So I was hit by some unexpected time off a few weeks ago. The boss decided to ditch town and said I could too, and no way was I going to turn down time off. As I was unprepared to go anywhere, hubster and I decided we’d stay close to home. The only problem? I’ve pretty much seen everything in Oregon…so I thought. I surfed the internet for fun things to do and came up with the usual stuff: the zoo, all the coastal attractions, the mountains, the waterfalls, the forests, the Goonies house. Yawn. Not that I don’t love those things—I totally do! But I wanted to do something different, and different is tough to find when you’re a native. Hubster suggested Powells City of Books…and I was tempted (because Powells is the most amazing bookstore ever). Some girls go gaga over shoes or purses. For me it’s books and music. But I digress.
I resisted Powells (after one look at my overstuffed TBR bookshelf), and then I found it: The Witch’s Castle.
All my supernatural senses immediately perked up, of course. How could I have not heard about this? The scoop is back in the 1800’s, a dude by the name of Danford Balch bought some land around where Portland is now. He needed help, so he hired another dude named Mortimer Stump. Clearly, anyone with a name like that is going to be trouble. Ol’ Morty lived with the Balch family and managed to charm his way into the affections of Anna Balch, their 15 year old daughter. Let’s just say Daddy-o Balch was none too pleased about this arrangement, and even though Mortimer wanted to be all proper-like and marry Anna, his proposal was refused. The couple threatened to elope, and old man Balch warned Mortimer that he’d kill him if they did.
They eloped, of course. And then it gets even more interesting. The final, fateful meeting between Balch and Mortimer a few weeks later is claimed to be a result of a bewitching. While there are different stories about how the meeting occurred—some sources say Morty and Anna returned to the cabin, others say Balch found Mortimer in town—Balch stayed true to his word and shot Mortimer in the head. When he was arrested, he claimed his wife bewitched him into committing murder. What a man. He then escaped prison, was recaptured, and was the first legal execution in Oregon. Mrs. Mary Jane Balch, the suspected witch of the story, remained living on the property.
While I didn’t catch any strange vibes or see anything out of the ordinary, others claim to have photographed plasma orbs. Others claim they’ve spotted the ghosts of the Balchs and Mortimer. Still others visit for a different sort of, ahem, spirits. Such as teenagers with bottles at midnight. While it was disappointing that this isn’t the actual ruins of the Balch home, but rather an abandoned ranger station built on the same site, it was still a beautiful hike down to it, and the creepy artwork in the lower section was quite creative. Maybe this is the only building left for the spirits of hopeless lovers, a murderer, and a witch to haunt. If they were hanging around, they didn’t pop out to say hi. They’re probably saving up their energy to scare those naughty teenagers.
I'm sure there are other supposed haunted places around Oregon I haven't checked out yet--I'll have to save them for my next unexpected vacation. Are there any haunted places near you? Or have you been to Oregon and visited my personal heaven/hell, Powells book store?
I had to go to Powells when I visited my friends who lived in a suburb of Portland. I loved it! We stayed in a yurt along the coast and were woken predawn by sea lions barking. I enjoyed visited Oregon very much. BTW, the creepy face peeking out of the building doorway would definitely scare me.
i'VE never been to Oregon. Always wanted to go. The coastline is so beautiful. I've heard of Powell's. Never been there, either. What an interesting story of Anna and Mortimer. No haunted sites near me--at least I don't think so.
Danielle! That's so awesome you stayed in a yurt - we've talked about doing that, but never have. Maybe next spring break...thanks so much for stopping by!
Powell's alone is worth the trip to Oregon, Diane! :) I love that no matter where I am in Oregon, I'm always close to the woods or the ocean or the mountains. There's always something new to discover.
AWESOME story! I would have loved to been there, too. I adore places like this. Especially tucked away in the woods and all - how exciting!
I'm glad you were awarded a much needed day off.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Wow, I loved this post and the pics! What a neat story. Thanks for sharing!
It was a lot of fun, Patricia, and deep in the woods added to the mystery and nostalgia. I like hiking, anyway, so it was a win-win.
Thanks, Maureen! :)
Very cool! Yay for the unexpected time off and a fun bit of exploring. Love the pics :)
I'm always up for some time off!
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