Ghosts and goblins and ghouls, oh my! It’s the time of year when things go bump in the night here in Spokane as frightful fun takes over. Thankfully, the monster under the bed isn’t real, but some haunts in the Lilac City have transformed beyond a bedtime story into real-life encounters of the paranormal kind. One such notorious local haunt would be that of the legendary Greenwood Cemetery in Spokane. More than an ordinary burial ground beyond its serene exterior lies a history steeped in eerie tales, alleged underground tunnels, and spine-chilling phenomena.

Greenwood Cemetery Spokane
The old newspaper article from the early 1900s tells about the completion of the tunnel under the Greenwood Cemetery by the Northern Pacific Railway. Photo courtesy: Spokane Falls Review

The Ominous, Hidden Tunnel at Greenwood Cemetery

In the early late 1800s, nothing was considered more powerful than that of the Transcontinental Railroad. It connected the early settlers in astronomical ways, and Spokane was no different, earning itself a rich railway history. With it came the creation of underground tunnels, and an 1889 plat for the Greenwood Memorial Terrace Cemetery indicates a proposed railroad terminal in the middle of the western perimeter. The original goal was for the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railway line to cross the Spokane River near Riverside Memorial Park, go through Greenwood, where a terminal was to be built, and continue north and west toward the Cascade Mountains.

The project sat underfunded for a while until the Great Northern Railroad stepped in, continuing the project formerly purchased by their main competitor in 1900, the Northern Pacific Railway. In February of 1909, work began at both the north and south ends of the tunnel, building the tunnel so that its main line could connect with the Spokane, Portland & Seattle roads.

It took 13 months to complete, and the tunnel was opened for business on April 1, 1910. A fitting day, it seems, as the tunnel itself would ultimately be a fool-hardy endeavor.

Greenwood Cemetery Spokane
Graves of some of Spokane’s earliest settlers can be found here at the Greenwood Cemetery, further adding to its haunt factor. Photo credit: Elisabeth Ellingson

In preparation for the 1974 World’s Fair, Spokane revitalized the city center where the central railroad hub was, forcing the rerouting of several rail lines, including the line through Greenwood. Both ends of the tunnel were buried, and in exchange for removing the tracks and permanently sealing the railroad tunnel, Greenwood Memorial Terrace ceded an easement from its western boundary for a new rail line that now bypasses the cemetery.

Local lore now tells foreboding stories of Chinese laborers who supposedly died during the tunnel’s construction. Through the callousness of the railroad company, they were allegedly buried at the worksite. Other folklore surrounding the tunnel tells of buried train cars, with some even going so far as to claim buried treasure underneath. Many have since tried to dig back out the tunnel but to no avail, as vegetation has since grown over any evidence of the tunnel’s original existence.

Greenwood Cemetery Spokane
Can you reach the top of the 1.000 steps? Legend goes the ghosts will do everything in their power to prevent people from reaching the top. Photo credit: Trisha Thompson

The Mysterious 1,000 Steps of Greenwood Cemetery

Dating back to 1898, the mysterious “1,000 Steps,” as it has been so deemed at Greenwood Cemetery, is shrouded in mystery and spooky origins. Back in the day, the cemetery had sold a piece of land to one of the city’s fraternal organizations, the Elks. The organization and the graveyard had agreed that if the cemetery were to build a staircase with terraced landings, then the Elks Club would 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.

A fabulous mausoleum was built, and the terraced steps and surrounding area were beautifully decorated with exotic plants and a full-time gardener was hired. All was well up until 1970 when the organization declared itself to be broke, and by 1981, they had sold the once life-size bronze Elk that had sat atop the mausoleum in an attempt to cover their debts.

After the Spokane chapter of the Elks dissolved and their treasures were sold off, the massive mausoleum at the top of the stairs fell into disrepair, as did the steps themselves. It was then that the ghost hauntings began.

Greenwood Cemetery Spokane
The mausoleum at Greenwood Cemetery was once a final resting place for the members of the fraternal organization known as the Elks. Photo courtesy: KHQ Colette Buck and KHQ Katherine Barner

The legend goes that if you walk up the stairs without any lights, you will see the faces of men, women, and children. These ethereal entities supposedly guard the staircase and prevent the curious from reaching the top. Those brave enough to trudge forward, regardless of what awaits at the top of the stairs, report hearing shrieks and cries of the dead or feeling like someone or something is touching them lightly. Rumors have even gone so far as to say that the supposed site atop where the mausoleum sits was once used for satanic rituals.

Whether you believe any of the legends or not, there’s no denying that the dubbed “1,000 steps” that now sit decaying and are rarely used do give off some creepy vibes, the likes of which can still make anyone’s skin crawl. And in case you’re wondering, there are actually 60 steps and not 1,000 as the nickname suggests.

Greenwood Cemetery Spokane
The ominous 1,000 steps at the Greenwood cemetery now sit in decay, playing off the spooky vibes it tends to give. Photo courtesy: Groundspeak, Inc

Otherworldly beings are also believed to bump at the Greenwood Cemetery at night, including rumors of a shadow monster. Still, the legend of the 1,000 steps and the mysteriousness of the city’s hidden tunnel continues to be the main attraction for haunt-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts, especially during Halloween. Have you ever had a creepy experience at the Greenwood Cemetery in Spokane? Share your spooky tales with us at!