The Schauermanns of Astoria do not observe Halloween, but they do see Oct. 31 as an opportunity to share the Gospel in a most vivid way
By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
ASTORIA — Widely known locally for raising 13 children of their own and now with more than 30 grandchildren, Pastor Chris Schauermann and his wife Shary have long been used to having a full house.
But when the couple and their brood moved into a seriously dilapidated old mansion south of Astoria more than two decades ago, they quickly saw evidence of other house guests who were unwelcome and had too long made their presence known.
The Schauermanns don’t believe in celebrating Halloween. Last year, though, they felt led to invite the community in on Oct. 31 to hear not only what happened for decades in the infamous “Hess House,” but also how the dwelling’s story has a new chapter thanks to the presence of Jesus Christ. As a result, scores of people prayed that night to receive Christ as Savior, said Chris, who is pastor of Gateway Community Church in the Hammond district of nearby Warrenton.
This year, the unusual evangelistic outreach will be repeated Wednesday, Oct. 31, starting at 6 p.m., as the Schauermanns host what they call a “Real haunted house tour with true paranormal stories.” Whereas about 200 people turned out last year, this year the family “is better organized and think that with a few strategic changes we can get as many as 600 through the house,” he said.
Built in 1914 by Charles Nathan Hess, the Tudor-style house at 92388 Wireless Road is 6,400 square feet and has eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and a basement larger than the footprint of the house. Hess was a dairy farmer who homesteaded the property in 1885; his descendants, who are still engaged in dairy farming, still own the house today and have generously made it available to the Schauermanns since 1991.
Tragically, Hess died the year he and his family moved into the unfinished home, leaving his wife and seven children behind to care for the house and dairy. It was believed he suffered from dementia and committed suicide.
In 1940 Hess’s oldest child made a deal with the U.S. Navy, which turned the huge house into seven apartments to house the men who worked at a local military radio station and their families. Three babies were born in the house, but again tragedy struck as one of the men died in what is now the house’s library — and that death was also suspected to be a suicide.
By the time the Schauermanns moved in, the house had deteriorated to the point that there were 64 busted-out windows with curtains hanging outside, and most of the interior walls were studs only.
The basement was a foot and a half deep in water, and cobwebs were everywhere. Local youths swore that the house was haunted. At that time the house and the two acres of land around it were valued at only $24,000.
As Christians, the Schauermanns believe that just as there is a physical world, there is also an invisible spiritual world. And after many tragedies, over many years, the Hess mansion seemed to have picked up some bad spirits.
In fact, a local resident reported that the night before the Schauermanns moved in, five men in a crazed frenzy rushed through the house with axes, chopping holes in walls, floors, appliances and anything they could find. That is what greeted the Schauermanns and friends who arrived the next morning to clean up the house and help move the family in.
Within the first 15 minutes, several strange accidents took place that either did minor injury — or threatened to injure — several in the clean-up party. Suspecting that this might be the work of poltergeists, the Schauermanns called an impromptu prayer meeting in the house’s entry, asking God to keep everyone safe and to drive out any evil spirits.
After that first prayer meeting, there were never again poltergeist-type manifestations in the house, said Chris.
But there were still some strange encounters. Over the years, he and his wife have frequently and suddenly been awakened at 3 o’clock in the morning, and Shary occasionally saw figures enter their room. The couple’s routine was to pray them out and send the spirits back where they came from in Jesus’ name. After the figures departed, the couple would take the opportunity to pray for family members and for the entire Astoria area, then go back to sleep.
Hearing of this phenomenon, a friend told the Schauermanns that a group of people led by a professed witch/warlock regularly met in an Astoria tavern’s building and held spiritual meetings that culminated at 3 a.m.
A coincidence? Perhaps, except that the sudden death in 2010 of the warlock due to the H1N1 flu virus marked the end of 19 years of regular 3 a.m. disturbances, said Chris.
The scariest incident faced by the Schauermanns was the night that Chris felt a sudden constriction of his throat as he went to bed. He complained to Shary, who urged him just to go to sleep and said he would feel better in the morning.
But as he lay in bed staring at the ceiling, the tightness increased until it felt like hands around his throat.
Believing an evil spirit was attacking, Chris found he could no longer even speak and was losing consciousness. In his panic he cried out in his mind “Jesus,” which caused the force around his throat to weaken.
He then was able to squeak out “Jesus,” and as the attack lessened he started shouting “Jesus” to the point that it wakened Shary, who expressed concern that he would also wake everyone else in the house. He ignored her and continued to shout.
“Then it happened,” said Chris. “The bedroom door, which had been open, slammed shut. Then the door at the bottom of the stairs slammed shut, and finally the door to outside opened by itself, then slammed shut.”
By this time Shary was a believer in Chris’ account of what happened — an evil presence had just left the house.
The Schauermanns also testify of a three-week period in which their four oldest children awoke every night screaming. Their parents would routinely trudge, half awake, up the stairs to find one of the kids pointing into a dark corner crying “Monster! Monster!”
Chris and Shary would turn on the lights and show the children there was nothing there to fear. They would then pray with and comfort the children and get them back to sleep, only to have it happen again a couple of hours later.
Exhausted and at their wits end, Chris and Shary mentioned it to Christian friends who said they had experienced the same thing a few years earlier. Their solution had been to have a study with their children about powerful angels in the Bible, and then pray with the kids that these angels would come and protect them at night.
The Schauermanns did exactly that, and the phenomenon never occurred again.
With the help of several friends who served as tour guides, the Schauermanns last year concluded the event by explaining that many people experience unwanted spiritual phenomena that bring fear and torment. They invited to stay for another brief few minutes those who were interested in accessing the same power that the Schauermann family accessed. Those who stayed were then invited to experience a personal, real encounter with the living Christ through a prayer of salvation. The same format is planned this year.
After all these years, the Schauermanns believe that the house has been spiritually cleansed through repeated prayer and worship. “We have at times kept a lot of Christian music playing in the house,” he added.
Last year’s event was organized as a creative way to raise funds for Faces International, a ministry out of the Warrenton church that is fighting human sex trafficking.
The house was not decorated Halloween style. “We decided that the house is spooky enough without anything fake, so we did not use any fake cobwebs or such,” said Chris. “We did use candle light, which was very effective.”
For more information, phone Gateway Community Church at 503-861-3333.