SEASIDE — When it comes to studying paranormal activity, one of the most important elements to understand is quite normal.
It’s history, according to Rocky Smith, the organizer of the sixth annual Oregon Ghost Conference.
“It’s the interest in this history that connected me to this place. It’s asking the question, ‘Why do (paranormal) things happen here?’” he said.
He explained this to about 100 paranormal enthusiasts huddled together on a crisp Friday night around the postcard mural on the corner of Edgewood and Oceanway streets.
Friday was the first day of the three-day conference, where about 800 people from around the country came to listen to paranormal lectures, share ghost stories and even do a ghost investigation in the Bridge Tender on Broadway.
In this moment, participants gathered to experience the different haunted nooks and crannies along the Promenade and downtown streets.
Nancy Thompkins traveled from Anacortes, Washington, to the conference intrigued for that reason. Her interest in ghosts began when she saw one when she was a child, she said.
“I like history and knowing what happened where,” Thompkins said. “You can feel a residual energy in a place like this. You can feel it, but you don’t know why.”
Due to the fact this conference has only been held in Seaside for two years, Smith said he still works on gathering and confirming more ghost stories from residents and local businesses. He originally started doing tours in Oregon City in 2012, where he has had more time to curate the experiences.
But feelings of paranormal activity in Seaside exist, and are even documented in a book written by Seaside locals Dave Oester and Sharon Gill. “Twilight Visitors: Ghost Tales Vol. 1.” details their account living in an allegedly haunted house on 12th Avenue.
Along the tour, Smith pointed to some historical reasons that could play a factor into Seaside’s ghostly presence.
He cited Ben Holladay, the man responsible for building the first railroad out to Seaside over the sites of multiple Native American burial grounds. The memorial for the three anonymous sailors on the Promenade, who washed ashore after a lethal storm and marked only by a stone inscribed with “Found on the beach. April 25, 1865.” Terrible Tilly, the lighthouse built in 1881 associated with a number of shipwrecks along the coast, as well an old site where people used to distribute ashes of the dead.
“You build buildings on sites like these, and then they get demolished, and you start hearing accounts of people seeing things,” Smith said.
But for now, the tour stopped at places along the Promenade with unconfirmed rumors of ghostly activity: sounds of footsteps, appliances starting on their own, or even just a “general sense of dread,” as Smith put it. Rumor has it a room in the WorldMark is haunted, Smith said, as well as The Ebb Tide, The Shilo Inn and the Seaside Aquarium.
Even the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, where the conference is held, people report feeling paranormal activity, Smith said.
Danielle Stearer, who is from Salem, attended the tour and enjoyed the history of Seaside. It puts the paranormal experiences she has — like when she said she heard her grandfather whisper her nickname to her in the convention center — into context.
“I’ve always been interested in the paranormal and a history buff. It’s the unknown,” Stearer said. “We all wonder what continues in our life after we are gone. Something has to carry on after I pass, which is why it’s important to connect with the spirits who are with you.”
Smith said he anticipates the ghost tour to become a permanent installment in Seaside.