For every region in the world, there are hundreds of urban legends. Some are based on fact and others are nothing more than figments of the population’s collective imagination.
The Witch’s Castle in Oregon is a combination of both. The location is said to be one of the most haunted in the state, and that legend has perpetuated a host of other activity. Here’s the story of the Witch’s Castle, and information on visiting the site.
The Witch’s Castle in Portland, Oregon
Back in the middle of the 19th century, a man named Danford Balch bought some land. Portland wasn’t yet developed, and the area surrounding the land was sparsely populated.
Balch’s plot was heavily wooded, and the man desired to build a homestead. So he hired a bit of help. A man named Mortimer Stump arrived to assist, and he lived in the primitive cabin with Danford Balch and his daughter.
As the story goes, Balch had a lovely daughter, and Stump fell in love. Of course, Stump was no more than the hired help, and Balch had “better” plans for his daughter. The couple were forbidden to marry, and Balch threatened that if Stump wed his daughter, he’d be met with a shiny bullet to the head.
Mortimer Stump and daughter Anna married anyway. They eloped, and upon their return in the winter months of 1858, the new groom met his untimely demise. Balch delivered on his promise, and shot Stump in the head with a shotgun.
Balch was imprisoned but escaped the wooden jail cell. He, in turn, was executed in October of 1959.
So what does the story of Mortimer Stump and Danford Balch have to do with witches? Well, very little. But the land has changed hands several times over the years, and has been the site of some interesting activity.
Is the Witch’s Castle Haunted?
Is the Witch’s Castle haunted? No, not really. At least there have never been any verifiable reports of the site being haunted. However, the Witch’s Castle in Portland has been a bit of an icon in the area for a while.
Legend has it that Danford Belch claimed that his wife, Mary Jane, had “bewitched” him. In other words, when he shot Mortimer Stump in the head, it was because his wife somehow mystically compelled him to do so. Nevermind the fact that old Danford himself had made the threat. In all actuality, it was likely the alcohol coursing through his bloodstream. He was drunk when he shot Stump.
Mary Jane lived on the property for some time after her husband Danford was hanged. It’s because of the rumors her husband spread about her that the Witch’s Castle is called the Witch’s Castle.
Strangely enough, though, the structure which is referred to as the Witch’s Castle isn’t even where the Balch family lived. As mentioned, the property has changed hands quite a bit.
In 1897, the land was given to the city of Portland, and it became a park. Then, in 1950, the park constructed a ranger station and a restroom. It was abandoned, and the structures deteriorated.
That Witch’s Castle you want to visit? It’s an abandoned bathroom. Shame.
Strange Happenings at the Witch’s Castle
The fact that the Witch’s Castle is actually a defunct bathroom doesn’t stop the local kids. Urban legends prevail, and the grounds of the Witch’s Castle has been the scene of some weird activities.
Some people claim that they’ve seen plasma orbs in photographs of the Witch’s Castle. Others claim that, after dark, apparitions can be seen. Those ghosts are apparently engaged in some sort of battle, according to sources. Some say that they’re the fighting ghosts of Mortimer, Anna, Mary Jane and Danford.
There are verified accounts of weird activity at the Witch’s Castle. Locals (and visitors) who practice witchcraft have jumped on the opportunity to perpetuate the legends, and they use the old bathroom to perform whatever types of sorcery they happen to practice.
Mary Jane is still present at the location, but it’s the green kind. The local kids use the spot to hide their weed from their parents. On any given Saturday night, you’ll likely to run into a few kids who are just looking to “unwind.”
Spirits also run rampant at the Witch’s Castle, and you won’t need an EVP recorder to find them. Just bring along a breathalyzer and the presence of spirits will make itself known.
In other words, some people claim to have seen a few ghosts here and there at the Witch’s Castle. But it’s more likely that you’ll run into a few kids than a few spectral visitors.
Visiting the Witch’s Castle
If you want to see the Witch’s Castle for yourself, you certainly can. The Castle is located within Forest Park, which is actually a beautiful park of over 5,000 acres. It’s a city park, so you’ll have to abide by the same rules as most cities – no drinking (despite what the kids would tell you), no fires and no firearms.
You can hike along the trails or you may choose to ride your bike or even bring your horse along for a trot. Stay on the trails and be sure to leave everything in the natural environment just as you found it.
To find the Witch’s Castle, you’ll start at the Lower Macleay Parking lot at NW 30th and Upshur. It’s a .75 mile walk from the trailhead to the abandoned bathroom.
If you start at the Upper Macleay Parking lot near the Portland Audubon Society, it’s only a half mile walk. But the Lower Macleay Trailhead is generally considered more scenic.
You may or may not encounter the ghost of Mortimer or Danford at the Witch’s Castle. But regardless of whether or not the location is haunted, there is definitely quite an interesting and true story behind the legend. There’s no better way to find out than to go see for yourself.