Ghost-Dodging in Portland

“Some people swear they’ve seen her,” Ben the bartender said.

“One guy described her in detail, down to the bows on her shoes. He said he saw her sitting right there, in that chair next to you,” he added pointing to my right. “Sometimes, if I feel an eerie presence around, I’ll leave that chair down when I put the others up for the night. Just in case.”

How comforting.

"The Three Little Kittens" in Mrs. Drew's Room. Who wouldn't sleep with their headlamp on?

I’d just checked in at the Kennedy School in Northeast Portland, an old school house that was in operation from 1915-1975, which the McMenamin brothers bought and refurbished in 15 years ago.

Complete with a theater and soaking pool, it’s one of nine historic buildings the McMenamin Empire (of pubs, breweries, wineries, distilleries, music venues, you name it) has bought and converted into hotels.

The most recent addition to their collection is the Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland, which was once a classic ballroom. Another interesting one is the Edgefield, which was an old poor farm originally built in 1911 at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. The McMenamins make a habit of preserving some of the historic elements of each place while infusing their own aesthetic.

My “hotel” room wasn’t numbered; it was simply called Mrs. Drew’s Room. The lighting was so dim I had to put on my headlamp to get things organized. That’s when I saw the cats painted on my wall, dancing around, along with lyrics to the nursery rhyme, “Three Little Kittens (Wearing Mittens).”

Looking down on Boiler Room Bar from above.

If that isn’t creepy, I don’t know what is.

“Some say it was suicide — that the girl just lost it and killed herself after school in her classroom,” Ben said from his post at the Boiler Room Bar (which used to be, you guessed it, the school’s old boiler room). “But no one really knows.”

I decided to stop asking questions, and sat there sipping my Monkey Puzzle whiskey (another McMenamins product) and munching on a “Grateful Veg” flatbread wrap, when a couple joined me at the bar.

“It’s true. I never come to any of the McMenamin places anymore. I only did tonight because my friend here made me,” one of the pair, Amina, said. “I think they practice witchcraft,” she went on, dropping her voice to a whisper.

I stared at my half-eaten sandwich.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” her guy friend said.

“You should know about these sort of things — you were abducted for 10 years,” Amina shot back at her friend.

They both started laughing.

“Abducted?” I asked hesitantly, not sure if it was a joke or serious.

“Yep. We laugh to mask the painful things. It’s why he won’t tell you his real name,” Amina said with a smile. “Go ahead, ask him.”

He just shook his head and laughed. I didn’t push it any further.

Abduction, witchcraft, little girl ghosts? I’d had about enough.

“I don’t know about witchcraft, but some of those photos in the halls are really freaky,” the guy-friend conceded. “There’s always that one creepy girl in all of them. It’s like she’s staring right through you.”

This painting was based on an old photo. The girl in the foreground is said to haunt the schoolhouse.

After a few more minutes of this talk, I said goodnight and went back to my room. By myself.

It was nearly 1:00 a.m.

I strapped on my headlamp for the night and barely slept a wink.

That may have had something to do with the ungodly snoring coming from the next room. Come sunrise, I can say that I hadn’t had any supernatural encounters. But I can’t say I’ll be returning to the Kennedy School any time soon, at least not all by my lonesome.

Extra-Creepy Footnote:

Two nights later, while staying at the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, I learned from one of the servers at the restaurant there that a young woman had been murdered on the fourth floor, which she now haunted. When I stupidly asked what room number she was murdered in, the server replied #408.

I almost choked. It was, of course, my room. Another sleepless night ensued.

I’m pleased to report that since Seattle I have not faced any other supposed hauntings, and anytime I hear anyone mention the word ghost, I plug my ears and walk away.

Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer

Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.

Comments

  1. Michael
    June 27, 2012, 4:08 pm

    Sounds spooky and fun- the kind of thing to do with a few friends- people whose doors you can knock on at 2AM!!

    You sure are packing in a selw of experiences. Keep up the great writing and the sharp photos.

    M

  2. Ben
    June 27, 2012, 8:17 pm

    yes, those cats definitely are creepy!

  3. Lundin & Michael
    Big Bear, CA
    June 28, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Glad you made it out safe, good thing those kittens had mittens. We’re traveling with you in spirit!

  4. Alan
    Vista, CA
    June 28, 2012, 10:08 pm

    Shannon: Somehow you manage to make it sound scary, creepy and funny all at the same time! Good work!

  5. Alyssa ramirez
    california
    January 25, 2013, 8:08 pm

    all these pics scare me and make me pee my pants! sh** I just did. gtg bye.