Seattle Writing Prompts: ghosts and fires

New column! Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.

Butterworth Building, 1969

The Butterworth Building is haunted. Just ask anybody who works at Kells, the Irish pub in the basement of the building.

Opening in 1903, purpose built as a mortuary for the firm Butterworth & Sons, it was likely the first building in the United States to provide full mortuary services under one roof. In fact, the grand man himself, Edgar Ray Butterworth, is credited with having coined the terms mortuary and mortician. So, take that, rest of the world who then adopted terms invented in Seattle. Tell all of your funeral-nerd friends!

Speaking of firsts, it was the first building on the west coast to have an elevator — although the 1st avenue face of the building is only three stories, if you walk around back to Post Alley, you'll find another two below them. Kells is in the former embalming room and crematorium, or the stables and storage for funeral wagons, depending on who you believe.

The building was in the news a few weeks back after catching fire, which is when I started reading about it. Isn't it funny how this little three-story wonder can have such a history? At the end of the post, I'll include a second shot from Flickr, when the building was an engineering firm in the 1960s.

If you search for information about the Butterworth Building, you will find many writings talking about how haunted it is.

All of which gives us some nice potentials for:

Today's prompts
  1. You're a bartender at Kells, and it's closing time. You just got the drunks out, and the last load of glasses put away, and the bar wiped down. The door — you swore it was locked — opens, and a man in black stands before you.
  2. You're a kid, eight years old, and you were chased out of the market after stealing an apple from a fruit-stand. You hide in the old mortuary stables, and you overhear the stable boy talking to a girl he fancies, and he tells her something that changes your life forever.
  3. You're a firefighter, and you enter a smoky room at the top of the building, wearing your respirator. You're making sure the place is clear of people. A buzzing sound and flickering light catch your attention. A device, metallic and round and decidedly futuristic catches your attention. You reach out for it...
  4. You work in the engineering firm on the ground floor, as a draftsmen. You're working on a piece, cigarette in mouth, when a cop walks in. Talks to your boss. You see the boss point at you. The officer removes his hat and walks towards you with a sympathetic look on his face.
  5. You're a construction worker excavating years of really crappy remodels inside the Butterworth building. You're working on this one part of wall, when you feel a loose brick. It wiggles free, and a blast of cold air hits your face. You put your flashlight up and look inside....

Engineering office, 1969