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The scoop on local spooks: Digging for ghost stories in Coeur d’Alene

by ELENA JOHNSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| October 3, 2020 1:00 AM

Are there any good spooky, ghostly, or haunted stories in Kootenai County?

Well, it depends on whom you ask.

For local historian and Director of Programs and Marketing of the Museum of North Idaho Robert Singletary, the area doesn’t have any outstanding ghost stories or other mysteries of the occult.

“I suppose there’s some sort of classics, like cemeteries or places that are haunted,” said Singletary. “There’s those kinds of little things, but they’re not really good ghost stories.”

Singletary has written the book on the town – “Coeur d’Alene Beautiful and Progressive” – and read local newspaper articles dating about as far back as they go, but his research has yet to turn up any tales to tempt those with spooks and phantoms on the brain.

He’s even gone looking.

“I’ve pondered this several times because you know [it] always comes up with Halloween,” he said.

“As someone who has spent most of my life searching out facts… ghost stories don’t normally fit into my mode of writing,” said Singletary. “Usually most ghost stories are made up.”

One of the few he’s come across include repeated rumors of ghosts at the North Idaho College main campus when he was a professor of history there. Buildings were said to be haunted; bones may or may not have been found or buried properly.

Although haunting rumors are fairly normal on college campuses, Singletary said one was repeated over and over his time at NIC.

“There’s several of those things floating around down at the College and some of the janitors [would] swear at night they heard songs and footsteps, [but] there’s nobody in the in the building,” he said.

Other than that, the only mystery the historian has been able to identify is the fourth infantry sergeant left behind at Forest Cemetery in Coeur d’Alene. After Fort Sherman was abandoned after the Spanish-American War, the soldiers were moved to Fort Wright in Spokane. Many of the soldiers who had died and been buried locally were later disinterred to “join” the others in Spokane.

Except one: Ira Doty’s remains couldn’t be found.

“So they actually came over and they dug up all the soldiers’ bodies and buried them in Spokane, but they left one,” he said.

“It’s always been a mystery to me.”

But does that mean there are no ghosts in Coeur d’Alene?

According to NYC Piano Bar owner, Dan Schnatter, there certainly may be.

“I believe there is –how do I put it?—supernatural, unexplained events,” said Schnatter. “I think we have friendly ghosts.”

The Spokane Paranormal Society investigated the restaurant and bar last year after reports of ghostly activity. Schnatter says some of his own employees reported having “seen things” and some employees of Excraft, who owned the space before the NYC Piano Bar moved in two and a half years ago, felt the place was haunted.

The paranormal group agreed.

“When the paranormal society came down here they showed us places where there was supposedly a portal and they even described certain entities that were in our venue,” Schnatter said.

“They said they found a lot of energy and there was a certain barstool that this one entity liked to occupy and so on.”

Another ‘entity’ also seemed to like music. Now, those are barflies.

One entity, however, had a rough goodbye.

“There was supposedly an ‘ungood’ entity that they exorcised. We had a woman come down with sage and she smudged all around the whole place and supposedly got rid of the bad guy.”

The owner and piano player did admit to strange feelings, as if someone was “in the room there with you” in a way that didn’t feel normal, which he says doesn’t happen often since the exorcism.

“Since we did the exorcism thingy, I feel like the place is not as occupied, but once in a while I still get that feeling.”

Despite the paranormal group’s findings, Schnatter says unexplained activity has been minimal. Even when things are thought to go missing or wind up somewhere new, he’s not convinced that’s unusual.

“That’s just normal, because people don’t remember what they do with things.”

It’s no Bates Motel (on Sherman Avenue, now closed), whose guests sometimes spoke of sudden cold feelings, flickering lights, and even moving ashtrays.

“I mean I’d like to say I see the headless horseman or something like that, but I haven’t,” said Schnatter.

“But it’s a good story.”

April Howard, local event producer and owner of North Idaho Events, has also heard tale of a few ghost stories around the area.

A fan of haunted tours and other paranormal delights, she’s dug up a few reported hauntings of her own in Kootenai County and the surrounding area and is putting together a haunted tour for October 17.

“I did some researching in the area and there was a lot, especially some that popped up different times on different platforms,” said Howard.

For participating businesses and locations, Howard is creating a map for a self-guided driving tour. Participants drive to locations known for their hauntings within a designated time-frame and can hear stories of any happenings when they arrive. There may also be treats to go with those stories of tricks.

Like Singletary, she has heard rumors of a ghost at NIC, this time in one of the student dormitories. Some also think there may be a ghost in the boiler room of a local elementary school. However, neither of these is on the tour.

Naturally, she heard about the possible spooks at the NYC Piano Bar, too. She hopes those on her tour will choose to end their night there in time to enjoy their Saturday night show.

But not every reportedly haunted location wants to participate.

“Funny side note, one of the locations I went to pursue - they had kind of a ghost tour in that location [one year] and it riled up the ghosts in that business. So that company wouldn’t participate,” she said.

“You have to keep peace with the spirits,” she laughed.

Other locations have also been declared haunted from time to time.

But whether there are really ghosts in the auditorium of a certain local high school theater, or the boiler room of an unnamed elementary school, remains a question for the psychics.

And the power of ghost stories might be up to the interpreter.

“The way things are bent and shaped according to one’s politics… stories aren’t exactly what they’re cracked up to be,” says Singletary.

“As someone who has spent most of my life searching out facts, ghost stories don’t normally fit into my mode of writing,” said Singletary.

“We old stick-in-the mud historians want facts,” he laughed.

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North Idaho Events’ haunted self-driving tour on Oct. 17 offers two options:

A family-friendly version from 5 to 8 p.m. and an adults-only tour from 8 to 11 p.m. Those wishing to maintain social distancing will be able to do so easily. Masks are encouraged, but not required.

Cost is $40 per car. Maps and audio to be provided. Check the North Idaho Events Facebook page to purchase tickets. As organizer April Howard says, “You can call it haunt-or-treating.” Haunted businesses hoping to participate should reach out to Howard as soon as possible at (208) 704-2790.

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Courtesy of Dan Schnatter

he NYC Piano Bar and restaurant on Sherman Ave. might be haunted. Owner Dan Schnatter says the Spokane Paranormal Society found multiple ‘entities’ in the joint - and even performed an exorcism last year.

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Courtesy of Dan Schnatter

One of the ‘entities’ at NYC likes to hang around a particular barstool at the restaurant and bar.

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April Howard, a local events producer and owner of North Idaho Events, is putting together a haunted tour for Halloween fun. In her research of local haunts, she was happily surprised at how many reported hauntings are in the area.