The Mystery Coke Machine

In Seattle, there is a haunted soda machine.

At least that’s what some people claim, because in the 15+ years it has stood on a sidewalk in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, unprotected from the elements – and let’s face it, in Seattle there are a lot of elements – nobody has ever seen it filled or serviced, or the change collected. The business that it sits in front of claims no knowledge of its ownership. And a slew of recent online publicity has made it something of a tourist attraction. It’s even got its own Facebook page now.

Naturally, when we were up there over the weekend, we had to go see it for ourselves.

Seattle's infamous haunted Coke machine.
Seattle’s infamous haunted Coke machine.

I owe thanks to my mother-in-law, Tracy, for making me aware of this vending machine’s existence. I have a huge interest in all things paranormal, so the minute I read the article I decided this was a Can’t Miss destination. Tara, Audrey, Anne and I piled into the car Saturday afternoon and took off in search of the infamous Coke machine. It was a bleak and drizzly day (see above: “elements”), which gave it an appropriately spooky aura. After a lunch stop at Dick’s Drive-In (and a slew of “eating Dicks for lunch” jokes because we are all mentally the age of 13 – except for Audrey, who really IS 13), we set out to find the soda machine. Turns out it was right around the corner. We were in this same area last spring, and probably walked right past it without noticing. Because who pays attention to a Coke machine unless it suddenly makes headlines?

We spotted the machine easily enough, as it looks very out of place. It’s just sitting there, in front of a locksmith shop on a busy street near the corner of Broadway and John, looking both inviting and forlorn. We approached with a mixture of trepidation and awe, our pockets stuffed with quarters. The big draw? All this Coke machine’s buttons are marked MYSTERY. Apparently you used to have choices, but so many people wanted to push that Mystery button and see what would come out that the mysterious “they” who own the machine made the whole thing one big mystery. What comes out of the machine can be quite a surprise. People have reported receiving Hawaiian Punch, Grape Fanta, Nestea Brisk Tea, and more. In other words, some pretty unique flavors – and not all of them Coke products, I might also point out.

Mystery Buttons


Eager to see what the haunted machine would deliver, we took turns feeding it change, and stepped back as can after can tumbled into the collection tray. We ended up with the following, in order: Ruby Red Squirt, A&W Root Beer, another A&W Root Beer, Mountain Dew Code Red, Vanilla Coke, and Mountain Dew Voltage. I probably could have stuffed quarters into that machine all day long just to see what would pop out next, but I’m not even much of a soda drinker, so we wisely quit then. The next person to come along got a Fresca Peach (lucky!). It’s definitely some weird and random stuff. I actually enjoyed the Squirt quite a bit, while Audrey slurped down the Dew Voltage (raspberry and citrus flavor) like it was going out of style.

It probably IS going out of style. But you can still find it here!

Our appetites for mystery and the macabre not quite sated, we headed next to Lake View Cemetery, where many of Seattle’s founding pioneers are buried, along with Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon. This is actually a beautiful cemetery, and we found their surprisingly ordinary headstones easily enough. With gorgeous flowering cherry trees, perfectly manicured green lawns and a gorgeous view of Lake Washington, it’s the type of place I can see myself buried in someday. Also, it was eerily appropriate to be up in Seattle on the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. We talked about stopping by the park next to the house where he committed suicide, but figured it would be pretty full of people that day (it was). That’s okay, we saw it on a past visit. Instead, we played Nirvana music on the drive back to Tracy’s place.

While drinking mystery soda, of course.

Our mysterious haul.
Our mysterious haul.
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27 thoughts on “The Mystery Coke Machine

  1. So cool!!! I just fwd this to my daughter who lives in Cap Hill 🙂 I’ll have to check it out when I visit in October!


  2. That’s cool! I had heard of this machine but not in any detail. I like that all the buttons are a mystery. That’s pretty funny. But if I got root beer I’d be disappointed. I mean, if it’s paranormal, can’t the ghost know I’m not a big root beer fan? I mean, is that asking too much?


  3. Oh how utterly COOL, Mark! And you know me, I share your same interest in the paranormal so I would have LOVED visiting that Coke machine! And I like the photo you shared, because the bleak and drizzly day added to the whole ambiance.

    LOVE the ‘Mystery’ button thing! But it’s strange (being a Coke machine) that it doesn’t serve Coke?!

    “nobody has ever seen it filled or serviced, or the change collected.”

    OMG…I got chills reading that!

    Thanks for sharing this. Really enjoyed!


    1. I was glad to do it…and I knew you, of all people, would be appreciative! By the way, I took a great picture of a couple of crows in the cemetery. That also made me think of you.


  4. I would have been unable to stop feeding money to the machine, wanting a better selection. I use to live on Capital Hill, one of my favorite parts of Seattle other than Ballard. That was many years ago though, the elements drove me back home to Texas eventually.


    1. I kind of felt the same way. Which is how 4 people ended up with 6 sodas. We could have easily kept going! With all this publicity, I bet the mystery person who owns the machine is raking in the dough now.

      I love Capitol Hill, too. And Queen Anne. Haven’t really been to Ballard much…yet.


      1. Ballard is fabulous, lots of great bakeries and little niche shops and eateries. Plus there are the Ballard Locks, in the spring and summer they are great fun to watch the boats go through.


  5. Pretty cool, Mark, in more ways than one. Who knew there was such a thing. I feel pretty haunted by my Coke Zero cravings. Hope your week is going well. We just got back from the beach. I’m trying to sneak in a visit with you before my workshop gets going. Sorry to be so rushed.

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    1. I appreciate the fact that you snuck away to check in. Thanks, Kathy! Hope you had fun at the beach, and are able to find enough Coke Zero to satiate your thirst down there.


  6. This is why I love blogging…..I love these sort of stories from around the world. But the mystery to me is how the machine survives the elements! That is crazy.

    I had no idea Fresca still existed….and peach? Sounds refreshing!


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