Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ghost Lights in Portland, Oregon

I went on a fabulous excursion this weekend that took me to the lush, rain-soaked city of Portland, Oregon. My fellow writer friend, Diana McCollum, and I made the 3 1/2 hour drive west over the Cascades to attend a Rose City Romance Writers meeting on Saturday, but we went a day early so we could play tourist and see some city sites.

In downtown Portland, we took the Shanghai Tunnel walking tour of Olde Town with an exuberant tour guide who regaled us with awesome stories of Portland's seedy past. Good stuff! The term Shanghai has nothing to do with China, but everything to do with unsuspecting citizens and visitors to the city, who were kidnapped and forced into slave labor on ships that came into port. That's just how life was in Portland in the 1800s. It was called "crimping" and the crimpers had more power than the Mafia.

There were lots of saloons and brothels that were always crowded with seamen or seamen-soon-to-be (patrons who got drunk, passed out, were rolled up in a tarp and deposited on a ship's deck, only to wake up and find themselves miles out to sea with no way back to shore). To make it more convenient for customers and keep them drinking, a urinal was installed as part of the saloon's bar so the guys never had to get up to go outside and take a leak. They relieved themselves right where they stood. Eew.

Another interesting fact: Whistling indoors was considered vulgar in those days and not allowed. This was because sailors whistled on the ships and since sailors were the lowest class citizens with no rights whatsoever, whistling inside a saloon, or anywhere for that matter, was as bad as farting in church. It's something you just didn't do. Pissing at the bar, where you pounded down copious amounts of ale, however, was totally acceptable. Does this strike you as wrong as it does me?

There are many tales of the city being haunted, especially in the building where Olde Town Pizza is. I was hoping to see, or sense, a ghost while I was there. Our guide took us to the basement, which used to be part of the underground tunnel system. Those tunnels no longer intersect the buildings underground because there was a problem with homeless people using them as shelters, junkies using them to shoot up, and criminals using them to hide in. So now they're just basements, but creepy and old and haunted--so they say. Anyway, our group sat in a circle, inside the tunnel, in the pitch dark, while our guide told us more tales of Portland's sordid history. Very cool. I, of course, had to take pictures even though I couldn't see anything. I figured my flash would be enough to light up the room.

And look what I got!

Ghost lights! You may have to enlarge the pictures to see them better, but these ghostly orbs showed up in the photos! Is that cool or what?

I'm infatuated with the television show Grimm, which is filmed on location in Portland. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the actors, as several of them live in Portland, like Silas Weir Mitchel. Also Danny Bruno, who plays one of the beaver (or Eisbiber) characters, Bud. Danny is a personal friend of our tour guide. Anyway, I didn't spot any actors (sniff), but I did get a shot of the apothecary shop (scroll to the bottom of the page on the apothecary link to see the photos) often seen on the show, which is actually a real tea shop in Olde Town Portland. This is the photo I took:

I had an awesome time on my mini vacation with Diana and our gracious hostess Sarah McDermid, who is Diana's sister. We attended the Rose City Romance Writers meeting the next day and I finally got to meet many of the ladies I only knew by name and had never met in person. It was great!

Here's a photo of Diana (left) and Sarah (right) in front of Sarah's house yesterday afternoon, just before we left to head back to the High Desert town of Bend, Oregon.


Diana Mcc. said...

OMG! A picture of us! Hey, you are a wonderful traveling companion. I can't wait to check my pictures and see if I picked up any ghost spots. I do believe in spirits/ghosts. And the basement seemed the perfect spot for a 'haunt'.

Sarah Raplee said...

I am sooo not a photographer, but i took a ouple of photos as well with my phone. The only thing that showed up is a flashlight beam - I'd forgotten my phone doesn't have a flash! LOL

You got a mess of orbs in your photos. The Shanghai Tunnels are supposed to be one of the most haunted places in America.

A great time was had by all!

Miss Viola said...

Loved your blog and now want to go on that tour! I liked your mention of whistling indoors being vulgar. My mother shared with me when I was quite young a saying from Texas in the '30s and '40s "A whistling woman and a cackling hen come to no good end." ~ Viola

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Diana, Sara and Viola! The tour is definitely worth the time and rain. Ha! I loved it!

Marie Harte said...

What a terrific post! I'm jealous. Wish I could have gone. The tour sounds fascinating, and hey, you got to go to the RCRW meeting as well.



Karen Duvall said...

We wish you'd been able to join us, Marie, but there's always next time. :) There's tons to do there. We'll have a ball.

Judith Ashley said...

The ghost lights were great! Thanks for sharing, Karen. Love the picture of Diana and Sarah or maybe it's Sarah and Diana? I've lived in Portland for most of my life and while I've heard of the tunnels and some of the stories you told, I've never done the tour. And, while I knew about the crimpers, I didn't know you could stand at the bar, drink, and pee!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Judith! You should take the tour, it's terrific. Isn't that funny about the men peeing at the bar? Just so they don't lose their seat because it's so crowded. Ha!

I used to manage a graphics department and we had print consultants who were nonstop busy all the time. One of them told me she'd had a dream that they all had porta-potties at their desks so they wouldn't have to take time out to go to the bathroom. LOL! I felt kind of guilty when she told me that. Was I working them that hard? Nah. :)

Paty Jager said...

Wow! You ladies had a great time! Wish I hadn't been at the family gathering and been with you. Much more fun! LOL

Patricia Stoltey said...

This tour sounds like so much fun. I've never been to Portland.