Local ghosts haunt Fort Vancouver’s Officers Row

With Halloween around the corner, what better time to explore ghost stories about Vancouver’s historic Officers Row and military barracks?

Anyone who has grown up in Clark County, Wash. is familiar with Officers Row and the 366-acre reserve just north of the Columbia River. This is the hsitoric home of Fort Vancouver, Pearson Airport and the U.S. military barracks. The Vancouver barracks were built in 1849 to house soldiers who defended the Oregon territory, and they remained active during all major wars through World War II.

A stroll along tree-lined Officers Row leads past the Grant House, named in honor of civil war hero and former U.S. president, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant served as quartermaster here in the 1850s, though he never actually lived in the house. The building, currently houses a restaurant, but was an officers’ club for more than 25 years.

According to “Weird Washington,” a book by Jeff Davis and Al Eufrasio, the Grant House is haunted by Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Sully. Sully commanded the post from 1874 until he died there in 1879. The authors report that Sully’s footsteps can be heard pacing upstairs and quote the restaurant owner who says the ghost locked a telephone repair person into the house and appeared and spoke to at least one visitor, telling her, “I lived here before, and I am just looking around.” The restaurant seems to enjoy its spirited resident and offers a flyer telling patrons about the friendly ghost.

Two houses down is Nelson House, where Admiral Nelson, descendent of President William Howard Taft, currently resides. According to Forgottonusa.com, the admiral is not particularly welcoming toward ghost hunters. Nonetheless, a few goblin chasers have managed to score a look inside. Several websites say a blood-like substance drips from the walls and the grass turns from green to brown four days each week. Could this be a result of more than water conservation?

Fort Vancouver BarracksOver in the barracks, building 614 was used as a hospital and psychiatric ward for many years. While investigating stories of paranormal activity in 1996, Davis spent two nights in the old building. During the night, toilet seats seemed to open and close on their own, the front door unlocked itself, and Davis reportedly recorded “voices,” coughs and other sounds made in an empty, sealed bathroom.

According to some reports, the morgue and blood-draining area downstairs is supposedly home to a particularly angry spirit that has actually chased people from the building. The third floor, which housed psychiatric patients, is said to be haunted by screaming and laughing ghosts who make paper float to the ceiling and stick there.

None of these or other unexplainable events at Officers Row have been verified. Stories of the paranormal are based on “fringe” science, rumors and the whisperings of people who claim to have seen or felt something. These happenings may be true — or they may not. Whether you choose to believe them is up to you.

Do you have a Clark County ghost story to share? Write it up and send it to vancouged (at) vancouver.wsu.edu.

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  1. William Brown says:

    Do you happen to have further information on the Nelson House? House number, hard facts about the history, etc.

  2. William Brown says:

    If you sent me information please do so again I am having repeated e-mail errors.