Divining the past: Ghost hunters search for massacre site on Bolon Island

Through darkened rooms they roam, guided only by the eerie light cast by electromagnetic field detectors and night vision cameras. It is ghosts these people seek. Their proof? Captured images of light orbs and ectoplasm floating freely in the ether or a disembodied voice captured on a handheld recorder.

Ghost hunter Ann Fillmore, head of Coast Ghost Paranormal Research Society, has seen, heard and experienced a lot of strange things since she began leading teams through haunted places up and down the Oregon Coast in 2005.

From face-filled light orbs in the Old Community Church in Reedsport to the smell of cheap lilac perfume wafting through the Fox Hole Tavern in Gardiner, Fillmore has recorded what she believes is proof there is more than what we see around us.

For Fillmore, there is always somewhere new to search for ghostly goings-on. This summer, she and her team will be looking for 15 of Jedediah Smith?s men killed on July 14, 1828, by members of the Kelawatset tribe somewhere on Bolon Island.

Smith, a mountain man, fur trader and explorer, brought his men into the Oregon Country in search of beaver. Legend has it an argument over an ax caused the attack. Fortunately for Smith, he and two of his men were off on a scouting trip and were not killed.

Controversy abounds as to exactly where the attack took place. Was it on the steep hillside overlooking the lower Umpqua River, on the sandy beach at the base of the hillside or in the open meadow at the east end of the island? Fillmore hopes to find out.

Armed with modern ghost-hunting equipment, she and her team plan to take a night hike on the trail leading to the west end of the island. They hope to record images or voices from the past.

?It is a short trail, but it?s creepy,? Fillmore said. ?People have reportedly been chased off it by a large, looming shadow figure and a man?s small dog just disappeared while it was walking right behind him.?

Contrary to what historians say, Fillmore is not convinced the massacre happened there.

?The terrain is steep and not a place I would think someone would make a camp,? Fillmore said.

To test her theory, she will set up equipment on the sandy beach and in the meadow to see if something can be recorded in these locations.

?It makes more sense to me that the men would have camped in a flat area where it is easier to move around, get water, cook, sleep and see,? she said.

Maybe Fillmore will get more than she hoped for. Lower Umpqua River native tribes used to live on the island. It could be Fillmore will find traces of the native people still roaming around in the mists of time.

For more information, visit www.curious_country.wakingrem.com.

Staff writer Deborah Yates can be contacted at [email protected], or (541) 271-7474, ext. 206.

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