Shanghai Tunnel

For some Halloween-related kicks, I thought I’d try a ghost-hunting endeavor and experience the Beyond Bizarre Walking Tour.

There are several different tours offered by Portland Walking Tours. There’s the Underground Walking Tour, where guests descend into the subterranean areas of downtown Portland to learn about the city’s seedy history. There’s also the Way Beyond Bizarre Tour, which is more expensive, more detailed and sells out quickly. It features real ghost-hunters and a clairvoyant.

The tour I chose consisted of an outdoor walk past several businesses, a visit to the Benson Hotel, and time spent in the basement of the Merchant Hotel Building on NW Davis Street, which is said to have a resident ghost referred to as Nina, a working girl who was murdered. Our tour guide told us stories about Portland’s haunted history while we strolled along, and we were each handed EMF meters, devices used by real ghost-hunters to detect electromagnetic fields.

Our guide entertained us with the story of a switchboard operator who worked at the Benson Hotel. Her back was to the door as she worked, but a mirror was in place so she could see people entering the room and could continue working without having to turn around to face them. She noticed a man in the mirror wearing a top hat. She asked if she could help him, but he did not answer. So she turned around to find no one was there. The door was closed and locked. She looked in the mirror again and watched him leave and close the door.

She discussed the event with her supervisor, who did not act surprised and suggested she speak with the bartender, who had also seen the man. The two employees searched through old photos and found a picture of the same man cutting the ribbon at the Benson Hotel’s inaugural event. It was none other than Simon Benson.

We left the hotel and continued our stroll. We were told that in the old days Hotel Lucia had stables where guests kept their horses. A stable boy reportedly tied up a cat and abused the poor thing. Several guests of the hotel have reported seeing a cat in their room. Once they shoo it into the hallway, they can no longer find it. The reports are the same – a mangy white cat.

Our guide told us about an experience during another tour. While walking down Stark Street, a tour guest suddenly felt a stabbing pain in his side. He was so affected by it he stopped and laid down on the street. His guide helped him move to another location, where he felt completely better. It turns out that a few years ago, a fight broke out in Club Rouge and a man was stabbed in the stomach. I noticed my EMF meter detected high activity on the corner of 4th Avenue.

We also visited the “mystery parking lot” on 2nd and Stark. Our guide claimed no one knows why the EMF meter readings increase in that lot. He said on another tour, a woman brought along her dog. The pooch refused to enter the parking lot and had to be walked all the way around it to continue the tour.

We ended up back at the Merchant building, where we took a short flight of stairs into the basement. It connects to the Shanghai Tunnels. Only a very short portion of the tunnel was visible. The city filled in the tunnels to avoid dangers of sinkholes.

We used our EMF meters to try finding Nina. She was a prostitute who was planning on leaving the business, but was thrown down an elevator shaft. Near her body was found the word “Nina” carved into the wall. No one knows what her real name was, thus she is referred to as Nina.

Our guide related the story of another tour in which a girl stared into a corner of that basement, seemingly in a trance. She said “She’s coming toward me. She’s not angry, but says her name is not Nina. She doesn’t know why people call her that.” The girl’s friend touched her shoulder and asked if she were alright. The girl then “woke” from the trance and didn’t remember any of it.

Well, I didn’t see any ghosts, no spirit pulled my hair and my pics were all orb-free. But while taking photos of the remaining portion of the Shanghai Tunnel, I found myself alone in the basement. Everyone else had gone back upstairs. As I started to leave, I decided to try one last time. So I said aloud, “Nina, are you here?” My EMF meter briefly shot all the way up to red. I have no idea what caused it. I do not claim that her ghost contacted me. After all, the guide warned us that the pipes in the basement can give off false readings. But the timing of it leaves me wondering…

Beyond Bizarre Walking Tour

7 pm family friendly
10 pm for 18+ crowd
Check website for availability

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