A century-plus old, and plenty of ghost rattling around
The 101-year-old Grand Lodge is well known for being haunted; it is one of the hotel’s main draws. Built more than a century ago as a retirement home for the poor, aged, and ill, the main building—where guests stay—was converted into a McMenamins in 2000; the tall, red-brick structure appears to have been lifted straight out of a horror film—and next door is the Children’s Cottage, formerly a children’s orphanage, now a private event space and forever touched by creepiness.
The most famous of them all is The Lavender Lady, who according to legend and first-hand accounts, resides on the second level of the main lodge. She passed away just short of becoming 100 years old, and her apparition is dressed in a long, patterned dress; by all accounts, she is friendly, and leaves a trail of lavender scent behind her. The hotel’s third level of rooms are all names taken from a list of books that the Lavender Lady is said to have put together.
“Remarkably, and perhaps by design,” a poster on the dimly-lit top floor reads, “a list of books was uncovered during a recent reconstruction of the central part of the building’s main entry, the tattered piece of paper on which it was written still held a faint but unmistakable scent of lavender.”
Back on the first-floor, a thick binder filled with ghost stories left by customers, staff, and guests is kept at the front desk. Records of ghost stories from each year since McMenamins initially opened its doors more than 20 years ago. There are recordings ranging from knocking to kids giggling, cold waves, rearranging rooms, and scratches and bruises left on guests. Most records only document lighthearted interactions; regardless of the nature of these contacts, they contribute to maintaining the lodge’s haunting reputation.
Stacy and her husband were staying at the lodge on July 3, 2008 when Stacy had a physical encounter with a ghost. In the binder, she wrote about her ghost experience: “I’m sitting eating dinner and decided to take a walk down the hall with my husband. We went into one of the vacant rooms, and the curtain began to move- we thought it was just a vent, but once we got closer we realized nothing could be causing the movements. So we ran towards the door when suddenly something grabbed me by the ankle and dragged me back in! My husband ran towards me and grabbed my hand and we ran out of the building – I lifted up my pants leg, and there was a bruise of a hand around my ankle.”
On a recent Sunday morning trip to the Grand Lodge, I spoke with a front desk employee, but she claimed that after working there for two years has yet to encounter any ghosts. However, she added, she doesn’t often work night shifts and only works the front desk area—and then revealed that one of her colleagues heard knocking coming from another room in the afternoon while he was downstairs cleaning out the coffee pots; when he went to investigate, the knocking stopped. When he left the room, the knocking resumed, but stopped again once he entered.
“He ran back upstairs after the second round of knocking; he got so freaked out that he came back upstairs, and then later he said he found scratches going down his back, and he refuses to go back down there now,” explained the front desk employee.
When I approached Victor, a worker who has been at the business for more than five years, about ghost stories, he was tending the bar. The exchanges he described throughout the years had been more annoying than frightening as if someone was playing tricks on him.
“When I was closing up the kitchen at the outdoor restaurant, it was like 10:30 at night, and all of a sudden, the radio on the top shelf came on,” said Victor. “It’s not like I could have bumped it or anything like that. I couldn’t have set it off. It went to a radio station no one ever listens to, so that was kind of freaky.”
Victor also shared that some of the security guards in the past reported the smell of lavender or the sound of running in the hallways above them at night.
“It’s like playing cat and mouse game with footsteps going around here,” explained Victor. “And for me, it’s more playful; no one is dying around here, but I do think no matter how much you say you don’t believe in ghosts, everyone is a little creeped out around here.”
During my visit, on the second level, beside the fire playing cards, I met our Index faculty advisor, Phil Busse, and his six-year old son, Sawyer. They were sitting in the second story den, with a crackling fire and playing a dice game (which Sawyer scored a comeback victory over his dad). Over the past two years, it has become a father-son tradition to visit the Grand Lodge pre-Halloween, and both times Sawyer claims to have seen ghosts.
“It was a little after 3:30, and when I was walking down the hall, I heard some footsteps behind me, but nobody was there,” confidently explained Sawyer. “And last year, our windows moved on their own.” With wide eyes, Sawyer continued, “Yes, ghosts haunt my house too.” — Emily Rutkowski