Forest Park in Portland, Oregon most notably the area around Balch Creek has some interesting history behind it as well as playing host to one of the area’s most famous haunted places. In 1850, Danford Balch filed a land claim on this portion of land near what was then the fledgling settlement of Portland. Danford’s land was large enough that he needed help in order to clear it. He hired a transient worker named Mortimer Stump who was from Vancouver. Balch allowed him to stay with the he and his family which consisted of his wife Mary Jane and his 9 children.
Mortimer was with the family so long that one thing led to another and he fell in love with Danford’s 15 year old daughter Anna. Mortimer asked for permission to marry Anna but her parents refused. The couple threatened to elope and Danford exclaimed that if they did he would kill Mortimer. Well young lovers did not heed this warning and Mortimer ran off to Vancouver with Anna in November of 1858 where they were married. This sparked a feud between the Balch and Stump families.
A few weeks later Mortimer, Anna, and some other members of the Stump family returned to Portland for some supplies and encountered Danford. Having been nagged and tormented by Mary Jane to make good on his promise, Danford later claimed that his wife “bewitched” him into carrying out his threat to kill Mortimer and return their daughter to the family. In a drunken stupor, Danford pulled a shotgun and shot Mortimer in the head.
Balch was promptly arrested, however the deteriorated condition of the wooden prison allowed him to later escape while awaiting his trial. He hid out on his own property and was again found and arrested some 6 months later. Danford Balch was put on trial and convicted for the murder of Mortimer and was hanged to death on October 17, 1859. This was the first legal hanging that occured in the newly formed Oregon Territory. Mary Jane continued to live at the Balch cabin, but at Danford’s request divided up the land amoung her children.
Over the years, the land was passed to various owners but was of little use and was given to the City of Portland by Donald Macleay in 1897 to be used as a park. In the 1950’s a stone structure was built to house restrooms and a ranger station for the park near the site of the old Balch cabin. Over time this structure deteriorated from vandalism and was abandoned in the 1960’s. This has since became known as “The Witch’s Castle”. It is rumored that this was once a 1600’s trading post, however the existing structure was built almost 350 years later. Whether a previous structure was there or not, it is unknown.
It is said that strange occurrences occur in this area. Plasma orbs have been photographed in some cases. Some say that when you visit this area around midnight, many apparitions can bee seen in the area and appear as if they are in some sort of battle or war against each other. It is believed that these may be the ghosts of Danford, Mortimer, Anna, and Mary Jane returning from the hereafter. Perhaps these are indeed the spirits of the Balch and Stump families carrying out their ghostly feud through all of time.