Hallowe'en is the time for ghostly tales. On October 30, the Woodstock Library featured storyteller Alton Takiyama-Chung, who told of 'The Haunts of Portland: Ghost Stories for a Rainy Night'.
Trained as a scientist, Chung now works as a professional storyteller. He was born in Hawai'i, where he found himself very much in tune with spiritual things. 'Hawai'i is an international meeting place of many people, and various cultures brought their own beliefs and legends when they arrived,' he explained. 'Many Hawai'ians feel that spirits are simply a part of their history and their everyday lives. We look for the meaning behind spiritual occurrences, which others might consider 'ghostly'.'
Chung recounted some of his own experiences with the supernatural. He told of a ghostly presence in an old house in Seattle, a 1949 murder beneath the St. John's Bridge, and the ghostly howling of a haunted canine who terrified a Reed College student in her S.E. Portland residence.
He also revealed a history of strange activities that occur regularly at Portland's White Eagle Tavern, as well as his own unsettling experiences during a tour of Portland's Shanghai Tunnels. Chung finished with a dark tale called 'The Dybbuk Box', a curio reportedly purchased at a Portland estate sale that gave identical nightmares to a succession of owners.
The Shanghai Tunnels beneath downtown Portland are a relic of the city's early 19th century history. Originally constructed to help merchants unload supplies from ships, the labyrinth became infamous prior to WW II as a way to kidnap men to sell them into slavery to unscrupulous ship captains who needed to fill out their crew before proceeding to the Far East.
Tours of parts of these tunnels can be accessed online at: www.portlandwalkingtours.com - where you can learn much of the fascinating history of Portland's shadier days.
Chung and two friends who were also trained in scientific observation joined one of the Tunnel tours. They saw secret trapdoors, cages where detainees were kept, a pile of confiscated logger's boots, and broken glass scattered on the floor to limit barefoot escape. They also heard distinct voices and saw movements where no one was standing.
Chung even recorded photographic evidence. In several of his photos, floating lights can be seen in the tunnel areas where he felt cold chills. In another photo, where one friend felt a distinct touch on the elbow, Chung's photo shows a ghostly figure nearby where none had been seen during the tour.
Chung also asked for ghostly experiences from the audience. He was fascinated to learn the history at Kay's Bar and Grill, opened in 1934 in Westmoreland. Current owner Patrick Morton had heard about haunted happenings and three deaths that had occurred there from the prior owner's family. Chung referred to some of his favorite research books, authored by Todd Cobb and Jeff Davis. 'It's a fascinating study,' he noted. 'If spirits bother you, then you should do something about it. Otherwise, it's just an interesting part of life.'
Subsequent interviews with employees at Kay's reveal that strange noises and ghostly presences have indeed been reported there for years - especially in the kitchen and stairwell. Bartender Kirk Duncan said that clanging and banging and unexplained happenings can occur sporadically at any time of day.
'Things like a stove burner turning off by itself, equipment moving, and many things falling off shelves,' he said. 'A woman bartender here distinctly heard her name whispered while she was alone in the kitchen. The strangest thing I've seen was on a security tape from the kitchen. You can see a backpack slide toward the edge of the counter, fall to the floor, and then slide in the opposite direction.'
Patrick Morton added to the tale. 'One morning I found a big metal kitchen counter lid left open. I checked the security tape from the night before, and saw that while the lid was closed at the end of the workday, and no one had come in overnight, it was open in the morning. No one ever sees anything happen, aside from a shadowy figure on an old photo of the kitchen,' he says. 'However, frequently kitchen equipment moves or falls from the walls.
'We'll go months with nothing strange happening, and then we'll have something unexplained occur. It seems to happen [most] when we make changes here. Recently, my handyman Chris Amick had a cordless drill turn on all by itself. Last week I was upstairs in the storage area when one of our CO2 bottles at the base of the stairs mysteriously became unscrewed and began spraying CO2 out at full blast. At first I was freaked out that it was a safety problem, but after I turned off the handle, I figured it was just one of those unsettling things that happen here.'
Kay's Bar is on the northwest corner of S.E. Bybee Boulevard and Milwaukie Avenue, if you'd care to investigate for yourself.
And, it's not just in businesses. Many homes are the scene of reportedly strange or ghostly things. This reporter vividly recalls a brutal murder that occurred 32 years ago in the Brooklyn neighborhood, and which remains unsolved to this day.
The current owner of the house where the young woman was killed had been feeling 'increasingly dark and depressing vibes' over the years. She finally contacted a spiritual professional to come in and bless the house, to bring back a sense of peace.
Although the homeowner wishes to remain anonymous, she reported that her home now seems much 'brighter and calmer' after the procedure, and she's glad she had it done.
This reporter would be interested in hearing of any other ghostly incidents in our Inner Southeast neighborhoods - especially around Hallowe'en.