Today my friend, Jenny Patrick, and I became Usui Reiki Practitioners. It's an interesting process. What's most interesting is the heat that now comes from the palms of my hands. As I process and practice, I may share more about it later.
Below you will find an article I wrote for Paranormal Underground magazine in 2008 for the magazine's special reincarnation issue. I sought out past life regression hypnotherapy - something I'd always been interested in - specifically for the article.
It's snowing at Stevens Pass. As the snow level drops down the mountain, Wellington once again becomes inaccessible to all but the hardiest of people willing to brave the cold and several feet of snow. Since I'm a wimp when it comes to cold, I can't drive in the snow, and I don't own a snow mobile, this means Wellington is inaccessible to me.
I'm okay with that this year.
Usually when summer draws to a close and the first snowfall dusts Wellington, I feel a sense of loss. It's difficult to wait several months to be able to return to my friends at Wellington. In the winters they call to me, and I can feel them pulling, asking me to come up again.
This year is different. As snow blankets this beautiful place I am completely at peace. I can only guess I am at peace because they are, as well.
Since I started in 2009, the spirits at Wellington have been persistent. They had a few things they wanted before they felt they could rest.
First, they wanted their story told. I am not alone in sharing the tale of Wellington. Many others have done a wonderful job of sharing the story of the avalanche, its victims, and the ghosts there. All who have visited and gone on to tell their tale to even one other person helped assist the spirits in their mission to be remembered. They are very grateful, and so am I. I hope that all of you who have been touched by the Wellington story continue to share it with anyone who will listen. Every time you do so, it honors those who died, as well as the men who fought to save them.
The second thing the spirits kept requesting was a memorial. They wanted their names in writing posted where they died. It is incredible to me that the names were never posted there before, but they weren't. Instead, trail signs gave snippets of information about the tragedy without naming names.
This fall, two wonderful donors created and installed the memorials the Wellington spirits wanted. When we dedicated the memorials in late October (one of Wellington's last sunny, snow-free days of the season), I felt the overwhelming gratitude, joy, relief, and peace of the spirits as they finally received what they so desired. Others who were with me felt that, as well. So strong and poignant were their feelings, it nearly brought me to my knees.
Now, the spirits have what they sought. Their story is on the lips of many. Their names are on a sign for all to see as they pass through the snow shed. Perhaps it is no coincidence that, once these needs were satisfied, the spirits at Wellington stopped pulling at me. It is time for them to rest, and I pray that is what they are doing.
The second connection I felt to Wellington was very personal. It was my search for Nellie Sharp - the young woman who died in the avalanche for whom I felt such affinity. Now that my friend Elaine found Nellie, my desire to know her better is satisfied. I believe I understand why I was drawn to Nellie. I have one last task to complete with regards to Nellie Sharp, but it is a deeply personal one that I choose not to share with anyone but those to whom I am the closest. It will be complete before Wellington thaws once again in early summer.
Even though I have yet to accomplish that task, I feel a sense of completion. I believe I did what I came to do at Wellington. I have reached the end of a five year journey. While I will continue to tell the story and visit a place that has become sacred to me, the relationship has shifted. I finally feel I am ready to move forward to new projects. What those projects are, I have no idea. I'm sure that the universe will deliver them when the time is right, just as it did with Wellington.
Many who experience Wellington have voiced similar thoughts to me. Just like me, they sensed 2013 was a year of winding down at Wellington. Several have expressed that they, too, feel a deep sense of closure and peace. I can only hope what they express is a reflection of what the spirits feel. It has been more than 100 years, and they deserve peace. They deserve to return Home.
I can't say for sure that no spirits remain at Wellington. Perhaps they will stay because they love it. Maybe they've returned Home. Maybe they'll come back to visit from time to time.
All I know for certain is what I feel. I am profoundly grateful for the experiences I've had at Wellington, and I'm humbled at the opportunities I received to grow as a soul because of my time spent there. For those souls - both living and dead - who have participated in that journey in any way at all, I offer you my deepest thanks. You have become my family, and you all own a piece of my heart.
When I wrote Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington, I mentioned Nellie Sharp briefly, telling readers she was a young, divorced freelance reporter who was on the train writing a story for McClure's magazine about train travel in the Wild West. She was 26 years old when she died.
As I wrote that brief passage about Nellie in Avalanche, what I failed to mention was that from the first I'd heard about her, I'd felt a growing connection to her. I was trying to learn more about her. Little did I know that it would take five years to finally come face to face with Nellie Sharp with the help of some pretty amazing friends.
At the time, I couldn't really tell you why I was drawn to Nellie Sharp. As I searched for her in the early days, I caught intriguing glimpses that strengthened the connection. Of course the natural connection was this: we are both writers. But it went deeper than that for me. Just like I was drawn to Wellington, I was increasingly drawn to Nellie Sharp.
Unfortunately, I'm not great at digging really deep. My early searches were limited to books, newspaper accounts, and genealogy websites. Nellie Sharp is a pretty common name from the time. Her married name, McGirl, was also quite common. All I had were her names, as well as her date and place of death. After learning a little, the trail grew cold.
After that initial search, I only knew slightly more than what I'd written in Avalanche. One of the train's passengers, Sarah Jane Covington, wrote letters home to pass the time on the trains. The letters were recovered from the avalanche wreckage. Sarah spoke of people on the train in her letters, and her words provided my initial glimpses of Nellie.
Nellie was somewhat of an adventurer, it seemed. She hung out with the "smart crowd" (that's what Sarah called them) on the train - a group of people thrown together in frightening and frustrating circumstances who sought comfort and entertainment from one another as they sat for nine days on a small train and watched avalanches come down around them. Nellie's "smart crowd" was a group of younger people traveling without families who would gather in the train's smoking car and share whiskey, tobacco, and laughter. Among the group, Nellie quickly became known as "Wild West Girl" for her adventurous spirit. In Northwest Disaster, author Ruby El Hult also mentions Nellie briefly, saying she probably helped wait tables at Wellington's local eatery, Hotel Bailets, while the train was trapped by snow.
Of course the other thing I knew about 26-year-old Nellie was that she was divorced - or at least in the process of getting a divorce. When you consider that it was 1910, this in itself was a rather unusual state of affairs. Nellie, it seemed, wasn't afraid to buck convention.
After gleaning that smidgen of information about Nellie, I grew frustrated with my search. I had reached a proverbial dead end, and I really didn't know where else to look. Over the next few years as I felt my connection to Nellie grow stronger, I made several more attempts at finding more information, only to remain stuck in the same spot.
At the same time I was searching for Nellie, I was also promoting Avalanche of Spirits. I appeared on many radio shows talking about the book and the haunting. If you know much about paranormal radio shows and the paranormal field in general, then you won't be surprised to hear this. On many of those shows, as well as at the conferences where I spoke, I ran into a lot of psychics. Many of those psychics had the same thing to tell me as I shared the tale of Wellington: "You were on that train."
I've always been fascinated with the topic of reincarnation. I'd read a great deal of literature on the topic and had come to the conclusion that a preponderance of evidence suggests reincarnation is very likely. So when several people told me, "You were on that train," I didn't really dismiss the idea. It could explain the compulsion I had to learn more about Wellington from the very first time someone mentioned the story to me.
Still, I remained skeptical. While I certainly believe reincarnation is a distinct possibility, I doubted I would ever be someone who would find someone whose body my soul used to inhabit. Then came the night at Wellington I described in Dancing with the Afterlife. It was the confluence of all of these diverse threads of information I'd been following with regard to Wellington, the haunting there, and many other subjects I'd pursued in my afterlife research.
While I describe the events leading up to this in detail in Dancing with the Afterlife, I'll summarize them here. In the summer of 2012 at Wellington, a new presence made himself known to me. A gentle giant of a man, every time I was at Wellington this presence who was called "Bear" would insert himself in my space. He'd stroke my cheek and tell me over and over again, "You know me. You know me." He was very persistent, and it made me quite uncomfortable.
I was at Wellington one night in late summer with my friend Elaine Davison. It was Elaine's first time at Wellington, and she had completely refused to read or hear anything about it until she'd experienced it herself. She hadn't read my book, and she'd avoided all my talk about Wellington (I once watched her plug her ears as I was speaking about it at a conference so she couldn't hear what I was saying). She hadn't read the lists of people who had died. She hadn't listened to my radio appearances. She was a blank slate as far as her knowledge of Wellington went.
Elaine will tell you she is not a psychic. I will tell you she is. We agree to disagree. That day at Wellington, Jim, Jenny Patrick, Elaine's husband Bob and I all watched her put on a rather impressive performance. As she walked through the site, she came up with specific names and information about Wellington, the passengers, the rail workers, and the avalanche itself that were remarkably specific and accurate. Late in the afternoon, we were standing in the snow shed when the now familiar presence of Bear approached me. I finally said to Elaine, "Who does this guy think I am?"
Elaine's answer about knocked my legs out from under me. "Nells."
I actually collapsed a little into Jim, so shocked was I with the answer. "Do you mean Nellie?" I asked.
"Yes. But he calls her Nells."
Needless to say, my fascination with Nellie suddenly made a little more sense. As we sat on the observation deck at Wellington that evening, I told Elaine about Nellie and my fascination with her. I shared with her my fruitless search to glean more information.
Anyone who knows Elaine Davison realizes this is a woman who gets stuff done. She decided that she was going to find Nellie for me, and she launched on her search. Only she was way better at it than I ever was. Elaine is a force of nature. She quickly found Nellie's family, learned Nellie's ex-husband's first name, and began relentlessly tracking Nellie throughout her brief 26 years of life. After her initial research, I posted these findings.
Still, Elaine wasn't satisfied. She wanted to get a picture of Nellie for me, and she promised she wouldn't quit until she did. In the process, she made numerous telephone calls to people all over the United States. Slowly, she fleshed out the details of Nellie Sharp's life.
Nellie was born in Bloomington, Illinois in December of 1893. She was the youngest of a whole herd of siblings, and her parents were George and Minnie Sharp. George was a railroad engineer. Nellie was a musician who played the clarinet. She worked for a short time as a telephone operator. She was also a writer who'd written for local newspapers and covered events such as the St. Louis World's fair. She was a golfer, as well.
Nellie's family valued education, so she attended a few different colleges. She met and married John T. McGirl when she was 21. They moved to California together, but we all know how that marriage worked out. February 1910 found Nellie in Spokane, Washington with her friend, Mrs. Herbert Tweedie. The two were heading in separate directions on trains so they could write about their adventures for McClures. They drew straws to see who went in which direction. By this simple twist of fate, Nellie Sharp McGirl wound up on Great Northern Railway's Local No. 25, headed for Seattle. An avalanche waylaid the train, which was stuck in the North Cascades of Washington State for the next nine days as snow storms raged around them. At 1:42 AM on March 1, 1910, a lightning bolt struck the hillside above the trains, and Nellie was aboard as the trains were swept down the mountainside and deposited on the banks of the Tye River. Nellie was one of at least 96 people killed.
When Nellie was killed in the avalanche, John McGirl was still listed as her next of kin. He took the money the railroad provided so the families of the victims could bury them, but he left Nellie's body behind at Wellington. Instead, two of her sisters came from the Midwest and claimed Nellie's body. Without the funds from the railroad, the family couldn't afford a headstone, so Nellie is buried in an unmarked plot.
That is the story of Nellie Sharp's brief life. Without Elaine, I would never have had so much information about her.
About six weeks ago, Elaine's quest to find a photograph of Nellie Sharp came to an end. Although she apparently told everyone I know she had the picture, she didn't tell me because she wanted to surprise me. It turns out my friends are good at keeping secrets.
Elaine sent the picture to my friend Patty Valdez, who matted and framed it beautifully. Yesterday I had a party for my paranormal team, South Sound Paranormal Research (SSPR) and Elaine's team, Western Oregon Organization of Paranormal Investigators (WOOPI) to celebrate a few birthdays and Halloween. There were also mustaches and camouflage involved, but that's another story for another day. Elaine gave me the picture. I cried in front of a bunch of people. I was overwhelmed and still am. Elaine's search for Nellie, Patty's presentation of the photograph - these acts of kindness are among the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I am so grateful, touched, and humbled that my friends would do this for me.
Elaine's search for Nellie is complete. I know her story now, and I know her face. I may never truly know why I have such a deep connection with Nellie, but it is there. Two early descriptions I read of Nellie both really resonated with me. In The White Cascade, Gary Krist called Nellie, "A decidedly stout young woman of ebullient good humor." Ruby El Hult described her as "Short, broad, and irrepressible." From Elaine's research, it seems as if she was a creative spirit who pursued her life with passion and gusto. She's my kind of gal. While her life was short, I have a hunch her heart was huge. Whatever our connection, I know this for sure. Nellie was a cool chick. And she looks like my grandmother.
Karen Frazier is a writer, musician (she plays flute and a few other instruments), and a golfer (she loves the game but is terrible). Born in December, Karen was first married at the age of 21 and divorced by the time she was 23. Now she's remarried to a wonderful bear of a man, although his name is Jim and not Bear. She's been on the Spokane to Seattle train a few times, although Amtrak runs it now and not the Great Northern Railway. She currently works as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer. Karen also has some of the best friends in the world. She recently discovered they are very good at keeping secrets.