Good Time Girls Gore and Lore Tour: Oct. 27

The appropriately dark and stormy night begins in the radiator warmth of the Black Drop Coffee House, the air redolent with beautiful coffee aroma. 17 stalwart souls have gathered to take the Good Time Girls Gore and Lore Tour of downtown Bellingham. Our Virgil for the evening is the lovely “Francine” (a.k.a. Jane Burleigh), dressed in 1930s attire clothing, who informs us that she perished under one of the local streetcars before “people catchers” were installed. Each of us is given a newspaper style handout full of murder stories and macabre details.

Then Francine introduces Chuck Crooks from B.O.O.O. or Bellingham Observers of the Odd and Obscure. Chuck plays a few E.V.P. (electronic voice phenomenon) recordings from when members of B.O.O.O. were investigating Bayview Cemetery. In one, you can hear some people talking and then an eerie breathy voice saying: “I keep myself awake as long as I can.” I look around at the skeptical faces and note just the tiniest bit of freak-out as Chuck plays it back for us a few times.

Francine leads us out into the elements, down the rainy streets to the Old City Hall building. After a bit of Bellingham history, she shows us where the entrance to the basement jail once was, just beneath the Mayor’s office. A reputed story goes, she says, that one night they arrested a strange man, presumed to be intoxicated, and placed him in a cell by himself. The next morning they came in to discover a painting of Leonardo’s Last Supper on the walls… painted in the man’s blood. Nice.

Just next door at the old Fire Department, Francine directs our attention to Bellingham Towers and cheerfully told us about how in April of 1929 the fireman witnessed a man, despondent over stock market losses, commit suicide by jumping from the upper floors. I enjoyed how she added that the fireman responded, you know, to go “clean up the mess.”

We then walk down to the corner in front of Old Town Café, where Francine informs, with evocative photographs that we pass around, that there was once a Funeral Home in this location. She provides an entertaining history of embalming and makes certain that we note the presence of the woman in the picture. Necessary, she says, to prepare the female corpses with propriety. We walk a down the street a bit, almost to the front of Old Town, where we are told about an assortment of ghostly occurrences, from plates levitating to the persistent odor of smoke at certain times of the day.

We are now only about halfway through the hour-long tour. I look around at the other members of the tour and can see that all of them are intensely caught up in the weird, the gore and lore, of Bellingham. No one seems to mind the rain. If anything, it adds to the atmosphere. It is a wonderful to be led around by an informative and entertaining guide through the city and stand immersed within its history. I am tempted to recount all of the fascinating dark history that I was shown that night, but I will leave that to the Good Time Girls. Suffice it to say, that gore got gorier and the lore even more interesting.

The Good Time Girls offer a variety of historical activities throughout the year here in Bellingham: most notably, the Sin and Gin tour, exploring the colorful history of brothels in the early days of the city. Each of these now also has a Fairhaven version, which has gotten high praise. They also produce Wild West Variety shows, involve themselves in a many charitable shows and have an enchanting Victorian Christmas Caroling tour in December. I have only the highest recommendations for all of their productions. The Good Time Girls bring the lesser known, but far more interesting, aspects of our local history to vivid life and, by doing this, help to create a richer character of the city that we all live within. The local schools and colleges should take note and start incorporating GTG tours into their curriculum. They make history fun, exciting and… yes, very sexy.