The Haunted Underground Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon, a city known for its vibrant culture, picturesque landscapes, and innovative spirit, hides a dark and mysterious past beneath its surface. The Shanghai Tunnels, also known as the Haunted Underground, have captivated the imaginations of locals and visitors alike, drawing them into the eerie history of Portland’s seedy underbelly. In this article, we delve into the chilling legends and tales that surround these subterranean passageways, exploring the tragic history that still lingers in the depths.

Origins and purpose

The Shanghai Tunnels were initially constructed in the mid-19th century, during the height of Portland’s maritime trade and expansion. They were intended to facilitate the smooth transfer of goods between ships docked on the Willamette River and businesses in the downtown area. However, their use would soon take a dark turn that would forever stain the tunnels with sorrow.

The dark side of the tunnels

By the late 1800s, the Shanghai Tunnels became infamous for their involvement in a sinister practice known as “shanghaiing.” Unscrupulous individuals, known as “crimps,” would lurk in Portland’s waterfront bars and taverns, preying on unsuspecting men and sailors who were lured into a false sense of camaraderie and inebriation. After drugging or incapacitating their victims, these nefarious crimps would smuggle them through hidden trapdoors and tunnels to waiting ships.

Once on board, the helpless victims would awaken to find themselves trapped at sea, forced into hard labor as part of the crew. This forced recruitment, known as “shanghaiing,” was a nightmarish reality for countless men who found themselves involuntarily conscripted into a life of harsh conditions, endless toil, and uncertain fates.

Ghostly legends and haunting tales

It is no surprise that such a dark and sorrowful history would leave its mark on the tunnels. Over the years, numerous reports of paranormal activity and ghostly sightings have emerged, adding to the mystique of the Haunted Underground. Locals and visitors alike have claimed to hear echoing footsteps, distant cries for help, and anguished moans that seem to emanate from the depths.

One of the most chilling legends involves a ghostly barmaid named Nina. As the story goes, Nina was a vivacious and beautiful young woman who worked at a waterfront tavern. Tragically, she fell victim to a crimp’s scheme and found herself trapped on a ship against her will. Her spirit is said to wander the tunnels, eternally searching for an escape she never found in life. She’s been present for more than 100 years and is often seen in a black dress. If you smell a faint waft of perfume, you may have just received a visit.

Exploring the tunnels today

Today, the Shanghai Tunnels stand as a historical reminder of Portland’s darker days. Tour companies offer guided excursions into the tunnels, inviting visitors to step back in time and experience the eerie atmosphere that once permeated these passages.

While some skeptics dismiss the ghostly tales as mere fiction or overactive imaginations, many who have ventured into the depths come away with an unshakable feeling that something supernatural lingers in these dark corridors.

Preserving the past, honoring the memories

As Portland continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial to preserve its rich history, even the aspects that remind us of darker times. The Shanghai Tunnels serve as a somber reminder of the city’s past, reminding us of the resilience and progress that have brought about positive changes.

While the Haunted Underground may fuel intrigue and curiosity, it is essential to approach the stories with respect for the lives affected by the dark practices that once took place within its walls. The ghosts of the past may linger, but by acknowledging and understanding their history, we honor their memory and ensure that such tragedies are never repeated.


The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon, are more than just a collection of dark corridors beneath the city; they are a haunting testament to a bygone era filled with exploitation and sorrow. As visitors walk through the Haunted Underground, they can’t help but feel the weight of history bearing down on them, making it an unforgettable experience that leaves an indelible mark on their souls. As we delve into the past through these chilling tales, may we also look forward to a future built on compassion, understanding, and unity, ensuring that the darkness of the Shanghai Tunnels never returns to haunt us again.

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