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Ghosts of Thornewood Castle

Chester Thorne formed the National Bank of Tacoma, founded the Port of Tacoma and eventually became one of the richest men in the Puget Sound. In 1908, he bought 100 acres along American Lake and spent over a million dollars to build his dream home: Thornewood Castle, a 24,000 square foot Gothic Tudor mansion that was finished in 1911. Thorne’s daughter Anita and her family also lived at Thornewood, and though one of her three children tragically drowned in an ornamental pond, the family lived there until Chester Thorne died in October 1927.

The family continued to own the house for several years, but sold it in 1959. In 1995, new owners turned the mansion into a Bed and Breakfast and began restoring it, and in 2000, current owners Wayne and Deanna Robinson bought Thornewood. Deanna kindly spoke with Weird Washington about a number of ghostly occurrences there.

Great Hall Ghosts
One late afternoon shortly after moving in, Deanna was alone in the great hall, reading a book. Suddenly the hall was filled with the sounds of a noisy cocktail party. She heard people walking and dancing across the floor, the clinking of glasses and the mutter of conversation. It sounded like 100 invisible people had suddenly appeared.

Deanna felt like an intruder. It was their house, and their party. She believed that they somehow felt her presence, and it disturbed them. It was like they were real and she was the ghost. It disturbed and frightened her, and she said, “OK, you guys have fun, I’m going away now!”

Deanna has seen what she described as a vortex in the Great Hall. It appeared one night on the grand staircase. This stairway, like most fixtures at Thornewood Castle, is several hundred years old. She saw several spirits come out of the vortex, but having previously had a near death experience of her own; she did not investigate for fear of being pulled to the other side. Other people have seen a man and lady appear together on the grand staircase. The man is dressed in a leather outfit, and some people have reported they smelled a hint of old leather. Some described the gown the woman is wearing as an Empire style dress, with a very high waist. She also wears a garland in her hair.

A Thorne-y Light Issue
The ghosts at Thornewood Castle do not like too much light. Most of the lighting at Thornewood Castle comes from small, candle shaped lamps, mounted high up on the walls. After the Robinsons moved in, Deanna noticed that every so often a random light bulb in the Smoking Room would become unscrewed. She would screw it back in, only to return a few minutes later and find a different light bulb unscrewed.

Another time, a guest watched the arms on a lamp swing so hard on their own, the light globes on either arm collided and broke. Strangely, when the globes shattered, the glass did not fly around. Instead, it fell straight down on the ground, in a pile under the lamp.

When I visited Thornewood Castle, we talked in a side parlor. In the middle of our interview, I noticed that one of the light fixtures was not working. Sure enough, the light bulb was unscrewed just enough to turn it off. I am reasonably certain that it was lit when we walked in. Deanna believed that this is Mr. Thorne’s way of getting people’s attention. He got mine.

Haunting Rose Red
Several scenes of the miniseries Rose Red were filmed at Thornewood, and the crew found the filming didn’t go that easily, possibly due to the hauntings there. Workers reported that their tools went missing. Sometimes they’d find them again, other times not. There were odd power outages, and doors opened and closed on their own, sometimes interfering with filming certain scenes.

Deanna Robinson shares Thornewood Castle with people as much as she can. It is located within a gated community, with laws and restrictions on what she can do. She used to host tours of the mansion, ending with a high tea, but is not allowed to do that anymore. All activities and events now have to be requested by overnight guests, except for events such weddings. For more information and the history of Thornewood Castle, visit www.thornewoodcastle.com

Weird Washington


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