Mysteries of the Governor’s Mansion: A spooky audio tour

An illustration shows the Governor's Mansion on a hillside. Light shines out of some of the windows while spooky trees surround the mansion and bats flat above through a full-moon sky.
A spooky imagining of the Washington State Governor's Mansion. (Illustration by Rocio del Pilar Benavides / NWPB)


All Hallows’ Eve is just around the corner, and the home of the Washington State Governor has some mysteries of the mansion to unveil — just in time for spooky season!

The Washington State Governor’s Mansion was built as a home for the governor and the governor’s family while they served in Olympia. It is the oldest building on the state capitol campus, and with that, mysteries abound … 

Follow along for a tour of some of the mansion’s mysterious stories.

A porthole into the White House

Follow me into the drawing room, please. 

Something quite spectacular in this room is the portrait of George Washington. This was the last portrait painted from the last sitting that Washington made before his death. There’s something a little bit eerie here. It’s a porthole. And I feel like I can look through that porthole … maybe into the White House? Why would that be? Well, actually, it’s not too eerie. Because in the White House, there is a portrait just like this. Maybe I’m looking through this porthole through their porthole and into the White House.

A man dressed in Revolutionary War era clothing stares into a porthole that reflects the face of George Washington. Bats flap in the room and a table stands beside the portrait with a lit candelabra. In the left corner, a spider dangles from a spiderweb over top of a cat that creeps along the floor.

Through the portrait of George Washington, perhaps you can see into the White House. (Illustration: Rocio del Pilar Benavides / NWPB)


A phone call in the wee hours

We are now entering the family room. 

There must have been secrets here in the mansion over the years. Once, a mansion resident facilitated a top secret meeting. 

Governor Langlie was very busy. But he took the opportunity to get away on a fishing trip, just for a day or two. While he was gone, a phone call came to here, the Governor’s Mansion, at 1 a.m. from one of President Roosevelt’s staff members. 

Mrs. Langlie took the call, and the message was that the Commander in Chief, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was going to be coming to Washington on a secret mission to inspect the defense facilities here. 

A man sits in a chair and is startled by a ringing telephone from the desk on his left that's lit by a lamp. A cat stretches at his feet while another cat peers in through the large window behind him. Spiders dangle from spiderwebs on the ceiling.

A ring in the early morning hours is startling, especially when it comes from the office of the President! (Illustration: Rocio del Pilar Benavides / NWPB)

A “secret” secret service

There might have been some skulduggery in the mansion. In the early 1900s, there was somebody who seemed to be planning to start a secret service in the governor’s office. 

Well, it was actually young John Lister, who was nine years old at the time. His father came into office and John just had to hang around in the governor’s office all the time. 

So, he pretended to be forming a secret service. He pretended to write things in code  secret code. He called himself the “Vice Governor.” 

Well, what he really did was sharpen pencils.

A surprise visit from nocturnal creatures

We now enter the ballroom. We’re now at the end of the Mysterious Mansion Tour. 

But there is one more enigma to solve. 

Some creepy Halloween creatures once took up residence here in the mansion. Instead of bats in the belfry, there were bats in the ballroom. 

Governor Booth and his wife Jean had overly friendly bats during their time here. And then Governor Gary and Mrs. Mona Locke had a lot of bats in the mansion. And this was a real problem because they had very young children here. But the bats were coming out of the heating vents. And there were just bats appearing all over the mansion. Well, that just could not be. So the Lockes got … “removers” who got rid of all of the bats. 

The Lockes, however, had a good sense of humor, and they enjoyed the Halloween tradition of first ladies and governors inviting children to come here trick-or-treating.

A dark ballroom with hanging chandeliers is coated in spiderwebs. Bats flap through the air as a cat stares forward, backlit by moonlight coming through a large window in the back of the room.

The Governor’s Mansion is open to the public, and for a time, that even included bats. (Illustration: Rocio del Pilar Benavides / NWPB)

Tour led by docent, Elisabeth Schafer and put on by the Washington Governor’s Mansion Foundation

Music by Oleg Fedak from Pixabay.