Patrick Hunter
Culture/History Outdoor

Haunted Structures and Ghostly Happenings on the Oregon Coast


Former Oregon Coast magazine editor Judy Fleagle tried her hand at paranormal investigation, which she describes in this story that appeared several years ago in Oregon Coast magazine. Note: Some of the businesses and organizations mentioned may no longer be active.

The lights flashed twice on the K-ll meter, indicating “no.” No hesitation over and over again. “No” to “Is your name Rue?” “Are you an older lady?” “Are you a little girl?” and “Are you an older man?” But there was less certainty when asked, “Are you a young lady?” And more of a “yes” to the question, “Are you about 12 or 13?” We also learned that there are at least two more spirits in the house.

This was exciting. Ann Fillmore, of Coast Ghost Paranormal Research Society, and I were in the attic of Heceta House, built in 1893 for the assistant lighthouse keepers at Heceta Head and now operating as the Heceta Head Lightstation Bed and Breakfast. We had detected electromagnetic readings in one area on the second floor that registered off the chart on the Trifield meter, which reads a wide range of electromagnetic energy. Up to this point we had felt a gentle presence throughout the main floor and upstairs bedrooms. According to the caretaker, no alarm system or major electrical wiring went through this area. Because it was near the entrance to the attic, we expected high readings up there and were surprised when the Trifield registered low. 

Using copper dousing rods, we detected some energy in the attic. We used a camera and a laser device to read the temperature and turned on a sensitive recorder as I continued using the rods and Fillmore pressed the K-ll electromagnetic meter with her thumbs. We waited. Fillmore spoke in a gentle voice to the spirit, explaining how to make the K-ll work and suggesting using knocks also to communicate. It wasn’t long before the lights started flashing and knocking sounds were heard.

We were doing a paranormal investigation of a treasured landmark of the Oregon Coast that has a history of at least one ghost. We had a fair amount of equipment with us to document what we found. Fillmore, who is sensitive to these other sources of energy, doesn’t just go with her feelings; she insists on evidence. 

Haunted Egyptian

I went on a tour with Fillmore and a few other people through the Egyptian Theatre and another building in Coos Bay. That was weeks before Heceta House and it was all new to me. Although I consider myself open-minded, I was clearly skeptical. When she gave me some dousing rods, I traversed much of the main floor of the theater and didn’t get even a twinge of movement. I figured any spirits must have seen me coming and moved out of my way. 

Then we went upstairs, where a ghost named Belinda (thought to be the spirit of an usher) hangs out. Wow! Immediately my rods started moving in conjunction with the flashing lights on the K-ll meter held by someone next to me. It was suggested that I talk to her. Now that’s an unsettling experience, but after my first hesitant utterances, it became easier. The spirits and orbs (possible sources of energy) found at the Egyptian are considered to be friendly and are looked upon with favor by management and staff. 

We drove to The American–Coke Building nearby, which was built in 1910 and was at the time undergoing renovation. Here the spirits are considered to be unfriendly. We went to the basement, and found nothing, so we went upstairs and found a spirit named Frank on the second floor. He usually pulled hair, poked, and was generally unfriendly, but tonight he stayed near me and was on his good behavior except for one bump that I could not otherwise explain. A person with the K-ll also stayed nearby and as the lights flashed, my rods moved. I chatted with him and felt nothing threatening as we walked the length of the hallway. I was beginning to get the hang of it.

Okay, so something was happening. I’m not sure what. I’ve never been sensitive to any paranormal stimuli and still didn’t feel the presence that others felt. I did feel rods move in my hands when I knew I was not moving them, and I did see the lights flash as if in reaction to the movement of the rods or to questions I asked. Hmmm! 

How-To Guide to Paranormal Investigations

When it comes to investigations, Fillmore generally limits them to her team. I was invited as part of my research. Sometimes the people who live in or own the building also become involved. Before an investigation can take place, it has to be approved by the owners of the house, building, or business. 

Fillmore follows specific steps. She begins with a walk-through, using no equipment. Then she sweeps with equipment to see what energy is there. She uses dousing rods, cameras, and K-ll and Trifield electromagnetic meters and checks to see if there is any correlation between them. Then she tries for contact using the K-ll with a sensitive recorder turned on as well as a video camera set up. Days later, after the data has been analyzed, a meeting called a Reveal is held with the owners. 

Heceta House & Rue

I went on two investigations—at Heceta House in the daytime and in a private home at night. Both buildings were known to be haunted, but this was the first investigation for each. At Heceta House, the ghost, Rue, is well known, but we made contact with a different spirit, which was very interesting.

Innkeepers Steven and Michelle Bursey have been there for many years. They say several unexplainable incidents have occurred, often involving doors locking and unlocking and lights turning on and off. For the past few years, guests have been writing down their unexplainable experiences in the “Ghost Book.” I read through it, and my favorite one was when the house cat sat by the kitchen door, the knob turned, the door opened by itself, and the cat went out. The fellow who saw it shut the door and told his wife when she came back downstairs. She didn’t believe him—until the door again opened by itself. As Jefferson Davis, an expert in the paranormal, says, “Everybody’s a skeptic until it happens to them.” Interestingly, a similar incident happened to different people two years later. They were sitting on the front steps when the front door opened by itself and a cat walked out. 

The Burseys have accepted the fact that they share Heceta House with at least one ghost —Rue—who really doesn’t like changes to the house. That’s when she becomes most active. One day when Steven was getting ready to cut a doorway through a new section of wall, he kept seeing a lace-curtain effect out of the corner of his eye just as he was about to make a cut. When he turned to get a better look, it would disappear. After about seven tries, he put down his saw, and said, “Look, Rue, I’m just cutting a doorway through, and when that’s done, I’ll stop.” He didn’t see it after that, and the doorway was completed.  

Another time not too long ago, after the guests had left, the housekeeper found an upstairs bathroom locked with a deadbolt that can only be operated from inside. So Steven climbed up a ladder and looked in the window to make sure no one was there. Then he came back inside and had to break his way in, ruining some trim in the process. 

Two days later, everyone was going to be away overnight so everything was locked with special care. The manager came by to open up the following morning to find the back door unlocked, the office door open, and several other doors unlocked. Steven says he got really irritated and had another conversation with Rue: “You’ve got to stop messing with the locks. This is ridiculous. You’re making it hard for us to take care of your house.” Since then, there have been no more issues with locks. 

The folks in the private home I went to have been there for seven years and also have come to an understanding with the ghosts inhabiting their home. Just as at Heceta House, they have accepted the fact that they are there and talk to them when working around the house or out in the yard. Again, just as at Heceta House, once the major changes stopped, the activity decreased. It seems as though these ghosts have accepted their human occupants too.

A Different Kind of Ghost Hunter

Then there’s Jefferson Davis, author of Haunted Astoria and other books on the paranormal. He is very familiar with what’s haunted and what’s not on the northern half of the Oregon Coast, and he is a collector of paranormal stories. He knows more than nearly anyone else in the Northwest about the paranormal, but his modus operandi doesn’t fit the stereotype.

He considers himself “as psychic as a brick” and he doesn’t use dousing rods, pendulums, or crystals to help communicate with spirits.

He says, “I get no flashes of intuition, which come to most people. For me, it’s a matter of focus.” While Fillmore likes to use inexpensive digital cameras that don’t have some of the screening mechanisms of the more expensive ones, Davis uses an expensive digital camera in conjunction with a film camera and tries not to use flash. And he warns people not to trust camera shots.

He also doesn’t believe it has to be dark. “No reason you can’t check for ghosts in daylight,” he says, “and at night you don’t have to turn off the lights.” 

Of course, when it comes to the paranormal, there are believers and nonbelievers. I think Heceta House’s Steven Bursey has it right. “There’s enough evidence for those who want to believe,” he says, “and never enough for the skeptics.” . . . So maybe I’m having a change of heart. 

This excerpted story was originally published in the September/October 2008 issue of Oregon Coast magazine. Photos by Ann Fillmore/cover photo & lighthouse stairs illustrations by Patrick Hunter