Explore the horrors of Portland ghosts in haunted tour

Sam Dunn and Clare Sherman

Haunted houses have always been one of the main events on Halloween. In hopes of experiencing something new this fall, two Tualatin High School students branched out to face new levels of fear. While visiting locations such as the Benson Hotel and the Parking Lot of Death, Wolf staff writers Clare Sherman and Samantha Dunn confronted their worst nightmare: ghosts.

The tour started at 7 p.m. in front of the Lan Su Chinese Gardens. The first stop was at the foot of the Merchant Hotel, one of the main spots where people could access the Shanghai Tunnels. During the 1870s, Portland was known for two things: vast amounts of lumber and the human trafficking that took place under their feet. The Shanghai Tunnels were originally used as a way to transport goods back and forth from the harbor to businesses. Yet, due to the fact that they were hidden from the public eye, they ended up becoming a hotspot for crime. Brandon, our extraverted tour guide, took it upon himself to lighten the grim atmosphere all while keeping a hold on his audience with suspenseful story-telling.

Coming up to the Benson Hotel, Brandon guided us through the hauntings of the ghost Simon Benson, the founder of the hotel, who was known to have a potent hatred for alcohol and therefore did not include a bar in the original hotel. Years after his death, he has been seen at the newly-constructed bar messing with people drinking, often seen knocking drinks out of people’s hands or judging from afar. After hearing these stories, we didn’t feel frightened but were inclined to see for ourselves if the tales were true.

Walking further up the street we came upon a spot dubbed “The Parking Lot of Death.” While at the Benson Hotel, the mood was lighthearted, but here all we felt was dread. As the story goes, this parking lot used to be a burial site for the Chinook Native Americans. When the white settlers arrived and dug up the corpses of the Chinook ancestors, some speculated that they may have cast a curse over the land and doomed any business built on the property to fail. After renting an EMF detector – a device used to measure electromagnetic fields – from the tour guide, we were able to bring it into the parking lot to see what kinds of evil energy we could detect. The red light was lit the entire time, signaling that we were indeed in the presence of real ghosts.

We came out of the tour feeling shocked and frightened, not only by the ghosts but by the brutal history of Old Town Portland. For $25 per adult (ages 13 and above), this venture was worth the cost. We were brought to four haunted locations across the span of an hour and felt the presence of lots of spirits along the way. 

If you want to experience this tour firsthand, visit the Portland Ghosts website and choose one of their many available times, 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Sam Dunn photographed by Isabella Kneeshaw.
Clare Sherman photographed by Isabella Kneeshaw.