Not all ghosts are created equally scary. There are a few local spirits who had great lives during their time in Portland and have stuck around as spirits to let the good times keep on rollin.’ If your fright tolerance is not up to par for the usual October shenanigans but the paranormal still piques your interest, here are the deets on some very chill Portland ghosts for your seasonal enjoyment.
Who: Simon Benson
Simon Benson (b. 1852) was a businessman and philanthropist whose name is all over the Portland area. There’s Benson State Park in the Columbia Gorge, Benson Bubbler water fountains all over downtown, and the Simon Benson House itself on the PSU campus, which was moved to its current location from SW 11th and Clay in 2000.
Although he left an indelible mark on the city, Benson didn’t arrive in Portland until 1880, at the ripe old age of 28. Born in Norway, he lived in Manhattan and Wisconsin before bringing his wife and son to Portland to pursue a logging fortune. Upon achieving success, Benson used his wealth to influence the shape of turn-of-the century Portland. He contributed heavily to tourism, building multiple hotels and investing in the Columbia River Highway.
The bubbling water fountains that have survived until present day are more than quaint, delightful artifacts: they are monuments to Benson’s teetotaling lifestyle. Benson installed them to sate midday workers who may use their “thirst” as an excuse to stop into a bar during lunch.
Haunts: The Benson Hotel
Built in 1913 and originally named the Oregon Hotel, the establishment steadily lost money for over a year until Benson assumed control and renamed the business after himself. The Benson Hotel is still in operation and, frankly, classy A.F.
There are reports of many apparitions and hauntings within the well-maintained landmark, including, of course, the hotel’s namesake. Benson is reported to be a benign presence; stories of his hauntings include him sitting in on hotel management meetings and, as per his larger-than-life disparagement of alcohol comsumption, disapprovingly knocking over patrons’ alcoholic beverages. Some say that his ghost is triggered to visit the hotel when a rare Yelp or printed complaint becomes known.
Who: Henry and Georgiana Pittock
Henry and Georgiana Pittock had been a preeminent couple in Portland society of yore. Both arriving in Stumptown separately via overland wagons, the couple married in 1860 and had five children.
The following year, Henry received the then-weekly publication The Oregonian, which he changed to a daily paper. Through old-fashioned wiles involving telegraphs and stagecoaches, which was probably very state-of-the-art and cutthroat at the time, Henry was able to scoop stories before other area daily papers, outcompeting them and raising The Oregonian to a position of media dominance. Meanwhile, Georgiana was involved in various women’s societies, providing support to women and children. She loved to garden and is credited for founding Portland’s annual Rose Festival.
The couple built their famous mansion high in the west hills in 1914, where it still stands, open to the public for year-round tours and presiding over gorgeous views of the entire city.
Haunt: Pittock Mansion
Duh. It’s a huge, gorgeous, slightly creepy mansion that Henry and Georgiana built as their dream home and both died in. It would be surprising, actually, if they hadn’t stuck around.
After Henry and Georgiana’s deaths in 1918 and 1919, Pittock family members lived in the house until the 1950s. No buyers arose, and the mansion stood empty and progressively damaged by weather until a grassroots funding campaign saved the wounded home from circling developers. Instead of being razed and replaced by a subdivision, the mansion experienced the happy ending of being restored and preserved as a landmark.
H+G, presumably overjoyed that their precious mansion survived its various trials, have a very low-key haunting game. Portraits are moved around the mansion apparently of their own accord. Windows are carefully shut and latched by phantom hands. There will be a sudden, strong scent of roses. The two simply continue to enjoy inhabiting their home.