06 April 2013

Portland Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour

Last weekend I headed down to Portland for the uber-fabulous annual Vampire Ball.  My friend and I decided to go down Friday night and enjoy a little more of Portland.  Our favorite way to learn about a new city?  Take a ghost tour of course!  There's no better way to get a quick and entertaining bit of history and culture than a good ghost tour.  We had heard about the Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour and decided to give it a go.

 The tour began at Old Town Pizza with a discussion of the "Shanghai Tunnels."  If you've ever seen any of the paranormal shows that go to Portland they're always going on about the Shanghai Tunnels.  The story is that the basements of Portland were interconnected so drunkards could be abducted and made to work on ships in the Pacific.  This story makes for great dramatizations, so it's what the tv shows go with.  In truth, the tunnels were made to deal with the periodic flooding of the Willamette River (that bisects the town).  They've been almost completely sealed off since the 70s and now the "tunnels" are about 3-5 foot long cubbies.  Not so spooky.  I appreciate that this was the kind of tour to actually make that sort of clarification rather than going for the easy scare.

Still in the basement of Old Town Pizza, we were all given K2 emf meters and invited into a very dark, earthen floored area.  There was a nice circle of chair for us to sit in as the guide told us stories of happenings in the basement.  I don't remember the stories too well because I was kind of entranced by my friend Rae's K2.  Most people's meters were dead steady with two lights showing - which is normal.  Rae's, however, was pulsing from nothing to three bubbles, up and down, slowly - not so normal.  Rae also felt a cold spot where her meter was.  When I put my meter near hers it would pulse the same way.  The strange part was that once Rae got up, the spot was completely normal again.  So something down there liked her.
From there we went exploring through Chinatown and came across several old nightclubs that are supposed to be haunted by former owners, patrons, and folks who died there.  In the location above (the Roseland I believe) the spirit of a former employee is said to haunt the upper floors.  He was supposedly murdered by his boss when he tried to extort his boss for drug money.  Not the smartest move apparently.

From there we moved to a nicer part of town and went into the fabulous Benson hotel.  This hotel is supposedly haunted by the ghost of several suicides that happened there.  It's said that if you look into the big mirror on the main stairs you might see people or objects in the reflection that won't be there when you turn around.  I didn't notice anything all that unusual, but I'll admit that I didn't look too carefully because mirrors, in general, creep me out - to easily turned into portals for my taste.  We sat up in a little lounge area overlooking the main hall as the guide told us the extremely creepy story of a woman stuck in a telephone switch office with a ghost (the office in question being about five feet from where we sat).  It was creepy.
From there we went over to the old Portland police station, that is now mostly vacant but for one small law office.  This was an extremely creepy place.  Just standing next to the building you could tell that some very nasty things had gone down in there.  Tales of police corruption, crime bosses, and murdered stool pigeons just made it worse.  Although the building itself wasn't as odd as the parking lot just across the street.  In that parking lot I got the very odd sensation that energy of the place was hungry, and I could actually feel it sucking at my legs, drawing my energy down into it.  Needless to say I didn't feel terribly comfortable and didn't want to linger.  Apparently this was the only parking lot in all of Portland where you were guaranteed not to see a homeless person camping out for the night.  I believe it.

From there we went back into the more lively bar district and passed by the original Voodoo Doughnuts location.  Since our guide had a deal with Voodoo we all got a free doughnut without waiting in the gargantuan line.  Hooray for shortcuts :)  There was an interesting haunted theater/strip joint next to Voodoo so we heard our next tale of vice and tragedy while dodging drunks on sugar highs.  The added color actually enhanced the experience.
The next spot we talked about was the Portland Kells.  Now I didn't realize that Kells was a chain - there's also a Kells in Seattle that is also haunted.  The Portland Kells has haunted bathrooms (so haunted that the staff are trained to deal with freaked out patrons) and the Seattle Kells is just all haunted (former mortuary, oh yeah).  So this was quite an interesting site.

Towards the end of the tour we talked about an old saloon and the Oregon Leather Company.  Apparently several of the businesses in the area have reported seeing a large, hairy creature lurking in their basements.  Sasquatch or a really gnarly shadow person?  The world may never know.

All in all it was a very fun tour and I highly recommend it.  So next time you're in Portland, take the late night Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour.

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