The Haunted Rosario Resort and Spa

Posted by junketseo in Seattle Ghost Tours
The Haunted Rosario Resort and Spa - Photo

The San Juan islands in America’s Pacific Northwest are best known for their unmatched wildlife, adventure sports, and fresh, local seafood. What you won’t normally see in the guidebooks is all of the hauntings abound. Rosario Resort and Spa is home to one of these hauntings — an unassuming island retreat turned spooky when the ‘Lady in Red’ found her forever home at the Moran Mansion, located on the resort.

Looking to experience the haunts of the Pacific Northwest for yourself? Visit us at our website to check out our tour map and book your very own hauntingly fun ghost tour today!


A History of the Rosario Estate


Rosario is the former estate of esteemed Seattle mayor and prominent shipbuilder Robert Moran. Moran was born in New York to a stone mason father. He traveled by steamship from New York to San Francisco in 1875 and was unable to find steady employment once he arrived. Using his last $15 for a steerage ticket to Seattle, he found work as a cook with ten cents to his name. Soon, he found work as a deckhand on various steamboats in the area.

In his spare time, he studied mathematics, drafting, and engineering. After saving enough money, he paid for tickets to bring his mother, five younger brothers, and two sisters to Seattle. When they arrived, he left his work as a deckhand and started a marine repair shop with his brothers on Yesler Wharf. The business boomed, and eventually, Robert was elected to the city council in 1887.

In 1888, he was elected mayor. This is when Moran’s life was about to change. In 1889, the Seattle Fire took place. Yesler Wharf and Moran’s shop were destroyed. He did his best to rebuild the city quickly, as citizens depended on the pier. The Moran Brothers company grew and grew under his name, and they won the contract to build a battleship for the navy in 1900, building the USS Nebraska, which launched in 1904.

Due to the strain of his work, Moran, just age 48, followed his physician’s advice and retired in 1905. Moran took a pleasure cruise through the San Juan islands and ended up visiting Orcas Island. He felt drawn to the slow island lifestyle and purchased a small sawmill on the island. The Morans lived in the previous owners’ residence while the mansion at Rosario was under construction.

Before the property was built, Moran developed the area to be as self-sufficient as possible. It provides its water and electricity, using hydroelectric power to generate energy. His mansion was exquisite. Exotic timbers, Indian teak, Honduran mahogany. A home built by the hands of artisans. When it was finished, Rosario earned the name ‘Showplace of the San Juan Islands.’ Acquiring over 7,800 acres by 1911, Rosario was the Moran’s estate — they even opened the home to the public every Thursday for horseback riding, camping, fishing, and swimming.

In 1921, part of the estate was donated to the State of Washington, and Moran State Park was created. After the park was dedicated, Moran built miles of trails, roads, bridges, and gateway arches.

In 1932, Moran’s wife Melissa passed away from cancer. Their children made lives for themselves, founding schools and manufacturing companies.


The Rheems at Rosario


The decision was soon made to sell Rosario. It was purchased by Donald Rheem, a Californian industrialist, and his wife Alice. The Rheems used Rosario as a part-time residence. Alice took a liking to the home and used this to give the mansion a face lift. She brought in antique furniture and ornate rugs and even redid the exterior of the home, changing its color.

Alice passed away at Rosario in 1956, and Donald sold it just two years later. Rosario switched hands again and was sold to Gilbert Geiser, who opened it as Rosario Resort in June 1960. Today, the property includes 74 acres, and the Moran Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, it should also be listed on a national list of haunted places due to its resident ghost.


Haunts at Rosario Resort and Spa


The spirit of Alice Rheem is said to haunt the Moran Mansion at Rosario. Her presence is most often felt in the second-floor living quarters. Mrs. Rheem had a colorful personality and was considered somewhat eccentric.

Her spirit is considered harmless, just a tad bit mischievous, as employees report feeling touched or seeing flashes of light in the corners of their eyes. Staff have also reported faucets that turn on and off by themselves and laundry unfolding on its own.

It’s said that the sightings started when guests began to report hearing high heels clicking against the floor, walking down the hallways, and then appearing as an apparition, a woman in red. Locals from the past remember Alice Rheem driving around in her antique car, playing poker, and creating juicy scandals.


Octavia’s Ghost


Alice isn’t the only lady ghost seen in the area. Guests of the nearby Orcas Hotel report strange ghostly happenings. They say it’s Octavia van Moorhem, one of the first innkeepers who moved into the hotel in 1904. After Octavia’s passing, guests reported hearing footsteps and strange sounds coming from the top floor when no one was there, naturally.

The hotel’s restaurant, Octavia’s Bistro, is even named after the talented late cook. Perhaps Miss Octavia is gallivanting with Alice, cruising around the island together and causing a ruckus!


A Resort Review!

A review left for the Rosario Resort tells of the spooky sensations that guests experience:

“One night during our stay, and after a lovely dinner, my husband and I decided to explore the mansion by taking a self guided tour upstairs. This is allowed for guests to do throughout the day and evening- although is not always monitored by staff. It is like a museum so people come in and out.

We were the ony two people upstairs walking around observing the charm and history of the rooms. We had only been up there for about 5 minutes when my husband and I split up. He went into one room, while I went into another. We had no prior knowledge of any unusual history. Upon entering this bedroom, I instantly realized I was not alone. The feeling I had at the time is hard to describe- other than to say that the hair on the back of neck and arms stood straight up and I distinctly felt the presence of someone in the room w/ me. I turned around but no one was there. However, the feeling to leave that space was overwhelming me! I called out to my husband and we immediately left. “


Haunted Washington


Is that enough of a reason to visit this haunted resort? We think so. Have you ever stayed at the Rosario Resort and Spa? For more hauntings all across America, check out our blog here!

To discover more haunted locations in Washington, book a ghost tour with Seattle Terrors!