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Plateau cemeteries draw ghost hunters

By Jessica Keller

It has been reported that on foggy nights at the Black Diamond Cemetery people can see the swinging lights of coal miner ghosts' lanterns. Some have reportedly seen ghostly images, including one of a white horse trotting around headstones, and some have supposedly heard coal miners whistling.
To some, those are just local rumors, ghost stories or just a reason to stay away at night. But to the members of Amateur Ghost Hunters of Seattle and Tacoma (AGHOST), that's exactly what interested them in the cemetery.
But Black Diamond Cemetery is not the only local place of interest for the group, which - like other organizations interested in ghosts, hauntings and the supernatural - investigates activity alleged to be "paranormal". AGHOST members have also snapped photos at the Buckley and Enumclaw cemeteries.
Vice President Patricia Woolard said AGHOST is interested in all cemeteries because members are almost always guaranteed activity. But Woolard, who lives in Bonney Lake and drives through Buckley frequently to attend the group's meetings in Auburn, took a special interest in the Buckley Cemetery and thought it would be a worthwhile place for the group to perform investigations.
"It was the first cemetery that I really paid attention to," Woolard said. " I liked it because it was right off the road."
        While the group began only last November, AGHOST President Ross Allison explained that the 20 or so open-minded individuals in the group are quite serious about learning more about the paranormal. They follow nationwide ghost hunting protocol to objectively gather evidence and information in an unbiased manner, he said, and Woolard echoed that sentiment.
She said group members are careful when they perform investigations and are careful how they conduct themselves and use their equipment. The equipment includes digital and 35 mm cameras, thermometers, video cameras and tape recorders. They also use electromagnetic field detectors to gather readings of electronic activity.
"We're in (the group) scientifically to gather data," she said, although she added the group does do reports and that some of the members' reasons for joining the group are mostly unscientific.
        "For me, it's to prove there is something beyond what is around us," she said. "There's a lot of stuff that you just can't explain away."
She said group members often deal with skeptics, but also encounter many who are believers or who are open-minded enough to believe the weird things occurring in their houses could be supernatural.
The group performs house investigations for those who request assistance (which is pretty frequently, Woolard said), and also investigates cemeteries and businesses.
Allison said when the group has received permission to perform an investigation in the past, it typically wasn't that difficult to obtain.
"We haven't really had any problems getting permission. A lot of times people just think we're kind of weird," he said.  "A lot of it is knowing who to contact to get permission."
He said if the group does not have permission to investigate a property, usually members will just snap pictures at the fence line or perimeter, which is what they did for the Enumclaw, Buckley and Black Diamond cemeteries. He said the group does not like to sneak around to conduct investigations and doesn't want to cause trouble.
 And Woolard is quick to point out that group members just go to the cemeteries  to perform their investigations and take pictures, and are not there to desecrate any graves, damage property or show disrespect for the dead.
But AGHOST only recently started asking permission to perform investigations in cemeteries, after it was recommended by a Buckley police officer. Woolard and a couple others had gone to the Buckley cemetery to snap photos for the first time, and a police officer recommended they receive permission to be there at night and conduct their investigations.
Woolard said she thought that was a good idea, so she  formally asked and received permission from the Buckley City Council for AGHOST to conduct investigations there.
"We'd like to get permission in all the local cemeteries so we could do our experiments, but there are some people who are still kind of eerie about that," Allison said. He said AGHOST hopes to gain permission from Enumclaw to visit its city-owned cemetery. 
"One of the cemeteries we want to go back to is Enumclaw," Allison said. "We did get a lot of activity at the Enumclaw cemetery."
Allison said the group will expand to other cemeteries in and out of the area for investigation. AGHOST is still waiting for a reply from Sumner for permission to use its cemetery.
But Woolard said Buckley is probably going to be a more permanent interest for the group, which will return April 28 for its first formal investigation, which Woolard is really excited about.
"As far as Buckley cemetery goes, that will be kind of our home base," she said. "It's a really nice cemetery, and it's really great to have the permission to go there.

Jessica Keller can be reached at