Most Haunted Cities in America: Portland

Everywhere you visit there are tales of things that go “bump in the night”. Every town has ghost stories that cause the heart to beat faster and goosebumps to rise.

There are several stories in particular that have grown so much, they could not be ignored. Such as the sleepy river town, Portland, OR. Portland is no stranger to the haunts of the past, haunts that won't soon be forgotten. 


Portland is known for the terrifying “Shanghai Tunnels”, a series of historic tunnels that run beneath Old Chinatown. The tunnels were originally used in the mid-19th century, originally known as “Portland Underground”. The tunnels were connected to various bars, hotels, and restaurants along the riverfront ports of Willamette River. The tunnels were meant to be a highway for supplies that came into port for various businesses. The supplies would then be transported from Willamette River Port to the basements of businesses for storage. However, along the way, the tunnels took a turn for the spooky and earned their now infamous nickname of the“Shanghai Tunnels”.

Between, 1850 and 1941 these tunnels turned into a hotspot for criminal activity. It is said that unsuspecting male patrons of the various businesses above the labyrinth were often slipped knock-out drops and dropped through trapdoors into the tunnels to be carted to the port and sold for “blood money” to the sea captains who needed crews. This practice was known as shanghaiing. Men were not the only patrons to fall into the unsavory practice; women were often taken and sold as prostitutes in the same manner.

It is said that during Prohibition, many bars moved their operations underground. Unfortunately, this allowed many more unsuspecting victims to fall to the practice of shanghaiing. All though no hard evidence has been unearthed due to many of the tunnels collapsing, researchers believed that more than 1,500 people were trafficked through the Shanghai Tunnels.

Many believe that the tunnels now house the lost souls of those that were taken and sold to the sea. There have been claims that many have heard the cries and moans of men and women who tried to fight their way out of the tunnels. It is unknown how many lost their lives in the tunnels but from what we know one can only assume that more than the predicted 1500 succumbed to death.

Though there is no solid evidence that everything truly happened the way that the locals say, you can be the judge for yourself.

Are you ready to dive into the stories of the past that merged with the present? Tour the Shanghai Tunnels for yourself and make your own conclusions about what happened in the underground catacombs of Portland, Oregon.

-Erin, GT Agent

Be sure to check out our other Most Haunted Cities in America blog features, such as last week's Salem feature and our previous New Orleans feature.