BOO-coda Is Back and More Spook-tacular Than Ever


Years ago, Bucoda contracted a painter to work on the haunted house — a lucrative yearly business for the town — which is run inside an old gym, originally built in the 1930s, that was the site of three known deaths. 

Late one night, the artist was painting the image of a little girl on the wall. Suddenly, he heard giggling. He got up and looked around, but there was nobody there. He thought he must have misheard, so he got back to work and tried to think of something else. 

Just as his heart rate had begun to settle, right behind him he heard a voice whisper: “BOO.”

Again, the disembodied sound led him to search the building. Again, he was alone. 

“He told me, ‘I’m not working in that building by myself ever again,’” said Bucoda Mayor Alan Carr. 

This is just one of Carr’s dozens of ghost stories from his tenure as mayor. This will be his last October in the job, and he hopes to retire to Florida in a year or so. When he goes, he will carry a deep love of Bucoda with him. He’s been in the position for much of the last two decades; his favorite time of those years has always been Halloween. 

Once again this October, the town council passed an official proclamation renaming Bucoda to “BOO-coda” in honor of its annual “Spook-tacular” festival, which boasts an extensive list of spooky fun events including coffin races, tombstone making classes, costume contests and much more. 

In 2019, the festival brought in an estimated 3,000 people, a huge economic boost for the town of about 560. 

Bucoda’s Halloween spirit is perhaps the town’s most notable attribute. The history of how it earned that trait makes for an interesting story, especially when told by Carr inside the possibly haunted town hall.

Before its incorporation in 1910, Bucoda was named Seatco, a Chehalis word often interpreted as Night People, sasquatch or spirit. The area was also the Seatco Prison Site, which still holds an infamously scary reputation. 

But the mayor and other BOO-codians don’t tend to think of their ghostly neighbors as malevolent. Carr sees the supposed little girl who haunts the gym-turned-haunted house as rambunctious, but harmless. Perhaps the spirits actually enjoy being celebrated, Carr said, because so far they haven’t caused anyone in the area any damage beyond the occasional scare. 

Asked if he believes in ghosts, Carr said, “Oh yeah,” but added he’s not a medium and he’s never tried to be. 

“There are times you can feel something there, you know what I mean? Not that you can see anything,” he said. 

For 13 days this month, two haunted houses will be open to the brave who enter at their own risk for $13 dollars. One of the houses is recommended for ages 10 to 80, the other is more family-friendly. Some local shops are giving coupons for $3 off tickets to customers.

Carr led The Chronicle on a tour through the haunted house on a bright afternoon this week. Even when illuminated by daylight, it is markedly scary and creatively designed. The terror is broken up by a few laughs, including the sound of dial-up and a perpetually stuck Windows loading screen: because both, Carr says, are everyone’s worst nightmare.

“It's my favorite time of the year. So in a way, it was a no-brainer for me to get involved with the Halloween festivities we do,” Carr said. “We have a lot of fun doing this. It's good for the community.”

Events are subject to change. Visit for updates on the Spook-tacular season.

Schedule of Events

Most activities will take place in the downtown Bucoda area.

BOO-coda Haunted House 

Oct. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30 from dusk to 11 p.m.

Oct. 27, 28, and 31 from dusk to 10 p.m. 

Located in the Bucoda Haunted Gym, 403 N. Nenant St., Bucoda. $13 general admission, $20 VIP ticket.

Trick-or-Treat Every Night 

Oct. 1 through 31, 6 to 8 p.m. at Joe’s Place, 118 S. Main Street, Bucoda.

Vendor Fair 

Every Saturday in October, 12 to 6 p.m., 114 S. Main Street, Bucoda.

Forest Grove Cemetery Tour

Oct. 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Forest Grove Cemetery, 18011 Northcraft Road SE, Tenino 

A guide will take attendees through historic areas of the cemetery and introduce important figures from Tenino and Bucoda’s past. Tours will leave every 10-15 minutes. This is a fundraiser for the South Thurston Historical Society. Cost: $7 child (ages 4 to 18) or senior, $9 adult, $30 family of two adults and four kids plus fees.

Hearse Procession and Viewing

Oct. 2, noon registration and line up, 1 p.m. procession, viewing until 5 p.m. The procession is similar to a parade with an announcer and the viewing is similar to a car show. Location: Main Street in downtown Bucoda. Free to attend.

Pine Box Derby (Casket Races)

Oct. 9 on Seventh Street in downtown Bucoda. Registration begins at noon. There will be a parade of the teams, which are comprised of businesses, nonprofits, high schools, government agencies, friends and families. Racers compete for first, second and third place, and of course, dead last. 

The course is 180 feet. Free to attend.

DIY Tombstone Making Class

Oct. 16 from 12 to 3 p.m. at 204 S. Main Street, Bucoda 

$5 donation recommended, materials will be provided. You will need to paint it at home.

Costume Contest

Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. at 114 S. Main St., Bucoda. Prizes for winners in various age, gender categories. 

Zombie Dash and Zombie Costume Contest

Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. (location TBD, see website for updates) Prizes for winners in various age, gender categories.

Storytelling by Harvest Moon 

Oct. 16 at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. at 114 S. Main Street, Bucoda. Harvest Moon is a Quinault basket weaver and storyteller who will be sharing Native American stories about the legendary bigfoot, Stick people and ancient creatures of the Pacific Northwest.

Tenino Young-At-Heart Theatre presents Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart 

Oct. 23 at 1, 2 and 4 p.m. at 114 S. Main Street, Bucoda.

Family Fun Day 

Oct. 30 from 12 to 5 p.m. at 114 S. Main Street, Bucoda. Kids and adult categories of pumpkin decorating and carving contest, carnival-style Halloween-themed games. Free to attend.

Monster Mash Dance 

Oct. 30, Bucoda Community Center 2nd Floor Ballroom 101B E. Seventh St. Bucoda. Ages 1 to 12, 6 to 7 p.m., ages 13 to 17, 7 to 9 p.m. 

Bucoda Thriller — Thrill the World

Oct. 30 from 12 to 3:30 p.m. at 101B E. Seventh St. Bucoda. Free to attend. This is an attempt to set the world record for most dancers around the world dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

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