With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to stock up on some ghostly tales. Here are our suggestions for hair-rising reading.
Ghosthunting Colorado by Kailyn Lamb is home to ghostly hotels, city parks, and, of course, some of the best mountain viewing around.
The eyes of paranormal enthusiasts have long been on the Centennial State due to the fame that Stephen King’s The Shining brought to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The Stanley, however, is not the only haunted hotel in Colorado. Multiple inns and hotels (some of them brothels) in Denver alone have histories as sites of deaths that make their victims decide to stay in their beloved rooms forever.
In Ghosthunting Ohio, author John B. Kachuba bravely visits more than 25 haunted places in Ohio to give readers firsthand frights from the safety of their armchairs. For readers curious―and courageous―enough to “hunt” on their own, maps and travel information are provided for every haunted location.
Ghosthunting Oregon takes readers along on a guided tour to some of the Beaver State’s most haunted historic locations. Local author Donna Stewart researched each location thoroughly before visiting, digging up clues for the paranormal aspect of each site. Stewart takes readers to some of the spookiest haunts across the state, including Oaks Park in Portland, where visitors have reported seeing a ghostly apparition of a child in a 1920s- or 1930s-style dress; the O’Kane Building in central Oregon, where people have reported seeing “ghostly smoke” and strange lights; and Pioneer Park in Pendleton, where some have reported seeing apparitions and hearing voices.
Settled by Spanish explorers more than three centuries ago, San Antonio has a rich haunted history. Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, by local author Michael O. Varhola, covers 30 haunted locations in and around the cities of San Antonio and Austin and throughout the region known as Texas Hill Country.
Ghosthunting Illinois takes readers ghost hunting in the land of Lincoln! Lock the doors, draw the curtains, and light a candle as you join author John B. Kachuba on a guided tour of Illinois’ most terrifyingly haunted places.
Mary Ann Winkowski is one of the inspirations behind the hit show “Ghost Whisperer.” Over the course of her work as a paranormal investigator, Winkowski’s reputation has spread. She was a consultant to the CBS hit television show Ghost Whisperer, has appeared on numerous TV and radio news programs, and has spoken at countless lectures.
As a special bonus, check out the Pumpkin Cookies recipe from The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook.
America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30-100 haunted places that are open to the public. From inns and museums to cemeteries and theaters, the author visits each place, interviewing people who live and work there. Books also include travel instructions, maps, and an appendix of 50 more places the reader can visit.
Donna Stewart, author of Ghosthunting Oregon, researched the paranormal activity at Cathedral Park. Here is her report.
Today, Cathedral Park in north Portland provides a breathtaking view of the towering St. Johns Bridge, nature, and the east shore of the Willamette River. Families often picnic there on sunny afternoons, the occasional wedding is held beneath the statuesque bridge, and the smell of trees and wildflowers adds to the picture-perfect location. You could spend hours there, taking pictures and contemplating how little the scene has changed since the construction of the bridge in 1931. But times have changed, and most of the people who walked through Cathedral Park have faded into the past and are all but forgotten. All, perhaps, except for 15-year-old Thelma Taylor, who also thought the park was beautiful—until August 5, 1949. Since that date, the park has been haunted by stories of ghostly screams and shadowy figures.
Thelma was a sophomore at Roosevelt High School in Portland in the late 1940s. Thelma was not an unattractive girl but was teased in school for being skinny, among other things, and she did not have many friends. One can see Thelma sitting slightly away from the rest of her class at the end of the bottom row of her elementary school graduation picture, as if she did not belong with the rest of the children. That feeling of not quite fitting in followed Thelma throughout her short life, even as she grew into a beautiful young woman with dark hair and a brilliant, contagious smile.
Thelma was devoted to her family and did what she could to help them financially during her months away from school. In the summer of 1949, she took a job picking beans at a farm in nearby Hillsboro. She would rouse herself early in the morning and make her way to Cathedral Park, where a bus would stop to pick up those willing to spend the day working on the farm and then drop them back at the same spot late in the afternoon or early evening. But on August 5, Thelma never made it onto that bus.
There are many versions of what happened that morning, and it takes some time and research to separate truth from exaggeration. I have sifted through the myths and the ghost stories, and what follows is the truth as it appears in documents and legal records. But I must warn you that the facts are sometimes more frightening that the ghost stories. We can alter tales to fit our needs and situations, but the truth never changes.
Despite her best intentions, Thelma Taylor did not make it onto the bus that humid summer morning in 1949, and it departed without her because she was nowhere to be seen. She had been approached by a 22-year-old ex-convict named Morris Leland. To this day, no one knows what Leland said or did to entice Thelma into following him away from the bus stop to the banks of the Willamette River beneath the St. Johns Bridge; it is one of the few questions that Morris Leland did not answer in the months and years to come. We know that Leland made sexual advances toward Thelma and that she vehemently refused them. And here is where the fine line between fact and fiction gets muddied. . . .
Thelma was not raped. Morris Leland’s own words were, “I got scared because she was a good girl and would make trouble with the police.” The rape scenario is what most people read about on ghost hunter websites, but the fact is that it simply did not happen. And it is important to me that we allow Thelma to maintain that small bit of her dignity.
Leland held Thelma near the riverbank throughout the night, well hidden in an area of thick underbrush. But when morning came and Thelma could hear the workers switching cars on a nearby railroad track, her first instinct was to scream for help. It was then, to avoid detection and certain arrest, that Leland struck Thelma in the head repeatedly with a steel bar. And then, to make sure she could not possibly scream for help again, he stabbed her, silencing her forever on that bank nearly eight blocks from Cathedral Park.
Six days later, the Thursday, August 11, edition of the Reading Eagle, a Portland newspaper, reported that Morris Leland was arrested by Sergeant Vern Nicholson on suspicion of driving a stolen car and immediately blurted out a confession to the murder that police did not even suspect at the time.
The police knew that Thelma Taylor, a 15-year-old farm worker, had been reported missing the previous Saturday by her parents when she did not return home. But there had been no evidence, no hint that she could have met with such a horrible demise.
Morris Leland’s trial began on October 4, 1950, and he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. But after a 4-month trial, Leland was found guilty of the murder and, on February 7, 1951, was sentenced to death. Morris Leland was led to the gas chamber where his sentence was carried out in January 1953.
To those who know the story of Thelma Taylor, the Cathedral Park area is a place where innocence lived and died, where an evil man claimed a life and spent his last days of freedom.
I have visited Cathedral Park on many occasions. During the day it is a beautiful area, surrounded by trees, the sound of the Willamette River, children laughing, and couples walking their dogs. If you stop to ask people if they know of Thelma Taylor, most locals tell you yes, and even many visitors know her story. And it is easy to talk about during the daytime. But when darkness falls, the feeling in the park changes. Perhaps this is because I know about Thelma. Or, perhaps, the stories of spectral screams and ghostly shadows hold some truth to them.
Over the decades, many people have reported hearing a young girl’s voice calling, “Help! Somebody help me, please!” Cathedral Park is a hangout after dark for the younger genera- tion who want to party, have a few beers, and the like, so many of those stories must be questioned, if only because alcohol is involved. But it is not only inebriated young people who have reported the ghostly voices and apparitions that they say dart quickly around the place.
Many paranormal researchers say that the area surrounding Cathedral Park has been primed for a haunting, and the flowing water of the river and the limestone blocks used to build St. Johns Bridge all are associated with a “residual haunting.” Residual haunting is a new term made popular by paranormal television for an old parapsychological theory proposed in the 1970s called the Stone Tape theory. This theory speculates that inanimate materials, such as stone, can absorb energy from the living, much as a tape recorder absorbs the voice of the living, especially during episodes of high tension, anxiety, and fear. Once this energy is stored, it can also be released, resulting in the display, or replay, of the recorded events.
“We have to postulate that some very emotional scene has somehow become registered on the environment, almost like a sort of psychic video has been created,” late Scottish paranormal researcher Archie Roy was quoted as saying about Stone Tape theory in the 2011 book Ghosts by Malcolm Day. “Someone who comes along who is sensitive enough acts as a sort of psychic video player and will actually play that ‘tape’ and see the figures or perhaps even hear the voices.”
Leland threw the steel pipe and the knife into the river, hoping that the current would carry them far away; he wiped his fingerprints from Thelma’s lunch pail, gathered his cigarette butts, and buried Thelma in a shallow grave underneath a pile of driftwood on the riverbank.
Color photos of Cathedral Park courtesy of Bill Reynolds from Lake Oswego, Oregon (Cathedral Park Portland Oregon) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery sits between Stark Street to the north and Morrison Street to the south. It is the oldest cemetery in the Portland area and the largest one managed by regional government. It covers more than 30 acres and is home to more than 25,000 gravesites. As a result of negligent maintenance and record keeping over the years, those buried within 10,000 of the sites are unknown. Oftentimes no one documented the paupers when they were interred.
If there was ever a cemetery that was ripe for hauntings, it would be Lone Fir. It has unmarked graves of insane asylum patients, a notorious murderess, graves lost in the shuffle of combining other cemeteries with Lone Fir, and possibly even graves that have not yet been discovered.
The first official burial at Lone Fir was in 1846, when Emmon Stephens was buried on a plot of land that once belonged to his neighbor, a gentleman by the name of Seldon Murray. A decade later, Murray sold Stephens’s gravesite and the adjacent 10 acres to Colburn Barrell with the stipulation that his friend’s grave be tended to. Barrell agreed and kept his word. Not long after this transfer of property, the cemetery was born.
Barrell owned a steamboat on the Willamette River called the Gazelle. In 1856 the Gazelle exploded near Oregon City and killed Barrell’s business partner, Crawford Dobbins, as well as a passenger. The 10 acres that were purchased from Seldon Murray would now be known as Mount Crawford Cemetery, after Barrell’s deceased business partner, who was interred there along with the passenger.
By 1866, Barrell added 20 acres to the cemetery and sold burial plots for $10 each. Later that same year, Barrell realized that the upkeep of a cemetery was more work than he could handle, and he offered to sell Mount Crawford to the city of Portland, which quickly declined. So Barrell sold the cemetery to a group of private investors for a tidy sum of money instead. Those investors immediately renamed the cemetery Lone Fir in honor of the single, lone fir tree that stood at the location.
But the investors had no practical idea of how to maintain a cemetery. Lone Fir fell into a sad state of disrepair. By the late 1920s, the gravesites, thousands of them unknown, were hidden beneath prickly mounds of blackberry vines and other invasive species. A few stone markers were still there, but the majority of the wooden markers had succumbed to rot or one of the many fires that swept through the area.
In 1928, Multnomah County took over control and maintenance of Lone Fir and, in 1947, paved over a large part of the cemetery and built an office on the site. Sadly, the portion paved over was the burial site for many Chinese immigrants; these remains were removed the following year and are said to have been sent back to China. In 2004 more graves were discovered beneath the office site. It was not until 2007 that the office building was removed and more Chinese immigrant remains were found. That same year Lone Fir was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the cemetery is in the capable and caring hands of Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery, which has brought new interest and vitality to it and removed the stigma often associated with such places. This organization has made Lone Fir a fun learning experience for visitors of all ages with tours, concerts to raise funds for headstones that have been vandalized, plays, scavenger hunts, and even Scrabble tournaments. It also runs a family-friendly Halloween event called Graveyard Goodies that it describes as a “trick-or-treating party featuring some of Lone Fir Cemetery’s most prominent ghosts.” The ghosts are actors, and visitors of all ages converse with the prominent residents, doctors, and laborers whose names have been lost or were never known. There is no need to go door-to-door for candy because the “ghosts” hand it out—and they even give autographs.
Anyone who knows a bit about the city’s sordid history will surely recognize a name or two at the cemetery—and even if they do not, chances are they will want to research a few after visiting Lone Fir. People from every walk of life—the famous, the insane, the freed slaves, the leaders in science—can be found at Lone Fir.
A white obelisk honors Dr. James C. Hawthorne, who was in charge of an insane asylum in the 1800s. Dr. Hawthorne genuinely cared for his patients, even when their families had long forgotten about them. Many times a family would not bother to claim the body of the deceased, so Dr. Hawthorne buried more than 130 of his patients at Lone Fir at his own expense. It is not known exactly where the former patients are buried, but it is speculated that they were interred in what is called Block 14 in the southwest corner of the cemetery. Block 14 is also the site of unmarked graves of numerous Chinese railroad workers.
Another notable resident of Lone Fir is Charity Lamb, who murdered her husband in 1854. Nathaniel Lamb sat at the dinner table as he usually did, entertaining his children with animated stories, when Charity quietly stepped up behind him and brought an ax down against the back of his head. Twice. Even more amazing is that Nathaniel lived for two weeks before he gave up the ghost and succumbed to the ax wounds. Charity Lamb was the first woman to be convicted of murder in the Oregon Territory. She did not receive the death penalty but was instead sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor at the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1854. A decade later, she was transferred to Dr. Hawthorne’s insane asylum, where she died in 1879. And so she ended up near Dr. Hawthorne in life and in death.
Not much is known about Michael Mitchell, a dancer in Portland who froze to death on the steps of his boardinghouse. Some say he was intoxicated and not allowed inside while under the influence. But what a shock it must have been for other boarders to emerge from the house the next morning to find him frozen and stiff on the front stoop!
Not long ago, a gentleman and his friend decided to check out Lone Fir after dark. Walking along the roadside, the pair explored the cemetery, looking at names on the headstones, when one man looked up and saw a figure standing about 50 yards away from them. He called out to the figure but received no response. His first thought was that someone had seen them and was trying to frighten them. So they walked toward the figure, playing along with the spooky prank.
As they approached, the figure seemed to jerk its head upward to the sky, just staring, and they realized that they might not be dealing with a joke after all. The figure was obscured by the trees, but as they cautiously moved closer, they could make out the face of an elderly man with a long beard, wearing a white shirt and black pants. They shouted hello, and in response, the man violently jerked his head toward them, opened his mouth, and screamed. The men say the figure’s eyes were blank as it continued to stare at them before letting go with another loud scream. After seeing the man’s weird eyes and hearing the second scream, the two of them left the cemetery in a hurry and have never been back.
No one else I spoke with reported anything nearly so frightening, and most described seeing misty figures walking across the cemetery during the daytime as well as after dark. Visitors repeatedly see a younger woman in a red dress who seems to be happily strolling through the grounds, oblivious to anyone around her.
My visit to Lone Fir was during the daytime and, due to rain, not as long as I would have liked. Unfortunately, I did not spot the woman in the red dress or the zombie-like specter that the men saw. Occasionally I felt as though I was being watched, but not to the point that it caused me any concern or fear. After all, I was a guest in the home of those who are buried there, and I expected to be watched.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is beautiful, even in the rain. The stately obelisks and headstones with photographs are almost breathtaking. You can feel a connection with some who are interred there because many headstones contain more information than any I have ever seen.
One in particular that I was fascinated with was the headstone for James B. and Elizabeth Stephens, who were early pioneers in the area. James B. Stephens’s father was Emmon Stephens, the first man buried on the property.
Theirs is not your normal headstone. The images of Mr. and Mrs. Stephens are carved into the headstone in a realistic style. On the back of the marker is a stone that, to me, was touching.
“Here we lie by consent after 57 years, two months, two days sojourning on earth awaiting nature’s immutable laws to return us to the elements of which we were formed,” the inscription reads.
You can’t pass up the Soldier’s Monument, which memorializes the Indian Wars, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, and Spanish-American War. It was constructed in 1903 with $3,500 in community donations and is a beautiful, stately memorial that stands strong and proud to this day.
When people ask me if Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is haunted, I have to answer, “How could it not be?” With its tragedies and thousands of forgotten graves, lost ghosts likely wander the cemetery. And whether visitors want to participate in an event or hope to catch a glimpse of a ghost, they will leave with a new knowledge of the people who were essential in making Portland the city it is today, so it is definitely worth a trip. When you find yourself in Portland, you can stop by and judge for yourself.
A feud about the land gives rise to wicked laughter at the Witch’s Castle in Oregon.
Folklore, legends, and ghost stories abound regarding the Witch’s Castle.
As with so many purportedly haunted locations in the Portland area, one must carefully sift through the lore in order to filter out the truths. Even then, it is sometimes difficult to paint a completely accurate portrait, and one is left with a dramatic narrative at best. But this is also what makes traveling to haunted locations so intriguing. Visitors are left to decide whether their own experiences and senses reflect paranormal activity. But what most ghost-hunting travelers do know is that they should expect the unexpected.
What is left is the eerie shell—roofless and covered with moss, clinging ivy, and graffiti. It has been called the Witch’s Castle for decades and has a reputation throughout the state of Oregon of being haunted. It is all that scary movies are made of—an odd, out-of-place structure; a bloody tale of former tenants; and the haunting of the land on which it resides.
One of the most accepted stories about the Witch’s Castle is that of an ongoing ghostly feud on the land that gives rise to wicked laughter, sinister whispers, screams of terror, and angry specters—phenomena that give many a hiker second thoughts about venturing down the trails after dark. Many have also claimed to see dark figures darting between the trees and behind the shrubbery and in and out of the old stone structure.
There have been reports of bright, glowing lights encircling the building before disappearing into the woods and even a few reports of full-bodied apparitions of young women and children. People I spoke with who have experienced what they feel is paranormal activity at the Witch’s Castle, however, do not stray from their accounts, and
I tend to believe them and that this consistency points to the spirits of the Balch family haunting their old homestead. I can assure you that, after dark, each noise, whether it is the falling of a leaf or the crack of a twig, is amplified around the Witch’s Castle. So whether the old stone building is haunted or not, it is not the most comfortable place to be when the sun goes down. I didn’t see a ghost during my visit, but that doesn’t mean they do not reside there—only that I was not in the right place at the right time. And, as we all know, history never dies.
If you enjoyed the story of the Witch’s Castle, check out Ghosthunting Oregon, a book by Donna Stewart in which shecovers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.
Five Spiritual Apparitions Reported at the Benson Hotel in Portland
While most purportedly haunted locations in the Portland area are home to a single ghost or type of haunting, the Benson Hotel reportedly houses five spiritual apparitions, each similar in description and related activity.
People have reported numerous ghosts in the Benson Hotel, and many guests check in hoping to meet one of them face-to-face. Paranormal experiences have occurred throughout, with ghosts seen wearing anything from formal attire to lumberjack clothing. An employee was setting the tables for a banquet when the ghost of Benson entered the room and then just as quickly exited into the wine storage area, vanishing before her eyes. Shaken, she nervously finished her job as quickly as possible, glancing over her shoulder to make sure she was still alone in the room.
Other employees claim to have seen the ghost of Benson in one of the meeting areas, standing quietly and attentively in the back of the room as an important meeting commenced.
Is the Ghost of Jimi Hendrix Experience Drummer John Ronald “Mitch” Mitchell Haunting the Benson Hotel?
Another popular ghost at the Benson Hotel is that of a young boy, around the age of 3 or 4, who witnesses describe as thin and with short, light brown hair. Some local psychics have said that it is the ghost of Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer John Ronald “Mitch” Mitchell, who died at the Benson Hotel in 2008. Mitchell was a famous child actor in England before embarking on a career in rock and roll, and the psychics believe he remains at the Benson as the child version of himself. While anything may be possible in the afterlife, this does beg the question as to why this young boy has been seen at the hotel for decades whereas Mitchell died in 2008.
One guest who was in Portland on business checked into a room on the seventh floor of the Benson Hotel. She was in bed and growing weary of the movie on television, so she turned off the set and checked her cell phone one last time for any messages from her family before turning in. Then, when she rolled over, she came face-to-face with a little boy who stood at the side of her bed. She estimated the child to be about 3 years old, and as a mother with a son the same age, her instinct was to reach out to him. She touched his arm, and for a moment it felt solid and warm. She recalled thinking that the little boy could not possibly be a ghost because he was not cold, and from all that she had seen on television, ghosts were cold. As she thought about this and watched the little boy, he unexpectedly jumped at her face, assuming a scary expression. Startled, but not really frightened, she covered her head for a moment, thinking the boy might be simply playing a game with her. When she peeked out from the covers, the boy was still there. Again she touched him, and again he quickly made a scary face. This time the guest carefully positioned the blanket in front of her face so she would not have to see the boy again and, after a few minutes, assumed he was gone. Then she felt movement on the blankets at the bottom of the bed. Spooked by what she had just experienced, she did not look to see what the movement was.
When she checked out of the hotel the next morning, the woman asked the desk clerk if anyone else had ever described anything like she had experienced the night before. She was not surprised to hear that others had seen the little boy, although the desk clerk told her that most of those sightings had occurred on the 12th floor.
Some Benson Hotel Ghosts are Friendly and Helpful
Although they have a sense of humor, some of the Benson Hotel ghosts are friendly and helpful. Another guest, one with a disability, was having difficulty getting into bed one night when a porter appeared in front of her and gently assisted her into bed. When she turned to thank him for his kindness, however, he vanished before her eyes. No one has been able to describe well what the porter looks like, perhaps because he helps and vanishes so quickly, but he is known to assist guests in rooms when they need a helping hand.
The Lady in White is another helpful ghost. When she is not checking on guests, she wanders the floors and admires the decor. The Lady in Blue is the ghost of a middle-aged woman who has been seen wearing a turquoise dress and bright red rings. She is a different form of apparition than the others, however, and people have reported seeing her only as a reflection in a lobby mirror looking back at them.
If you are looking for a beautiful and mysterious place to spend a night or two in the Portland area, check into the Benson Hotel, which has everything and more that you would expect from a fine luxury hotel. The rooms are not inexpensive, but they are not grossly overpriced either. Spend some time in the gym, enjoy dinner at the London Grill, and relax in your room with a few friendly ghosts.
Donna Stewart’s book Ghosthunting Oregoncovers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.
The mere utterance of the name Heceta Head Lighthouse has become synonymous with the words haunted and ghost. Rarely do you hear the name mentioned without the addition of one of the previous words. But this is a day and age when the word haunted will bring visitors across the country to check into this majestic bed-and-breakfast for the chance to witness a specter with their own eyes. And this is the case with Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Many readers may be familiar with Heceta Head Lighthouse without ever having been there, as it has been featured on numerous television shows and documentaries, including Legendary Lighthouses on PBS, another short documentary on Oregon Public Broadcasting called simply Heceta Head Lighthouse, and a number of paranormal reality television shows. It is also the subject of countless books focusing on either its historical or paranormal aspects and often a mix of both.
Strange and unexplained occurrences in the light keeper’s house at Heceta Head have led to its classification as one of the 10 most haunted houses in the United States. For more than six decades, residents of the light keeper’s house and guests of the bed-and-breakfast have spoken of unusual incidents. But don’t let the ghosts scare you away. Rue, the most well-known spirit, is always pleasant and seems to have a penchant for cleaning. She does not evoke fear in guests, and they generally enjoy her company after the initial shock of realizing they are seeing a ghost.
After hearing of my team’s investigation of Heceta Head Lighthouse, I cannot count the number of times I have been asked if it is haunted. And Heceta Head is the one location where I do not use the word haunted—it is, rather, apparently occupied by the spirits of a lovely lady and a few outspoken men.
Heceta Head is now a popular bed-and-breakfast that offers turn-of-the-century-style rooms at reasonable prices. So if you are of the adventurous state of mind and would like to take a brief step back in time, Heceta Head Lighthouse might well be the place to escape to on your next vacation. It is history, it is home, and you are treated like family. Even by the ghosts.
Read the complete research done on Heceta Head Lighthouse in Donna Stewart’s book Ghosthunting Oregon. The book covers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.
Visiting Heceta Head Lighthouse
The lighthouse is located in what is called the Devil’s Elbow, 13 miles north of Florence, Oregon, and 13 miles south of Yachats, Oregon, at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. More information on visiting and staying at Heceta Head Lighthouse is found HERE.
Photo credits Heceta Head Lighthouse:
Picture of Heceta Head Lighthouse courtesy of Dan Hershman [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture of Lighthouse Keeper’s House courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Many historic homes-turned-museums are refurbished to at least some extent. Visitors of the Bush House Museum will find that this is not the case, they will see what the Bush family saw day-to-day in the late 1800s.
After his wife died of tuberculosis, Asahel Bush II bought his partner’s share of their business and became horribly successful. Asahel innovated the Bush House, which he and his four young children moved into after the very accomplished architect Wilbur Boothby built it.
The home is both Victorian and Italianate in style and reflects the independence and elegance of the family who lived there. The home had what was then “modern” conveniences like heating, hot and cold water, and indoor plumbing. These were quite the luxuries of the 1870s.
The children, Asahel III, Estelle, and Sally made their father proud growing up and did well in their lives after college. Sally moved back home and managed the estate, Estelle married, and Asahel III went into banking. Eugenia was the only one of the four who was ill-fated. She developed a mental condition during her school years in Massachusetts and returned home.
Fact or Fiction?
What happened to Eugenia went she returned home is unknown, but there are two versions of the story:
1. Her father kept her in the basement, for he was embarrassed by his daughter’s mental condition. Besides the freedom to go outdoors, she was well cared for down there. There are no reports of abuse or poor conditions.
2. Her father shipped her away to a mental institution in Boston—where only the wealthiest were cared for. She received the best psychiatric and medical care available. She only returned home to the Bush House after her father’s death.
While the Bush House is largely an area associated with good memories, pleasant parks, varieties of rare flowers and even houses the Salem Art Fair and Festival, there have been countless reports of the extraordinary presences over the years.
“I did see a vase on a table in the living room slide about three inches across the table-top, and I heard it moving. I would have thought I was going a little crazy if my husband hadn’t seen it too!” said one woman.
Others report that a shadowy figure of a man in a suit fidgets with a pocket watch. One woman even said to have looked up what the senior Bush looked like upon seeing that presence and knew instantly—that is who she saw.
There have been reports of a young woman “crying and sobbing breathlessly.” Is this Eugenia? Perhaps, but more importantly is it the same woman who has been seen looking out a top-floor window in the evenings or floating through the rooms in a mist-like presence?
Frequently, visitors have heard whispers, cries, and even spoken conversations coming from a room around the corner. These occurrences have been reported too often to deny signs of the paranormal.
Now try your best to guess these interesting facts about the Bush House and Family!
1. There are __ bedrooms in the Bush house open to the public.
2. The 100-acre estate does NOT contain which of the following:
a. The barn
b. The original Bush House
c. The greenhouse
d. The garage
e. Many kaleidoscopic gardens
f. Pasturage for cattle
3. Asahel Bush II, a very successful and renowned inhabitant of the Bush House, did NOT have which occupation?
d. Democratic National Convention delegate
e. Oregon Statesman Journal owner
f. Oregon Statesman Journal publisher
4. Eugenia’s mental condition was:
c. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Opened on July 17, 1926 the Hollywood has not changed much outwardly since 1926, but its heart has continued to advance with the times and, as the film industry changed, so did the technical capabilities of the theater. More changes came in the 1970s when the theater was divided into three separate auditoriums.
Despite the attention the Hollywood received when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the theater became a victim to the newer and more modern theaters in Portland, and its business all but disappeared. But in the 21st century, the theater came back to life. It now not only shows movies but also focuses on independent and local filmmakers and educational programs. No one can accuse the Hollywood of not being able to adjust with the times, and because of that, its legacy lives on. And so do the ghosts that reside there.
Walking into the theater for the first time was an almost dreamlike experience for me. I am fascinated by history and architecture, so I found the best of both worlds in the lobby of the Hollywood. While parts of the theater have been updated with modern amenities, I could still envision vaudeville acts and silent movies and Model T Fords parked outside.
The ghosts of the Hollywood have never been given obligatory names or identified as other than male and female, but the reports of their existence are many. Past theater managers recall seeing a well-dressed, middle-aged man floating or hovering in the upstairs lobby. Some people have reported seeing a young, blonde female in high heels in the upstairs theater. She has also been seen nervously pacing the halls while smoking a cigarette. The sightings are brief but detailed, and each witness recalls a similar experience. People also report a feeling of uneasiness on the stairs leading to the upper theaters. A male ghost enjoys tapping people on the shoulder or back and whispering unintelligible words into their ears. Yet another ghost, a female, has been seen sitting quietly in the back row of the theater. While many are startled by a physical touch, most feel that it is done in jest. In all of the accounts that have been relayed to me, no one has felt threatened or fearful.
A woman I spoke with after my visit that claimed to be a medium said that the nervously pacing female ghost waits eternally for her husband to pick her up from work, not knowing he had been killed in an automobile accident on the way to meet her. I do not have an opinion either way on mediums or psychics, and this explanation certainly seems plausible when I consider the reports and the repetitive actions of this particular ghost, but we will never know if this is indeed true.
There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the floating man or the woman seen in the back rows. Perhaps they simply enjoyed their time at the Hollywood and thought it would be a nice place to retire after they expired. But turning from a conversation there, I caught a glimpse of a misty, transparent figure that passed before me and dissolved into the wall. It was not as detailed as many other reports, but I do not doubt what I saw with my own eyes. I replay it over and over in my mind in an attempt to come up with a rational, natural explanation, but am left without one.
As the sun began to set, the mood of the theater seemed to change, and at one point I was actually eager to leave. Two people in my party heard a voice whisper “Hey, you!” and felt unexplained cold spots that had not been there before. It seemed as though when the darkness set in, people we were not able to see were arriving to watch their favorite movies. And perhaps that was the case, nothing more and nothing less.
If you liked this excerpt from Donna Stewart’s book check out Ghosthunting Oregon for more spookiest haunts across the state.
Hollywood Theatre by Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
According to the ghost stories associated with Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, it is haunted by a seaman named Evan MacClure, who was the captain of the whaling ship Monkton. In 1874, a powerful storm is reported to have struck the area and swept the hapless vessel into the Devil’s Punchbowl, a large, natural bowl partially open to the Pacific Ocean that is carved into the rocky headland near the lighthouse. The ship wrecked. For more than a century, visitors, employees, and townsfolk have reported seeing an old captain standing at the base of the lighthouse and looking up, as though he were still trying to see the light that would guide him to safety. Those who have witnessed this say he appears as an older man and is as clear as any living person, until he suddenly vanishes before their eyes. Many residents say that MacClure continued to follow the light of the lighthouse and that his spirit occupied it, becoming a part of the beam and structure that led many a sailor to safe harbors.
Also in 1874, a ship sailed into the Newport harbor carrying a man who called himself Trevenard and who had brought his teenaged daughter Zina—or Muriel, depending on the teller of the tale—to visit with friends after her mother had passed away. Trevenard spent a few days in the little town with his daughter and then left her in a small hotel to continue her visit. We can assume that in 1874 life was simpler and that teenagers were better behaved when left unattended than they are today. So it should not be too surprising that Zina/Muriel and her friends opted for a picnic lunch on the grass of Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. But teenagers being teenagers, they decided to investigate the interior of the lighthouse.
According to the stories, they discovered a hidden room on the third floor and spent quite some time investigating it before leaving the lighthouse. When they once again reached the yard, Zina/Muriel realized she had left her handkerchief inside the building, so she left to retrieve it as her friends waited outside. After a few minutes, however, a scream pierced the air, and her friends hurried inside and followed a trail of blood drops that led them back to the third floor. As they looked for Zina/Muriel, they found only her bloodied handkerchief, and the unfortunate girl was never seen again—at least not alive. But there are those who claim her restless spirit still wanders the halls of Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, seeking a way out.
Even today, visitors to the Yaquina Bay lighthouse report eerie sensations and the feeling of being watched as they tour the building. Others have reported hearing whispering voices, both male and female, and seeing a flickering light on the second floor after dark. While most of the workers and volunteers in the lighthouse say they have not experienced any type of paranormal activity, there are those who have seen, heard, and felt an unseen presence.
My experiences at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse were not definitive, and I came away neither believing nor disbelieving the legends. But I will return there to attempt to shed some light on the truth of the ghost stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.
You may judge for yourself, however, any time you pass through Newport, Oregon, and decide to visit Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Perhaps you will catch a glimpse of a young girl with a bloodstained handkerchief looking for a way out, or a sailor seeking the light. And even if you do not, you will be standing in a part of Oregon history.
You can read the complete story of Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Donna Stewart’s book Ghosthunting Oregon.
Photo credit: By Little Mountain 5 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
ScareFest7 started out on Friday September 12th with the Black Carpet arrival of this year’s celebrities. The media and the fans were at hand to capture the stars’ arrivals.
Meanwhile the Clerisy Press team Liliane and Tanya were ready at booth #63 eagerly awaiting the Platinum and Golden Ticket holders who are lucky enough to enter ScareFest one hour before the official opening.
ScareFest7 Ghostly Fun for Everyone:
The venue includes a 82,000 square foot area where ScareFest Con houses over 200 different dealers offering the strange and the bizarre.
Fancy an individual reading or holding a very creepy bug? It is all available at ScareFest.
During all three days the convention offered a wide choice of seminars, workshops, panels, and celebrity book signings. At times long lines formed with fans waiting to meet their favorite horror actors or paranormal personality. Sean Astin (Mikey in The Goonies in the ’80s, Rudy in the ’90s and beloved hobbit Samwise Gamgee in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy) had a constant line of excited fans waiting to meet him. Read more about all celebrities present here.
Young ballet dancers of a Lexington Ballet School performed several times throughout the weekend and the many costumed convention goers added color and excitement to the show.
The weekend included the Platinum/Golden Ticket VIP Party at HighTop Bar hosted by Patti Starr and on Saturday the free for all costume ball. The Clerisy team joined the fun and while we did not win the prize for best costume we sure had a ball!