A Haunting in Burke

May 12, 2023 at 8:20 a.m.
The church that haunted Ralph Warner's childhood
The church that haunted Ralph Warner's childhood

...by Ralph Warner


“It’s easier to dismiss ghosts in the daylight.” 

— Patricia Briggs

Let me state this right from the start: I do not believe in ghosts, UFO's, aliens, Bigfoot, ESP, or anything that can't be explained rationally or via a miracle. In my 68-plus years on planet Earth I have never seen anything to persuade me otherwise, except for the time, a long time ago, when I saw Pink airplanes flying over the aircraft carrier, Kitty Hawk, while it was in dry dock for repairs in Bremerton, Washington. (At the time it was night and I was fairly high...there was a fire on the carrier so all the airplanes had to get off the deck. The Pink airplanes I saw in my drugged-out state were simply the reflection of the fire down below highlighting the planes above.) And that's how I think most, if not all, UFO/Bigfoot sightings can be explained along with the haunting of the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Burke, Idaho.

Burke, Idaho was/is an old mining/ghost town in Shoshone County, United States, established in 1887. My father, Ralph G. Warner, worked in the Star Mine, owned by the Hecla mining company for 10 years. From the age of five through 13, that's where I grew up and that's where many of my favorite and not so favorite old guy memories come from while I'm falling asleep, which can happen pretty much anytime and anywhere. 

I won't even try to explain our extended family beyond this...there was Dad Ralph, Mother Elaine, Suzie (the oldest one of us kids), Ralph David (me), Robert (Bob), Dixie, and along came Kevin, then a few years later Pooh (otherwise known as Cindy). 

Well, even if the previous paragraph doesn't prove that I actually lived in Burke for most of my elementary and mid-school years, I can tell you that around the age of 11 or 12, I started delivering the Spokesman-Review newspaper to the residents of Burke. Delivery of the paper was in the early morning hours before school in the winter, in the dark, freezing cold, fast walking, more often running with a still heavy bag of newspapers, past the Catholic church on my right. Just down the road on my left was the one lane bridge across what used to be called (at least when I lived there), ‘Sh*t Creek,’ because that's where all the sewage from all the houses in Burke went. 

Walking across that bridge after being dropped off by Mr. Jones, our school bus driver, us kids had to hike up Shifter's Hill to our row house at the top of the hill. Mostly it would have been just Sue, Bob, and I racing one another home, but somehow I seem to remember Johnson and Snyder cousins joining us on occasion. That certainly happened in the winter when Shifter's Hill turned into the perfect sledding site (unless you somehow ended up in Sh*t Creek). Well, where do you think that saying originated?

To tell the truth, I simply don't remember who told me that the Catholic church was haunted, although, even if you deny it Sue, I'm pretty sure it was you. Or maybe it was Uncle Jimmy or Uncle Phil; nevertheless, all those mornings running like a scared rabbit past the haunted church and up Shifter's Hill certainly improved my stamina and made me the distance runner I once used to be.

Oh!!!  the Haunted Church thing...eerie flickering lights in the sanctuary. Sure enough, on a few early newspaper delivery mornings I saw them...that's why I started running past the building. Until, one morning.

OK, the Burke canyon road runs more or less East/West with the church about half a mile East of a sharp curve in the road, and, at night or early morning, the lights of a vehicle rounding that corner would momentarily shine through the stained-glass windows of the church creating the ghostly lights causing me to run even faster.

Despite knowing about the cause of the eerie lights, I still continued to hurry past the scary looking building because, well, you never know. Even us skeptics have our doubts.

This photo was taken in 1925 when the church was still fairly new; by the early 1960s the buildings around it were long gone and the church looked aged and darned frightening.

"Don't believe everything you see, hear, or read,

unless you've actually experienced it. Then question what you just experienced." –Ralph D. Warner (2019)

Ralph Warner and his wife moved to the Long Beach Peninsula from North Idaho in 1987. They now reside in Ocean Park. 

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