We figured that we should probably share some of the photos from our investigation of home to Alice Rheem, Moran Manor. As we discussed in Episode 008, Moran Manor is the crown jewel of the Rosario Resort & Spa, on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Island chain in Puget Sound.
Nick and his wife Kel visited in late January 2021. Winter being the island’s off-season, and with Covid restrictions in play both by the state of Washington and San Juan County, so there was not much to do on the island at the time. The island’s main industries are tourism, agriculture, and outdoor recreation, so with tourism hampered by the season and restrictions, and outdoor recreation made uncomfortable by the winter storm blowing in from the Pacific over the weekend they visited, it was good that they had ‘ghost hunting’ on their agenda because there was precious little else to do.
The resort covers 40 acres of the island, a scant sliver compared to the 7,000 acres originally owned by Robert Moran. The majority of the original Moran estate was donated to the parks service, creating the 5,000+ acre Moran State Park. The centerpiece of the park, covered with tons of waterfalls and hiking, biking, and horseback trails, it Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans at just under 2,400 ft.
Moran Manor itself sits near the foot of the mountain, right on the edge of the state park, constructed by Robert Moran himself. Moran, a shipbuilder and former mayor of Seattle, arrived on the West Coast in 1875 with only a dime in his pocket. He worked his way up from an engineer to running one of the largest shipyards in America, supplying transportation for much of the Yukon gold rush and building the USS Nebraska.
Construction on Moran Manor finished in 1909, after Moran’s doctor pleaded with him to take things easy for his health. The plan worked; island life agreed with Moran, outliving the doctor’s expectations by over 30 years, and in the 1930’s the home was sold to Donald Rheem, the water heater and heat pump magnate.
Rheem intended to use the Manor as a summer home, but as he ran out of ways to subdue his wild socialite wife, Alice, he decided his last resort was to send her out to Orcas Island where the amount of trouble she could cause would be at a minimum. Naturally, the seclusion only instilled desperation in Alice, and it was soon a regular to find Alice donning her favorite red dress, climb aboard her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and drive into the small nearby town of Eastsound to drink and play cards.
Alice died in 1959, reportedly from complications with alcoholism, but it appears she hasn’t yet left. Alice’s ghost has often been reported on the grounds, sometimes walking down the stairway at the main entrance in her nightgown, occasionally in the parking lot departing into town on her motorcycle. Today, the Manor is part of a resort and spa, and many guests and employees have reported encounters with Alice over the years.
Living in nearby Whatcom County, Nick decided to investigate, and reserved a child-free weekend at the resort to entice his wife, Mikael, to come along. Mikael is not a believer in ghosts and spirits (with the possible exception of theatre ghosts), but played along and let Nick have his fun.
Though the Manor building itself no longer has guests overnight, much of the building is open for free exploration (some areas were closed off this weekend simply for Covid restrictions). A large portion of the second floor has been converted into a museum space for Robert Moran and his accomplishments. Among the artifacts were stories of shipbuilding, items from Robert’s office and his photography habit, odds and ends, and some of his stained glasswork collection.
The grandest feature of the second story is the two-story Aeolian pipe organ. During less restrictive times, the Manor is known to show old silent movies scored by the organ (most famously the original 1929 Phantom of the Opera). It was in this room that Nick thought he collected potential EVP’s.
Nick was using two pieces of equipment as he searched the museum, a micro camcorder and a voice recorder app on his cell phone (he has never declared himself a serious ghost hunter). While in the main music room, Nick heard a creak from the floor above him, though Nick and Mikael were the only people in the building above the first floor. In this clip, you can hear a series of audio pops, Mikael ask Nick what’s going on, and Nick answers he thought he heard someone above him. In the background is music being piped into the room, likely by CD. The creak happens roughly where the pops occurs.
We noticed what may be a whisper under the pops, so cleaned that up and isolated it as best we could. Nick thought it sounded like someone saying, “never around”.
Having thought they heard something, Nick and Mikael sat down in the music room and just listened for a bit. That is when they recorded another voice without an owner.
Though is it possible to hear people talking on the first floor (as evidenced in the full walkthrough recording) it is more muffled and continuous than the voice in this clip. Nick thought it sounded like a man saying, “twelve”.
We are making the full walkthrough recording available for anyone who wants to go through it on their own, but fair warning: Nick often forgot that he was carrying a recorder, and let his sleeve brush against the mic a lot and once or twice even absent-mindedly put it in his pocket.
There was little about Alice Rheem in the building, despite a plethora of information on the website. The bar has a drink named after her, The Lady in Red, and Mikael managed to locate a collection of old Vogue magazines owned by Alice in one of the bathrooms.
So, did Nick collect evidence that Alice or someone else still is creeping around Moran Manor? Maybe? Nick’s evidence is pretty thin, at best, but it definitely is interesting enough to warrant a second look in the future. Until then, the closest Nick got to finding a ghost was accidentally taking a picture of a park ranger while looking something up on his phone: