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Friday, October 20, 2006
I'd only heard a few of the tall tales surrounding "Witch's Castle," AKA "the stone house," in Macleay Park when I made a trip up there last February. I can't remember anything specific but while growing up in SW Portland I recall hearing tales of a mysterious stone structure near the larger Forest Park where Satanists and ghost hang out- a sort of social club for the freaky and the undead. During my trip I took a few pictures and found only joggers and hikers up there instead of ghouls and people with "666" tattooed on their foreheads.
A little internet research turned up the real story behind Witch's Castle. The old stone structure is, or was, a restroom (link leads to a PDF) built by the Works Progress Administration during the Depression. Over the decades it was heavily vandalized. The 1962 Columbus Day Storm served the structure its death blow. The bathroom has been out of service ever since.
The place is creepy even in the middle of the day so it's no wonder that it has been the inspiration for at least a few urban legends. Many of the ones I've read recently are fueled by the 1858 murder of Mortimer Stump, the young beau of the original landowner's daughter. One of the more popular legends suggests that Witch's Castle plays host to a "ghost battle" every night at midnight between the spirits of everyone involved in the murder. I poked around on Google and wound up at a site called Real Haunts which contains a brief, wildly incorrect history of the place and a forum full of speculation.
One towards the bottom though includes an article written for the Northwest Paranormal Times. An excerpt:
It is said that on certain nights- exactly at midnight, a horde of ghosts rise up and take possession of the ruin. Shortly thereafter, another group of spirits, arrive from the forest and a spectacular ghost battle ensues. Voices have been heard uttering the names of both Danford Balch and Mortimer Stump, along with a cacophony of other chatter.