Tag Archives: Oregon

Haunted Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery

Donna Stewart, author of Ghosthunting Oregon, tells the story of Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery.

Ghosthunting Oregon
Ghosthunting Oregon

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.

Lone Fir Pioneer CemeteryMy 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.

Is the Bagdad Theatre in Portland Haunted?

Donna Stewart, author of Ghosthunting Oregon, investigated the paranormal activities at Portland’s Bagdad Theatre. Here is her report. 

Donna Stewart ComedySportz Portland
Donna Stewart

Aside from its ghosts,  the Bagdad Theatre has other claims to fame. In 1975, Hollywood came to the Bagdad Theatre when Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, and Michael Douglas attended the Oregon premiere of the now-classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Universal Studios funded construction of the Bagdad Theatre in 1927 for $100,000, spending $25,000 of that on a state-of-the-art organ. It wasn’t meant to be just another theater on a corner in the Hawthorne District of Portland but instead a centerpiece for an entire neighborhood and something to be admired.

The Bagdad had no specific style but was a cross between Middle Eastern and Spanish styles and was proudly described as “an oasis of entertainment.” Most theaters in the area at that time leaned toward a Middle Eastern theme, and the Bagdad also played to that, dressing its ushers in Arab-style attire. People in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Portland waited on the edges of their seats for the January 14, 1927, grand opening, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Paranormal Activities Recorded at Portland’s Bagdad Theatre

The Bagdad Theatre has a long record of paranormal activity. People seem to know who the ghosts of the Bagdad are—at least most of them. There is speculation that those who die in theaters, whether by suicide, murder, or accident, often remain there because of an emotional attachment to the site, because they loved to act, or because they enjoyed the job they held there. Maybe some of them just continue on with what they did in life or keep an eye on how others now perform their jobs.

One story claims that a former stagehand—a young man who wanted to be on the stage instead of behind it—committed suicide in the Bagdad’s backstage area and can now often be seen crossing in front of the screen and heard whispering behind it. So, perhaps in death, he has achieved his dream of being a performer.

Another ghost seems concerned about the work done by employees. Papers are often shifted, cleaning supplies are moved or removed from a room altogether, and many workers have reported hearing footsteps following them during the night as they perform their duties. This is especially common in the kitchen, the swinging doors to which are often seen moving with no explanation, as if someone were leaning against them on the other side.

“Nothing bad,” one young woman told me. “It just feels like a mom or a grandma making sure I am doing it the right way. So I try to do it the right way.” A more discomforting type of ghost is often seen, heard, and felt in the downstairs restroom. Many claim to have heard someone walk in while they were in the restroom. They smelled men’s cologne, and they had the strong feeling that someone was watching them from over the top of the stall. And while no one has claimed to feel threatened, they do say it is an awkward sensation. The last place anyone would want to feel spied on is in a bathroom stall.

“All that came to mind was that old men’s cologne called Hai Karate; it was that tacky and pungent,” one woman who said she had had a similar experience and heard footsteps in the restroom told me with a laugh. “Did I feel like I was being watched? Not really. I mean, I couldn’t get over the bad cologne! And, seriously, if a dead guy wants to peek over a bathroom stall at me, all the more power to him. Who says ghosts can’t be playful now and then?” I agreed. And I loved her attitude toward ghosts and the paranormal.

Other random activities could be attributed to the paranormal but do not seem to be affiliated with any specific ghost. It could be that many spirits linger at the Bagdad. People claim to have seen a young female sitting in different seats in the theater, for example, never making a noise and only visible for a few seconds before fading away. There have even been reports of children playing in the aisles. But when people notice and mention the sounds, they cease immediately.

One thing is for certain—the history of the Bagdad is alive within the restored walls. It is still quite the sight to behold in Portland.

The Bagdad is now a first-run theater with a screen that is 50% larger than in most theaters. It boasts a 20,000-watt surround-sound system, a K Prime digital projector, and lush rocker seating. Everything is state-of-the-art at the Bagdad, including closed captioning and other options for the hearing impaired.

Like the theater itself, the concession stand has grown up and into the 21st century as well. Tried-and-true treats like popcorn, sodas, and candy remain, but visitors can also enjoy an expanded menu that includes items like fresh-baked pizza, a selection of tap beers, and an ever-growing menu of delicacies. The theater also has gluten-free selections, vegetarian selections, and a host of burgers and sandwiches. And you don’t need to wait in long lines because your food can be delivered right to your theater seat.

Ghosthunting Oregon
Ghosthunting Oregon

You will still get a grand glimpse of the Bagdad’s heyday as soon as you enter the theater, with its balconies, vintage lighting and decor, and massively high ceilings. It is a combination of luxury and history that will not disappoint. Enjoy a movie in comfort, have a microbrew or two if you are so inclined, and meet the ghosts that might be seated right next to you.

Donna Stewart’s book Ghosthunting Oregon covers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Ghost stories of Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

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.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

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

ComedySportz Portland – Haunted!

ComedySportz Portland
ComedySportz Portland

When most people think of a comedy club, they do not necessarily liken it to a boxing match or mixed martial arts bout.

But ComedySportz Portland has quite a bit in common with both. A boxing or MMA match has two competitors, a referee, and a panel of judges.

Let Donna Stewart, the author of Ghosthunting Oregon tell you all about it!

The competitors battle it out to be the best and hopefully win, the referee is on hand to call out fouls or illegal actions, and the panel of judges ultimately decides the winner.

ComedySportz has two competitors (two comedy teams), a referee, and a panel of judges. Each team battles it out with hilarious jokes, skits, and songs. The referee is on hand to call foul, to relay suggestions from the audience, and to keep things moving right along. The panel of judges—which, in this case, is the audience—decides the winner of the bout via applause. It is a high-energy, fast-paced show that leaves spectators rolling in the aisles.

Another thing people do not necessarily associate with a comedy show is ghosts, but ComedySportz entertains in more than one way. It provides laughs, good company, and a family-friendly environment, and it also includes a paranormal element with its resident ghost—a spirit that apparently enjoys the shows as well!

The history of ComedySportz goes back 30 years to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a gentleman named Dick Chudnow. With a different structure than most comedy clubs, ComedySportz took off almost immediately, and another venue opened a year later in Madison, Wisconsin. Three years later, the first Comedy League of America National Tournament was held in Madison, with 10 teams participating. The World Comedy League now has more than 20 teams from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany, proving hands down that laughter is a universal language.

Donna Stewart ComedySportz Portland
Author Donna Stewart

ComedySportz came to Portland in 1993 with Ruth Jenkins and Patrick Short, who are not only performers but are also the club president and general manager, respectively. Their run in Portland has been impressive, with more than 3,000 shows in 18 seasons and never missing a weekend. Unlike most comedy clubs, ComedySportz is family friendly, with children of all ages welcome at the shows. It is not out of the ordinary to see 4-year-old children sitting next to 40-year-old adults, enjoying the laughs, smiles, and ongoing entertainment.

One has to wonder why more ghosts do not haunt comedy clubs. . . . What better place to spend eternity? Instead of hanging out in dark, dingy rooms or deserted hospitals, wouldn’t life after death be more fun with unlimited laughter and happy people? If I have a choice after I die, you will find my ghost at ComedySportz.

It seems that one woman did decide to remain at Comedy- Sportz, and over the years a number of people have seen the specter of a middle-aged woman with red hair and a contagious laugh. The ComedySportz ghost seems to especially enjoy  spending time in the costume closet and with movie outfits.

Objects often get moved from one place to another, and a quiet voice has been heard both throughout the building and in the costume closet in particular. If she is attempting to attract someone’s attention, she will knock on doors or walls or other solid objects to indicate she is there. She has also been known to flip on and off the lights and laugh hysterically.

No area of ComedySportz is off-limits for its mischievous ghost, including the bathroom. There are dozens of reports of toilets flushing on their own, either while the bathroom is unoccupied or while customers are in the privacy of a stall. Hearing a toilet flush on its own can be a bit unnerving to most people, but it has become part of the ghost’s charm and practical-joking sense of humor. Those who have experienced this particular form of paranormal activity warn that it is best to finish what they went into the bathroom for before running to an awaiting public.

I didn’t experience any of this while I was there and was honestly too busy laughing and pounding on my table. Most of the people I spoke with after the show were much like me in that they were laughing too hard to take notice of much else. But there are some who visit ComedySportz Portland on a regular basis who have heard the ghostly woman’s laughter and her knocks for attention, and a few who have experienced her bathroom pranks.

“I come in sometimes for the workshops or other things they have going on here,” said one young woman. “It’s much quieter during the day when there are no shows going on. I have heard her laughing and knocking on things. It’s not scary or anything. It’s neat that someone would want to hang out here after they died. I bet she was an awesome, funny person when she was alive!” I also spoke with a young man who volunteers at ComedySportz who has not only heard the laughter but seen lights go on and off for no apparent reason.

“I was by myself in a room the first time it happened, and it creeped me out,” he told me. “I was talking to myself, trying to calm down. Then I thought, ‘This is stupid, it’s just a light. It’s not like Freddy Krueger or anything!’ It’s happened a few times. There aren’t electrical problems at all. Just off and on. I think the ghost likes it here and likes to joke around. It’s not like ghosts you see in the movies or anything. It’s just interesting and fun after you get used to it.”

Not one person I spoke with felt any fear of the happy ghost that resides at ComedySportz. Most seem to know about her and simply consider her to be part of the audience and the ComedySportz family. And judging from the many reports of her hysterical laughter, she obviously appreciates the comedic talent that abounds at the club.

ComedySportz is proof that haunted locations do not have to be dark and frightening, spine tingling, or traumatizing, and I highly recommend catching a show while you are in Portland. I have always believed that we are in death what we were in life, that we carry our personalities with us, and if this is true, then this particular ghost is happy and content where she is.

ComedySportz Portland offers much more than comedy shows each week, including a number of workshops and classes. One of the top eight comedy schools in the nation, ComedySportz holds improv classes for both adults and youth, stand-up comedy classes, team building and applied improvisation for businesses, and a number of other ways to learn how to keep oneself and others laughing and entertained.

ComedySportz is also community oriented and gives back in many ways. It sets aside 15% of its pretax profits each year and chooses a charity to donate it to; some of the charities it has helped include the American Red Cross, Oregon Humane Society, Oregon Special Olympics, Oregon Food Bank, and Camp  Ukandu. ComedySportz makes people all over Oregon and across the country smile in many different ways.

ComedySportz provides a good example of ghosts not being the spooky, frightening entities we are used to seeing on paranormal reality television. In fact, in my experience, the spooky, frightening ghosts are the exception. What we often forget is that any ghost was once as alive as you and I and had families, friends, emotions, and unique personalities. I believe that these traits are carried over when we pass; the energy that we carry as we live only changes forms when we die. I often recall the quote from Patrick Swayze’s character Sam Wheat in the movie Ghost: “It’s amazing, Molly. The love inside . . . we take it with us. . . .”

That’s the truest reference to life after death I have heard. And in the case of the ghost at ComedySportz, she took to the other side her love for laughter and passion for practical jokes.

Ghosthunting Oregon

Ghosthunting Oregon
Ghosthunting Oregon

Donna Stewart takes readers to some of the spookiest haunts across the state including Oaks Park in Portland where visitors have reported a ghostly apparition of a child in the 1970s style dress, 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 apparitions and hearing voices. As a native Oregonian, Donna Stewart discovered her interest in the paranormal at a very early age in the early 1980s, a time when very few others were even aware of a paranormal community.

In 2004, along with cofounder Laura Schier, Stewart formed PSI of Oregon, working long and hard for a decade to make their team one of the most respected and sought after paranormal research teams in the area.

With a copy of Ghosthunting Oregon in hand, readers can visit some of the spookiest haunts across the state and compare their experiences.

America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30-100 haunted places 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.