A Trip Through The SPOOKY Side Of The Northwest Room!

Deep within the dark nooks and crannies in our collections lie material so ghastly, so horrifying, we rarely dare look! Well, maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit. For this Under The Dome blog post, we take a trip through the spooky side of some of the collections held by the Northwest Room! From eerie photographs by Virna Haffer and Halloween-related marketing shots from the Richards photography studio to costume contests and haunted buildings we think you will enjoy!

These ghostly and otherworldly photographs were taken by Virna Haffer, a Tacoman photographer.

Virna Haffer (then Virna Hanson) was born in 1899 in Aurora, Illinois. In 1907, her family moved to Washington to join the Home Colony, an anarchist community located near Tacoma. At age fourteen, Haffer moved to Tacoma and enrolled as a student at Stadium High School. In the 1920s, she participated in a number of exhibitions in Seattle and was involved in both the Seattle Camera Club and Tacoma Camera Club. During this period, Haffer opened her portrait studio

which she would continue to operate for fifty years. Her book, Making Photograms: The Creative Process of Painting with Light, was published in 1969. One of her photograms, "California Horizon," was included in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's traveling exhibitions and was later purchased by MOMA for their permanent collection. She was awarded the highest honor from the Professional Photographers of America and featured in exhibitions across the country. She died on April 5, 1974.

To learn more about Virna Haffer and see more of her photographs visit these links below

See Virna's digitized images in the Image Archive

Visit the Virna Haffer Collection in ORCA

Marcus Nalley, a 13-year-old Croatian immigrant and aspiring chef living in Tacoma founded the Nalley Fine Foods company in 1918. He began by making potato chips and quickly expanded. In the 1950s he opened a large factory off of what is now South Tacoma Way and began selling pickles, chili, and many other foods. These two pictures from the Richards Photography Studio Collection document what Nalley's created for Halloween in 1952: a mixed trick-or-treat selection of individually wrapped candies, candies in Halloween shapes of pumpkins, ghosts, and bats for 39 cents a bag, and spiced gum drops. 

Click either image to see it in its collection and learn more about Richards Studio and see more of their images by following this link, Richards Photography Studio Collection in ORCA

These Richards Studios below photos capture Tacoma celebrating the Halloween holiday in both the 1930s and the 1960s!

To the left, we see a 1938 photograph of Hostess Peggy Grumbling, left, and three of her friends listening to a scary story read by a Halloween witch at this costume party held at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfeus Grumbling. The girls also enjoyed games directed by Miss Helen Poe. 

To the lift we see children preparing to lead the first Eastside Halloween Torchlight Parade which was held on October 31, 1968. 

For the last segment in this post, we leave you with a haunted building, a library to be precise! People have experienced many odd encounters in the then McCormick branch (now known as the Wheelock Branch).

According to a March 12th, 1996 Tacoma News Tribune, article library staff were hearing faucets turning on and off, doors swinging on their own, and objects moving by themselves. One individual mentioned in the article describes seeing an elderly woman with grey hair. "I was back in the work area", and I was emptying the garbage. I was leaning over and saw her out of the corner of my eyes at the circulation desk. She turned and looked at me...then she was gone."(1)

These incidents occurred over a period of three weeks when the branch was in the process of being renamed from the McCormick branch to the Wheelock branch in honor of Anna Wheelock whose daughter bequeathed the library $2.4 million with the condition that her mother's name be given to the building. Could the ghost have been Anna McCormick angry at the changing of the library's name, or maybe someone else entirely?

(1) C.R. Roberts, "The Library ghost who didn't check in" The Tacoma News Tribune, Tuesday, March 12, 1996, p.B5

If you have any questions about any of the images or information in this post we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions by phone at (253) 280-2814 or send us an email at NWR@tacomalibrary.org