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Avondale is a little town located just west of Zanesville on Route 22, at the intersection with 93. There are no other roads in this town, which contains only a handful of residents. The largest and nicest home in Avondale stands on 22 just a few feet from the intersection and has been abandoned for roughly thirty years. This is the Sidwell House–one of Muskingum County’s best-known and scariest haunted houses.

What happened at the Sidwell House, and why is it unoccupied? As is always the case with local legends, there are conflicting reports. Every version seems to deal with a family murder here, although the specifics vary. The Sidwells are apparently the current owners and may have nothing to do with the last family who lived here. According to reports I’ve gotten, the house hasn’t been occupied since at least the early 1970s and possibly as far back as the 50s. One story says the last family was a newlywed couple who were murdered in their beds by an unknown assailant. Another story is more elaborate. This is how it was told to me via e-mail:

Back in the late 40s/early 50s a family of about 6 lived in the home–four children, a mother, and a drunken father. The father, who was also very abusive, came in late one night very drunk. He climbed the stairs to the bedroom and began fighting with his young wife, and stormed away. The next morning she arose from bed to find him gone. She searched the upstairs, but he was nowhere to be found. Descending the stairs she looked everywhere and finally found him stitting in a chair in the living room with his bottle. She began to cook breakfast. Arising from his chair he grabbed the shotgun from the closet, went to the kitchen, and found his wife standing in front of the stove. He raised the shotgun and repeatedly shot her from the back of her head to the back of her knees. He then quietly walked up the stairs to his childrens bedrooms and shot all four of his young children in their beds, then proceeded to shoot himself hours later. This is the story I had heard from my grandma for as long as I can remember. She said you could find it on every radio station and newspaper cover for a hundred miles.

All of which makes you wonder why the guy did it, when he could have had breakfast if he’d just waited another hour. At any rate, the house is now supposed to be the site of mysterious lights in the windows, gunshot sounds, even the smell of bacon cooking in the early mornings. The murdered family is said to haunt its rooms and halls. This is why the house isn’t occupied; no one stays long. According to the person who wrote the e-mail, her attempts to question the old-timers at Whitey’s, which is the diner around the corner and just about the only business in Avondale, were met with the cold shoulder. Somebody even called the house “evil.” But is there really anything to the ghost legends associated with this house?

Members of the family which last occupied it say the answer is probably not. I heard from the grown children of the White family in January of 2003, and they were able to fill in many of the factual blanks in the house’s true backstory.

According to them, it was built in the 1840s by the Rankin family. The Rankins farmed the surrounding land and built was was apparently an immense barn on the property–three stories tall with livestock stalls on the second floor. They also operated the place as an inn (The Rankin Inn) and held horse races on a track out back. As is usually the case with large Civil War-era houses, it’s rumored that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Marks on the cellar walls are supposed to have been left by slaves who counted the days before the next leg of their journey. (This is remarkably similar to Brown County’s Rankin House, a very historic confirmed station on the Railroad with its own ghost stories.) The last surviving member of this Rankin family was Winifred Vogt, who died there in 1963. She was a schoolteacher whose fiancee left her on her wedding night.

In 1968 the White family purchased the house from the Sidwell Brothers Limestone Company and moved in–two parents, five kids, and an uncle who sometimes lived there as well. This is the family about whom the legends arose, long after the kids had grown up and moved out. The truth is that they were a fairly normal family. The father of the family owned a trucking company, worked on his vehicles in the barn, and definitely never killed his wife or any of his kids. They sold the house back to the Sidwells in 1982 or 83, after which it apparently lingered in escrow during the divorce of one of the brothers. That’s probably why it’s still abandoned.

A clue as to why such horrible stories are told about a family which could only have been the Whites is the fact that Mr. and Mrs. White had what their children term a “rocky” marriage. Mr. White did drink a lot. And he owned a lot of guns, which he would sometimes show his children how to fire in the back yard. Things like this aren’t too far outside the norm, and they probably would have been forgotten by neighbors if the house they lived in hadn’t eventually been left abandoned. There’s just something about a scary-looking place that demands ghost stories.

However, that might not be all there is to the story. Several of the Whites had experiences in their very old home which might be classified as supernatural. Here are a few examples:

  1. One night my uncle and I were the only ones there and we were getting ready to go to bed. I could hear the sound of glass tinkling, as if drinking glasses were being carried on a tray. It was coming from the upstairs hallway. I could hear it clearly, but my uncle, who was nearby, didn’t notice it. One night, later on, my mother was sleeping in one of the downstairs living rooms and heard the exact same sound.

2. There was a barn on the property and it was one of the largest barns around. My dad had a trucking company and was working late one night on one of his trucks. The barn had 3 levels and the 2nd level was where livestock were kept. At the time there was no animals in the whole barn. My dad heard noises as if there was a stampede in the second level. There were all kinds of animal noises coming from the lower level, like it was full of livestock. It scared my dad so bad he later told my grandfather that the hair was standing up on the back of his neck. Years later, after we moved away, a man in his eighties was talking to my brother. He said that back when he was a little boy he was playing hide and seek with other kids there. He went into the barn and climbed up in a loft on the top floor. He said when he was hiding there he heard the exact same noises my dad heard. It scared him because there was no livestock in the barn at that time either.

3. An experience that I myself had was when I was alone in the kitchen. I heard the slam of the back door that went out on to the enclosed porch. I knew I should not have heard anything because I was looking at the door at the time and it was shut. Immediately following, there was a loud rap on the window nearest the stairwell going up behind the bathroom. Scared the shit out of me, I don’t mind saying. I went to the window thinking it was one of brothers and looked out. There was no one there.

That was the White family’s experience with ghosts at the historic house at 22 and 93–but they were not the first. A Ms. Katherine Martin of Cincinnati wrote with an excerpt from an old family letter, describing where her forebears lived, even though she’s not positive just who was there at the time and when. She has a general idea that it was around 1858, and that Marianna Jackson was one of the residents at that time. Here is the paragraph, transcribed verbatim:

“Hugh was so ill from malaria that Father took a pleasant house in Avondale that the child might have milk from their own cow. That is the house where everybody but Father suffered so from evil spirits (ghosts). I have never read any true account of spiritual manifestations to equal it. I was born there in October 1858. At last, Dearest said she’d not stay there another day, and so, belatedly, Father took a house in Cincinnati.”

An absolutely incredible find. There is little doubt in Ms. Martin’s mind that the “pleasant house in Avondale” described in the letter is the Sidwell House. We are left to wonder just what the “evil spirits” did that made eveyone but Father so miserable.

This background material adds greatly to our understanding of this mysterious house; my thanks to the White family and Katherine Martin for their help with the story.

Whether or not the stories are true, the Sidwell House in Avondale does stand vacant in a hollow off Route 22. It’s quite visible from the highway, which has probably helped its reputation. People who’ve never heard of the ghosts have seen the house and wondered why nobody has bought it by now. It really is amazing, considering how attractive it is after all these years empty, and the nice way it sits on a hill in the middle of its own little hollow. The location isn’t bad at all. Divorce or not, why hasn’t somebody snapped this place up? It’s similar to the case of Mudhouse Mansion.

After first noticing the Sidwell House and then receiving a few different e-mails about it, I decided to check it out for myself. After two or three attempts which were foiled by parking difficulties (there is nowhere to park in Avondale) we just pulled over on 93 one night in September 2002 and walked up to the gated driveway. To see what we found inside, click below.


Alas, the Sidwell House is no more. Nothing this interesting, cool, and historically valuable can be left standing in the world of Wal-Mart and Starbucks, a mall at every freeway interchange and a condominium block at every crossroad. Slowly but surely, Zanesville and its environs are being suburbanized for (mainly Columbus-bound) commuters, and this grand old haunted farmhouse, as beautiful and picture-perfect as it was, breathed its last on the Monday before Christmas, December 18, 2006.

One source tells me that they made an attempt to load the house onto a flatbed truck and move it, similar to what happened when Circleville’s Octagon House was threatened by development, but it didn’t work, so they simply knocked it flat instead. Whether they tried or not, the Sidwell House (or the Rankin House, as it should more appropriately be remembered) is nothing but a memory now. Also claimed in this massacre of local history was the (very meager) remains of an abandoned amusement park I’d been trying to get some photos of for a while, the Moxahala; and they shut down and demolished the old restaurant around the corner called Whitey’s. They chopped down the old trees that gave the hollow surrounding the house and the hill above the town much of its character. They even bulldozed the hilltop and filled in a lot of the “hollow” with the foundation and cellar of the Sidwell House. All of which means that about one-third of Avondale has been wiped away, apparently to be replaced by something–at least judging by the amount of construction equipment to be seen near the corner of Routes 22 and 93. What will it be–a Home Depot? A new neighborhood of prefab M/I homes in the owner’s choice of three exciting layouts? Maybe a shiny new stripmall? Only time will tell.

As you can probably see, these photos were taken on Christmas Eve of 2006, just days after they did away with the house. (Thanks to Tim Holdcroft for the images.) The featureless plowed dirt field doesn’t even resemble the intersection as it appeared pre-demolition. It’s pretty clear that they’re bringing the roadside up to be level with the highway beside it, but beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on. Anyone with further information about the fate of the Sidwell House, maybe a newspaper article about the demolition, or even a rumor about what’s next for the location–please drop me a line. In the meantime, we should mourn the Sidwell House, which lent its character to this little corner of Ohio for more than a century and a half.



Bodie, California: Best Ghost Town In The West!

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The Curse of Bodie: Legacy of Ghost-Town Ghosts?

Today, the ghost town of Bodie, California, is one of the most authentic abandoned gold- mining towns of the Old West (figure 1). It is also reputed to be a “ghost” town in another sense: Some claim, according to a TV documentary, that Bodie is inhabited by ghosts who guard the town against pilferers (Beyond 2000). Supposedly, a visitor who dares to remove any artifact can be plagued by the dreaded “curse of Bodie.”

Boom Town

The 1849 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in the western Sierra foothills lured men and women to California from across the United States and indeed the world. Prospectors equipped with picks, shovels, and the ubiquitous gold pans searched for placer deposits-loose flakes and nuggets that have eroded and washed into streams.

These deposits were searched for by “panning” (an art I once learned in the Yukon) in which the lighter dirt is deftly washed out, leaving behind the flakes of “color” that are collectively called “gold dust.” The discovery of sufficient placer deposits sparked quests for the “mother lode,” involving hardrock mines laboriously dug, blasted, and shored up with timber (Williams 1992, 5; Smith 1925).

A decade after the gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill, four prospectors made a rich strike on the opposite side of the Sierras-that is, in the eastern foothills. They agreed to keep the discovery secret until the following spring, but one, W.S. Bodey, returned with another man, a half-Cherokee named “Black” Taylor. Having traveled to Monoville for supplies, the pair were returning to their cabin when they were caught in a blizzard and Bodey perished.

Named for its discoverer, camp Bodey was soon rechristened “Bodie” when (according to local lore) a sign painter misspelled the word and the new version was preferred (Bodie 2001; Misspelling 2003). At first Bodie was largely neglected due to other strikes in the area. Mark Twain was among the gold seekers who rushed to nearby Aurora, Nevada, for instance.

However, Bodie eventually boomed. In 1876, a freak mine cave-in exposed a valuable body of gold, and the Standard Consolidated Mining Company responded with a large investment in equipment and lumber. Another rich strike followed in 1878 in the Bodie Mine, which, in just six weeks, shipped gold bullion worth a million dollars. Meanwhile, Bodie grew rapidly, with boarding houses, restaurants, saloons, and other enterprises springing up (Williams 1992, 9-10).


Camps like Bodie attracted a breed of adventurous types:

Besides the business and professional men, mine-operators, miners, etc., there were hundreds of saloon-keepers, hundreds of gamblers, hundreds of prostitutes, many Chinese, a considerable number of Mexicans, and an unusual number of what we used to call “Bad men”-desperate, violent characters from everywhere, who lived by gambling, gun-fighting, stage robbing, and other questionable means. The “Bad man from Bodie” was a current phrase of the time throughout the west. In its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches. (Smith 1925)

There were other perils and hardships, including the savage winter of 1878-1879 in which hundreds died of exposure and disease, and mining accidents that claimed victims by falling timber, the explosion of a powder magazine, and other means (Smith 1925; Bodie Cemetery n.d.).

Given Bodie’s reputation, it is perhaps not surprising that one little girl, whose family was moving to the mining town, reportedly prayed: “Goodbye God! We are going to Bodie” (Smith 1925).



Hardships and violence aside, Bodie was a thriving, bustling place, containing some 600 to 800 buildings and a population that reached over 10,000 (Williams 1992, 10; Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20). As it appeared about 1880,

The traffic in the streets was continuous and enlivening. There were trains of huge, white-topped “prairie-schooners,” bringing freight from the railroad, each drawn by twenty or more horses or mules, and pulling one or two large, four-wheeled “trailers”; ore wagons, hauling ore down the canyon to the mills; wood wagons bringing huge loads of pine-nut from long distances, for the mines and mills and for general use; hay wagons, lumber wagons, prospecting outfits, nondescript teams of all descriptions, spanking teams driven by mine superintendents’ horses ridden by everybody, and most exciting of all, the daily stages that came tearing into town and went rushing out; the outgoing stages often carrying bars of bullion, guarded by stern, silent men, armed with sawed-off shotguns loaded with buckshot. . . . (Smith 1925)

However, like other boom towns, Bodie’s period of glory was brief, lasting from 1879 to 1882. The decline was slow, with the two major mines-the Bodie and the Standard-merging in 1887 and operating successfully for the next two decades. A disastrous fire struck in 1892 and-with a steady decline in the interim, including additional mine closings and abandonment of the Bodie Railway in 1917-another devastating fire destroyed much of the town in 1932 (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20-21). Although Bodie was already dying, further decline having resulted from Prohibition and the Depression, some mining continued. However, there were no new strikes and companies eked out only minor profits, largely by using the cyanide process to extract gold from old tailings (i.e., mine refuse). By the 1950s even this recovery operation ceased and Bodie became a ghost town. Explains one writer: “When people were leaving Bodie, there were no moving companies in the area. People simply packed what they could on one wagon or truck and left the rest behind.” He adds, “That is why many of Bodie’s buildings still contain belongings that were left here years ago” (Williams 1992, 36).

In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the Ghost Town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site. Bodie is maintained in a state of what is termed “arrested decay,” which means the buildings are protected but not restored (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 21; Bodie 2001, 3).

Ghost Town, ‘Ghost’ Town

Old, deserted places inspire the romantic and the superstitious to think of ghosts, and Bodie is no exception. It represents an entire townful of potentially haunted houses and other premises-168 remaining structures-as well as the Bodie cemetery. It is, gushes one ghost-hustling writer, “A ghost town that is really a ghost town” (Myers 1990).

However, the reports of ghostly activity tend to fall into categories of familiar, well-understood phenomena. Consider, for example, occurrences at the J.S. Cain House at the corner of Green and Park streets. Once the home of a prominent businessman and then the residence of caretakers’ families, it is supposedly haunted by the specter of a Chinese woman, possibly a maid who worked for the Cains (Hauck 1996).

Reportedly, this “heavy set” Chinese lady appeared to children in their second-floor bedroom. Also, a ranger’s wife stated:

I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me. Another ranger who had lived there, Gary Walters, had the same experience, in the same room, except that he also saw the door open and felt a presence and a kind of suffocation. (Myers 1990)

All of these effects are well known and may occur when one’s consciousness shifts into a state between being fully asleep and fully awake. In this condition, seemingly realistic “waking dreams” often occur, involving ghosts, aliens, or other beings. Also in this interim state one may experience “sleep paralysis” in which, although the mind is awake, the body is still in the sleep mode. The sensation of being held or strapped down is a typical consequence (Nickell 2001).

Some apparitional or auditory experiences such as those reported at Bodie-for example “a woman peering from an upstairs window in the Dechambeau House” or “the sound of children’s laughter . . . heard outside the Mendocini House” (Myers 1990)-may be similarly explained. These typically occur when the experiencer is relaxed or performing routine work. Such a mental state may allow images or sounds to spring up from the subconscious and thus be superimposed upon the consciousness (Nickell 2001).

One man visiting the Bodie cemetery with his little girl noticed her giggling and apparently playing with an unseen entity. This was supposed to be “The Angel of Bodie,” a child who was killed when she was accidentally hit in the head by a miner’s pick (Myers 1990). Actually the dead child was Evelyn, the three-year-old daughter of Albert and Fannie Myers, who died in 1897. Her grave is surmounted by the figure of a child angel, sculpted of white marble (Bodie Cemetery n.d., 5)-an ideal model for a little girl’s imaginary playmate (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.

I have found that some people seem especially susceptible to ghosts-because they are more inclined to believe or because they are especially imaginative. I continue to use a questionnaire that helps me analyze reported ghost encounters, and thus far I find a good correlation between those experiences and the number of traits associated with fantasy proneness (Nickell 2001).

This correlation continued with my research at Bodie, although colleague Vaughn Rees and I obtained only four completed questionnaires there. (A ranger stopped the project since I had not obtained official permission, something I usually try to avoid to keep employees from being told what to say.) Nevertheless, even with this limited sample, the highest ghost-experiences score was matched by a high fantasy score, and similar results were obtained with six questionnaires we obtained at another California ghost town, Calico.

In addition to perceived phenomena, photographs represent another form of “evidence” for alleged ghosts at Bodie. Again, however, there are familiar patterns. For example, streaks of light in some photos (Lundegaard 2002) are consistent with the camera’s flash rebounding from something-such as the wrist strap-in front of the lens (Nickell 2001).

Bodie Curse

Yet, if some people are to be believed, there are not only ghosts in the windswept town but, purportedly, spirits who are responsible for protecting its treasures by implementing the “Curse of Bodie.” Explains the narrator of one television documentary:

Bodie’s inhabitants were of hardy stock, fiercely possessive of what they had built in this barren desert, and it is said that the long-dead spirits want to ensure that what they left behind remains intact. According to legend, anyone who removes anything-large or small-from the town is cursed with a string of bad luck. Misfortune and tragedy are heaped upon the victim until the stolen item is returned. Some claim that the ghosts of Bodie patrol the crumbling ruins to guard against thieves. (Beyond 2000)

According to park ranger J. Brad Sturdivant, “The curse still exists today.” Spooked former visitors often return old nails and other souvenirs taken from Bodie. While “Most of it comes back in an unmarked box,” the ranger states, “We still get letters . . . from people saying, ‘I’m sorry I took this, hoping my luck will change’” (Beyond 2000).

The earliest use I have found of the phrase “The curse of Bodie” appears in the 1925 reminiscence of a former resident. However, he was speaking of something entirely different, namely what had befallen Bodie and caused its decline. As he wrote: “the curse of Bodie, as it was of ‘The Comstock,’ was the stock market, which was manipulated by stock gamblers in San Francisco for their own profit, regardless of the merits of the mines, and without thought for the thousands that found their ruin in the unholy game . . .” (Smith 1925).

The notion of a quite different Bodie curse-one that does not harm the town but instead defends it from pillagers-is of much more recent vintage. Not surprisingly, it appears to follow efforts to preserve Bodie as a historic site. Obviously the “curse” is being officially promoted today when a ranger encourages the idea on a television program and the museum/gift shop displays an album of letters from those believing themselves accursed.

Although these letters may be only a selection and three are undated, the earliest of the remaining twelve was sent in 1992. Having taken a nail from Bodie, the writer states: “Life since then has been a steady downward slide. It’s possible that all the unpleasant events of the past nine months are a coincidence, but just in case the Bodie curse is real I am returning the nail.” Another letter, from 1994, is addressed, “Dear Bodie Spirits”:

I am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had “bad luck.” I started to think about the car accident, the lost [sic] of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have “haunted” me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . . Please find enclosed the collectibles I “just couldn’t live without,” and ask the spirits to see my regret.

This was signed, “One with a very guilty conscience.”

On the TV series Beyond Bizarre (2000), a German man related how his uncle had removed a small bottle from Bodie and two days later had a car accident on the Autobahn. The next day his son took the bottle to school to show classmates and on the way home had a bicycle accident. Said the man, “Yes, I do believe in the curse of Bodie.”

Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie - especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork - supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie – especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork – supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”

Belief aside, such anecdotal evidence does not prove the existence of a “curse” (or “hex” or “jinx”)-an alleged paranormal attack. Indeed, belief in curses is merely a superstition, a form of magical thinking. Once the idea takes hold, there is a tendency for any harmful occurrence to be counted as evidence for the belief, while beneficial events are ignored. Through the power of suggestion, the magical conviction spreads from person to superstitious person, until many believe, say, in a King Tut’s curse, a Hope Diamond jinx, or a Kennedy family propensity for misfortune (Nickell 1999).

A different mindset allows one to shrug off such nonsense. Skeptics sometimes hold “Superstition Bashes” during which they break mirrors and challenge other superstitions without fear of consequence. In attendance may be a resident spokesperson (such as myself), identified as a friggatriskaidekaphobiologist-that is, one who studies the fear of Friday the Thirteenth and, by extension, other supposed causes of bad luck.

I have even specifically challenged the Curse of Bodie-not by pilfering items from the site, which is appropriately illegal-but by collecting artifacts that have come from there. As shown in figure 3, these include an 1879 check, drawn on the Bodie Bank, and two 1882 issues of the newspaper, The Bodie Evening Miner. If it be argued that these were not pilfered from Bodie, the other item, an old fork, reportedly was: I bought it from an antiques dealer who said she picked it up herself at Bodie several years ago without apparent consequence.

I would like to donate these items to Bodie. I am only waiting for the time when the town’s custodians officially cease promoting superstition and disclaim the existence of any Bodie curse.


I am grateful to CFI Librarian Tim Binga, SI managing editor Ben Radford, and intern Dawn Peterson for research assistance, and to Paul Loynes for his professional word processing.


  • Beyond Bizarre. 2000. Travel Channel documentary, September 24.
  • Bodie Cemetery: The Lives Within. N.d. Bridgefort, California: The Friends of Bodie.
  • Bodie State Historic Park. 2001. Guide booklet. Sacramento: California State Parks.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. 1996. Haunted Places: The National Directory. New York: Penguin Books, 36-37.
  • Johnson, Russ, and Anne Johnson. 1967. The Ghost Town of Bodie. Bishop, California: Sierra Media Inc.
  • Lundegaard, Karen. 2002. Identifying spirit photos. Available atwww.karenlundegaard.com



  • Misspelling of Bodie. 2003. Available at www.bodie.net/st/Bodey.asp.
  • Myers, Arthur. 1990. The Ghostly Gazetteer. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Contemporary Books, 40-48.
  • Nickell, Joe. 1999. Curses: foiled again. Skeptical Inquirer 23(6), November/December: 16-19.
  • —–. 2001. Phantoms, frauds, or fantasies? Chap. 10 of James Houran and Rense Lange, Hauntings and Poltergeists. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 214-223.
  • Poag, Larry. 1997. Poag’s Guide to Shopkeepers and Shootists of Bodie. Lake Grove, Oregon: Western Places.
  • Smith, Grant H. 1925. Bodie: The last of the old-time mining camps. California Historical Society Quarterly IV: 1; reprinted in Williams 1992, 11-24.
  • Williams III, George. 1992. The Guide to Bodie and Eastern Sierra Historic Sites. Carson City, Nevada: Tree By The River Publishing.

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell's photo

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and “Investigative Files” Columnist forSkeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC’s Today Show. His personal website is at joenickell.com.

Seattle’s “haunted vending machine” is creeping everyone out

Seattle’s “haunted vending machine” is creeping everyone out

Seattle's "haunted vending machine" is creeping everyone out

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s most enduring mysteries. Sasquatch, D.B. Cooper, and a bottomless pit with supernatural powers all call Washington home, but one of the weirdest unsolved enigmas is that of Seattle’s “haunted vending machine”. It’s a strange case that’s been mystifying curious locals for at least 15 years, and no one has even come close to cracking it.

The antiquated machine sits alone on a sidewalk, wrapped in dents and faded graffiti, and you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking it didn’t actually work. But upon closer inspection, it’s clear to see that the machine is plugged in, its yellowing backlights still flickering. What makes this machine so mysterious doesn’t lie in its appearance, but in its stock.

Seattle's "haunted vending machine" is creeping everyone out

For seventy-five cents, the machine randomly conjures up a rainbow of bizarre flavors, many of which don’t even exist anymore, but even stranger than the mystery flavors is where they come from. In almost two decades, no one has ever seen someone stock the machine. In fact.. no one even knows who it belongs to, just that is never seems to run out.

VICE writer Hillary Pollack launched her own investigation into the mystery machine, starting at Broadway Locksmith, the closest building to the everlasting well of high fructose corn syrup.

“I’ve honestly never seen anyone open it,” offers Mickey, the locksmith business’s earnest-sounding general manager. “Do people get soda out of it frequently?” I ask him “Oh yeah, all the time. All day long,” he said. ” And yet in a decade-and-a-half, you’ve never seen anyone tampering with it or refilling it?” I asked. “Nope,” he shrugged, “He must come in the middle of the night on a weekend or something.”

Unconvinced that Mickey and his locksmith mignions had nothing to do with the machine, I pressed him for knowledge. “Are you sure that you’re not the one who collects money out of it?” “No, ma’am,” he insisted. “I think they run on the same power as our address, but that’s it.” Mickey also claims that people often gather around the machine to stare at it with frightened wonder, or put entire rolls of quarters into its bowels in hopes of decoding its mystery-button logic.

Much like Bigfoot, it appears that the secret of Seattle’s “haunted vending machine” isn’t going to be solved anytime soon, but for those of us with a few spare quarters and a thirst for mystery, that’s not exactly a bad thing.

Want to do a bit of investigating of your own? Follow this handy map, but be sure to bring some change!


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Comics und andere Werke des Künstlers Denis Feuerstein


Bit of this, bit of that

Rants, Raves and Random Thoughts

Diary of a Shipwrecked Alien


Music In The Key Of See


Fe2O3.nH2O photographs


Jon Wilson’s 1920’s and 1930’s - a unique time in our history.


photography and other things

Bohemian Butterfly

Beautiful gardens, garden art and outdoor living spaces

Art by Ken

The works and artistic visions of Ken Knieling.

Canadian Art Junkie

Visual Arts from Canada & Around the World

andrei plimbarici

Calatorind Descoperi

Edward R. Myers Photography

Captured moments of life as I see it

Kathy Waller

~ Telling the Truth, Mainly


Historian. Artist. Gunmaker.

On The Road Again 2018

Touring the USA on a Moto Guzzi Breva 750.

Cavalcade of Awesome

All Pax. All Nude. All the Time.


Welcome to My World......


Poetry, story and real life. Once soldier, busnessman, grandfather and Poet.

Gypsy Road Trip

Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors

Hiking with snark in the beautiful Pacific Northwest 2011 - 2013



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