Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The legend of Monaghan Mansion

Amidst the tranquil Spokane campus of Gonzaga University, visitors find an array of architectural styles and expansive green lawns framed by broad trees with spreading limbs. Near the western edge of campus stands a stately Victorian mansion built in 1898 by Spokane pioneer and Irish immigrant, James Monaghan.

Acquired by Gonzaga in 1942, and now housing the offices and practice studios of the university Music Department, the Monaghan Mansion is the centerpiece of a campus mystery that still evokes curiosity and often chills from passersby. During informal tours of campus students and faculty, alike, often pause on the tidy brick walk in front of the mansion to titillate their guests with tales of locked doors spontaneously opening, organ and flute music coming from empty rooms, and the presence of something evil and determined.

Little in the life of the original owner suggests a connection to this unexplained phenomenon. An entrepreneur who came to be known as “Spokane Jim,” Monaghan made his first fortune hauling freight and trading with other early settlers and the indigenous Indian tribes. He supplied the U.S. Army with food and stores as they expanded federal control to the Northwest and was one of the early businessmen and landowners to draft the city charter than established Spokane. Following personal and financial setbacks, Monaghan again built an impressive fortune in real estate, railroads, and mining. In 1916, he died of natural causes at home at the age of 75, comfortably surrounded by family.

Subsequent to his death, the house seems to have taken on a sinister nature, with reports of paranormal activity peaking in the 1970s. In 1974, a housekeeper returned to the empty house to retrieve a forgotten item and heard organ music coming from a practice studio on the lower floor. Upon entering the locked studio, the housekeeper found the room empty, but the music kept playing and she could see the organ’s keys still moving.

Later, Father Walter Leedale spent a night in his office there in an attempt to dispel student fears about the place. Upon awakening, he went to unlock one of the doors, but the doorknob turned of itself and the door flung open, revealing no one there. Leedale also heard flute music outside his office when no one else was in the building. He and a student heard growling coming from the basement, but when they entered the locked storage area from whence the sound came, all they found was an empty room.

Following a search of the mansion, Leedale and music department chair Daniel Brenner entered a third floor room accompanied by two guards. They all testified to feeling a menacing and determined presence. Both guards felt cold hands trying to strangle them and Brenner was unable to move beyond the threshold. They all fled the room, determined to conduct a rite of exorcism.

The exorcism by Father Leedale and assisted by Brenner took place Feb. 24, 1975. Over the next few days Leedale could feel the presence fading and by Feb. 28, it seemed to be gone. There have been no documented instances of doors opening or music unaccompanied by human presence since, but the stories live on in the retelling and many visitors are drawn to the house to see and feel for themselves.

Every entering freshman knows the home’s haunted history. In turn, they pass the story along to the next years’ incoming students. So steeped in lore is the story of the Monaghan house that a Halloween party took place at the Hall in 2005. Yet the University now appears anxious to reframe the story of the Monaghan Mansion and move past its disturbing legends. They prefer to highlight a vibrant music program, blessed to have an historical home. Still, the stories persist …