Portlands' Witches Castle

Perhaps you have heard of the “Witches Castle” that exists up in Forest Park? Perhaps not? In either case, such a place does indeed exist, although where it’s used by witches is a debate for another time. The debate that is alive and fresh though is this particular structures’ origins. Known alternatively as the “stone house” or, as noted, “Witches Castle,” I’ve found two competing stories that tell of its inception. But first, a couple looks:

“Witches Castle” or “Stone House”? Regardless of what you call this place, it’s definitely real, definitely stone, and definitely creepy…especially at night! Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

“Witches Castle” or “Stone House”? Regardless of what you call this place, it’s definitely real, definitely stone, and definitely creepy…especially at night! Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

 

Story 1: Built in 1850

Story 1 says that this particular home was built in 1850 by Danford Balch. Mr. Balch supposedly lived in this house, along with his wife and 9 children. After a time, Mr. Balch reportedly hired a handyman to help him around the property and with clearing some nearby land. The handyman’s name? Mortimer Stump. Yep, that’s not a typo. Creepy indeed. Sooo….the story continues that Mr. Stump fell in love with Mary Jane Balch, then 15 and the oldest of Mr. Balch’s children. Mr. Balch in no way approved and thus the lovebirds fled and eloped.

This sign, which can be found at the Witches Castle, lends major credence to Story 1 being true. Story 2 may just be referencing a use of this original site for the conversion of the property into a ranger station and bathroom. Image Courtesy: onepagewonder.com

This sign, which can be found at the Witches Castle, lends major credence to Story 1 being true. Story 2 may just be referencing a use of this original site for the conversion of the property into a ranger station and bathroom. Image Courtesy: onepagewonder.com

Here’s a pic of a hiker inside the Witche’s Castle. Daytime visits are recommended as it gets a bit gloomy out there in the eve… Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

Here’s a pic of a hiker inside the Witche’s Castle. Daytime visits are recommended as it gets a bit gloomy out there in the eve… Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

Post-wedding, Mr. Balch ran into the lovesick couple and promptly shot dead Mr. Stump. Aided by his drunken state, Mr. Balch made this poor choice and was quickly arrested and later hanged (the first legal hanging to occur in Oregon Territory!). For many, many years after Mr. Stump was murdered, Mary Jane continued to live in the stone house. Later abandoned, the stone house was used as a hiker’s shelter, bathroom and park ranger station until it was badly damaged in a storm in the 1960’s. Now the “stone house” or “witche’s castle,” firmly abandoned yet again, is the destination of teens holding keggers, photographers, hikers and those looking to explore the strange. No doubt this place has an odd aura around it…you can just feel the history.

This sign adds some fun to your adventure! Image Courtesy: enfieldhaunting.com

This sign adds some fun to your adventure! Image Courtesy: enfieldhaunting.com

 

Story 2: Built Just Before the WPA

The second version of the genesis of this stone structure has it being commissioned and built by the City of Portland, as a park ranger station and bathroom, at a total cost of $2,380 and finishing construction in 1930. Here is an article by William Cornett (Oregonian) detailing this version of history:

Article in the Oregonian, by William Cornett, detailing story #2…a commissioning by the City of Portland in 1930. Image Courtesy: Oregonian.com

Article in the Oregonian, by William Cornett, detailing story #2…a commissioning by the City of Portland in 1930. Image Courtesy: Oregonian.com

 

Getting to “Witches” Castle or “Stone House”

Whether you believe story 1 or story 2 as to the genesis of this historical structure, perhaps a trip to the actual site is needed to allow for clarification? Say no more. Here is a map (via Google Earth) as well as some written directions. Good luck and, again, a daytime visit will be, um, a bit less scary. Enjoy!

This map should give you a good idea of how to find the Witches Castle. Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

This map should give you a good idea of how to find the Witches Castle. Image Courtesy: PDXCentric.com

How to get there: It's an easy half-mile hike down to a riverbed to get to the Witch's Castle from the Upper Macleay Parking lot near the Portland Audubon Society. Or for a slightly longer jaunt, start from the Lower Macleay Parking lot at at NW 30th and Upshur.

Dan Meyers