The Haunting of West Seattle High

Straight Up Ghosts


West Seattle High School, 1924(CW: suicide)

Poor Rose Higginbotham. One can only imagine what drove the girl to hang herself within the halls of West Seattle High School back in 1924. Whatever vagaries of teenage existence cause high schoolers to take their own lives were surely just as powerful and significant when Rose took her own life; the impact it had on her classmates, her teachers, the faculty, and the local West Seattle community– far smaller and more tight-knit than it is today– no less tragic.

It’s possible that Rose’s spirit wanders the halls of WSHS, and can be seen on especially foggy days in Hiawatha Park next to the school, due to the survival of consciousness after death. It could also be some kind of “Stone Tape” scenario, where the psychic shock of an event causes that event to become “recorded” on the environment. Maybe the trauma Rose experienced imprinted itself onto the very bricks of WSHS, and now “plays back” at certain intervals depending upon the emotional or psychical state of the experiencer.

Regardless, the apparition in West Seattle High School has entered the annals of Seattle paranormal history. Rose turns up in every simple search for Seattle’s Most Haunted Places; the WSHS haunting consistently makes the lists:

There’s only one little problem with the story of Rose Higginbotham, however. It seems as though Rose Higginbotham, the tragically despondent high school student whose spectre still haunts WSHS, didn’t actually exist.

As it happens, most of the yearbooks from West Seattle High School have been digitized and are available online. A thorough search through those yearbooks from the years in which Rose would have attended WSHS turns up nothing. No Roses, no HIgginbothams. The closest “hit” is an art teacher named Mabel Higgie, who continued her gainful employment at the school long after the supposed hanging took place.

Although it’s tempting to theorize that perhaps Rose attended under a different name, or was (for some reason) left out of the yearbooks, there is also the fact that no West Seattle High School suicides were mentioned in the Seattle Daily Times during those years. This was an era of sensationalism for a small city paper. Given the focus on local minutiae apparent in every issue at the time, the idea that a suicide in a local school wouldn’t have appeared bends every law of probability.

We have to conclude that, according to the research, there was no Rose Higginbotham, and her ghost is not trapped within the walls of the old school on California Ave.

But wait… something more is going on here. A preponderance of evidence, no matter how circumstantial, surely means that something lurks the corridors of West Seattle High? We believe that this entity may actually be Rose Higginbotham, who hanged herself in WSHS in 1924.

In 1972, a group of academic researchers in Toronto conducted an experiment in paranormal studies. The team developed a “fictional” character, named “Philip,” and gave him an extensive and well-researched background. Gathering together at multiple sessions, the researchers conducted seances, during whichthey were actually able to contact Philip.  There’s even footage:

The “Philip Experiment,” as it’s come to be known, seems to prove that, given enough “attention,” an entity can somehow be created– or summoned– by those who believe in its existence. Surely most of our readers have heard of tulpas  or egregores. It is our considered opinion that Rose Higginbotham is one of these entities.

High School. Emotions, thoughts, and feelings are SO intense. Hormones surge within the endocrine system, producing intense impressions that the nervous system, as yet completely formed, cannot control. This intensity echoes throughout the school population– not just limited to students. Would it be that surprising that after fifty years, the stories of “Rose Higginbotham” escaped the psychic space of the teenage zeitgeist of WSHS, manifesting as an actual entity?

In this sense, Rose truly is liminal: a ghost who exists yet doesn’t exist. Rose is a kind of “Schrodinger’s Phantom,” a being who exists on the periphery of conscious reality. It is our considered opinion that were serious researchers to visit WSHS to conduct an investigation, there is a very strong possibility that Rose would communicate with them, and present evidence of her continued existence, regardless of whether that “existence” found form in the paper of record or school annuals.

Sweet memories linger
Across departed years;
Our hearts are saddened,
Our eyes grow dim with tears.
Still we united,
Thy beauties will revere,
Singing in praise to thee,
Our Alma Mater dear…