Shanghai Tunnels - Portland's Dark Past

The Shanghai Tunnels that lay beneath the streets of Chinatown and Old Town in Portland have a dark and mysterious past that is nothing less than fascinating. Not a lot of people know the story behind the tunnels, so here it is (because I like you so much! ;)).

shanghai tunnels portland

From 1850 to 1941, Portland Oregon was known as the "Forbidden City" because of the criminal practice of Shanghaiing. Let's say that you were a logger, construction worker,sailor or anyone else of strength. You happened into a saloon in the heart of Chinatown, for nothing more than a drink and a rest from your work. A lot of unsavory characters in this place, huh? Thick smoke hangs in the air and you are surrounded by loud and drunken men and women.

shanghai tunnels

After a while, you're ready to go, but not before hitting the latrine. You venture down a dark hallway, totally unaware of your fate. All of a sudden the floor gives way beneath you and you hit hard in a damp and dimly lit cavern beneath the bar. Before you can clear the cobwebs from your head, you're grabbed by a couple unshaven and tattered-looking men and roughly thrown into a holding cell. A few rats and bugs are your only company and the echos from the stone walls surrounding you send shivers down your spine.

shanghai tunnel tour

You soon learn that you're not a guest, but someone waiting to be sold into slavery to some sea captain, leaving one of Portland's ports the next day. Your life has taken an unsuspecting and horrible change for the worse. In a few moments, you went from a free person with not a care in the world to someone else's property, to be used and abused however they saw fit.

This was the maritime practice called "Shanghaiing" and it was a very common occurrence long ago. These slaves-to-be were dropped through those trap doors called "deadfalls," drugged, or worse and sold to marine captains needing extra crew for their trips out to sea.

 The Portland Underground was a large network of catacombs beneath the city streets, all interconnecting to one another. Aside from the "shanghaiiers" or "crimpers," there also existed "while slavers" who caught women and sold them into prostitution.

shanghai tunnels portland oregon

This amazing and unbelievable piece of Portland history draws thousands of curious people to the city every year.

The Shanghai Tunnel Tours were started by the Cascade Geographic Society and give visitors a look into Portland's less-than-rosy past. The tours are around an hour and a half and held in the evenings. Tour guides will lead a group down into the "tombs," accessing them from the NW eatery, Hobos, which is kind enough to act as the connection to the underworld.

The tunnels underground are dim, dank, musty and dusty, so dress accordingly and be sure that you can handle something like this.

Various people in your group will be provided with flashlights to illuminate the dark shadows and corners that make up the Shanghai Tunnels. Be very aware of what is around you, because "Northwest Paranormal Investigations" has proclaimed that the Shanghai Tunnels are the most haunted place in all of Oregon. A lot of misery and despair went on there in the early days.

Reservations are needed to assure you a place and various types of tours are available. For tickets and all the information you need, go to the Shanghai Tunnels Tour's web site.

This is an absolute must-do when you are in Portland Oregon. The tour is something that you will remember and talk about for many years to come.

Use the form below to share your own experience on the tour. And now that you've heard all the myth and mystery surrounding the Shanghai Tunnels, go here to get the facts!


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About the Shanghai Tunnels in downtown Portland. No thoughts, just facts. I can assure you there are tunnels that go all throughout the underneath of …

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