A few years ago, Bobo and I took the Shanghai Tunnel Ghost Tour together. Portland is famous for its ghost tours in Old Town. As a man who used to live in Seattle, I actually find the Ghost Tour more interesting than Seattle's Underground City Tour. Also, it's worth pointing out that Portland has far more haunted places than Seattle does.
The Shanghai tours have quite a bit of drama since they touch upon a dark chapter in Portland's past. Back in the late 1800's, human trafficking was a fairly substantial part its "underground" economy. This was not totally eradicated until the Seaman's Act was passed by the US Congress in 1915, after which time sailors were also paid a better wage.
Bobo and I started drinking in a courtyard restaurant that is located inside a historic building from the Nineteenth Century. The place has full sized trees growing in the central courtyard. Five stories of wrought iron balconies on all sides reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The place was definitely period. I drank my beer and imagined all of the crazy shit that must have happened there when my grandparents were still wearing diapers.
After another round, Bobo and I walked a few blocks over to Hobo's restaurant, which serves as the meeting place for the Shanghai Ghost Tour. We sat down at the bar in Hobo's for another beer to wait for the rest of our group to show up.
Once everybody had arrived, we told the tour guide and he got things started. We all climbed down through a hole in the floor. It looked a lot like the old trap doors that kidnappers had used, a century earlier, to ply their sordid trade in which human beings, some of whom had come from fairly affluent families, were sold like cattle to the highest bidder.
Like Seattle, Portland has a literal "underground" city beneath it.
This tunnel leads out to the Willamette. It is the last remaining Shanghai tunnel in Portland that still goes all the way to the river.
The old wooden steps were very steep. I was surprised how low the basement roof was. Bobo and I had to lean over to keep from hitting our heads on the beams. The basement reeked pungently like a root cellar full of potatoes that had gone to seed.
While on the first leg of the tour, I didn't receive any Ubernatural vibes until I eventually decided to linger behind in the darkness as the tour group kept going.
Bobo had to stoop over to keep from hitting his head on a brick arch. Both tour guides' flashlights bobbed up and down around the corner, and then vanished. I had brought my own flashlight, of course, but I didn't turn it on.
There, in the pitch black, I sensed a few traces of what had obviously been ghostly vibes at one time, but they were stale and weak: psychic residue that didn't generate much in the way of a reaction. So many tours every day had obviously reamed out the atmosphere of the basements with human jibber-jabber and the smothering influence of cell phone radiation, which carried a ton of esoteric data from all over the world into a cramped and hidden corner of the past.
This tourist trap was a far cry from the vibrational signature a century earlier when drugged young revelers had been kept imprisoned in subterranean prison cells, awaiting ships to dock that needed a few more crew members. Plenty of misery to go around, and then some. Trauma of such an intensity can most certainly blanket a place like the psychic equivalent of nuclear radiation.
The Scottish call psychic stains upon a physical location "second sight." In rare cases, actual "loops" from the past continue to play, re-animated from contact by people who visit, often for the thrill of seeing a ghost. Ironically, such visitors are mostly "tuning" into past events that continue to play there like a recording, over and over.
To compound the irony, ghosts can pick up on the "juicy" psychic residue of intense suffering as easily as a driver on the freeway can spot a road sign. Ghosts sometimes end up "acting out" the roles expected of them like a medieval troop of actors performing for their suppers. Of course, in such cases, most of the energy being consumed is unwittingly supplied by people who live nearby and are frightened by such displays, or by visitors who show up at the just the right moment to witness a spectacle that will frighten, sometimes thrill, and almost always deplete their energy reserves.
Most of the ghosts in Shanghai tunnels, it seemed, had moved on to haunt some place else, or to emerge through an intra-dimensional portal later when the tunnels were deserted. In fact, it's worth mentioning that a bunch of cell phones do tend to push ghosts away. For whatever reason, IDE's (intra-dimensional entities) don't like microwave transmissions common to modern cell phones. Basically, microwaves in general, tend to "harsh their mellow."
Bobo nearly hit his head on this jagged brick archway
Speaking of which, any time paranormal activity seems a little elevated in my home, I deliberately keep a cell phone near my bed. Every little precaution helps, especially if the ghosts have the audacity to vocalize, or, worse, to attempt entry into one's dreams in order to habituate one unconsciously so that a "feeding regimen" can be established, thus allowing the ghost to drain a person's energy reserves over the long term, usually while the person is sleeping.
It didn't help that my last housemate brought a particularly nasty ghost with her when she moved in upstairs. She admitted as much without my even asking. After I told her that had been around ghosts in the past, she opened up. Since that housemate has moved out, the hauntings have thankfully de-escalated.
Sometimes I feel happy that I'm free from paranormal encumbrances, and then, at other times, I find myself wondering if, in fact, I really am free, after having grown up in a haunted house. My previous tenant complained about a female ghost calling her name at night. I hadn't mentioned to her that a female ghost had been calling my name at night, for the past three nights in a row. When I told her, she was overjoyed and thrilled at the novelty of the situation. Being a veteran Ubernaturalist, however, I was less than thrilled.
Ghosts are like the Mafia: once you're in (successfully habituated by one of more of them), then you're in for life. The real question after you move somewhere else, or successfully banish the ghost, is whether you can stay off the ghostly radar long enough to live your life without being "made" once more. If you can't, then the cycle of cat and mouse is liable to start again. So far, I've been lucky: the paranormal game of "tag, you're it" has only happened to me twice in my life.
Both times, it was localized in a house. When I moved out of the house, I was able to emancipate myself from the predatory IDE's involved. But, as a former victim, I'm now a little leery of being "made" again by ghosts.
A chute under the floor of a bar, where drunk or drugged young men were slid down to subterranean prison cells.
After the tour, Bobes and I hung out topside, waiting for the rest of the group to emerge from the trapdoor in the floor. Hobo's restaurant was fairly busy. Evidently, the Shanghai tunnel tour was good for business. It was dimly lit inside with plenty of heavy oak paneling on the walls. Electric candelabras flickered like old-fashioned gas flames. The faux-antique furnishings were more 1930's than 1890's, and so they did not reproduce the atmosphere of a late Nineteen Century "whisky bar" very effectively, but at least management was trying.
Quite a few respectable single malt scotches and bourbons were lined up on a shelf behind the bartender. A bottle of Talisker was calling my name. "Just one hit. . . ." Unfortunately, there was no more time for drinking.
Bobo asked if I thought there were any ghosts "down there" (in the Shanghai tunnels). I was flattered that he would ask my opinion, but I wasn't surprised. I am known among Cliff's friends as a paranormalist with hot irons in other fires aside from bigfooting.
"Yeah, sure," I said. "They're down there, but not in numbers. If you were to come back later tonight, after the bar was closed and most of the city was sleeping, that would be the best time to give some ghosting a try."
"Right," Bobo agreed, "it's a nocturnal pursuit . . . like squatching." He then went on to school me on quite a few things about ghosts that I was not aware of. It was obvious that Bobes knew more about spirits and ghosts than I'd realized. He shared a few amazing accounts from California, as well as some powerful Native American wisdom on the subject.
In fact, some of what he told me about spirits stayed with me for years afterwards until I visited the Big Island of Hawaii in 2014 and saw Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. The vibe in that place had been so overpowering that I'd almost lost consciousness at one point. During the visit, as I hiked gingerly around, as if the black lava trails had been lined with eggshells, I felt as though I were crossing through a twilit borderland between worlds, which was still home to ancient Intra-Dimensional Entities.
Sailing ships docked in Portland, Circa 1885. Several of the captains of these ships most likely purchased dozens of sailors that were obtained through human trafficking.
Looking back on my conversation with Bobo about ghosts after we went on the Shanghai Tunnel tour together, I think that I must have felt a new kind of respect for him. It allowed me to open up about something personal I'd told very few people up to that point.
I looked over at the bottle of Talisker whisky behind the bar. It was calling my name. "There's this house I used to live in, over on southeast Woodward Street. It was built in, like, 1882 or something. Anyway, three of my roommates and I saw ghosts. Actually, I saw two different ghosts. The first time, I saw a tall male ghost while I was watching TV. I noticed it out of the corner of my eye. It walked through the dining room table and out the front door."
"Cool," Bobo said. "What'd it look like?"
"Tall, thin. Taller than you. Dressed in dark colors. Actually, the ghost kind of resembled one of my roommates at the time, except it made no noise at all. And it's face was very pale. Like a porcelain mask."
Bobo nodded. "A stealthy, masked motherfucker."
"What about the other ghost. You said you saw another one?"
"Well, that is a fucked up story," I said. "I'm not sure we have time."
"Just give me a thumbnail sketch," Bobo said.
"Okay, the other ghost was a repeat offender. I saw it quite a few times, and then things got worse from there. All of the encounters happened upstairs in my bedroom. Over a period of, like, six months. A little more each time. Until things got totally out of control. This female ghost took a shine to me and nearly killed me."
"What'd it do," laughed Bobo. "Molest you?"
"No, well, yeah, sort of. Not sexually. It happened upstairs in my bedroom."
"You're shittin' me."
"I shit you not, dude. Squatcher's honor. It's true. The ghost was into 'night smothering'. Really dark stuff. Dark and ancient. Night smothering has been going on for as long as people have been on earth. It's not talked about much because it's kind of personal, and embarrassing. Actually, though, night smothering is the second most common type of ghostly encounter that happens when a ghost actually touches someone."
"What's the most common?" Bobo asked.
"Squeezing," I said. "Usually through a sheet or a blanket when you are drifting off to sleep."
"What's a night smother?" Bobo asked.
"It's when a ghost catches you when you are asleep, climbs on top of you, and then sucks out your life force."
"Jesus," Bobo said. He scanned my face with the practiced scrutiny of a bigfoot expert who is used to verifying the authenticity of eyewitness accounts. The scan was habitual rather than conscious on his part, second nature to veteran squatchers like us. I passed the test, of course.
"The succubus usually wore a red dress," I went on. "She would creep through my bedroom, every now and again, around four in the morning. The pattern was always the same. She would peer through a crack in my bedroom door, pass through it, watch me sleeping, and then gaze longingly out the window."
The succubus/incubus phenomenon was discussed and pondered far more often in ancient times. However, despite being "swept under the carpet" by modern psychologists, it is the second most common type of ghostly encounter in the 21st Century.
"That sounds like a dream," Bobo said. "A cheesy dream."
"Yes, you're right. It always started out as a dream. That's actually part of the way vampire ghosts roll. They use dreams to control a target. You know all about the idea of 'habituation' from squatching. Well, these ghosts uses dreams as a sophisticated form of habituation to literally fuck with their target's head. Eventually, the relationship escalates, and things get physical. In the worst possible way."
This caught Bobo's interest. "Go ahead, keeping going."
"If I wasn't completely asleep, then I would feel a light pressure on my leg through the blankets or a sheet. That's how the ghosts would test to see if I was ready to be mounted. And then, if I pretended to be asleep, I would feel the ghost climb on the mattress. The weight of its hands and knees would push the mattress down."
"You couldn't see it?"
"So that's it? You would feel it on the bed with you?"
"No, I haven't gotten to the worst part yet. If I was asleep, and didn't wake up, the ghost would get on top of me, and start to suck out my vital energies. But whenever that happened, it was like I'd been paralyzed. It took a huge effort to wake up. And if I did manage to wake up, I couldn't move. The ghost had me in its spell. . . ."
Bobo glanced over at the staircase that led underground. Our friends were now emerging like moles through the trapdoor. "Sounds like a vampire," he said. "A vampire ghost! Oh man, that's creepy." Bobo started to get up from his barstool.
"Wait, there's more. The last time I was smothered at night, the ghost wanted my energy real bad. She seemed desperate. Who knows, maybe she knew I was moving out the next day. Anyhow, she took a few risks too many, and so I was able to fight back."
"You hit the bitch?"
"I wish. No, it didn't come to blows unfortunately. If I could have, I would have punched the living shit out of that ghost. Or . . . the dead shit out of her."
"What happened?" Bobo asked, sitting back down on his stool.
"The last time she came to me, there was no dream: no red dress, no tall beautiful woman, nothing like that. I was just sleeping lightly, cat napping. It was around 4:30 in the morning. Usually, the visitations happened between four and five, except in winter time. In the dead of winter, sometimes they happened later. I know this because I kept a digital clock in my room. After the night smotherings, I would sit up and read my Bible. Like the old saying goes, there are no atheists in fox holes. Sometimes, I'd have a drink of whisky to calm my nerves. It's impossible to sleep after you've been attacked."
"I couldn't sleep either if that happened to me. Nobody could."
"The rest of the night after you've been attacked is just a waiting game until daylight."
"No shit," Bobo said. "I would drink a beer or two for sure."
"The last time I was approached, the tables were turned. I beat that damned ghost at her own game."
Bobo leaned forward on the bar. "What'd you do, set up a booby trap?"
"Normally, the ghost would climb onto my chest to perform the "succubus suck." But on this one last occasion, I'd been sleeping all night on my stomach. So the bitch had to climb on my back. Big mistake. I felt her right away, and woke up. The paralysis hadn't worked. I was fully conscious with a fucking succubus on my back!"
"Did she get sexual?" Bobo asked.
"No, nothing like that. She looked sexy, I guess, the dreams she gave me were mildly sexual, nothing beyond innuendos. But, yeah, that's what succubi do, they hit a guy where he's vulnerable."
"Okay," Bobo said, "there's a horny vampire ghost perched on your back, the foreplay's gotten to second base . . . and then what?"
"I rolled to my left, and threw the bitch off! She landed on the floor. After that, I guess she dematerialized. It was hard to tell because she was invisible. Anyway, the room felt empty, like she'd gone."
"How do you know she landed on the floor?"
"She hit the floorboards with a thud. I would say her weight was maybe that of a small chimpanzee. Or a dwarf. Anyway, after she hit the floor, I was mad. Real mad. I leapt off my bed to grab her, but she was already gone. There was nothing to grab but air."
Woodward House: The place was totally haunted and I lived there for a year. My bedroom was in the attic, on the far right. As a matter of fact, I saw a ghost look out that very window on more than one occasion. The Victorian house was built in 1887 when the Shanghai tunnels were going strong. By 1887, hundreds of human trafficked slaves had already been sold.
"Damn," Bobo said, "The 'succubus suck,' huh? Sounds like the worst blow job ever." He stood up from his barstool and stretched. By now, the others were standing around, waiting to leave.
We all stepped outside, blinking like trolls at the mouth of a cave. Just then, a skirt with a pair of long legs walked by. Bobo and I rubbed our eyes. Yowza. Our "tunnel vision" hadn't adjusted to sunlight yet after having stumbled through so many dark basements.
Bobo smiled, and reached out to shake my hand. "Dude, you seem weirder every time I see you."
"Thanks, man," I said. "I'll take that as a compliment . . . coming from you."
The sky was painfully blue outside. Not a cloud up there. The backs of my irises pounded. It was amazing what an hour underground could do. Of course, I knew that the sun's electromagnetic radiation penetrated below the pavements, down into subterranean passages below. Even though they were dark as hell, daytime was still different from night.
It's possible that solar energy keeps paranormal activity to a minimum, even in dark out of the way places. Like bigfoots, ghosts are nocturnal creatures. For this reason, it's always best to go ghosting at night. Bobo was a quick study when it came to the supernatural. He could take to ghosting in a heartbeat. The shamanistic vibe of Freak Power was strong with him. I debated telling him about a few places nearby in Portland that would make the Shanghai tunnel tour seem like child's play.
Nineteenth century prison cell that was used to keep abductees who would later be Shanghaied. This was a particularly disturbing part of the tour for me. The vibe of suffering was intense.
"Hey, that tour was pretty fun," Bobo mused, "even though we didn't get jumped by any female ghosts."
A homeless guy was pushing his shopping cart past us on the sidewalk. I couldn't help reading the man's eyes. They seemed vague and diffuse, zombie-like, the perfect place for an IDE (intra-dimensional entity) to reside, safe within the power center of a terrestrial body--watching, biding its time, waiting for another, more advantageous, opportunity to avail itself. It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that some of the homeless in Portland, especially with "special" kinds of mental illness, could be possessed by ghosts.
Modern psychology tends to downplay such possibilities. Personally, I find this tendency ironic, considering the fact that early psychologists were obsessed with table wrapping and mind reading. They called themselves "alienists." I guess the nom de plume wasn't impressive enough, so the job title was changed to "psychologist" early in the 20th Century.
Even still, after having worked in the Psych Department of NYU for five years, I can say for a fact that quite a few of the top professors there read books about the supernatural. Some of them had treated patients with peculiar maladies and abilities that caused the professor treating them to think outside the "academic box," so to speak.
Once the "two-legged cow" with the shopping cart had passed, I turned back towards Bobo. "So check this out," I said. "Before we met today, I heard this recording that a guy made down there in the Shanghai tunnels. He took a digital recorder and kept in on 'record' during the whole tour. There was some freaky whispering and a few words."
"Really?" Bobo said. "Where'd you hear that? Youtube?"
"Yep. Thank God for Youtube."
"It's a blessing and a curse," Bobo said over his shoulder, as he stepped off the curb to cross the street. "One man's food is another man's poison." I watched him walk down the street, towering over his friends: Exit, stage left.
Every once in a while, Bobo delivers a verdict that's a real zinger. Youtube is both a blessing and a curse, no doubt about it. A lot of stuff on the site is pure bullshit, but there's also some really valuable documentation and resources, even though sometimes it took an expert just to sift out the chaff from the wheat. That is certainly true of bigfoot documentation. For every one piece of real footage or evidence, hundreds of fakes abound.
As for the Shanghai Tunnel Ghost Tour, it was a success, even though Bobo and I didn't see or hear any ghosts as we traipsed through the tunnel system with our friends. But the tunnels were fascinating to see, especially with all of the rich history that accompanied them.
It wasn't everyday that evidence of human trafficking was so tangible. The ghostly specter of slavery in modern times, particularly in the United States of America, seems so nebulous and vague. But on this day, Bobo and I saw an actual prison cell that had once held hundreds of drugged and desperate young men, many of whom died behind those very bars from incorrect doses of the drugs used to render them unconscious.
Of course, no matter what the occasion happens to be, hanging out with Bobes is always a great fucking time. Mission accomplished.
There's Bobo at a gig that I played last year. He said that he liked my drumming, and he thought my drum set was cool. That's the back of my head in the picture.
Bobo and me shooting the shit: In this case about playing the drums around town in various projects. I feel a kinship with Bobo because both he and I tend not to "self-censor" much. He has said some of the most profound things that I've ever heard over a beer, and he don't take no shit from nobody. In a word: refreshing.
Believe it or not, I've been in my share of brawls. I have a big mouth. Thank goodness I have a fast right hook to back it up! In a way, even though we are pretty much the same age, Bobo reminds me of my grandfather, Bob. I loved that guy. Bob was a crab fisherman in Oregon for most of his life. He was also a heavyweight boxer. As rumor had it, he often went to bars up and down the coast from Depot Bay up to Warrenton for the fighting more than the drinking. My Grandpa Bob would have had a lot to talk about with Bobo! The man's fishing boat had once been run over by a cargo ship that sent him spiraling to the bottom of Astoria harbor when he was asleep down below on a bunk. And, of course, Bob had been "chased" by water spouts many times out in the Pacific ocean.
Cliff Barackman also knows a ton about taking care of B.I. Bidness. Both he and I are no strangers to Wing Chun Kung Fu and the martial arts. Cliff's got a quick wit, and a steel trap mind. He rarely ever backs down if he is in the right and the point is worth making. I've heard about Cliff standing up to a bully that outweighed him by a good hundred pounds, and the bully was the one to walk away confused and disoriented. In a word: impressive.
Both Cliff and Bobes are my kind of peeps. They work hard, play hard, walk the walk, and talk the talk--not only about bigfooting, but in general. They are students of the supernatural with warrior spirits.
Credo ut intelligam: I believe so that I may understand.