Charlette LeFevre deals a round of cards to the players at the table. She reminds everyone not to show their cards to anyone else. Whenever the dealer comes to the gambler directly to her right, she carefully places his card face down in front of an empty chair.
Peter Alexander Dunnovitch won’t be showing anyone his cards. He’s a ghost.
LeFevre leads rounds of Ghost Poker during the Seattle Museum of the Mysteries’ weekly Haunted Lock-in. Every Saturday night, from 10 to midnight, LeFevre invites guests of the museum to examine Seattle’s history from a perspective not often discussed in the classroom.
The Haunted Lock-in is “part mystery, part science, part history and part fun,” LeFevre says. “It’s fun, interactive, a little scary, a little secret-y way to interact with Seattle’s past.”
“Kids really absorb this,” she says. “They feel like they’re a part of their own history. What better way is there to learn about these forgotten parts of Seattle history than by exploring its secrets?”
Before the Lock-in begins, guests explore the museum’s crowded bookcases and displays. Ghosts are only one of the many mysteries the museum highlights; it’s a source of resource material on just about every unexplained phenomenon or unanswered question. A glass case holds plaster casts of Sasquatch footprints. A bookshelf displays models of UFOs next to books on tarot cards and the Tao Te Ching. The museum even offers guests a chance to see a life-size reproduction of famed Northwest hijacker D.B. Cooper’s head.
The museum opened in 2004. “We started out as a coffee-club lecture group,” LeFevre says. “We’d schedule discussions and bring in authors. Then we formed an Art Bell chat club.”
As interest grew, the coffee club dedicated itself to the “legends and lore of the Northwest, with a foundation of science and history,” LeFevre says. “We’re a resource for anyone who wants to explain the unexplained. We tip our hat to the strange and unusual.”
Once everyone arrives and finds their seats, LeFevre dims the lights. The Lock-in begins with a 10-minute movie about the 1920s and the Prohibition era. After the movie, LeFevre explains Seattle’s relationship with speakeasies and rumrunners. Many of the buildings in this area of town were built in the 1920s and ‘30s; the museum sits in the first legal public house in Washington following the repeal of the Volstead Act, which ended Prohibition.
“We’ve seen the original blueprints of this building,” LeFevre says. “Half of the basement is hidden behind a wall. What do you think happened back there?”
The Prohibition conversation leads directly to a photo of Bertha Knight Landes. Landes, the first female mayor of a major American city, held office in Seattle from 1926 to 1928. “She was strong but fair,” LeFevre says of Landes. “She broke the glass ceiling before there was a glass ceiling.”
Before the night is over, Lock-in attendees will tour the theater Landes’ ghost is reported to haunt. “This is the most haunted theater in Seattle,” LeFevre says. “There are more ghosts per square inch here than anywhere else, except maybe the Pike Place Market.”
After the tour, LeFevre leads guests back to the museum. She shows off an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector and an infrared video camera. This equipment is useful for ghost hunters, she explains. To demonstrate, she invites everyone to a game of Ghost Poker.
“Ladies, if you feel someone playing with your hair, don’t be scared,” LeFevre says. “That’s just Peter Alexander, our resident ghost. He’s a notorious gambler with a fondness for women, but he’s a gentleman who won’t cheat at cards or hurt you.”
Shortly after the museum opened, a team of ghost hunters noticed strong reactions on their EMF detectors while playing cards. Since then, Peter Alexander has been invited to weekly poker games in which guests re-create the sights and sounds of a lively game. The EMF detector alerts players to strong electromagnetic field changes during games — especially when Peter Alexander wins a hand.
While dealing with spooky subjects, the Lock-in is neither gory nor overly spiritual; LeFevre has hosted ghost hunters as young as 4. She says the ideal guest is somewhere between 8 and 80. “Grandparents and parents can have just as much fun and learn as much information as their children,” she says.
“It’s a chance to get away from the TV and computers and into science and wonders for a night,” LeFevre says. “I would have loved for my dad to take me to a poker game on a ghost tour when I was a young lady.”
Douglas Grey is a full-time father and sometime writer.
The Seattle Museum of the Mysteries is located at 633 Broadway Ave. E., Seattle.
It’s open every Saturday for Lock-ins from 10 p.m. to midnight. Admission is by donation: $2 for adults, $1 for ages 9–17, free for ages 8 and younger. 206-328-6499.