WALLACE — Rain began to pound the old rooftops of Wallace just after a group of women slipped inside the historic Jameson Hotel.
Led by Coeur d’Alene medium and master healer Jennifer Von Behren, the ladies looked around in wonder, soaking in the energy of the shadowy building, which has been vacant for about five years.
"If I see a ghost, I will tell you guys,” Von Behren said as the group crowded into a boardroom on the main floor.
Von Behren gestured to the flashlights she’d set on a large wooden hutch against a wall.
“The goal is to get them to communicate with us through these,” she said.
Before she could finish her sentence, the overhead chandelier flickered.
“Oh, or however they feel like communicating,” she said with a surprised laugh.
Whether it was a hiccup of the 1890s building's electrical wiring or something else, those who attended the recent "Haunted Gals Night" were eager to wander the historic hotel and possibly cross paths with some of the resident spirits.
In the boardroom, which was a usual place for men to meet years ago, Von Behren said she could "see" two gentlemen, one who was not very pleased with so many women in the space, and another who was "quite handsome, actually."
"I always try to walk in with an open mind," said Casey Anderson of Coeur d'Alene, who participated in the evening with one of her best friends. "I knew this place was going to have activity because it's very old."
With cameras, digital recorders and other ghost-capturing equipment in hand, the ladies spoke quietly among themselves as they climbed the creaky staircases to the third floor. Von Behren stopped in a room with two beds to communicate with what she felt was a female presence.
She placed the flashlights on a dresser and asked questions into the darkness, instructing the presence to turn the lights on for "yes" and off for "no," a common practice in paranormal investigating. A collective gasp and nervous giggles could be heard when one flashlight turned on in response to whether the spirit liked a flower that had been left in that room the previous night. It turned off, seemingly on its own, at Von Behren's request.
"Everybody watches 'Ghost Hunters' and stuff, but watching those shows doesn't prepare you for when you're really involved in it," Von Behren said.
The group also informally investigated the Ryan Hotel, where many of the participants stayed that night. Von Behren had conducted a formal investigation with her husband, Eric, and the Spokane Paranormal Investigation Group the night before, when they believe they made contact with another female presence they refer to as the "teacher."
"The 'teacher' was only communicating with my husband," Jennifer said. "I said, 'Do you find Eric attractive?' and she turns the flashlight on and we all started busting up laughing."
The Ryan Hotel, built in 1903, once housed workers who toiled in the mines surrounding Wallace. It was renovated in 1933 after a fire and again in 2013, but still maintains the feeling that those who enter are stepping back in time.
"It's a beautiful historic building," said Sheena Braulick, who helped organize the "Haunted Gals Night" and runs the hotel with parents Donna Westmoreland and Tim Johnson. "It brings different types of guests, and that's also fun."
Rushes of air, chills, soft knocking sounds, lightheadedness and the flashlight responses were some of the things experienced that evening. Von Behren said both locations exhibited paranormal activity.
"The Ryan gets an A+. You're lucky to get one or two pieces here and there," she said. "I'm so excited, I'm giddy about it."
It's impossible to know how many people have passed through the historic town of Wallace, and how many spirits have stayed behind, Von Behren said. She said just walking through the streets she can feel a lot more happening in that town than meets the eye. She said she “saw” a spirit walking through the antique store on the corner the day after the ladies night.
"I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this one’s haunted too!'” she said, adding that Wallace has so many paranormal hotspots that she hopes someone soon records the locations in a haunted registry.
"This is something that is going to put Wallace on the map," she said. "I don't even think Wallace knows how this is going to hit it."
Anderson said she and her friend really enjoyed the haunted evening, which also included psychic readings with Von Behren.
"This gave me and many others the chance to experience a live ghost investigation," she said. "Along with that came an experience of 'seeing is believing' and the proper etiquette of talking with spirits throughout the hotels, and also realizing the gifts Jennifer uses to work with the other side."
Braulick has organized another haunted evening with Von Behren, the "Evening Among the Spirits," just in time for Halloween on Oct. 21. For information, call the Ryan Hotel at 208-753-6001.