BAKER CITY — Pacing along the far wall of Room 305 at Geiser Grand Hotel, Carol Greene’s eyes darted around while she pulled back the window’s curtain and picked up a blanket from the recliner. With a puzzled look on her face, she stopped for a moment.
“Have you seen my e-cig,” she asked her daughter, Cassie. “I just had it, where the heck did it go?”
The mother and daughter from Hermiston were visiting the Baker City hotel to take part in an investigation with Big River Paranormal. They both admitted that their senses were heightened, anticipating the possibility of encountering supernatural phenomenon.
Originally built in 1889, the Baker City landmark has long been rumored to be haunted. After being shuttered for more than two decades, Dwight and Barbara Sidway bought the derelict structure in 1993, reopening it in 1998. About 10 years ago, Barbara reached out to the Boise-based paranormal group to see if they were interested in conducting investigative tours.
“There’s an awful lot of curiosity — is the hotel haunted, is it not?” Sidway said. “This is a way to respectfully explore that.”
The organized ghost tours, Sidway said, provide a way to preserve the privacy of guests, while still offering access to those that are interested in haunted happenings, and maintaining respect for the building and its possible lingering spirits.
Sidway, herself, hasn’t experienced anything unusual in the hotel. However, she’s open to the possibility after hearing numerous stories — from construction crews working on the renovation project in the late 1990s and hotel guests to staff members and paranormal enthusiasts.
Who ya gonna call?
Serena Hinojosa, Big River’s managing partner, said the team doesn’t always obtain solid evidence when conducting investigations at Geiser Grand, although they did recently capture electronic voice phenomena (EVP). That’s not to say that paranormal activity isn’t regularly occurring, she said, it’s just that they don’t have scientific evidence to corroborate it.
“We have had many personal experiences and guests have had experiences,” Hinojosa said. “We have had things from touching to seeing shadows and hearing noises.”
Going into investigations, Hinojosa said a variety of gadgets are used, including Mel Meters, a multi-purpose device that provides temperature readings and detects electromagnetic fields, which are said to be impacted by the presence of ghosts. In addition, the team utilizes everything from flashlights and voice recorders to digital/video cameras and a laser grid scope, which detects shadows or visual disturbances.
Including non-members in the investigations, Hinojosa said, brings a unique element to the process. The team encourages guests to actively participate.
“We enjoy educating our guests about the proper ways to investigate and we enjoy when they have a good time,” Hinojosa said. “Most people are looking for an experience and we want to be able to give that to them on some level.”
Carol and Cassie agreed. The whole experience, Cassie said, was greatly enhanced by being a part of it and not just observers. It provided another level to the excitement, Carol added.
Having already experienced some strange activity in the hotel, the women said paranormal team members made them feel comfortable in sharing about it. They even invited them into their room for part of the investigation.
In addition to the mislaid e-cig the previous night, an incident in the hotel’s gift shop left Carol and Cassie scratching their heads. Carol had just examined the hourglass-type device without any problems. Yet, when Cassie tried to see how it worked, it was like the bottom was glued on tight.
Also, Cassie didn’t sleep well, while Carol did. And they had differing opinions about the room temperature.
“I was hot. I felt like it was really warm in the room,” Cassie said. “But my mom was really cold the whole time.”
And, about the e-cig — after looking around the room, Cassie and Carol’s eyes locked onto the windowsill where the bright pink and silver device was standing up. Both women are convinced something moved it. They positively say it wasn’t there moments before when they looked.
Paranormal team members weren’t surprised, saying there is a spirit referred to as the “Lady in Blue” that has reportedly been seen often on the hotel’s third floor. Sidway, too, said guests have told her that their jewelry has been moved. She’s said to dress in blue Victorian era clothing with her hair piled high on her head.
“The ‘Lady in Blue’ is known to take people’s belongings or move them,” said Christopher Plummer, investigation director of the Boise team. “It could be she felt a connection to Carol.”
Sidway said for the most part Geiser Grand’s ghostly encounters aren’t scary in nature. The stories she’s heard depict friendly and jovial spirits. Sidway said hotel staff has fun with its reputation — if someone misplaces or breaks something, they will say, “Oh the ghost did it.”
“I think we hit on a good way for guests to learn more about the hotel and be hospitable to the spirits that may be here,” Sidway said about the ghost tours. “Also, it’s sort of another way for us to have fun with it without exploiting it.”
Big River Paranormal conducts regular investigations throughout the year at Geiser Grand. With limited space, reservations are required. For the younger crowd — ghost tours are for guests 18 and older — or those who would rather sleep during the late night investigations, the hotel offers “Step Back in Time.” The 60-minute tour, offered on Friday and Saturday afternoons, includes some discussion on the haunted happenings but focuses more on the history of the hotel and Baker Valley.