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Thursday, March 10, 2016


Full Moonrise Over Portland Oregon Photo by welcomia
Alex Gordon is the author of the supernatural thrillers Gideon and Jericho. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she spent 26 years working in pharmaceutical product R&D. She was born in the Northeast, grew up in the South, and currently lives in the Midwest. Learn more about Alex and her books at her website

Haunted Portland

After I determined that most of the action in Jericho would take place in the Portland, Oregon, area, I searched for tales of ghosts and other unusual or historical occurrences that I could incorporate into the story, as I had done with its predecessor, Gideon. In the end, however, although I mentioned Portland’s wild and woolly past, I decided to use stories specific to the Northern Coast Range, the mountains west of the city. But it’s a shame to let good research go to waste, and I’d like to thank Lois for the opportunity to share a few of the Portland-related items I found.

Old hotels are apparently chockfull of spirits. People who stay in Room 703 of the Heathman Hotel have reported finding indications that someone had been in the room during their absence—a chair moved, a glass of water on a table—even though no entry is recorded in the room key. At the Benson Hotel, sightings of a spectral man descending the lobby staircase have been reported. Then there’s Old Town Pizza, which is located in the lobby of the old Merchant Hotel. It reportedly plays host to Nina (nye-nah), a prostitute who served as an informer and was slain in retribution. Dressed in black, she has been spotted overseeing diners and wandering the basement.

Old theaters also host their share of visitations. The Bagdad (not a misspelling) Theater is said to be haunted by the ghost of a janitor who hanged himself on the premises, and the Hollywood Theater is said to be haunted by a woman who is sometimes seen sitting in the back row of one of the screening rooms.

Occasionally, digging into the stories behind rumored hauntings leads one down unexpected paths. Ghost tours of Portland often mention the Shanghai Tunnels. During the late 1800s and the first part of the 1900s, the city was infamous the world over for the practice of shanghaiing. Men were usually the victims, lured by promises of work or money, then drugged, kidnapped and forced to labor as sailors, but women were sometimes preyed upon as well, and sold into prostitution. According to some accounts, most were ferried through tunnels that ran beneath the city to the harbor, where ships awaited them. But others were kept in holding cells that were also located underground, and some died due to overcrowding, sickness, or the effects of the drugs. The ghosts of those dead haunt the tunnels. Wispy figures have been seen, their wails of suffering heard.

…while the practice of shanghaiing was, unfortunately, very common for a time, some details proved more fable than fact. Tunnels and passageways did run beneath parts of the city, but they were built to connect the brothels, opium dens, and other illicit businesses owned by the Chinese gangs of north Portland. They served as escape routes in case of police raids, but they did not connect to the harbor and would have flooded repeatedly if they had. According to reports written at the time, shanghaied sailors were often transported to their ships via horsecar and in the roughest sections of town were sometimes kidnapped in broad daylight. No attempts were made to hide the practice, so the tunnels wouldn’t have been necessary even if they had existed.

This was one of those times when all the evidence debunking a reputed haunting proved just as fascinating, if not more so, than the original tale. At the end of this post are several links to articles and a video about the Tunnel rumors and other details of Portland history.

Finally, tales of hauntings are usually sad or horrific, filled with details of murder, greed, or other personal strife. Given that, it’s nice to hear about a haunting that isn’t the result of one person’s inhumanity to another.
Walkway and the Pittock Mansion Photo by appalachianview
Construction of the Pittock Mansion began in 1909; business magnate Henry Pittock and his wife Georgiana moved into the residence in 1914. The Pittocks were very involved in Portland civic affairs. Mrs. Pittock also gardened extensively; her favorite flower was the rose, and she helped inspire the Portland Rose Festival.

The Pittocks died soon after moving into the house, Georgiana in 1918 and Henry in 1919. The house remained in family hands until 1958, when it was put on the market. Damaged by a storm and slated for demolition, it was saved in the early1960s, and was restored and opened as a museum. Since then, visiting psychics have informed museum staff that Mr. Pittock still lives in the house, and is pleased with how they have cared for it. At other times, the smell of roses is said to permeate the air, even though there are none in the house.

As an aside, I visited the Mansion in 2001. It is a gorgeous place, lovely in even the smallest details. One thing I remember is the view from a small window in, if I recall correctly, the kitchen. Whoever worked at the sink was treated to the sight of Mount Hood, in all its snow-covered glory.

I didn’t experience any ghost sightings or sensings, though.

Ghost Stories of Oregon, Susan Smitten, Ghost House Books, 2001

Months before, Lauren Reardon had been sent back from the realm of the dead with a warning that other dangers existed, and that she would need to face them. Now it looked as though that time had come.

People had long whispered about the abandoned logging camp of Jericho, of the disappearances, the strange sounds heard in the woods at night. But the ghost stories and urban legends only hint at the evil lurking in the ruined buildings, the wooded trails, an evil with roots in both ancient times and a millionaire’s bizarre beliefs. An evil that Lauren never imagined could exist, and that she must face even at the risk of her life, and her soul.

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Angela Adams said...

Interesting post and lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

M. Johnston said...

I love snippets of lore and history. Nice job on the post and best wishes for great success with your writing.

Alex Gordon said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and many thanks. There were so many tales to choose from--it was difficult to decide. So easy to get lost down the research rabbit hole.

Alex Gordon said...

Thanks to Lois (and Anastasia) for giving me a chance to post!