Here at the haunted stairs, also known at the thousand steps, lies a great mystery full of tales of yester-years, tunnels, and ghosts.
One such fable presumes the stairs were the original entrance to the cemetery, where the trolley-train would drop people off to stroll through the park-like grounds. High-society men in their 3-piece suits and women in long, flowing, brightly-colored dresses with elegant matching hats would ascend the stairs to picnic on the second terrace, enjoying the once spectacular view of the mountains and downtown Spokane. Spectacular, that is, until the trees grew and now block the view. By the way, the original entrance is at the main gate where it has always been.
A second tale about the staircase leads people to believe the steps once led to a tunnel entrance. Though this isn't true, it's easy to see why people who simply drive by the cemetery might think as such. There's a large mausoleum at the top of the stairs in disrepair that, from a distance and looking through overgrowth, could appear to be a bricked-over tunnel entrance. The truth? There is a tunnel in the cemetery, but that's the subject of another stop.
Another story about the stairs lies in an old agreement between the cemetery and one of the city's fraternal organizations, the Elks - where the cemetery promised to build the staircase with terraced landings, and the Elks club promised to purchase plots on those terraces for their wives and children, while they, the men, would be buried on the second terrace with their fraternal brothers. The wives, however, were unhappy with an arrangement that would leave them eternally separated from their husbands. Shortly thereafter, relations between the cemetery and the Elks fizzled, leaving the stairs, terraces, and fraternal mausoleum to wither with time.
Finally, the best-known legend of the stairs has a ghoulish side, and what cemetery story would be complete without one? Many people believe ghosts and spirits guard the staircase, preventing people from reaching the top. Several folks even claim to have seen and/or felt these ethereal entities while traipsing through the cemetery at night, challenging the keepers of the thousand steps. Oh, and the number of actual steps? ... 60-something. So, who's up for a good haunt?
Anne Coogan-Gehr, 2011