The house at Ravens Hollow was built by a missionary in 1915.
But another building occupied the Yakima property before that, says owner Sheila Miranda. The person who owned it before her was there for more than 50 years and the one before that for about 30, so it hasn’t had much turnover.
Sheila bought the house in May 2017, bestowed it with its name and turned it into a bed and breakfast. With two stories, five bedrooms and two full bathrooms, it’s the perfect space for one. There are nine beds — including the one she put out on the gazebo for guests who wanted to sleep outdoors — and Sheila usually has just about that many boarders staying with her on weekends. And there are often large business groups, convention-goers and other types staying with her during the week.
“It’s a work in progress,” Sheila said. “I haven’t had it all that long.”
Although the quaint, quiet structure is advertised on Air B&B, she doesn’t automatically tell people about some of the strange phenomena she and others have experienced inside and on the grounds. However, she does tell everyone about the cemetery — so close, one needs only walk across a small grassy lot and peer through the thin tree line to see headstones just a few feet away.
But it’s a house where things have been known to happen over the course of the last year. Some report pushing and shoving by something they don’t see.
And there have been issues with the thermostat. Every time Sheila sets the temperature to the comfort of the mid-70s, the central unit shuts off and the mercury rises to 82 degrees.
And then there’s the little boy, blond and appearing to be about 5 to 7 years old, she’s seen on the grounds during daylight hours.
With what she’d heard of the property’s history — a school and an orphanage at one time, she said — Sheila contacted The P.A.S.T. is Present, a Yakima-based group that’s been investigating the paranormal throughout the Northwest since 2008.
They’re people and volunteers who dedicate their time to research, study, investigate and analyze reports of strange phenomena. And the team provides free and confidential investigations for situations like whatever’s happening at Ravens Hollow.
And although there were strange happenings on the property prior to the initial investigation last September, the unexplained incidents have increased since.
“There was a lot of activity then, but even moreso now,” Sheila explains. “But I knew the house had a lot of energy before I bought it.”
Alone inside the house last October, Sheila describes being woken up by the light touch of three fingers running along her shoulder.
Craig Gilley is the case manager and an investigator for the paranormal and spirit team, which is comprised of men and women of varying ages. They aren’t always working to prove hauntings. They’re also using their equipment and investigations to find out what natural catalysts could be contributing to reported events.
They arrive around 3 p.m. on a recent Saturday, unpacking cases of equipment and setting up cameras inside.
It’s not the normal time one might think of to investigate a haunting, but much of what Sheila’s reported has happened during daylight hours so the timing is kind of perfect.
Another investigator, Shellie Sauve — also the team’s director and treasurer — places a K-II EMF meter in my palm and explains how to use it. It’s a handheld device that provides electromagnetic readings via lights above corresponding colored strips in order of strength — teal, green, yellow orange and red.
“If you ask questions, sometimes the spirit will light it all the way up,” Shellie explains. In other words, the spirit’s strength might cause the entire meter to light up.
Small, unassuming, extremely friendly and incredibly wise, Shellie’s the person who initially got me on board with the group. She was excited I wanted to write about them and their monthly meetings, even more excited when I agreed to come on this investigation.
She cautions me not to go off on my own, to remain with at least one other person while I’m there, and to take plenty of notes for documentation.
We spread out into teams and though I remain with a partner while walking around the unfinished basement, I later fail to heed that portion of her advice.
And what happens over the course of the next hour defies explanation.
Breaking into a sweat
There are 17 steps to the second-floor landing, where each of the bedroom doors are open for the day.
Sheila is going about her normal daily routine, changing beds and picking up for her guests.
In the largest of the upstairs rooms, members of the team are closing the blinds to block out the afternoon light. They’re checking their cameras and setting up a device that projects a laser grid of green dots all around the room.
If something were to pass, it would do so in front of those lighted dots and cast a shadow on the walls.
Concentrating on the EMF meter in my hand, I wander off from the group to another bedroom.
Painted blue with matching twin beds inside, it’s the closed closet door that draws me there for some reason.
I hold the meter just below waist level and the first two lights glow. Although one of the lights goes out, it reignites the second I move it slightly to the left — a pattern that continues as if I’m following something there that’s almost playing with me.
I’m not thinking that I’ve defied Shellie’s instructions by wandering off alone, but because no one else is around I whisper a question and the light reappears before going out completely.
As I use the device to begin searching other corners before returning to the closet, I’m suddenly aware that I’m very hot. Not just a little warm, but actually perspiring and I wasn’t just a second before.
The sweat is building up beneath my arms, running down my sides and along the small of my back in little rivers.
It’s a strange sensation that intensifies when an unexpected wave of nausea accompanies it. The closest comparison is the confluence of perspiration, stomach upset and inescapable malaise that accompanies a truly terrible hangover.
But I’m not hungover. And I’ve been up since very early in the morning and the onset of this feeling is sudden enough to have me really worried.
My throat is dry, my fingers and palms so damp the pages in my notebook are becoming moist and I’m finding it difficult to hold onto the EMF meter, let alone document anything that’s happening.
Even worse, my camera — fully charged when I arrived — is blinking its low-battery warning every time I try to snap a photo.
When I feel more sweat at my temples and dampening the back of my neck, I become overwhelmed and head downstairs.
Shellie and Craig are in the living room, where a motion camera has gone off a few times.
While I explain what I’m feeling, Shellie notices my face has gotten very red and she suggests I go outside for a while.
I follow through with that idea and almost immediately start to feel better.
‘A footprint lingers’
Sheila is sitting at one of the tables beneath a tree, so I join her to get a little more information on what’s been happening at the house.
There’s an instant connection.
She tells me that fall and Halloween is her favorite time of year — she has decorations stored in closets and the basement that prove this — and she explains how she decorated the interior.
The furniture, art, figurines and statues are all from places she’s lived and visited. There are objects from Hawaii, Mexico and New York.
She also has a desk in the living room with a story of its own. The desk belonged to a former Washington territory governor and the story involves the image of a man wearing a three-piece suit, a rose-colored vest and a top hat. There’s also something about strange markings known to appear and disappear from its surface at times.
She tells me stories of other people and other places who have had physical symptoms like those I just experienced inside.
Sheila believes the spirit of the missionary who built the house is still there, along with whatever may haunt the old desk.
And, of course, there’s the little boy.
“Sometimes a footprint lingers — it just stays,” she says. “But every house has its secrets.”
She pauses, looks me square in the face and raises her eyebrows before repeating that phrase: “Every house has its secrets.”
As she talks, I gaze along the property, as if willing the child to appear.
There are three garages and a small guest house, which is currently occupied, but I’ve yet to actually see any physical manifestation on par with what I felt indoors.
Sheila is an intuitive, she tells me. It’s something that started when she was younger and experienced an unpleasant shock via one of the old Rainbow vacuum cleaners. It was so great, she was thrown across the room. She’s experienced something close to premonitions ever since.
“Some people are not intuitive,” she explains. “They can see it right in front of them but it doesn’t register.”
Is it a haunting? Is it a spirit?
Whatever this is, Sheila says people call it different things. But she keeps referring to the “footprint” that can sometimes linger after people and events in the natural world have moved on.
I want to tell Sheila about some of the things that happened in the house where I grew up, but I decide against it.
Although I’m feeling physically better, I find myself emotionally cluttered — as if I’m very sad about something and I don’t know why.
We decide to go back inside.
A strange feeling
Sheila’s guests come from all over the world.
They hail from New York and Maine, Germany and France.
And there’s nothing inherently creepy about the environment she’s created. The bookshelves are lined with old titles like “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Dream Merchants” and “Roughing It.”
More than 300 people have stayed with her since she opened and all of them say they’ve gotten the best sleep of their entire lives in her beds.
“It’s so peaceful,” she says. “I think it’s because it’s always been such a spiritual place.”
That’s a feeling especially evocative in her kitchen, where Sheila offers me a glass of water.
I start telling her about the strange feeling I had in the blue room upstairs, the odd notion I had about the closets in the house and the fact that the thermostat’s altered temperature number — 82 — is resonating with me for some reason.
She mentions “the butterfly room” — one of the bedrooms decorated with small, stenciled butterflies — where some have complained of a strange and off-putting smell.
At the very moment she mentions the room, the EMF reader in my hand flashes its lights all at once, holds them then returns to normal.
We both see it happen.
I immediately start feeling hot again and have to go back outside — this time, I’m alone.
Standing at the bed in the gazebo, I put my camera and notebook down to adjust my clothing because I’ve sweated all the way through them.
After a moment, my foot kicks something on the ground and I look down to see a small, Matchbox-style toy car that I’m almost sure wasn’t there before.
And I can’t help thinking whatever walks at Ravens Hollow wants me to know it’s there.
Back inside, I tell the group in the living room everything I’ve experienced.
Craig suggests it’s possible I’m highly intuitive. And perhaps the spirit I was interacting with was draining energy from me the same way it drained my camera’s battery.
When spirits find an intuitive, he says they may use that person as a conduit, he says.
As he explains it, the lights go off rapidly on Shellie’s EMF meter.
I tell them I want to leave.
I’m not afraid, but I don’t feel right.
Before I go, they instruct me to tell the spirit to remain — neither to follow me or my equipment once I’m gone.
I do this, but not until I’m safely in my car and blasting my damp face with cold air from the vents.
Later, Craig emails me to explain I may have been overstimulated from the haunted environment, that psychic energy has to be contained less it cause panic-type symptoms.
He, too, has felt ill and had to leave investigations, he says.
Others email throughout the evening, congratulating each other on their professionalism.
And we decide to regroup with reports of all we have documented.
When The P.A.S.T. is Present meets next.