As the full moon rises and darkness descends, an air of eerie, supernatural presence awakens to make its way through the streets of Salem. It’s bone-chilling, spine-tingling, and packs quite the fright. Lights flicker, floors creek and the air grows thick with anticipation – for Halloween, of course!
That’s right! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for ghosts, goblins, and ghouls galore, and it’s about to get spooky here in Salem with ghostly tales and paranormal encounters at these local haunted hotspots.
Oregon State Capitol
900 Court Street NE
There have been enough ghostly encounters to fill a book at the Oregon State Capitol, literally. Board member Sandra Allen wrote a book about them entitled “Ghosts in the Capitol” published in 2002 by the Oregon Legislative and Historical Information Group. Witnesses have reported hearing phantom footsteps on the marble floors, doors slammed shut by an unseen force, and even disembodied voices in empty rooms.
Security officers patrolling the grounds at night have reported similar, if not more, paranormal activity throughout the night. One such officer has allegedly seen things standing at the end of a hallway, has caught glimpses of figures behind closed doors or peeking around corners, and states motion-triggered sinks and paper towel dispensers will randomly turn on or dispense paper towels. It would appear that multiple ghostly inhabitants enjoy causing chaos in the building, but who they once were or might have been is unknown, except for a handful of reports that identify one of the apparitions as being a dead ringer for a state representative who passed away in 1978.
Willamette Heritage Center
1313 Mill Street SE
With all the history surrounding the Willamette Heritage Center, it’s no surprise it made the haunted list. Formerly known as the Mission Mill Museum, the center consists of a collection of historic buildings, including houses, a church, and the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, built in 1889. Visitors and museum staff alike have reported seeing the ghost of a former groundskeeper, Wayne Mentzer, who seems to enjoy lurking around the corners of his old job site in the afterlife.
In addition, there have also been sightings of a second apparition at the museum, that of a woman who is seen running across a bridge near the mill. Her identity remains unknown, but when she is seen, she seems to be running across the bridge in desperation. Rumor has it her husband killed her on that exact bridge.
After closing, it’s reported that a spectral pastor in the Methodist Parsonage seems to like leading a small group in worship and perhaps Bible Study. In the nearby Presbyterian Church, staff have reported hearing sounds and hushed whispers during the evening hours. None of these experiences, however, come from the sense of extreme anger and pain that seems to resonate in the Turbine Room in the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. The energy is believed to be related to the tragic death of a past male workman who was once trying to work on the turbine that was either still on or accidentally turned on while he was working on it, resulting in a gruesome death.
170 High Street SE
Named for the castle in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and built to match the grandeur of a medieval fortress with its Tudor Gothic architecture, the Elsinore Theatre looms large over central Salem, appearing as frightful as some of the supposed hauntings within its daunting walls. According to local legend, the theatre is one of the most haunted places in Salem because a boy was murdered there in the men’s bathroom. Witnesses have told tales of looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing blood splatters in the reflection. Of course, as soon as they turn around, the blood disappears.
Another child is said to haunt the theatre halls as well, causing mischief and spooking patrons. The young daughter of former and long-time owner George Guthrie is said to have fallen to her death from the theater’s upper balcony. Show-goers have often reported seeing the shadowy figure of a little girl playing around the balcony.
Perhaps the presence of his ghostly daughter keeps Guthrie tied to the theater as well in the afterlife, or maybe he’s still keeping an eye on his life’s work from beyond the grave. Whatever the reason, witnesses and employees alike have stated seeing him throughout the theater. Performers have seen his apparition, watching them rehearse from the theater seats, and members of the night shift have claimed to see his shadow drift across the stage when it is lit only by the stage’s ghost light. It seems that George isn’t quite as “hands-off” as the spirits of the youngsters in the building. Others have sworn that Guthrie has been responsible for the strange moving of numerous props and likes to play pranks on performers, such as dropping pebbles on their heads while they’re running lines. His ghost is believed to be the source of an infamously permanent cold spot frequently reported to hang around on stage.
Croisan Creek Road
Every town seems to have at least one road that the locals know they should be wary of, and in Salem, that road is Croisan Creek Road. Two children are said to haunt the stretch of highway — a little girl and a young boy. Legend states that the little girl was killed by a speeding vehicle when she was crossing the road. As for the boy, it is unknown precisely the circumstances of his untimely death, but it is believed he was also a victim of a road accident.
Stories and sightings of both children go back as far as the 1920s. Drivers have even reported seeing a ball roll across the road just as they passed a particularly bad bend, suggesting these children met their tragic end while at play. In addition, some who have seen the ball report that the apparition of a little girl was chasing it, and there is often a boy at the other side waving for passersby to slow down, but when they look back, he is never there, and the girl and ball disappear.
Bush House Museum
600 Mission Street SE
From the outside, the Bush House Museum may look like your typical 1870s Italianate-style mansion, but there are some spooky happenings on the inside. It is considered one of the city’s most haunted houses. Built by Asahel Bush II, locals say that one of his daughters, Eugenia, haunts the property to this day, merely keeping a watchful eye over the family home. Eugenia was the successful banker’s youngest daughter, diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18 after heading off to college.
Though her father ensured that she had the best care possible, she received treatment for 34 years of her life in a private institution. She only returned to the family home to live out the remaining 18 years of her life after her father’s passing. She passed at the age of 70.
Today, numerous visitors to the mansion have reported seeing the entity of a young girl, who they believe to be Eugenia, possibly appearing in the form of a time she remembers as the happiest time in her life. Her favorite activity is turning the heat up by moving the indicator to the heating controls. When young Eugenia moved into the new mansion, the ability to make the house warmer by just moving a dial was new to the young girl and must have been quite an enjoyable and fascinating luxury that still attracts her today.
It is believed that several other spirits reside here alongside her, thinking them to be Eugenia’s family that like to visit her now and then as Eugenia’s spirit is the most dominant presence on the property. In addition, visitors have also reported feeling cold spots, seeing shadow shapes, and hearing the voice of a female and perhaps others.
Salem, established in 1842, is rich in ghostly tales, legendary haunts, and paranormal phenomena. These are just a few of the many alleged haunted hotspots that can be found throughout the region, all of which can make for some spooky encounters not just during Halloween but all year long!