Lifestyle

Eerie Whidbey

"The fog rolls in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The clouds move swiftly past the half-open eye of the moon. Coyotes howl in the distance. Something is rustling in the deep, dark woods.It’s the haunted season on Whidbey Island, a time when hair rises a little more easily on the backs of necks and imaginations run wild. Forgotten stories of the unusual and unexplained are suddenly remembered.An investigation into the creepier side of the island can dredge up a bounty of tales about night happenings, weird creatures and mysteries. The stories extend back even to the earliest days of island settlement. In 1857, a gang of angry Haida Indians beheaded Col. Isaac Ebey on the prairie that bears his name today.There’s a story that his scalp was later recovered in Alaska, but nobody knows for sure where his head lies.In Coupeville, there’s a head without a name. Around Halloween four years ago, mushroom hunters discovered a skull off a logging road in the woods south of Libbey Road. Island County Coroner Robert Bishop said he was able to retrieve the skull, about 80 percent of the skeleton and the pistol the man probably shot himself in the head with. The identity of body still remains unknown, even after an exhaustive search. In the coroner’s office, the remains have been affectionately dubbed “Bob” since he was just a Bag Of Bones. Bishop said the man was about 25 to 35 years old, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11 and wore prescription military-issue glasses. His jaw and nose had been broken and healed long before he died, leading Bishop to believe he was an aggressive type of guy.But the clues have led nowhere. “This case is going to haunt me forever,” he said.In the years since the discovery, Bishop said he’s received odd phone calls from people who say they had visions about the dead man. Psychics have offered help. One woman in particular offered a vivid description of the man’s death, which she saw in a dream. People have claimed that the woods are haunted by the ghost of the unknown man.“Many people really get spooky out in those woods,” he said.Besides the woods, there are at least a half dozen houses and buildings on the island are believed to be haunted. Apparitions of children have been seen playing at the old school house overlooking Penn Cove. There’s a “gray lady” that walks the halls of the Captain Whidbey Inn.There are stories of a ghost that haunts the municipal court in Oak Harbor, which is rumored to be built on top of Indian burial grounds. Court employees and maintenance workers who have been alone in the building after hours have reported hearing odd noises and feeling someone watching them.Gary Williams has been the maintenance worker in the building since it opened 12 years ago. Doors creak or slam shut and voices call his name when he’s alone late at night. He called the police once after little crosses appeared in the lower left-hand corner of every window and door. A couple of repairmen working in the dark basement asked if the place was haunted after feeling that someone was watching them.“I don’t believe in ghosts myself,” he said, “but you never know.”Courthouse worker Donna Rollag says she sometimes also feels a “presence” in the building at night. Yet she says the poltergeist seems to be of the friendly sort. “It doesn’t scare me,” she said.Even the animals can seem a bit haunted on Whidbey. People have been spotting white deer in the Central Whidbey area for years. Some people think that the ghostly creatures represent omens or even the souls of lost children.For about 10 years there have been numerous giant cat or cougar sightings on the south end of the island, particularly around Goss Lake and Clinton. Earlier this year a child near Coupeville reported seeing a puma-like creature. Yet investigators have never found paw prints or any other substantial evidence.There are people who believe aliens from other planets are running around Whidbey with the ghost deer and monster cats. Two years ago, a strange pattern that emerged in a field of winter barley near Coupeville caught the attention of Seattle media and crop circle experts.Ilyes, a member of the Portland-based Center For Crop Circle Studies, rushed to Coupeville to see the field for herself. Sure enough, she said there was a definite pattern in the downed barley. Probably a message from “light beings” from another world.The farmer who planted the field, however, said he put too much manure on it.On a beach not far from the crop-circle field, hikers have come upon an area surrounded with hundreds of rock structures. There’s an odd pattern of flat and rounded rocks piled on top of each other, much like a scene from the movie “The Blair Witch Project,” along with a driftwood hideout and a wooden archway to nowhere. They rocks get knocked down, but are back up within days.Some locals say the piles are “wishing stones,” others say it’s witchcraft, and some think bored teenagers probably got the idea to create their own mini-Stonehenge. There’s plenty of speculation, but like many things on Whidbey, there seems to be no explanation. Just whispers in the dark and a sinking suspicion that something unseen is out there, watching and waiting. "

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