SALEM — Looking to burn some calories after the annual Halloween candy binge? Schedule a trip to these state parks and keep a lookout for any shadowy apparitions or bumps in the night.
The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge officially shut down its quest for buried gold in 1954, but stories about ghostly encounters date back to the early 1940’s. According to accounts from former dredge workers, a ghost named Joe Bush used to haunt the dredge when it was shut down twice a year for holiday observances. Workers would hear thudding footsteps on the upper decks at night and then discover eerie wet footprints the next day.
Ghost Joe’s origins vary: some believe he’s the spirit of a man killed in an accident on the dredge in 1918. Others think his ghost was drawn to the dredge from someplace else; a wayward soul looking for a place to reside in the afterlife.
The frequency of encounters with Joe’s ghost have subsided over the years, but park rangers at the dredge are happy to discuss the machine’s spooky past. The park also holds an annual Halloween-themed event in October. Local costumed kids ride the historic Sumpter Valley Railroad into the park to then trick-or-treat at the dredge.
Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site, home to a water-powered flour mill that operated from 1858 to 2014, is no stranger to odd occurrences. Some park rangers have glimpsed the fleeting image of a man dressed in 1950’s clothing standing next to a mill machine. Others have said the master bedroom of the old Thompson house is a prime spot for ghostly encounters: one ranger claims he was alone in the bedroom one night when a clammy hand clamped down on his shoulder!
Two different paranormal research companies have investigated the mill in the past decade. The most recent investigation, led by Mid-Valley Paranormal, recorded a man’s voice saying in a squeaky, high pitched tone, “we gotta get the product out.” It’s thought the voice belongs to the ghost of Ott Thompson, who ran the mill for over 60 years. Thompson was a strict boss and was known for his squeaky, high-pitched voice.
Extra creepy fact: the paranormal folks made their recording before they knew about Ott’s background and his distinctive voice.
Guests and staff at the historic inn—built in 1883—have been reporting paranormal activity for decades. Many people claim they’ve heard soft voices from the parlor in the dead of night. Others report doors slamming or kitchen tools moving of their own accord.
The least fortunate guests (or luckiest, depending on how you look at it) say they’ve encountered the ghostly apparition of a little girl, seen at night wandering the inn’s hallways or trudging across the grounds.
The hauntings are so frequent that they drew the attention of the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures, who investigated the inn in 2017. They concluded the presence at the inn is “mischievous” and bears no ill will towards inn inhabitants.
If you’re up for a spooky encounter, nightly and overnight paranormal tours are available and can be booked at wolfcreekinn.com.