Specters trapped in the Palouse

Orton Hall, St. Ignatius Hospital, town of Elberton are ghost hot spots



Ghosts roam the grounds of the St. Ignatius Hospital where the first patient was treated for pneumonia.


All Hallows’ Eve approaches. The door opens to the spirits of the underworld. Halloween is not the only night to see ghosts, however. There are many legends of specters that haunt the Palouse area. Some are on the WSU campus, some are in an abandoned hospital in Colfax and some haunt the ghost town of Elberton. 

Railroad Sam

One of the most well-known ghosts on campus is Railroad Sam. Railroad Sam is often seen in Orton Hall, a dorm built in 1963, according to Campus Legends and Ghost Stories.

Railroad Sam supposedly haunts the 12th floor of Orton Hall, looking out the window to watch the trains go through Pullman. He only appears during these viewings. 

There is not a clear reason why Railroad Sam exists in Orton Hall. It might be due to the nice view of Pullman and the train tracks or that he or his children might have lived there. His true identity is unknown. 

St. Ignatius Hospital

In 1893, three Sisters of Charity provided health care on the current grounds of St. Ignatius Hospital in a wood building while the main St. Ignatius Hospital was being built. Their first patient was treated for pneumonia, according to spokanehistorical.org.

Construction of the hospital was completed in 1894, opening its door to the public. In 1911, the St. Ignatius School of Nursing produced its first graduating class of nurses.

Maintaining the hospital over the years proved to be a challenge for the sisters. St. Ignatius Hospital closed its doors in August 1964. The old St. Ignatius Hospital building served as an assisted living home until 2000. The hospital sits empty and in disarray, but it is still a home for some.   

“St. Ignatius is an abandoned hospital bleeding with late patients’ cries for acknowledgment and sympathy,” said Taylor Larkin, WSU senior human development major.

The ghosts roam the hospital grounds, lost and trapped inside the walls, according to spokanehistorical.org F. E. Martin, the first reported death at the hospital, is said to roam the halls to this day. Martin died in 1893 when he was crushed to death between two railroad cars. There are nameless others who join Martin in their journey between life and death.

Railroad Sam and F. E. Martin are not the only railroad-related ghosts near Pullman.

The Ghost Town of Elberton

In 1880, a railroad line was built in the valley of the Palouse by the Oregon Railway and Navigation Co.

The ghost town of Elberton sits northwest of Palouse and northeast of Colfax. The town was established in 1886 by Sylvester M. Wait. The town was named after his son, Elbert. 

After the completion of a flour mill, post office, blacksmith shop, two general stores, grain warehouse and church in 1888, the town of Elberton started to take off, according to ghosttownsofwashington.com. The town reached a population of 400 by 1900. Unfortunately, this would not last a long time. 

The local sawmill closed in early 1900, a terrible fire occurred in 1908 and a flood hit the town in 1910. The abandoning of Elberton finally happened during the Great Depression. Many packed their bags and left their homes in Elberton, never to come back. 

Today, the United Brethren Church, cemetery, railroad trestle and bridge are the bones of Elberton. 

Ghosts are reminders of the past. Sometimes, they appear fully or are simply movements in the corner of your eye. The presence of yesterday is very alive in certain places, and many try to chase these glimpses into these days of old. I caution anyone who decides to search for these spirits. Be safe, and happy ghost hunting!