatius itself because the tour guides were the ones keeping up and preserving the 125-year-old building. Gregory said that after tours she boarded up the building to keep trespassers out and then checked on it every week.
“I loved being able to bring the people in and share the history,” Cochran said.
Much of the building’s past was learned from local residents who had worked at the hospital and were still alive. Many Colfax residents know people who died there, and both Cochran’s husband and Gregory were born there.
Additionally, Gregory found documents and photos through her work at the Whitman County Historical Society.
Despite efforts to preserve it, the building is showing its age. This past winter was especially destructive, and the last time Gregory visited, portions of the roof had caved in.
“When it rains outside, it rains inside,” she said.
In April, a number of local business people were willing to buy the building at auction for the Chamber to give ghost tours, according to Gregory. But the starting bid of $129,000 was too high, considering the repairs that would need to be made.
St. Ignatius’ last buyer, Derrick Fincher of Spokane Valley, was convicted of fraud in September, and the building has gone unsold since. Ownership has reverted to Anthony Girges of Downey, California, according to the Whitman County assessor.
“Now it’s just sitting there dying,” Cochran said.
She said she had a tough time saying goodbye to the building’s spirits.
“We kind of got to know some of the ghosts personally,” she said, ” … which seems kind of weird with a ghost, but that’s the point we’ve gotten to.”
Whoever the new owner might be, Gregory said she hopes to make a deal to give tours again.
“It’s a spooky place,” she said.