Portland, OR, sits comfortably in America's Top 50 Best Places to Live, but the city's history wasn't always so rosy. In fact, many believe that the Old Portland Underground, a network of basement tunnels that once connected businesses to the waterfront, were used for a variety of illegal purposes. Others claim that the Portland Shanghai Tunnels are home to several ghosts. Today, locals and tourists enjoy the opportunity to explore the historic labyrinth in search of a real-life creepy legend.
Are the old tunnels beneath Portland really haunted? Did criminals actually transport human slaves underground to avoid the watchful eye of the law? Or are the stories yet another colorful piece of Oregon history, such as the frequent Bigfoot sightings at Crater Lake? There's evidence on both sides, but this much is definitely true: there are Portland Underground tunnels, and many people report having odd experiences there.
One of the most outrageous tales regarding Portland's Shanghai Tunnels claims ship crew members ate some Shanghaied individuals. The local legend of Bunko Kelly, AKA the Kidnapping King of Portland, may contain the first local reference to cannibalism. It also mentions trapdoors and pits filled with corpses.
Numerous reports of paranormal activity led Ghost Mine hosts Kim Lunman and Patrick Doyle to conduct a ghost hunt inside the tunnels in 2013. Visitors have shared many ghostly encounters in and around the tunnels. For example, it's common for people to hear crying, moaning, and screaming while taking a tour through the Portland Shanghai Tunnels. Some locals also claim to hear, see, and smell odd things in the nearby tavern and pizza restaurant.
Local newspaper The Oregonian pointed out that the tunnels included some very unique features in the early 1900s. For instance, there were trapdoors throughout the underground, which could have easily helped criminals escape police detection. Other security measures, such as secret panels and steel-barred doors, may have hid whatever criminal activity truly took place beneath Portland. Whether or not shanghaiing was among these activities, it's confirmed that the elaborate tunnel system connected several opium dens.
The majority of Portland's underground tunnels existed beneath the local Chinatown. There is some evidence that gangs of Chinese criminals, known as Tongs, were instrumental in building the tunnel system. These interconnected tunnels could have been used to transport illegal and stolen goods without police detection.