Small World

Timberline ghosts

"You're not a believer, are you?"

Jim Jansen has called me out. I like to think I'm open-minded, but I have my limits. Jansen, owner of the Timberline, has just told me that some white-haired psychic guy came to the place to read its vibes and his hair turned brown in the process.

"The woman he was channeling was a brunette," Jim explains. Ah.

The Timberline, the Sons of Norway Hall that has been a thriving gay dance club for the last 15 years, will see its lease run out next May, at which time that big disco lodge will become part of Capitol Hill's relocated Cornish College of the Arts. Jim isn't happy about it— he only found out about the final sale through a Seattle Times article, and now he has to look for a comparably sized new space (he's been approached to purchase the former home of DV8). But he seems to be rolling with the punches.

"We had a spiritual reading here," Jansen says, "and there are more than five ghosts that occupy the building. So I don't know how happy they're going to be."

Timberline's bartender, apparently, has seen mysterious apparitions heading into the basement, and Jim's partner, Jeff, hears voices on the stairs leading to the DJ booth when no one is around. (One wonders if the dead are tired of hearing "Xanadu" and would like something done about it.)

Jansen is no loon. He's not talking about any of this with solemn reverence; a laugh punctuates every sentence. He does mean it, though, which makes me wonder. Are we supposed to take hauntings seriously now? When I think of ghosts, I think of The Amityville Horror (a fraud), Demi Moore (another fraud), and that Brady Bunch when the kids got carried away trying to scare each other and a confused Alice ended up beating Carol's clay rendition of Mr. Brady's head with a baseball bat. Meanwhile, Jim talks casually about psychics reviving their do without the benefit of Grecian Formula and amiably asks me to "tell everybody to come out and have a good time until May [2003]."

Cornish is taking things in stride, too. People at the college are excited about the urban redevelopment in the Denny area, and this new purchase, which includes the seven-story Lenora Square building nearby, will increase its size by 65 percent, allowing for its current spread-out campus to merge into a more manageable central location. Surely, I think, they'll get a laugh out of this ghost stuff.

"We have no problem whatsoever," Cornish chief operations officer Vicki Clayton assures me. "We're very used to that—people say that Nellie Cornish haunts [music and dance building] Kerry Hall."

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