Georgetown Castle: an allegedly haunted mansion with a tragic, tawdry past.
Victorian house in Georgetown looked like a dream home to me at first. But after the stories I heard, I probably wouldn’t even spend a night alone in the “Georgetown Castle.” In fact, it seems that the house is home to a healthy population of ghosts!
In the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, most of the buildings are single story homes and, of course, house shaped. But if you’re searching for something different wherever you go, look no further than this building, located in the old, industrial area of Seattle, WA, a former Red Light district, now called Georgetown.
Here stands the Georgetown Castle, a three-story mansion with a tragic and eerie past. The castle, a former brothel, somehow manages to look demure, set back from the street and sheltered by unusually lush gardens on either side.
However, if you come closer, a metal placard appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to offer interesting details about the mansion’s history.
Architecture enthusiasts will recognize the building’s Queen Anne style, resplendent as it is with overhanging eaves, mismatched gables, and overlapping textures, even if the castle’s spooky aura is more than just an architectural style. The abode was built in 1902 by Peter Gessner, who was a gambler and blackjack dealer at the famous Central Tavern in Seattle’s Pioneer Square District. Having trouble with the local authorities for running “questionable” gambling and prostitution activities, he decided to move his operations farther out of town, to avoid too much unwanted attention, turning the home into an infamous brothel and gambling parlor. However, poor Gessner didn’t get much of a chance to appreciate it (while he was alive).
It seems that the second floor is haunted by Gessner himself, who only lived a year after moving into his castle. He died a gruesome death committing suicide in the house reportedly by drinking carbolic acid. There were rumors of foul play, but Seattle papers reported it as a case of lovesickness over his young wife Lizzie, who had recently left him for a chicken farmer.
The Castle later became a gentlemen’s club, speakeasy, brothel, and boardinghouse for Boeing workers.
By the 1920s, the place was once again functioning as a brothel. For years it sat vacant and brambles grew up into the property. Decades later, the castle was finally turned into a somewhat respectable boardinghouse, though it would remain haunted, quite literally, by its untoward beginnings. Residents and neighbors murmured about strange apparitions, while Ray McWade and Petter Pettersen, who lived there in the 1970s, found a tiny room that had been completely walled off, with an unnaturally frigid “cold spot.”
The castle’s second-most popular ghost, after Gessner, is said to be a disgruntled former employee. She’s a hazy figure at best, and the details of her life and death obscured by a century of local gossip. In one version of the tale, she is a prostitute inexplicably strangled by a magician. Another, more likely story sees her shot dead by an abusive pimp with a shotgun. In some version of the story her name is Sarah, in others Mary. In some version of the story, the ghost has flowing red hair and a white nightgown. In others she has dark hair and kohl-rimmed eyes.
Then there’s the story of a woman in black, an unwed mother, perhaps Gessner’s niece, locked in the castle’s tower and forever separated from her baby, a truly infernal baby whose wails rise up nightly from the garden weeds. Some say that it was a john or a pimp who murdered the newborn and buried it on the property. Others say it was Gessner himself. As story goes, Gessner had a sister-in-law who came out to visit. Word is that the sister-in-law, named Sarah, became pregnant with his child and some speculate she was raped. When the baby was born, the man murdered it, and is said to have buried it under the castle’s front porch. Sarah is said to have gone insane at that point, and she was locked, like a prisoner, in the second floor tower room, until she eventually died.
Another story goes that it is the ghost of a Spanish woman, a previous resident who possibly killed her unborn babies and buried them under the stairs surrounding the home.
Countless reports of strange sights, sounds, mysterious voices and hidden rooms make this definitely, togheter with the popular Pike Place Market, about 8.5 kilometers away, one of Seattle’s most haunted places.
Author’s notes: now the Georgetown Castle is privately owned and well maintained and visitors can’t go inside. But the exterior is well worth a look if you’re exploring Georgetown.