Author Deborah Cuyle is an expert on paranormal history in the Pacific Northwest. Her local haunted histories include “Haunted Snohomish,” “Haunted Everett,” “Ghosts of Leavenworth & the Cascade Foothills,” “Ghosts of Coeur d’Alene and the Silver Valley” and, coming soon, “Haunted Spokane,” among others.
Alongside each ghostly legend she chronicles, she also includes historical, ancestral and architectural detail garnered from hours and hours of research, interviews and poring over old newspapers.
These haunted local histories usually take her about two years to complete.
“When writing about history, I have to do my own type of ‘historical forensics’ to pick through the information to develop as much accuracy as possible,” Cuyle said in an email Tuesday. “I still make a mistake here and there, but I give it all I’ve got.”
Cuyle’s interest in paranormal and supernatural activity stems from a near-death experience that she survived in 2010. When an accidental overdose in a hospital stopped her breathing for several minutes, doctors were able to resuscitate her, but the lack of oxygen had already caused damage to her right frontal lobe.
“My paranormal experiences started soon after that, which was very difficult for me because I was already struggling with the problems associated with brain damage,” she said.
She explained that, with some difficulty, she began “understanding and controlling” these experiences.
“I guess I am a sort of medium,” she said, explaining she rarely uses her abilities anymore. “I can still communicate with the dead, I just choose not to unless absolutely necessary. People always think it would be so cool to do, but in reality it is quite exhausting.”
Recently, Cuyle was on a ghost hunt in Wallace, where she lives.
“Almost every building here experiences hauntings of some sort or another,” she said.
Once, while Cuyle and her friend and fellow paranormal investigator Mark Porter were investigating what locals call “Maggie’s Room,” they’d all but struck out on recording any activity with their ghost hunting equipment, so they decided to try another area in the building.
“Just as I got up, I suddenly felt a pair of arms wrap around me from behind, like a bear hug,” she said. “I froze. Mark said, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘It feels like something is hugging me from behind right now.’ He said, ‘Look at your arms!’ All the hair on my arms was sticking straight up.”
This phenomenon is indicative of paranormal activity, she said.
They later found out a male ghost named Ollie who “likes to hug women” haunts the building.
“I think it is important for people to be more open-minded when it comes to the paranormal,” Cuyle said, explaining she believes many people are too quick to dismiss such experiences.
Most spirits are benign, she said, “and if you encounter a spirit who is being naughty, just ask them to leave.”
Cuyle now directs all her energy toward chronicling accounts of local specters and gets a great deal of enjoyment from sharing them with her readers.
Her favorite feedback, she said, is often from parents and teachers saying how her books have given children an interest in local history .
“The Leavenworth Library once had a wait list of children wanting to read my book so long it broke my heart,” Cuyle said.
She quickly donated a whole stack of “Ghosts of Leavenworth & the Cascade Foothills” to the library.
To aspiring authors and historians, paranormal or otherwise, Cuyle offered some advice.
“Be patient. Be confident. Be proactive. Find a topic that really, really interests you, and go for it.”
Cuyle’s “The Ghosts of Coeur d’Alene and the Silver Valley” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore and online through Arcadia Publishing.