The Ghosts of the SS Valencia

Thick and blinding, the fog rolled across the waves, foreshadowing a ghostly tale. A winter’s chill clouded the air, reminiscent of other fateful nights when ships answered the sirens call. There are those who have written and believe that supernatural forces were at work that fateful day; for the sun was shining bright when the SS Valencia pulled from port in San Francisco on Saturday morning, embarking for Seattle with her 108 passengers, nine officers, and fifty-six crew members.

A seasoned, twelve-year veteran of the company, having worked his way through the ranks from quartermaster, Captain Oscar M. Johnson maneuvered through the Graveyard of the Pacific. Aptly named for its mass of shipwrecks beneath the Pacific Ocean along the Pacific Coast. From the launch of the California Gold Rush through to the sinking of the SS Valencia, 500 ships were lost. The number is relatively small compared to the East Coast’s Graveyard of the Atlantic. That is until one remembers that the East side of the United States has had centuries longer to rack up its count that is believed to reach a thousand ships at most, several hundred at least. The exact total is not known as it is believed that many ships were lost without documentation.

On Sunday, the weather began to turn against the ship’s crew. They did their best to continue navigating the waters, following the compass and educated guesses as to their position. No one could take into account just how far the strong winds would push the ship off course, with the ship landing twenty miles north of where the captain believed they should be located. Near midnight on Monday, January 22, 1906, the ship passed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, running aground on Vancouver Island. Trapped on Walla Walla Reef, in between the breakers and rocky cliffs, the ship was slowly ripped apart by the pounding waves.

Captain Oscar M. Johnson ordered six of the seven lifeboats lowered into the water. Six would have been enough to carry 131 of the people on board. Then panic ensued as the passengers tried to load themselves into the boats, within half an hour, all six were lifeboats became victims of the sea.
Three of the boats ran into problems immediately: one being overcrowded and two were upended while being lowered. The other three that managed to pull away, carrying around fifty people, and two capsized in the breakers. As for the third, no one knows what happened to it, though the fate likely matched that of the other boats. One crew member was rescued from the first three boats, and twelve men were able to escape the sinking boats. Fatefully, only nine made it to the shore. Two fled to a shallow cave and then to the cliffs where they fell to their deaths. One other reached a large rock near the shore, but was later swept away by the waves.

The ship began to break apart on Tuesday morning and at eight in the morning, Captain Johnson called for the last lifeboat to be launched. This one would take Boatswain Timothy J. McCarthy and five crewmen to shore, where they would fire a line to the ship to establish a rescue operation. They had three lines to make the attempt, one became tangled and another broke, the last was held in reserve.
Of the first nine survivors to reach the shore, led by Frank F. Bunker, followed a telephone line to reach help. The party had to travel threw forest and streams, finally reaching a lineman’s shack at 2:00 p.m. It took several tries to get the lines to work, and when they finally did, the call of distress rang to the Carmanah Light Station, then to Bamfield, and finally Victoria B.C. By this point, the ship had been wrecked for fifteen hours. Unfortunately, due to the heavy fog and storms that had unknowingly pushed the ship off course, the men who had reached the telegraph gave the wrong location. They believed that the ship had wrecked on the Washington Coast, when in fact, they had travelled all the way to Vancouver Island.

McCarthy’s group also hiked the trail, choosing the route to the Cape Beale Light Station, arriving around 3 p.m. The light keeper then telephoned Bamfield with the updated information. Later on the same afternoon, three men from Carmanah Point started on their own journey to aid in the rescue: government lineman David Logan, assistant station keeper Philip C. Daykin, and fur trapper Joseph D. Martin. With the thick, isolated wilderness of the location, their travels were as difficult as the rest. They reached the Klanawa River, only having to wait until daylight before being able to cross the swollen water safely.

The rescue attempts did not stop here, the ship’s owner, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company (PCSC), received word that the ship had run aground and immediately tried to send ships to the location. Once again, fate came into play and no ocean-going tugboats were available. Another passenger liner, the SS Queen, bound in the opposite direction leaving from Seattle for San Francisco, was in Victoria, B.C. to pick up passengers. Captain N.E. Cousins was ordered to immediate proceed to the wreck, leaving the passengers behind. He took with him four master mariners, and a Puget Sound pilot. They arrived off of Carmanah Point at 10:00 p.m. The steamship, SS City of Topeka, was also dispatched to the scene, this one taking medical supplies, a doctor, two nurses, seventeen extra seamen, and perhaps not surprisingly, an insurance claims adjuster. But the Topeka was unable to depart from port until 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning, two tugboats were able to aid in the rescue: the Czar and the Salvor. The Queen arrived in time to see the Valencia, before the murky weather closed in on the air between the two, cutting off the visual. Those still on the Valencia also saw the other ship, and believing that they were to be rescued shortly, and many refused to try and use the two life rafts on board. One raft did depart with ten men, but the women refused to take a risk in the other raft, unwilling to believe that the waters were calmer. The second raft was launched, with eighteen men on board; they remained tied to the sinking ship for fifteen minutes, while the crew continued to urge the women to board.
It was said that as the last raft pulled away, the women sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” Witnesses say that the remaining passengers could be seen huddled together on the hurricane deck and clinging to the rigging; until a final wave struck the ship, sweeping the people into the ocean. Some drown, others died on the rocky cliffs, and the rest were swept out into the deeper ocean never to be seen again. The ships tried again and again in the following hours and days to search for survivors. The first life raft that had set out with ten men on board, was found Wednesday night, eighteen miles northwest, with only four survivors. The others had either fallen overboard or died of exposure. When the time came to make the final count, only thirty-seven people were left; 136 had perished in the wreck, one of the most tragic maritime disasters in Pacific Northwest history.

There is a theory that persists in the paranormal world, wherein moments of horror can tear at the fabric of time, causing a persistent, residual loop that replays over and over again. Generally this is used to explain why visitors to battlefields like Gettysburg see whole units of soldiers charging across a field in the heat of battle; a scene that is said to take place at Iverson’s Pits. The battle was death to Iverson’s Brigade, whole lines of men fell together. Such a theory may go beyond the battlefield, to a moment of horror at sea where rescuers could only watch as people died and spend the rest of their lives remembering those fateful hours that they could not reach them.
The ghost stories surrounding the wreck began earlier, the first being officially recorded in The Seattle Times in 1910. A phantom ship, that coincidentally resembled the Valencia, was spotted on the rocks near Pachena Point by a group of mariners. Though it is said that a phantom ship could be seen at night, in the year following the wreck, headed directly on the same course as the Valencia on that night.

A local fisherman had also sighted one of the lifeboats drifting near the wreck site. They said that it was crewed by skeletons. The missing lifeboat was found in Barkley Sound in 1933, still in surprisingly good condition despite the nearly three decades of exposure to the elements of the Pacific Northwest. Part of the lifeboat can be seen on display at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C.

Many rumors persist about the shipwreck, some say that it was doomed from the start. They include the undocumented tale that the ship’s cook predicted that tragedy would befall them. Controversy also surrounds the ships sinking and the events after, with many questioning what more could have been done to save those who died. Is the thought that they could have been saved, with help and hope so near, the reason that the ship is said to continuously reappear on the rocky cliffs throughout the century following the wreck? Others question the oddly Bermuda Triangle like feel to the last accounted for lifeboat, that was found so many years after the wreck in an unlikely condition.

The memorial service was held the following September. During which, Mrs. Agnes Lockhard Hughes, read a poem she had written for their memorial; it concluded with:

“The grave may hold the body’s shell
but heaven claims the soul.
And though we sink in life’s dark sea
in God we find our goal.”

References:

Hagerty, Andy. “SS Valencia.” NightWatch Paranormal. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.nightwatchparanormal.com/ss-valencia.html

McClary, Daryl C. “Valencia, SS, the Wreck of (1906).” HistoryLink.org Essay 7382. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7382

“The Sinking of the Valencia: The Tragedy and Beyond.” Bamfield Community School Association. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000658&sl=5356&pos=1

“Valencia Disaster Nearer My God To Thee.” Encyclopedia Titanica. Discussion Forum. Accessed 3/8/16. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/other-ships-shipwrecks/25239-valencia-disaster-nearer-my-god-thee.html

Paranormal Q&A with Katrina Weidman


I had the pleasure to have first met Katrina Weidman in person at the historic Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in 2011.  Before that of course I had seen her on Paranormal State and thought it was interesting she was a Bucks County native (I myself am from Bucks county and thought wow someone from my area is famous!) Upon meeting her I found her to be the nicest and coolest para-celebs I have ever met – very sweet as well as down to earth.  I’ve had the pleasure to have a conversation with her about the paranormal world as well as her new show with Nick Groff only on Destination America. “Paranormal Lockdown” can be seen on Fridays, starting March 4th at 10pm Est. Now to the Q&A!

“How did Paranormal Lockdown come about?”

Katrina: “Nick Groff contacted about a new me and wanted to know if I wanted to be involved.  It just took off from there, we’ve known each for years from the [paranormal] field.  It was the do you want to work with me? Sure!”

“Any guests showing up on this new show?”

Katrina: “We do bring in some guests, they come in do their thing and leave but it’s mostly just Nick & I at a location for 72 hours the whole time.  We don’t leave.”

“There is going to be comparisons obviously with Ghost Adventures because Nick  is involved, so do you think being there for 3 days is better for capturing something on these investigations?”

Katrina: “Absolutely.  I noticed that, not even doing the show, but doing this for 10 years. The longer you spend in a location the more things happen to you, because your embedding yourself in that environment. Essentially we don’t know what the paranormal is.  We have a definition what a shadow person, what a ghost is, but it can turn out those things we’ve defined are inaccurate. What we do know is that people have experiences in the these environments and we don’t know why certain people have those experiences – is it the person in that environment? Is it that environment effecting other people.  So what Nick and I do is go to places that are notoriously haunted and we either set up camp. A lot like camping, but scarier! And we say give us what you got! Let’s see what we capture, gather evidence, and try to figure out what this stuff is that we’ve seen. Nick and I both have experiences.  He’s been doing it 15 years, and I’ve been doing it for 10 years.  We’ve both have had experiences far beyond that.  How can we take it to the next level? And I think the thing is we do this as paranormal investigators, and you know this as an investigator: you go in for a night, gather all this evidence and you leave.  You have to come back multiple times or  come back.  Nick and I are like why aren’t people doing this for TV? This is what we really do.”

“You cut out all the return trips and do it all in one shot than.”

Katrina: “Right! That’s the thing that is missing.  I think for whatever reason, even when I was with PRS we’d stay a couple days and investigate. It’s the same when I do events, the longer you are in a location I feel like the paranormal entities or whatever take the first night to check you out or its your energies or going into the environment changing things. The place is shaken up a bit and needs time to settle. I’ve noticed second night is always without fail if something is going to happen, it will happen on the second night.”

“It’s amazing how that organic conversation created what’s next (Paranormal Lockdown)”

Katrina: “It’s funny Nick and I say all the time I’m the little sister he never had and he’s big brother I never had.  We had an instant friendship and feel we were meant to work together on this project, because where we both were in our private and professional lives – it just lined up. He (Nick) came up with the concept and contacted me. I loved it. It’s so true to what we do as investigators. I never been on a case where I just go in for a couple of hours and leave. Paranormal investigators are always shown as really exciting and it can be, like us when you get into it – it’s a long process.”

“It can be a boring process.”

Katrina: “It’s like watching paint dry at times, because it doesn’t happen like ‘ghost show me what you got’ and stuff flies off the wall.  It doesn’t happen that way. I think that’s what is so good about what Nick and I are doing is we are there for so long that we almost ready at any moment for if anything decides to communicate with us. The longer we are there the better chance we have of capturing something.  We have personal cameras and stationary ones.  We also have 6k cameras for the crew. They are really cool, the image is much better then ones 10 years ago.  Technology is catching up to what we do as investigators. All these experiences ‘OMG, I just saw a shadow’ we wouldn’t be able to capture on camera, maybe with the cameras now we can catch that stuff.

“Would you agree that your personal experiences are the best ones not captured on video or audio, etc.?”

Katrina: “Absolutely! We talk about that a lot.  It’s funny because we are trying to be objective.  Your body is your best instrument, and it gets good picking up on changes.  Something is different also psychologically fear jumps in.  I always find that is the best precursor to where you need to be in a location. You have to pay attention to your body and personal experiences at the time – that’s not scientific at all, but maybe one day that will be. We’ll be able to test that. That’s what I go off of.  I don’t use equipment on investigations I find it distracts me, which is good on a lockdown.”

“Do you find  going with skepticism, that people go to far in using the equipment or not?”

Katrina: “I think everything life you have to have a balance. I have my own paranormal team as well. My specialty is interviews and research – that’s where I feel I can contribute most to an investigation. One of my co-founders is an engineer so he handles all the tech stuff and I focus on research getting ready for an investigation. I think you need that balance in a team, especially a paranormal team. You should have specialists in tech, research, interviews, etc. or your be an unbalanced team and that won’t help furthering what we are trying to do in the community by not being a pseudoscience.”

“What’s your favorite place to investigate? Have you gotten there yet?”

Katrina: “Hard to say… I get so sentimental about places I’ve been, there’s always something I love about each location.  Nick and I have been to some crazy scary places for Paranormal Lockdown. It truly is hard for me to say this is my #1 favorite location.

“I agree so many places have their own personality.”

Katrina: “They totally do. I love history and research.  I think a place  even if it doesn’t get the best evidence, I fall in love with it – the history and the story I take away from it.”

“Pennhurst is a great example of places that have their own personality.”

Katrina: “Pennhurst is cool. I told Timothy (owner) every time I come back here, I feel less and less unafraid.  It’s like whatever is there remembers you, oh hey its Katrina she ok. Don’t scare her.  For me I don’t always feel that way in places I’ve been too.  Your right Pennhurst is a very special place, very haunted, but also almost as a person it’s charged or alive.  So much energy. … As I tell people at lectures and when it gets asked paranormal experiences are a mixture of totally be scared and excitement of something that happened with not rational way to explain this.  What just happened and the scarier question of what just did that because we really don’t know.  It’s exciting because not everyone experiences this stuff and when you do I don’t know if  beautiful is the word, since not every experience is happy or good especially when clients have demonic hauntings and I don’t want to lessen their experience since it’s a terrifying thing. It’s like exciting something that we can’t explain yet, something otherworldly just came into my world or I came into their world for a brief moment in time we made communication with each other. It totally takes you out of it, people think I don’t get scared anymore because I’ve been doing it for so long, but honestly if i’m alone or Nick isn’t by my side or anyone it creeps in.  It blows your mind still even after all these years.”

“What’s you favorite experience you’ve ever had?”

Katrina: “Tune in for Paranormal Lockdown, all I can! There was some crazy stuff during our investigations.  Past ones I can talk about was a residential house near Pittsburgh was personal experience nothing captured on film.  Up to that point I’ve seen apparition before but it was always out the corner of your eye and could be explained away logically. This house was so boring I was in a bedroom with two other investigators and a camera operator.  I looked up saw this woman’s arm reach around his back to his shoulder, with her hand touching his shoulder and it was straight on. It went from her hand to her elbow, it was a greenish grayish blueish glow you could see through almost a fog.  I saw it and I remember in my head my brain doing mental gymnastics to put this together. What is this? Am I seeing this? This isn’t happening.  Then it disappeared and I didn’t a big no, no in paranormal investigating by not saying anything to anyone. I literally thought I lost my mind, or hallucinated, even though I was in a haunted house looking for ghosts. I still didn’t believe what I just saw.  the next night I was on sound patrol while others were inside doing the investigation making sure no noises where coming from outside had a walkie-talkie with me. I heard Shaw got touched they were somebody with us on the investigation.  We had camera setup throughout the house, like 16 of them we have him sitting in same stairwell where the camera operator was the night before.  His shoulder just goes down and he freaks out. We asked him what happened he said it felt like a woman just pushed down on his shoulder, for me that was totally confirmation that what i saw was real. I didn’t tell anyone, and here is somebody having this experience of what I saw last night.  That is probably my favorite experience. Apparitions don’t happen all the time, something that people don’t realize. It’s really rare.”

“Can you sum up Paranormal Lockdown Experiences?”

Katrina: “The stuff I’ve experienced on Paranormal Lockdown has been the most intense experiences I’ve had, and some of the stuff I’ve never saw before. Ever in my 10 year career.”

 

I’d like to thank Katrina for her time, and as a reader if there is someone else that you want us to interview let us know!

Paranormal Lockdown” can be seen on Fridays, starting March 4th at 10 pm Est. on Destination America! For more information visit: www.destinationamerica.com!

Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman from Paranormal Lockdown - Outside Location

Geeks & Ghosts: Episode 53 – Bar Talk & Surprise Guest!

In this week’s episode, we cover a ton of stuff! Kenny shows off his new swag from BlueGrass Ghost Chasers, we talk briefly about a YouTube we discovered called Retroblasting, Kenny talks about his adventures at the Paranormal Journeys Expo & the ghost hunt later that night, Rachel & Brad of Colorworld books is gonna be our 2nd IN STUDO guest next week, We all watch & listen to a news report about Bigfoot and his baby, we kinda announce plans for Tombstone and another mysterious location. Then we call a surprise guest to talk about a new video and event – we’re not telling you who it is, you’ll have to listen to find out! It’s a fun show, and follows no rules….ENJOY!

Geeks & Ghosts: Episode 52 – Anthony Selletti

In this week’s episode, Lou has technical issues and has to call in so you don’t get to see his ugly mug till the second half. However, our guest Anthony fills his video slot and talks about his involvement with historic preservation, being a living historian, Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, the 1799 Lazaretto and it’s upcoming History & Mystery event! Anthony also gives us the best answers we’ve ever heard to our two standard questions we ask everyone (when we remember to).

In the second half, Lou is back on video. We look at some of Kenny’s new Flea Market Finds, Lou’s visit to Long Beach Comic Con, Kenny hung out with Dave Ebersole of DASH comics, our new crew member “Camera Man Mike”, and this weekend’s Paranormal Journeys Expo! ENJOY!!

 

Geeks & Ghosts: Episode 51 – Chris Vera

In this week’s episode, Kenny & Lou talk to Chris Vera, co-organizer for the Albatwitch Festival in Columbia, Pa. Chris is a historian, and tells us about the Albatwitch (a little Bigfoot!), the history of Columbia and the Civil War, his ghost tour, and the fun events planned for the festival. In the 2nd half, Lou shows off some new toys, we chat about Eric Altman’s upcoming Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure, our friends at Colorworld announce the release of the 4th book in the series, Disney makes an official Star Wars announcement, and we look at Kenny’s Flea Market Finds of the Week! ENJOY!!