Todd Cobb,
Ghosts of Portland, Oregon
(Schiffer, 2008)

Schiffer Publishing continues its string of book releases based on ghosts discovered in American cities with Ghosts of Portland, Oregon by Todd Cobb. I have friends in the Portland area and visited the city in the past. But with this book and its 14 tales of hauntings around the town, I got to see a side of Portland I was unfamiliar with -- a side I might have to check out during my next visit.

Many of the spirits are seemingly evil. One notable story involves the Edgefield estate located at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. A couple went to this hotel, originally built in 1911, to celebrate their anniversary. They ended up getting chased out of the hotel by an apparition that looked like a child with distorted features. "Its head was hairless and swollen, grotesquely encephalitic and lolling at the end of a long, thin neck." This thing chased them miles down the road, keeping up with their speeding car as it wailed and shrieked.

You cannot talk about Portland ghosts without mentioning the Shanghai Tunnels. There was a period in Portland's past when unsuspecting men would be drugged and taken off through the tunnels, only to wake up on a ship that was miles out at sea. These unfortunate souls had no choice but to work as crew. As you might suspect, several of these victims died in the tunnels before even making it to the ships. Do these souls still haunt the underside of the city? Well, you can find out by taking a Shanghai Tunnel tour or by reading Ghosts of Portland, Oregon.

The author, Cobb, has written for magazines like Modern American Short Stories, New York Stories and Sign of the Times. He is also filmmaker. He lives in Portland, which certainly made writing this book easier.

Incidentally, Todd mentions his own tale of a ghostly encounter. And he points out he was not the only person to see a short, American Indian-looking woman who haunts a grocery store he frequents. Todd's mention of her jerky, blurring features makes me think of Japanese horror movies. Todd speculates this might be a case of "psychic retro cognition [which] is the act of seeing or sensing something from the past."

Ghosts of Portland, Oregon is a quick read. At just over 100 pages, it shouldn't take you more than a couple hours. It certainly appears to me that Northwest ghosts are more violent than ones you'll find in Texas, as you can see in my Ghosts of Fort Worth review. But that could be due to the books being written by different authors. Todd perhaps infuses his stories with more horror than others might. While this book might not prove the existence of ghosts in the Portland area, it definitely solidifies the existence of interesting ghost stories.

review by
Wil Owen

5 July 2008

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