Founded in 1893, Wellington, Washington was a small town unknown by most. One single devastating event launched it in to the spotlight. Located at the west portal of the original Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass, the community experienced a horrible blizzard lasting nine days the last week of February 1910. About a foot of snow fell per hour. Two trains, one passenger and one mail, bound for Seattle found themselves trapped in Wellington after snow accumulations and repeated avalanches covered the tracks. The worst of it was yet to come.
Late on February 28, the snow stopped and was replaced by rain and a warm wind. Just after 1 a.m. the next day, a slab of snow broke loose from the side of Windy Mountain during a violent thunderstorm. A ten-foot wall of snow, half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide slid down the mountain towards the town. A massive forest fire had recently ravaged the slopes above the town, leaving very little to block its arrival. Cascading wall of snow hurled towards the two trains full of slumbering passengers and crew members. The impact threw the trains 150 feet downhill and into the Tye River valley killing ninety-six people, 35 passengers, 58 Great Northern employees, and three railroad employees in the depot. Only twenty-three passengers survived the avalanche after railroad employees rushed to their aid. The Wellington avalanche was the worst avalanche in United States history.
Wellington was quietly renamed Tye in October1910 due to this tragedy. The Wellington depot was closed when the second Cascade Tunnel came into use in 1929. The town was abandoned and eventually burned. However, those who lost their lives at Wellington will not be forgotten. Some have not even found peace in the afterlife. Karen Frazier, who is an editor and journalist for Paranormal Underground magazine, spent much of her time last summer at the site of the 1910 Wellington, Washington, avalanche. Originally intending to film a documentary, Frazier interviewed and investigated with a number of paranormal investigators who are intimately familiar with the site and firmly believe that Wellington is haunted.
“I was immediately captivated by the story of Wellington,” Frazier says. “I had no idea of the history of the place until I visited it. It’s a very unique place,” she continued. “You walk in and can’t help but feel the weight of what took place there.”
March 1, 2010, was the 100-year anniversary of the avalanche that took more than 96 lives and eventually led to the town of Wellington disappearing off of the map.
“I wasn’t entirely convinced that ghosts were real,” Frazier says, “and then I visited Wellington. After the things that I have experienced there, I am a believer.”
Perhaps more significantly, according to Frazier, her husband Jim also became a believer after visiting Wellington.
“That’s pretty stunning,” Frazier says. “Jim has a strong scientific background in nuclear engineering, and I never thought I’d see the day where he would believe in something as impossible to prove as ghosts.”
Frazier’s book titled Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington covers the history of the avalanche and town, experiences of paranormal investigators and visitors to Wellington, as well as a chronicle of Frazier’s own experiences while investigating Wellington this past summer.
“When I was there, I promised the ghosts that I would tell their story,” Frazier says. “This book is how I decided to tell it.”
For more information, visit www.avalancheofspirits.com.