Spell-binding Halloween Thrills Await Fall Travelers in the Pacific Northwest
Halloween, the ancient Celtic holiday that marked the end of the harvest and transition to winter, was originally called the “bridge to the world of the dead.”
This “bridge,” and all its Halloween horror, isn’t confined to Celtic lore anymore. It’s waiting for travelers looking for a new road trip idea aside from fall foliage. And it’s waiting for them in Portland Oregon.
Portland Oregon, known as the “City of Roses” also plays host as a Halloween “City of Horrors” with their own Halloween walking tours of Portland’s paranormal. Portland’s gritty, maritime history is the perfect backdrop for off-beat haunted walking tours.
In the 1840’s, pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail to settle in Portland. Jobs were plentiful due to its proximity to the railroads and Willamette and Columbia rivers. Portland emerged as a major Pacific Northwest port town.
The flood of workers that passed through the port triggered many saloons and gambling dens to entertain the multitude of workers. Many of these establishments were connected by underground tunnels to help racketeering or allow patrons to pass between businesses unseen. Legend has it that drunken patrons were kidnapped and transported through these tunnels to work in servitude on other merchant ships.
Portland grew a reputation for being “violent and dangerous.” It was one of the most dangerous port cities in the world.
This grizzly history is preserved today by a series of guided historic tours outlined below. Each tour includes visitor’s information to survive the spooks and chills guests will likely encounter.
Underground Portland Tour
History/Features: The Underground Portland Tour highlights Portland’s Old Town Chinatown district history. Tours include a walk through underground tunnels that start under the former Merchant Hotel. Tour guides also share legends of ghost sightings within these passageways that are over 150 years old.
Guide Contacts: Two companies currently provide guided treks for the Underground Portland Tour. Portland Walking Tours provides tour ticket purchases online or by calling (503) 774–4522. The Cascade Geographic Society also provides online tour ticket purchases or by calling (503) 622–4798.
Meeting Locations: Portland Walking Tour participants start the tour inside the old Merchant Hotel at 131 NW 2nd Avenue in Portland. The Cascade Geographic Society participants start their tour inside Hobo’s Restaurant, at 120 NW 3rd Avenue in Portland.
Tour Dates/Times Available: Tours provided by the Portland Walking Tours group are available daily and run all year long. Tours start at 11:00 am, 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Tours provided by the Cascade Geographic Society are available Monday through Friday, between 6:30 and 9:00 pm. Tours are also available Saturday and Sunday, between 4:00 and 9:00 pm all year round.
Length of Tour: Tours run between one and a half and two hours long.
Getting There: Take Portland’s public transit Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) Light Rail on the Red or Blue lines to the Old Town/Chinatown MAX Station. Head west on NW Davis Avenue and then turn left at either NW 2nd or NW 3rd Avenues. Car parking is available at City Center Parking, located at 150 NW Davis Street — Lot #134.
Beyond Bizarre Tour
History/Features: The Beyond Bizarre tour arranges for professional ghost hunters to show techniques to identify and understand paranormal sightings. Visitors are fitted with ghost hunting equipment to go into the city’s maze of tunnels to learn about different types of haunted sightings.
Guide Contacts: Tours tickets can be purchased online through Portland Walking Tours or by calling (503) 774–4522.
Meeting Location: The meeting point is at the same starting point as the Portland Walking Tours, which begins inside the Merchant Hotel at NW 2nd Avenue.
Tour Dates/Times Available: Tours are available year round Thursday through Sunday, starting at 6:00 pm. Tours for visitors’ 18-and-over only start at 9:00 pm.
Length of Tour: The Beyond Bizarre Tour is less than two and a half hours long.
Getting there: Portland’s MAX Light Rail is your best source for public transit to reach this paranormal event. Take the Red or Blue lines to the Old Town/Chinatown MAX Station. Head west on NW Davis Avenue and then turn left at NW 2nd Avenue. Convenient City Center Parking is available at 150 NW Davis Street, Lot #134.
Old Town Pizza Parlor Tour
History/Features: Just a few steps away from the Beyond Bizarre and Underground Portland Tour meeting sites is the Old Town Pizza Parlor, located in the original lobby of the old Merchant Hotel. Old Town Pizza Parlor patrons can partake in exclusive tours of the hotel that offered backroom brothels in the late 1800’s.
Visitors will hear the story of Nina, a young prostitute who was mysteriously murdered in the hotel after sharing brothel secrets with traveling missionaries who tried to rescue her. Legend has it that she was thrown down one of the hotel’s elevator shafts and continues to haunt the facility with her weeping to this day.
Guide Contacts: Tickets for the Old Town Pizza Parlor tour can be purchased online from Beerquest Walking Tours or by calling (503) 389–8300.
Meeting Locations: The Old Town Pizza Parlor tour is part of a two-historic pub tour that includes a visit to Kell’s Irish Restaurant and Pub. Tours start at Kell’s, located at 112 SW 2nd Avenue in Portland.
Tour Dates/Times Available: Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 7:00 pm and on Sundays, starting at 3:30 pm. Check the Beerquest website for available dates.
Length of Tour: Tours last approximately two hours and 30 minutes.
Getting There: Take Portland’s MAX light rail on the Orange or Green line to the Skidmore Fountain MAX Station. Head west on SW Ankeny Street. Turn left on SW 2nd Avenue and head south for two blocks. Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub is on the left-hand side and located between SW Ash and SW Pine Streets. Car parking is located at 100 SW Ash Street, on the corner of SW 1st and SW Ash Streets.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery Tour of Untimely Departures
History/Features: The Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery was established in 1855 and is listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register for Historic Places. Many of Portland’s original founders and prominent citizens are among the 25,000 departed souls buried on Lone Fir’s 30 acres.
Every Halloween, Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is the location for the mysterious Tour of Untimely Departures. Ghostly guides escort groups of guests on candle-lit routes where they meet actors portraying some of the cemetery’s residents and hear stories about the unusual circumstances surrounding their deaths.
Guide Contacts: The Tour of Untimely Departures is presented by Portland’s Metro Council, with support from the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery. For ticket information, please contact the Historic Cemeteries division at Portland’s Metro Council at (503) 797–1709.
Meeting Locations: Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is located at 2115 SE Morrison Street in southeast Portland.
Tour Dates/Times Available: Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is open to the public 365 days of the year from dawn to dusk. Contact Portland’s Metro Council for Tour of Untimely Departures dates and times.
Length of Tour: Tours last approximately 45 minutes.
Getting There: Cars enter the cemetery on Southeast 26th Avenue between Stark and Morrison Streets. Visitors can also take public transit to the cemetery on Portland’s TriMet Bus service, route 15. Bus stops are located at SE Belmont and 20th (stop #406) and SE Morrison and 18th (stop #4022.)
So consider Portland for your next fall road trip adventure. Try your hand at paranormal ghost hunting or witness poor Nina’s sad and haunting lament in person. The City of Roses is sure to deliver an unforgettable Halloween frolic, complete with accompanying “shivers running down your spine.”