Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Witch’s Castle in Forest Park

A couple weeks ago I was invited to go on a ghost tour of Hawthorne Boulevard. Oooo scary, right?! Although the tour wasn’t all that frightening to me, I did learn about some interesting, potentially haunted places on Hawthorne… and beyond. One place on the list was called Witch’s Castle located in Forest Park. The castle is essentially a creepy-looking stone house hidden within a forest full of ferns and moss-covered trees positioned close to the Audubon Society. How did it get there, you ask?

The story starts back in 1850 when Danford Balch bought land near the newly settled town of Portland. Danford wanted to build a home for his wife and nine children. He hired a transient worker named Mortimer Stump to clear the land and even invited him to live with the Balch family while the work was being done. Unfortunately, Stump ended up falling in love with 15-year old Anna Balch and quickly asked for her hand in marriage. When Danford and Mary Jane refused to give them their blessing, the couple threatened to elope, and then Danford swore that he would kill Mortimer if he ever saw him with his daughter again. That same night the two young lovers ran off to Vancouver and shortly thereafter  were married, almost happily ever after…

Danford Balch claimed that he was bewitched by his wife and eventually blamed her for what happens next. One night in Portland, Danford encounters his daughter and Mortimer with other members of the Stump family. It did not take long for Danford to cold-bloodily shoot Mortimer in the head. He was immediately arrested, but escaped while awaiting trial. He was arrested again six months later on the family property and soon thereafter found guilty of murder. He was hanged in October of 1859. This incident was the first legal hanging in the Oregon Territory.

‘The Witch,’ Mary Jane Balch, continued to live on the property with her children. To this day, some attribute the strange presences at the Witch’s House to the ghosts of Danford, Mortimer, Anna, and Mary Jane.

How to get there:  3/4 mile walk starting from the Lower Macleay Parking lot at NW 30th and Upshur or 1/2 mile walk starting from the Upper Macleay Parking lot near the Portland Audubon Society.

Check out Trip Advisor for more information!


(Photo credit: Traveler photo by TreadLightAdventurer: “Along trail below Audubon center” (Aug 2015))