Keep Tacoma Feared by Elizabeth Beck

Weird Tacoma Issue 15

August 22nd, 2015

Welcome, citizens, to another edition of Weird Tacoma. In this issue, we’ll be exploring the curious phenomenon of the Point Defiance Hellhole.

Point Defiance is a park to be proud of, with its storied history, commitment to preservation, and sheer acreage. Like any beautiful thing, the surface need only be scratched to glimpse the dark secrets beneath.

Not far from the zoo, along the scenic Five-Mile Drive is Fort Nisqually, a place where you can still visit the 1800s, where daily life and historic events are reenacted for the modern-day time traveler. One of the scenes that will never see the light of day is what allegedly happened one hot summer night in the year 1849. According to historical documents this office received, that day, a visiting Hudson Bay fur trapper discovered a sulfuric sinkhole not far beyond the walls.

One of the local tribes claimed it was a pit that led directly to the underworld. The native tale was set down in one of the settler’s journals, which was also provided to us. This reporter would prefer not to go into the details; in fact, this reporter would prefer to forget ever reading anything so profane. In an effort to be transparent, it may be said that what was recorded detailed an awakening ritual that would secure a pact between humans and the things underground. Protection could be sought from the beings below in exchange for a sacrifice of blood. After a deadly siege earlier that same year, the settlers must have thought the transaction sound.

Readers, you may well ask exactly what occurred and what was done that night, but let me just point you toward the fort – still standing. Protected. Sections of Fort Nisqually did eventually fall to ruin but in the 1930s, as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, the granary and the factor’s house were carried from their original location in DuPont to their current home in Tacoma.

The 20th Century brought with it technology, advancement, and enlightenment. Those who knew about the dark ritual conducted at Nisqually were few in number and when the pit disappeared along with other parts of the fort, even those who remained put it from their minds. It is alleged a small contingent followed the buildings and settled in an area near Point Defiance to keep watch. It was not long before a depression began to form outside the walls and those who knew how to listen could hear telltale rumblings. A former communicant insists the faithful continued to make a sacrifice every ten years, not to seek protection with, but to seek protection from; to keep the hole to hell slumbering.

This group’s efforts to operate in secrecy were by and large effective. So much so, that not long after the fort was relocated, an amusement park was built a few hundred feet away. The fort followers could do nothing to impede its arrival as they were informed only after construction had commenced.

Without its decennial feast, the hellhole awakened. Children soon began to complain of appalling nightmares after playing among the nursery rhyme themed Never Never Land. Parents noted a sharp decline in interest for their children’s favorite bedtime stories.

We have police blotters dating back to 1935 reporting suspicious figures loitering at the edges of the tree line. Responding officers confirmed a shadowed presence but claimed that when approached, the figures would recede further into the woods while maintaining distance or would disappear completely. In one such report, an Officer Roberts notes the feeling of being watched the entire time he was on-site.

Rumors persist of stranger tales, even an occasional missing child, but in the Great Depression and the flurry of activity the World War brought, these incidents seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Dismissive of “gossip”, park authorities attempted to revamp and reinvigorate the area by purchasing Never Never Land and its eerie statues from a private owner. Some say it was to better maintain the park while other sources insist it was to get ahold of any potentially upsetting stories before the media could be alerted.

Weird Tacoma spoke with an area man who would prefer to remain anonymous, but who claims to have been an eyewitness to his childhood friend’s abduction.

“It was those shadows.”

Mr. X leaned back in his nicotine-stained chair. “And there was something funny about the eyes.”

The witness went on to assert that he believed the nursery rhyme characters had gained a sort of unholy life and would snatch unattended children at the first opportunity.

“They took Avery.   They called to him in their sing-songy way and he followed them down the trail.” He gruffly pushed away a tear. “I never saw him again after that. And I never went back to Never Never Land.”

When asked to clarify his comments about eyes, Mr. X abruptly ended the interview.

This publication could not substantiate his story, as the witness failed to provide a last name for the missing child or any further information.

The old tableaus have been torn down. No more metal eyes of painted vacancy, no books big enough to swallow a person whole. The ground has been thoroughly razed. Peter’s Pumpkin and the Old Woman’s shoe are gone. The orphaned statues now reside in a local basement.

The powers-that-be claim it was a decision based on lack of funding along with concern for children cutting themselves on Humpty Dumpty’s rust and fiberglass shell. This doubtful reporter has seen more egregious acts of malfeasance slide by many such elected boards.

A recent fact-finding visit showed no defined pit and no evil aura emanating from the site. There was only the addition of picnic benches, a few of which held a lively party seemingly unaware of any potential danger. All in all, it is now quite a bucolic spot.

Unless one looks just a little closer.

Signs of demolition litter the ground, unmoored concrete stubbling the dirt. The split and shorn concrete foundations of Never Never Land can still be seen along with a warning stenciled on pressboard “Scientific Survey Do Not Disturb.” The twisted trees that once sheltered the park have been reduced to shin-high piles of sawdust. Continue a bit farther into the woods and by the appearance of the second trail, the agreeable murmur of gathered families is suddenly muffled, replaced with the occasional cry of exotic birds that carry from the zoo. A fallen tee blocks the path as if to say, “This far and no further.” The trail to the left leads to two trunks covered in what appears to be graffiti. Though there is something slightly off about the way the lines come together and the symbols seem almost runic in their repetition. Each footfall is announced with snapping twigs and crunching pine husks. With nearby joggers and the native wildlife, it is easy to lose track of how many footsteps there actually are.

Back at the graveled-over foundation, a lone tree riddled with holes and great bites curves in the shape of a question mark. Indeed, dear readers, we are left with many more questions than answers in the case of the Hellhole of Point Defiance.

Nevertheless, your humble reporter advises that you exercise caution at this year’s Fort Nisqually ghost story campfire, located mere dozens of yards from the purported site. If you see a figure where it shouldn’t be or hear faint sounds of children playing where there are none, consider returning to your car and calling it a night.


*Elizabeth Beck is a writer who has braved the treacherous Narrows crossing in order to bring you a tale of the sea.  Her previous endeavors have been on display in WRIST Magazine, The Laureate Listening Project, the Washington State Department of Commerce, Creative Colloquy, and most recently in Little River Lit Mag.  Read more about the perils of undead lovers and strange oyages on her website