The owner of a 150-year-old house in Central Whidbey plans to open it as a bed and breakfast after years of being closed to the public, but there may be one tenant who’s never left.
For decades stories have circulated about a spirit haunting the historic Col. Walter Crockett House. There’s tales of an unseen presence, objects moving by themselves and strange noises at night.
But unlike most other haunted house stories on Whidbey Island, ghost hunters can point to a specific dead person who might be lingering inside the farmhouse.
Charles Crockett, one of the colonel’s sons, killed himself in an upstairs bedroom on Dec. 12, 1893. His blood still stains the floor boards underneath the carpeting. His troubled spirit is said to roam the old parts of the house.
Or perhaps those days are gone. Paula Spina, who owns the home and the adjacent Crockett barn, said she’s never noticed anything otherworldly in the circa-1850s house. And she’s sensitive to those kind of things, being the owner of a genuine crystal ball and an occasional seance participant.
“It’s a very peaceful home,” she said. “Very comfortable. No bad feelings.”
Spina is in the process of getting the house ready to open once again as a bed and breakfast establishment. She obtained the necessary permits and remodeled the kitchen. She lured historian Diana Peterson away from the Camlann Medieval Village to be the “bed and breakfast proprietress.”
Peterson specializes in cooking period food and is working on a mid-Victorian menu for the Crockett House.
Yet a recent resident of the house has several spooky stories.
Gordon Weeks, a former reporter in Coupeville, lived for about six months in the room where Charles Crockett killed himself. He reported a number of ghostly experiences, though he claims he was never frightened. In the bedroom at night he often caught movement out of the corner of his eye. One time the doors to the bathroom mysteriously swung open and another time the shades went up by themselves.
“I felt like it was a benign presence,” he said. “I never felt like it was threatening.
All the peace and quiet could be thanks to the previous owners, Bob and Beulah Whitlow, who had the house purged of evil.
The Whitlows owned the Crockett Farm from 1984 until 2005 and ran the house as a bed and breakfast for most of those years. They hosted people from all over the world, including the likes of Danny DeVito, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas.
“I still love the Crockett House,” said Bob Whitlow, who now lives in Coupeville with his wife. “It’s a wonderful place.”
But it was a very different house when they first moved in. It had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect. For years it had been sort of a crash pad and party house for hippies, though a local man lived in the house and kept it from being trashed. Out of that environment, stories of hauntings and strange happenings multiplied in the years before the Whitlows moved in.
Blood stain on the ceiling
Whitlow, who described himself as a born-again Christian and a former Bible college president, said he never paid much attention to the stories. But then strange things started happening during the remodeling. Mostly, he said it was a feeling of an “unpleasant presence.” When he was upstairs he often found himself suddenly turning around to see if someone was following him.
Once, Whitlow needed to go upstairs to retrieve an item, but something inexplicable stopped him.
“At the bottom of the stairs I had this real strange feeling,” he said. “I thought, I don’t want to go up there.”
Later, he gave a tour of the house to a group of women. They stopped in the upstairs bedroom where Charles Crockett had killed himself. As they left, the glass fell with a crash out of the pane of a broken window.
“I about had a stampede of women on my hands,” he said. “It was really frightening.”
Even more eerie, the Whitlows discovered a hand-sized blood stain on the ceiling in a downstairs bedroom. As Whitlow explained, Charles Crockett shot himself with a pistol in his bedroom while his brother was away visiting relatives in Everett. His blood drenched the floor boards and pooled on the ceiling below.
Charles Crockett and his brother Walter Crockett, Jr., lived in the house together, but Charles had suffered from mental health problems.
“He had a fear of becoming permanently insane and preferred death to the insane asylum,” Walter wrote in a letter to his sister after the death. Beulah Whitlow has a copy of the letter.
‘Restless spirit’ gets cleansed
Whitlow said he doesn’t believe in the ghosts of Halloween lore, but as a Christian he knows “there are demonstrations of demonic forces.” At the time, the couple had friends in Seattle who did home blessings and home “cleansings.”
“They called us. They said, ‘We feel there is a restless spirit upstairs and it needs to be cleansed,” he said.
Whitlow explained that the woman anointed each door and window in the house with oil during the ceremony. At one point, she appeared to be chasing an unseen intruder around the house, telling it to leave. Afterward, she was so tired she didn’t have the energy to cleanse the barn.
But it worked, Whitlow said.
“Something changed that day. There was a spirit of rest in that house,” he said. “People would say, ‘We just love to come here. This house is just full of peace.’”
The Whitlows emphasize that the cleansing took place before the bed and breakfast opened. None of their guests ever reported experiencing anything but heavenly tranquility.
As for Spina, she’s undecided about the presence of a poltergeist in the historic house. She has no plans for a seance in the house, though she would like to have a big Halloween bash someday.
“We’re always hoping for visits from former residents,” she said. “Charles Crockett is always welcome.”