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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Haunting of Captain George Conrad Flavel House in Astoria, OR

About the House

The Flavel House in Astoria, while now a museum, was once a mansion that is haunted by the spirits of those poor souls of the family who once inhabited its walls. The phantom remnants of the Flavel family have made themselves known by speaking amongst themselves—which has been reported as disembodied voices—as well as practicing music in the empty rooms. A woman’s ghost has been sighted in the hallway, and Captain Flavel himself has been seen in his old bedroom before promptly vanishing.

The Interior

A Queen Anne style, two and a half story, 11,600 square-foot behemoth, the Flavel House sits on the corner of a fairly large plot of land—there is traditional woodwork around the interior windows, doors, windows, and staircase, all of which are Eastlake-influenced in design. The doors and window trim were made of Douglas Fir and were crafted by a master carpenter to look like mahogany and burl rosewood. There are six unique fireplace mantels within the house and they feature different imported tiles from around the world, an elaborate hand-carved mantel and a patterned firebox designed to burn coal. The first floor features fourteen-foot high ceilings, where the second floor’s ceilings sit at twelve feet high and are both embellished with crown molding and plaster medallions. The house was also fitted with indoor plumbing—incredibly state-of-the-art at the time—as well as gas-fueled lighting.

The first floor is dedicated to the public rooms, such as the grand entrance hall, formal parlor, music room—where the Flavel daughters held their music recitals—the library, dining room, and conservatory. The more private rooms on the first floor included the butler’s pantry, kitchen, and mudroom which were reserved for the housekeeping staff. The second floor was where the main bathroom, five bedrooms, and a small storage room or sewing room were. The attic floor is large and unfinished and houses the two plain wood bedrooms that were used by the Flavel’s domestic help. The four-story tower was made for the Captain to have a 360-degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River as a way for him to keep an eye on the local ship traffic coming through. There was also a dirt-floor basement that housed the large wood-burning furnace that kept the house warm.

The Carriage House was home to the family’s caretaker, and was also originally made to hold the family kept their carriage, sleigh, and small buggies—where it had three temporary holding stalls for their horses, a tack room, and an upstairs hayloft. In time it was transitioned to hold the more modern vehicles, such as the Flavel’s Studebaker sedan, and the family’s driver kept a room upstairs.

The Grounds

Not too long after the house was originally built, the family’s gardener, Louis Schultz, began planting trees, beautiful roses, as well as bulb flowers and shrubs—many of which were typical of a traditional Victorian garden. A number of the trees on the premises were officially named Oregon Heritage Trees—there is also a pond and a bench under the pear tree where Flavel’s daughters would sit in the shade. The entire house is considered a significant architectural and historical treasure for the entire Pacific Northwest.

The Timeline of the Flavels, Their Houses & Fate

1886

While the construction of the Captain George Conrad Flavel house was started in 1884, and it was finally finished in the spring of 1886. The Flavel House was built for Captain George Conrad Flavel and his family. The house was designed by German-born architect Carl W. Leick and the construction bordered between the Victorian and Colonial Revival periods. It was considered a prime example of Queen Anne architecture; one of the few remaining well-preserved examples in the entire Northwest. Due to the Captain’s long history and contributions to the community of Astoria, the Flavel family had long been considered the most prominent family in town.

The Captain had made his name and fortune as a prominent businessman through real estate investments and his occupation as a Columbia River bar pilot—becoming Astoria’s first millionaire—at the age of 62, he was finally able to retire in the house that he had built for himself and his family.

1887

The Carriage House was built on the south-west corner of the property.

1890s

Alex Murray, the family’s hired caretaker, called the Carriage House home while in the employment of the Flavels.

1893

Captain Flavel lived in the house for seven years with his wife Mary Christina Boelling and their two adult daughters, Nelli and Katie. Their son, George Conrad Flavel never resided within the George Conrad Flavel House, as he was already married and living in a house of his own. During his seventh year in the residence of the Flavel House, Captain Flavel passed away, leaving the to the family.

1901

Captain George Conrad Flavel’s son, George Conrad Flavel would build his house—the house that is now often referred to as the Harry Flavel House. George Conrad Flavel Junior had worked as a bar pilot for his father, becoming a Captain as well.

1922

When most of downtown Astoria was destroyed by a fire, the Flavel House was one of the only survivors.

1934

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House remained in the family until the great-granddaughter Patricia Jean Flavel gave the property to the city as a memorial to her family.

1936

The house was set to be torn down to establish an outdoor community property—the city ended up having financial difficulties and returned the property to Patricia Flavel—that same year, Patricia deeded the residence to Clatsop County, but with conditions. The understanding was that both the grounds and the house would be kept in good repair and used for public purposes.

1937

From the time the house was deeded the to county, until the end of World War II, the Public Health Department, Red Cross, and local Welfare Commission all had offices within the mansion.

1951

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House was officially added to the list of the National Register of Historic places, before which it was nearly demolished twice—once for a parking lot and again for a community park, but the townspeople rallied against the proposal and it began to be operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society in 1950.

2003

The Camperdown Elm, Sequoia Redwood, four Cork Elms, Bay Laurel, Pear, and Ginkgo Biloba trees on the premises were named official Oregon Heritage Trees in a state-wide dedication ceremony that was held on the grounds.

The Haunting at Captain George Conrad Flavels House

Truly, ever since the Flavel house was converted into a museum in 1951, there have been many reports of hauntings; phantom music and voices were heard on the first story of the house which was believed to have been a product of the Flavel sisters, as they were gifted musicians. The Library has always housed an unhappy and strange presence. There is an apparition of a woman who roams the hallway on the second floor, but she vanishes when approached—and a floral scent can be smelt at strange times in the bedroom of Ms. Flavel, when no one has been around. In Captain George Flavel’s room, his apparition can be seen, but he disappears into the floor once he has been noticed.

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Horror Mystery and Lore

The True Abilities of a Poltergeist

The Mysterious History of the Poltergeist

Poltergeist reaching for the clown doll
Artwork by Mary Farnstrom

Poltergeists are often connected with ghosts, and while it’s true that ghosts can be poltergeists, poltergeists are not always ghosts. Categorized by their noisy nature, their ability to move objects, as well as various other physical disturbances. The term poltergeist comes from the German language, poltern, “to knock,” and geist, “spirit,” and in England the poltergeist is often synonymous with the boggart. These mischievous and often malevolent spirits date back to ancient Rome, as well as medieval Germany, China, Wales, and they continue to be reported from elsewhere in the world to this day. These impish spirits have not changed much over the year in how they present, except for taking into account the evolution of technology. In ancient reports, the reports showed that would throw rocks, dirt, and other objects, cause loud noises, knocking, strange lights, and unexplainable shrieks, as well as physical and sexual assaults that would leave their victims shaken. Modern reports have included lightbulbs spinning in their sockets and telephones repeatedly dialing the same number.

Physical assaults—scratching, spitting, biting, pinching, punching and sexual molestation—usually only appear in a small number of cases, but they are still consistently prevalent among cases over the years. Overall, the activity doesn’t just peter out, it stops as suddenly as it starts, but the length of time the victims are affected varies so widely that the end is never predictable. Whether the victim ends up suffering for a few hours, a few months, or a few years, it is never a permanent affliction. One intriguing aspect of poltergeist infestations is the fact that the activity is usually centralized around a single individual, or “agent”.

Researching the Poltergeist Phenomenon

The phenomenon of poltergeists has been researched in-depth at a scientific level since the late 1970s by parapsychologists and they have come up with several theories as possible explanations. Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, English researchers of the time collected the data from 500 separate instances of poltergeists dating back from the 1800s. Among the characteristics that these cases had in common, about two-thirds of all cases included small objects moving from their original location.  Over half of the cases showed that the poltergeists were most active at night, and many individual incidents lasted longer than a year. Some other disturbing coincidences were that quite a few cases were focused around females under the age of twenty.

Before the 19th century, poltergeist activity was blamed primarily on the paranormal—spirits, witches, demons, and most often the Devil. At the turn of the century, however, a large spiritualism movement began, where mediums would routinely allow themselves to become temporarily possessed as a conduit to those who have passed. There were several researchers who began to investigate the idea of unconscious psychokinesis, alluding to the idea that the individual that the activity centralized around, was, in fact, the cause of it all. This isn’t to say that they were being accused of faking the activity, but more likely causing it without their own knowledge and although this theory began to be explored in the 1930s, it is still considered fairly controversial in nature. It’s important to take into consideration that the majority of these reports were recorded between 1840 and 1920 before the phenomenon came under the scrutiny of modern scientific research.

Poltergeists in History and Modern Culture

The Amityville Haunting

Ron DeFeo Jr., the infamous murderer of Amityville still lives and he continues to serve his six 25-year life sentences in the New York Correctional Facility; his initial story consisted of him claiming to hear voices that were convincing him to kill his entire family, but then his story changed, multiple times since. While DeFeo now claims that he didn’t murder his entire family, the details have gotten so fuzzy over the years that it’s still incredibly difficult to tell if this was an actual case of possession—which later resulted in poltergeist activity for the Lutz family—or if the entire thing was a hoax propagated by the Lutz family. It’s widely theorized by skeptics that the Lutz family intended to cash-in on the mass murder committed by DeFeo, due to a problematic financial and legal condition so they could take advantage of the publicity. It makes sense to take the view of the skeptic, it’s never a good idea to accept anything on blind faith, but much of the evidence and first-hand accounts disagree with the skeptic’s point of view.

Why do we believe them? Well, even though it’s been proven that lie detector tests are not infallible, George and Kathy Lutz weren’t trained to pass them, yet they did so to prove their innocence and ended up passing. There are also claims that George Lutz had a history of dabbling in the occult, we’re not so sure where we fall on this matter—this could mean that either Lutz was incredibly familiar with the symptoms of a poltergeist haunting, or it means that he was more open psychologically to the idea and the poltergeist took hold. The entire family apparently experienced foreign odors, cold spots in certain areas of the house, and reported a slime that would randomly ooze out of the walls and keyholes. One tidbit that could be an embellishment, was the allegation that George Lutz would wake up at 3:15 AM every morning, which was when Ron DeFeo Jr. was said to have committed the murders.

Aside from observers from outside of the Lutz family, there was the priest that was called in to bless the home, who reported having heard a voice scream to, “get out!” Due to his own personal experience, he advised the family to never sleep in that room again. The paranormal activity within the house only increased from there, with a garage door opening and closing, as well as a knife being knocked down in the kitchen by invisible forces. This all escalated even further to every member of the family except for George, who observed the phenomenon, levitating off of their respective beds. Daniel Lutz, one of the sons continues to have nightmares about this house even to this day.

The Truth Behind Amityville?

The following video addresses both skeptics and believers when it comes to the Amityville haunting, so why not hear both sides?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvXU11Kyj5E
Amityville Horror The True Story

The Ash Manor Haunting

Poltergeist as an apparition on the bed
Photography by Jrwooley6

Investigated in 1936, Dr. Nandor Fodor became incredibly popular for his controversial poltergeist theory about the Ash Manor Ghost. The actual case reports that shortly after moving into the old house, the owner, Mr. Keel and his wife began to encounter a strange apparition dressed in an Elizabethan era smock—as well as hear strange loud knocking—upon trying to confront this intruder, Mr. and Mrs. Keel found that trying to touch the apparition that their hands would go right through it. Fearing the worst for his family, Keel hired a medium, as well as various psychic investigators. This resulted in the medium suggesting that all of these happenings were the result of strained family life, a tell-tale sign of poltergeist activity. The final result of Dr. Fodor was that people, “who put themselves in an unguarded psychological position,” are likely to be more vulnerable to hauntings and poltergeist attacks.

The Enfield Haunting

In the book, This House is Haunted (2011), the account of the Enfield Haunting is given in full, which also inspired The Conjuring 2 (2016), part of the great paranormal franchise that follows the investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren throughout the years. The Enfield case is possibly one of the most famous poltergeist hauntings ever recorded. Originating late August of 1977, in the suburb of North London, the house in Enfield was inhabited by a single mother and her four children; the initial report was of the two middle children experiencing their beds shaking violently, and shuffling sounds when the children were in their shared room. At that point, the mother Peggy, was not entirely convinced that it was actually happening.

Peggy and her two middle children were all witness to when sudden furniture movements and loud knocking with no origin began, at which time Peggy sought the help of her neighbors. Once her neighbors witnessed the knocking but had no explanation for it, the police were called in. The police were even hard-pressed to find an explanation behind the knocking and furniture movement that they ended up witnessing upon responding to the call. The Enfield case eventually subsided for a time, before being reignited a short while later lasting for a few years in total.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHPYriXhNW8
The Enfield Haunting – A Real Life Haunting (2016)

Films that feature poltergeists

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legends: The Legendary Shanghai Tunnels of Portland, Oregon

The city of Portland, Oregon is known in modern times as America’s most “livable cities,” but it wasn’t all too long ago that the seedy underbelly cause it to be one of the most dangerous port cities on the west coast—possibly even the entire world. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the ports of Portland saw all of the criminal traffic that filtered through from the ships that docked with supplies—every time a new ship hailed the arrival of the opportunity to make money. Drinking, prostitution, and general criminal activity reigned supreme due to this exceptionally active port.

The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland are talked about all over the world—they’re often said to be one of the most haunted places in all of America—and their dark, creepy nature draws in the skeptics and phobophiles (someone who loves dark, nightmarish, and macabre things) alike. The tunnels are located under the streets of the old town and the tunnels were in constant use for nearly a century, between 1850 and 1941 with illegal activity including human trafficking and prostitution. So many people died in these cheerless, filthy tunnels which visitors believe have left the ghosts of their tormented spirits behind. Nowadays, tourists are led through these dreary tunnels; many investigating the possibility of hauntings, where they hear disembodied voices, moaning, and screaming.

The Shanghai Tunnels of Portland

Downtown Portland has more of a draw than the simple shops and restaurants that tourists tend to enjoy visiting, in fact, there is something that lies just below their feet that they might not even be completely aware of. The 150-year-old tunnels that connect the basements of the city’s oldest buildings to the Willamette River and Portland’s own Chinatown are known across the world, but at the same time, there is a mystery and ambiguity to them. It’s said that the tunnels were originally built by Chinese workers during the time when Chinatown was the center for trade business. They were designed for transporting goods from cargo ships to the inner city so that the crews of the ships could avoid the hassles of traffic within the inner-city—this was excellent for the businesses of Portland because many of them used their basements to store their goods, which meant their deliveries would be sent directly to their storage space.

The Criminal Underground

Shanghaied Sailors

Once a small town, the port of Portland was quite large and was able to host several ships—these ships would have sailed for long periods of time to cross the Pacific Ocean before they would be able to unload in Portland. This long travel time meant that they had quite a bit less downtime after their months at sea and would spend most of their time in bars and saloons, drinking or fighting. Some of them took this downtime as an opportunity to abandon their career at sea, because of their increased fear of death by disease or injury. This abandonment of their post meant that ship captains would be left with a post unmanned and an inability to leave port without filling this position—the shadier of these captains would use crooked tactics to “shanghai” replacement sailors, capturing them through the tunnels and paying $50 a head for each man.

The way it was made possible, is that any man looking to make a quick buck would watch men who were drinking alone, then creep into drug their drinks—after the lone-drinker was sufficiently drugged or unconscious, they would be abducted and carried through the series of tunnels that led to the waterfront. These poor unsuspecting men would awake once they were at sea, with no way to escape and having been sold to the ship’s captain as slave labor—the only choices they had were to work or die of starvation. While it may seem as if it’s no more than a cautionary tale, but these stories are backed up by real evidence and are trusted as fact.

Cannibalism

There have also been some incredible tales regarding the shanghaied victims—disturbing tales of ship crews eating some of them—with trapdoors and pits within the tunnels filled with corpses. There is particular reference to the local legend of Bunko Kelly, the Kidnapping King of Portland, as being the first local reference to the plague of cannibalism.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution

Eventually, men traveling alone became wary of Shanghaiers and as a consequence became more difficult to abduct—instead these Shanghaiers began kidnapping women instead, since solo women who frequented drinking establishments were easy prey. Many such women had trapdoors opened out from under them and they would fall into the tunnels without any possibility of getting back out. These women were abducted into prostitution rings and ended up being held as groups in cages over long periods of time, which gave them enough time to secure buyers outside of Portland.

The Mob and Prohibition

During the days of prohibition, the Shanghai tunnels became an underground expressway—they would be used to transport shipments of liquor and spirits from ships on the Willamette River to bars, hotels, and taverns all over Portland. Bootleggers used the tunnels to conduct their illegal activities away from the eyes of police and prying eyes, but law enforcement would regularly raid bars making the day to day operations impossible for bar owners. In an effort to get around those difficulties, they would stash their liquor supply deep in the tunnels in order to avoid arrest for maintaining a supply of alcohol—this led to hidden doors being installed within bars so that when they were raided, there was an escape route until the police officers would leave the premises.

The Hauntings in the Tunnels

Unsurprisingly, these tunnels and their history of abduction, abuse, and corruption has caused them to be of huge interest to historians as well as the supernatural and paranormal investigators as well. To be honest, there is no better venue for ghosts than the musty, neglected, underground sites of this century-old criminal underground. The Northwest Paranormal Investigations teams have declared the Shanghai Tunnels to be the most haunted location in all of Oregon—and the Cascade Geographic Society regularly offers the “Shanghai Tunnels Ghost Tours,” as well as the “Heritage Tour.”

First-Hand Experience

In 2013, Ghost Mine hosts Kim Lunman and Patrick Doyle decided to conduct a ghost hunt inside of the tunnels due to the sheer number of reports of paranormal activity. Many visitors have shared that while on tours they have experienced ghostly encounters both in and around the tunnels—it’s common for them to report the sounds of people crying, moaning, and screaming while in the tunnels, but there are also experiences from the locals. In the nearby tavern and pizzeria, there have been reports of hearing, seeing, and smelling odd things during their visit to the business.

Dark Dreary Tunnel
Photography by Casey Horner

Experiences of Claustrophobia in the Cinema

While these movies might not exactly be about Portland’s infamous Shanghai Tunnels, they are great horror movies that give us that claustrophobic feeling and send chills down our spines. We invite you to check them out and let us know what you think!