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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
In search of the Stone House (part 2)
Click here for part 1 of this not-even-slightly thrilling saga.
Based on its ominous name and the vague rumors I'd heard all those years back, I was expecting to find the house in a dark corner of Forest Park. Tucked away at the end on a poorly maintained trail. I figured I'd somehow wind up lost in the park and wander in circles for hours before it appeared in front of me as if by magic. Inside a bubbling cauldron would no doubt be waiting. According to the map, it would take around 45 minutes to get up to the Stone House.
To be honest, it only took around 30.
The Stone House actually sits on a small hill overlooking a stream on a trail that, on that Sunday, was overloaded with families, panting pooches slow-moving day hikers in spotless Nikes. If it hadn't been for the slow moving group that insisted of walking two abreast up the trail, I could have made it up there in 15 minutes. Still, even in broad daylight and beside a packed trail the place is fairly freaky. Have a look:
C'mon, isn't that the stuff of nightmares? Just imagine what it looks like after dark. Think I'm overselling the Stone House? Just wait until you read this next paragraph.
According to Portland Parks and Recreation, the house's lease was never in the hands of a kiddie-chomping witch or a depraved recluse. According to Portland Parks and Recreation it was once a...bathroom. Here's the rundown from their website:
This structure was built in the mid-1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a public restroom. The infamous Columbus Day storm on October 12, 1962, took out the water line. Because the structure had been heavily vandalized over the years, the decision was made to gut the building rather than embark on costly repairs. It remains as a favorite spot to rest along the trail.
I didn't bother to do any research on the Stone House before embarking, preferring to see it first without the back-story and drunk on my naive presumptions. I'd come all this way for a mold-covered, glorified Port-a-Potty.
None of the bathroom fixtures remain and all that's left of the second floor is a ceiling-less husk covered in moss. Based on the evidence at hand, I assumed the place was easily a century old and may have been built by a freeloading hermit or bored future benefactor in the days before the city acquired all those acres.
But despite the clear February afternoon, the place was still disconcerting. Faded red paint covered spots on a wall on the second floor. A small doorway downstairs led to a dark room covered in graffiti and broken glass. At some point, someone had apparently used it as a bedroom. This place could be the local hobo equivalent of a youth hostel.
The oddest detail was a bent safety bar on the second floor.
Who or what did this? Your guess is as good as mine. My money is on "sledgehammer."
Also nearby was this note under a rock:
As a public service, I've transcribed it here:
"2/11/05 5:30 PM
I found a diary here. Email me: [address deleted to prevent spam for attacking this kind soul's email account. Click on the pic for a closer look].
I live near here. I won't read anything. It seems to have been lost."
Missing diaries? Graffiti? Abandoned bed sheets? Sure, the Stone House isn't worthy of a Grimm's fairy tale but it's still at least slightly creepy. Not nearly as creepy as the still operational bathrooms in the Park Blocks but give it some credit.
After hiking up the trail a ways, I returned to the stone house as the sun began to dip below the horizon. By then, all the families and dogs had vacated the park. On that quite Sunday evening, as I took the picture you see above, I could have sworn I heard someone whispering in the dark room on the first floor. The voice crackled and sounded like it was over a hundred years old. It was a woman's voice and it said....
...."Scientology is the bridge across that chasm, from a lower to a much higher level of existence – a brighter happier world. Won't you please accept this free pamphlet?"
OK, maybe not but at least I tried.
Here's to the Stone House. May the it perplex hikers and their dogs for many years to come. Long live the Stone House!