A Guided Walk Through Bellingham’s Gory Past
If you’re ever in Fairhaven and spot a woman dressed in a Victorian-era corset and skirt, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just one of The Good Time Girls leading historical walking tour of Bellingham. If you’re like me, the word history might make you run for the hills. But the owners of The Good Time Girls know how to bring history alive. The Girls offer three main tours: Sin and Gin, Gore and Lore, and Bellingham History. The tours appeal to all kinds of people, from history buffs to those who just love a good story. Some of the tours include an adult beverage, making them a nice option for those who also love a good drink.
In honor of the season, I tagged along on a private Gore and Lore Tour of Fairhaven, led by tour guide and co-owner Kolby LaBree. LaBree and her partner Wren Urbigkit inherited The Good Time Girls in 2018, after founders Sara Holodnick and Marissa McGrath decided it was time to “pass the corset strings.” LaBree studied anthropology at WWU and has worked in historic preservation; Urbigkit identifies as an “armchair historian and public speaking nerd.”
Every tour, LaBree and Urbigkit dress up in costume and makeup. For our tour, LaBree wore a white corset, black skirt, and pointed black boots. After a quick introduction, we followed her to one of the many historic markers that dot Fairhaven’s sidewalks. Once you know to look for them, you’ll see them everywhere. The markers offer tiny, cryptic peeks into Fairhaven’s past, with inscriptions such as “Here is where Mathew was cut in two by a streetcar” or “Site of City Drowning Pool: Dogs Only.”
To help illustrate her stories, LaBree carries a packet of laminated photos. One of the first photos we saw was a mugshot of the Bedspring Killer, a barber who murdered his wife in bed and then tried to conceal the crime by flipping the mattress.
The Bedspring Killer was only one of the villains we learned about on our tour. Thanks in large part to LaBree’s excellent storytelling abilities, I found myself engrossed by the seedy characters and conflicts that defined the Fairhaven of a hundred years ago.
Our tour culminated in the Sycamore Square building, where a ghost in a green dress is rumored to haunt the halls. To make sure we left feeling sufficiently creeped-out, LaBree sent us off with a recording of electronic voice phenomenon—i.e. spooky ghost sounds—that paranormal researchers collected in the building. The eeriest was a preternaturally deep voice that sounded like an evil cookie monster.
Going on the tour was akin to reading a good book; Afterward, I saw the world with new eyes. Fairhaven was no longer a friendly neighborhood with cute boutiques and restaurants, but rather a rollicking boomtown where arsonists devastated buildings and coroners displayed anonymous corpses on the street. Speaking of dead bodies, LeBree and Urbigkit hope to add Bayview Cemetery to their roster of spooky tour locations this fall. Check their website for a complete list of offerings.