Hauntings around Portland.
Portland, Oregon is one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.. For some eerie experiences, you can’t beat a tour of some of the ghostly sites around town.
Witches’ Castle. In 1850, Danford Balch filed a claim on land near Portland, in an area now known as Forest Park. He hired a transient, Mortimer Stump, to help him clear the land. Balch invited Mr. Stump to stay with him, his wife Mary Ann, and their nine children while the land was being cleared.
Mortimer Stump stayed a little too long. He fell in love with the Balch’s 15-year old daughter, Anna. When he asked Mr. Balch for his daughter’s hand in marriage, He told Stump, in no uncertain terms, that if Stump married his daughter, Balch would kill them both. The young couple, being deeply in love, ran off to Vancouver, and were married in 1858.
Time passed, but when Balch ran into Stump and his daughter and other members of the Stump family in Portland, he became quite drunk. He took out a pistol, and shot Mortimer Stump dead. Balch, in his own defense, blamed his wife Mary Ann of being a witch. It was Mary Ann’s fault, that Balch was bewitched into committing murder. The jury didn’t buy his defense, and Dandford Balch was convicted of murder, and sentenced to death by hanging. Balch was the first legal hanging in the Oregon Territory.
Mary Ann Balch remained in the house. For years people who go near the remains of the old house report strange sightings and events that they say are the the antics of Danford Balch, Mary Ann Balch, Anna Balch-Stump, and Mortimer Balch. Take a walk by the old house in Forest Park and see for yourself.
Shanghai Tunnels in Portland and Astoria, Oregon. The underground passages beneath connecting Old Town and China Town in Portland to the Willamette waterfront, are said to be some of the most haunted sites in Oregon. Shanghaiing is the practice of kidnapping people to serve as slave labor on ships. Using trickery, intimidation, violence, and torture, sailors were forced into servitude in port cities throughout the world. By the middle of the 19th Century, Portland and Astoria Oregon had surpassed San Francisco for shanghaiing. Those who engaged in shanghaiing were called crimps. Among other nefarious activities, crimps ran boarding houses in the port cities. The crimps would round up boarding house residents, and sell them to the ship captains for $30-$100 a head. The hapless sailors were often delivered unconscious, drugged, or half asleep, wrapped up in canvas tarps. Crimps would roam the streets and bars looking for targets. Often drugging a sailor’s drink, crimps did whatever it took to get the unwilling new hires on the ships. They would even try to bribe sailors from deserting other ships in favor of better deals—deals that often were much worse.
As you might imagine, not everyone went willingly. One of the most famous stories has to do with a young Native American woman, Nina (Ni Mu) who was sold into prostitution in Portland. She reportedly made a deal with Christian missionaries to try to help clean up Portland of prostitutes. No one knows for sure, but some say her captors or perhaps the police (for there was a bit of corruption at that time), found out about what she was doing. She was said to have ‘disappeared’ down an elevator shaft. Apparently, she has haunted the Old Town Pizza for decades. Old Town Pizza is located right on the spot where the Merchant Hotel’s lobby once was. The Merchant Hotel sits right on top of the entrance to the Shanghai tunnels.
An apparition, wearing a long black veil and Victorian dress regularly appears.
Another visitor from Bend, Oregon, Lynette Braillard, had an eerie experience while touring the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland with her friends. She heard a voice whispering into her ear. When she turned to see who it was, no one was there. Other lady ghosts haunt the tunnels including a Lady in White and a woman who is heard singing a Scottish lullaby.
Considered the 10th most haunted city in North America, Portland has many sites that are haunted. The Heathman Hotel and the Benson Hotel both claim to have ghosts. At the Heathman, paranormal activities including moving objects is reported regularly. At the Benson, three ghosts wander the halls performing random acts of kindness, according to the hotel management.
Cemeteries are obvious places where you might run into or through a ghost or two. Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery where over 10,000 unknown souls are buried among the 25,000 graves, is the oldest cemetery in Portland. Established in 1854 when Colburn Barrell bought the parcel of land from J.B. Stephens. As part of their agreement, Barrell agreed to maintain the part of the land where Stephens’ father was buried. That was the start of what has been named the Lone Fir Cemetery. Now adorned with a lush forest of trees, Lone Fir Cemetery is the resting place of Asa Lovejoy, the founder of Portland, as well as other founders whose names you will recognize: Sellwood, Hawthorne, Stark, Burnside, and George Bottler, the founder of the largest and oldest brewery in Portland.
Not only are homes, hotels, tunnels, and graveyards haunted, so too are streets. Stark Street is said to be the site of recurring hauntings and weird, ghostly experiences. The reason for so many hauntings on one street seem to be that from 2nd Street down to the waterfront along Stark Street, was the route to the Stark Street Ferry. Before the bridges were built to connect the west side of Portland to the east, people relied on ferry boats to carry them from one side to the other. The route to many of Portland’s east side cemeteries was along Stark to the ferry. Many bodies were transported and many funeral processions used Stark and the ferry boat to carry loved ones to their final resting places. Is it any wonder there are some ghosts still lingering?
The White Eagle Saloon. Built in 1905, the White Eagle was a popular bar as well as the site of a brothel, opium den, and maybe even a tunnel connecting to the Shanghai Tunnels. The White Eagle Saloon appears to be haunted by a man named Sam Warrick. In the early 1900s, Sam Warrick was a cook and bartender at the White Eagle. Rooms above the bar had been used for cheap housing for years. However, near the end of WWII, the building was getting quite run down and building codes were changing. Just as the building was going to be undergoing renovation and just as laws began prohibiting living quarters above bar, Sam Warrick got sick and died in his room. Warrick is said to haunt the second and main floors of the White Eagle. Though not seen often, he has been known to play an occasional trick. Once the current cook reported a large container of mustard flying off the shelf and splattering all over the kitchen. Warrick can create quite a mess and a stir.
Ghosts, spirits trapped between life and the afterlife, seem to haunt those places where they experienced either great tragedy or great happiness. Ghosts of those who were murdered or who committed suicide, often haunt the locations where they died. A ghost of a club promoter who was murdered there haunts the Roseland Theater. The original owners of the Pittock Mansion are said to haunt their old home. Perhaps some of the saddest hauntings occur at the site of the old Multinomah County Poor House in Troutdale. Now a McMenamins Edgefiled Restaurant, the site originally housed the a poorhouse which also housed mentally challenged, disabled, and the elderly. Later it was used as a sanatorium and then a reform school for troubled youth. Vacant since 1990, the McMenamins refurbished it, turning it into a brewery, restaurant, entertainment venue, and hotel. Guests frequently report hearing unexplained sounds of weeping and the voice of women reciting nursery rhymes. A ghostly woman dressed in white is also seen wandering the grounds.