Written by Jen. Photographed by Tracie.
*Please note that this post was written before Market Ghost Tour became Market Ghost Stories. Market Ghost Stories is not so much a tour anymore as it is a “theatrical excursion” which has evolved from the tour featured here and is now hosted by the people at Unexpected Productions Improv. I have not experienced this, so I cannot comment on it. All links will now go to Up Improv’s Market Ghost Stories page.*
I think it is fair to say that Tracie and I both like creepy stories, and that we both spook easily, a combination which can be tricky. When she suggested we check out the Market Ghost Tour at Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, I was immediately intrigued and nervous. Neither one of us wanted to get too freaked out and embarrass ourselves, but we decided to take our chances and go for it.
Market Ghost Tour has been around for nearly ten years. They offer a Market Day History Tour, a Market Night Ghost Tour, and a Mortuary Investigation. We knew we could handle a bit of macabre subject matter, and that neither of us would last long on a mortuary investigation (I can envision myself screaming bloody murder and running out like a baby). So, the Market Ghost Tour seemed the clear choice for us.
A couple of months ago in L.A. some friends and I did the Dearly Departed Tour, which focuses on death and murder in Hollywood. It sounds grim but it was fascinating, and the tour guide was really enthusiastic and upbeat. He suggested we all go home and take a tour in our home town. He talked about how much he had learned taking various tours in places he had lived along side tourists. The Market Ghost Tour seemed a great one to test out his theory.
Tracie and I arrived early to do some exploring on our own in the Pike Place Market. Both of us have been there plenty of times as is the case for all Seattleites I imagine. I knew we’d be getting a lot of history on the tour and was excited to expand my knowledge of the market and my home city. We popped into Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for some samples of their outstanding cheese and curds. We tried their spicy macaroni and “breadzel” as well – tasty stuff. We didn’t want to go into a spooky situation on empty stomachs.
We made our way through the market and ended up in Post Alley. Here we admired the gross, but cool, Gum Wall for a few minutes before heading just down the alley to Ghost Alley Espresso – home of the Market Ghost Tour. Inside we checked in for our tour, perused their Seattle/ spooky book collection, and met our tour guide, Jim. I got the sense that we were in for a treat as Jim had charisma and enthusiasm in spades.
Most evenings there are 3 Ghost Tours, we did the 7 o’clock tour with a group of 4 other people. The other folks on our tour live in Seattle as well, though two of them had moved here from India. Jim introduced himself and the tour, and we were on our way. The tour runs about 75 minutes and is chock full of interesting, and creepy tales from Seattle’s strange history. Jim kept us all captivated with his incredible and theatrical storytelling style. Many of the tales involved people I’d heard of, like Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer, though the details of the stories were largely new to me. Others, especially the ones going way back to the early 1900’s were completely new to me. Who knew Seattle’s first serial killer was a woman named Dr. Hazard? Not I.
There is something wonderful about hearing a story at the site where it took place, especially when the story-teller is passionate and gifted in the oral arts. Much like the Dearly Departed Tour, I found it more interesting than scary, though I did get goosebumps a couple of times and Jim was able to make several of us jump. One of the ghosts most often seen in the Pike Place Market is Mae West. Mae was a kind-hearted, sweet older lady who lived in the senior center nearby and was beloved by all the merchants and regulars of the market. When she died she asked for her ashes to be buried in the market. Jim showed us the spot where her ashes were buried (along with the remains of many other people), under a tree that only flowered the year she was buried beneath it. Mae’s ghost has been spotted regularly since she passed. It is said that she not only appears to people, but likes to goose men in the market. True or not, it was a delightful story, more charming than scary.
Our ghost tour took us all over the market. Such a unique way to explore Pike Place! There were no ghost sightings during our tour, but Jim’s vivid descriptions made it easy to picture ghosts lurking around every corner in the market’s nooks and crannies. Plenty of Jim’s tales packed a creepy punch, such as the sightings in the former mortuary. Jim then described the Mortuary Investigation, a tour that clearly has a creepiness factor too high for Tracie and myself. But I think it must be perfect for braver people who are interested in ghosts and paranormal activity.
The Market Ghost Tour is in a word, fun! It has a lot of history, some crazy, spooky stories, embellished in a good way, and all theatrically presented by a guide (in this case Jim) who knows his stuff. The Pike Place Market is a must-see for all visitors to Seattle, but the Market Ghost Tour is a great way to explore it a little differently, and to delve deeper into its rich, quirky history. If you are visiting Seattle, hosting visitors, or just want to do a bit of exploring in your hometown, give the Market Ghost Tour a try!
**Please note that Market Ghost Tour has recently changed to Market Ghost Stories. See their website for more details.**
Written by Jen. Photographed by Tracie.
*All opinions and photos are our own unless otherwise noted. Market Ghost Tour provided us with a complimentary tour*