Oregon City gets into spirit of spooky gathering
Conference on ghost hunting finds it way to a few local haunts
Oregon City logs another first this weekend: the launch of the Oregon Ghost Conference, presented by Northwest Ghost Tours, Paranormal Insights and West Coast Ghost Hunters.
'There's not a better place to do this than Oregon City, because it's the state's oldest city, and there's a lot of creepy history that comes with that,' said Rocky Smith Jr., who's been organizing the event with William Becker during the past several months.
Smith and Becker hope that Oregon City will be an ideal host for the conference annually, because many of its historic houses have been moved, and some old graves have been moved. 'Father of Oregon' John McLoughlin has been moved in both ways, Smith noted.
The first Oregon Ghost Conference takes place at the Pioneer Community Center, 615 Fifth St., from Friday, March 9, to Sunday, March 11. The conference includes guest speakers and authors from all across the Pacific Northwest and the western United States, including Jeff Davis, author of 'Weird Oregon,' and Jeff Dwyer, who wrote the 'Ghost Hunter's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area.'
Smith has documented almost 100 haunted places in Oregon City since he started researching paranormal activity in 1995. In 2001, he combined a love of history and knowledge of the paranormal to create Northwest Ghost Tours. He leads regular 'Walk with the Spirits' tours in Oregon City.
'You could say this came about pretty organically,' Smith said. 'I've been talking about this conference for a few years, and there's an amazing amount of paranormal groups in the Pacific Northwest, and just because of my knowledge of Oregon City history, I was being asked to go to a lot of different events throughout the region.'
When other annual Pacific Northwest paranormal events recently fell by the wayside, Smith decided it was time to bring experts and enthusiasts alike to the real mecca of spiritual phenomena.
Smith never predicted that the enthusiasm would be greater in Oregon City than in past ghost conventions elsewhere, as measured by the number of groups and people registered to come.
The Rivershore Best Western Hotel in downtown Oregon City has already booked dozens of rooms for the weekend, and the conference has apparently been responsible for most of these reservations.
It's being marketed as 'an added bonus' for the conference that the Rivershore Hotel itself is rumored to be haunted.
On Friday, March 9, from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., the kickoff ghost tour and investigation of downtown Oregon City's 'most active haunts' takes those brave enough along the river's edge from the hotel through downtown.
'We tend to forget that we have a product to market our city that doesn't involve a building, but there are other ways we can promote tourism,' Smith said. 'I'm starting to get really excited, and it's really bringing people into Oregon City.'
Although organizers will have a few spirit-locating devices for loan, participants are being asked to bring their own handheld equipment for detecting paranormal activity. A caveat from the brochure: 'Paranormal entities are not always reliable, but you just may have your very own paranormal experience.'
Focused on history and paranormal stories, Smith's main goal is to create another way to share Oregon City's history with the region.
A Canemah Cemetery tour will be less about paranormal activity and more about the historic significance of the site that's rarely open to visitors.
Proceeds from the tour's $5 suggested donation will go to the nonprofit association that runs the cemetery.
Classes are priced at $10 simply to cover the expenses of putting on the conference. Becker's 'Finding Your Psychic Voice' class is Sunday from noon to 1 p.m., and is designed to help people find and develop their psychic intuition.
'I will guide you through a process to allow your own psychic abilities to unfold from within,' Becker promises in the brochure. 'This is a hands on, practical class, appropriate for people exploring their gifts for the first time, through those with experience using their gifts, but looking to improve their understanding and abilities.'
Ellen Allmendinger will lead a class on 'Beginning Ethereal Projection' on Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m. to provide techniques for better understanding of 'earth itself and other cultures both present and past' without physically moving.
While Allmendinger's class is for adults, at the same time at the Pioneer Center, Smith and Rob St. Helen will offer 'Ghost Hunting for Kids.'
For more information about the full slate of weekend paranormal activities, visit oregonghostconference.com.