“Welcome to the Portland underground”
Portland was once described as the “Shanghai Capital of the World.” Today the underground tunnels that were once used to move slaves, prostitutes, and victims, have become one of Portland’s most infamous tours.
From 1850 to around 1941 “Shanghaiing” was a common practice on the coast, particularly in Portland. The idea behind Shanghaiing was the act of using slaves to work on ships, many of which were headed to Shanghai, China. More often than not, the men and women would be drugged and led through the tunnels to a ship, but by the time they woke from their stupor, it was too late, they were already half-way across the ocean.
Many of Portland’s Shanghai tunnels lead from basement to basement, and it’s believed over 2 thousand men, women, and children may have been “shanghaied” during the years that the tunnels were in use.
For obvious reasons, people have spent years telling stories about the dark tunnels that run under a majority of the city. One of the most famous stories is about the ghost of a prostitute named, Nina. According to the legend, Nina was drugged and dropped down an elevator shaft, the fall killing her. Today people still smell her perfume, or catch glimpses of her wandering the darkened halls alone.
If you’re interesting in descending down into the tunnels, you can take the Shanghai Tunnels guided tour to experience a piece of Portland's history for yourself! -Roadtrippers
The "Portland Underground" tunnels, more popularly known as the "Shanghai Tunnels", were basements of buildings that connected to other buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These "catacombs" or "tombs", as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called "shanghaiiers" or "crimps", in addition to "white slavers" who grabbed women and sold them into prostitution.
These are educational tours of the infamous "Portland Underground" that focuses on the shanghai trade in the City of Portland that survived from 1850-1941, as well as "white slavery", prohibition, and even the turn-of-the-century history of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) labor movement in the Northwest. In addition, the early history of the Chinese is covered, along with the Japanese and the Gypsies. These tours are operated by the Cascade Geographic Society (CGS) and provide a unique glimpse back into the hidden (or buried) past of the "City of Roses".
The tour takes approximately an hour and a half, and participants are with a guide at all times. The tour-goers receive an above-ground orientation, and then the guide will lead participants into the "Portland Underground", where they will receive the majority of the historical and oral history about this infamous maritime practice that gave Portland a notorious reputation throughout the world. Tour participants must be able to handle stairs that lead to and from this hidden world. In addition, there will be dust, dirt, musty smells, and anything else that would be associated with this type of environment, so if you need a dust mask, please bring one. Also, at each station people will be required to stand for at least 15 minutes at a time in order to receive the necessary information. Also, the "Portland Underground" is constantly in transition as more and more sections are opened or restored, which is why some people have taken this tour several times.
These tunnels, once used to smuggle alcohol during prohibition and even people in an illicit slave trade, are part of an underground city beneath Old Chinatown. Because of their rich history in illegal activity, these tunnels are said to be active with spirits of all kinds.
The `Portland Underground` tunnels, more popularly known as the `Shanghai Tunnels`, were basements of buildings that connected to other buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These `catacombs` or `tombs`, as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called `shanghaiiers` or `crimps`, in addition to `white slavers` who grabbed women and sold them into prostitution.
Venture into the `Portland Underground` to see remnants of this shocking maritime history --- unique architecture, underground holding cells, a `deadfall` trapdoor, unearthed artifacts of this terrible, misguided labor practice, and more. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the secret history of shanghaiing.
For more information, visit the website below or contact the Cascade Geographic Society.
Had a great time with my kids and loved the tour. The history of the place is very interesting. What people will do for a buck...go if you want to find out! Great tour guides and I had no problems with customer service. Also there was nothing offensive about this tour as it is of historical nature.
This is an awesome place with lots of history. You see things underground that you will probably not see anywhere else. The history is a lot scarier than any ghost. I highly recommend the tour for people interested in history.... especially the dark history of Portland, Oregon.
Michael Jones is a fantastic tour guide. Portland is LOADED with haunted places, particularly Old Town.. As a resident, I suggest spring, March, to September, to visit, May and early June are touristy trappings, and bring a rain jacket, not an umbrella.. That's a tourist sign here! 😊Welcome to Portland!!
The stories are interesting, but they're just that - stories. While "Crimping" (sailors kidnapped for ships,) actually went on, it was much more open or took place in boarding houses. There is no historical evidence that the Shanghai Tunnels ever existed.
The "tunnels" that did exist - mostly secret passages and hidden rooms in buildings are a decade plus after the crimping business stopped in the 1890's due to the increase in usage of steam ships. Those secret passages led to opium dens and brothels, many of which catered to Chinese people who were hiding away.
this is to Kailin1205 Get Over yourself if it were up to idiots like you we wouldnt have any history atall oh my we have to be policticaly correct here dont we now Get Reall and do something else with your life rather than picking apart everyone else's life you must have a very boring life or no life atall if youre doing this just complaining
To;kailin1205 why would say that, it has a history with china, so what is the issue? There are lots of things like this all over the world with connections of name and trade. I for one would think it would be very fun and interesting to see it.
It was very interesting and informative. Tours are at 6 unless you have a private group that is prescheduled. Buy tickets in advance and it will save $4 per person
I have done this and it was very informative.. we did the later one for just adults it was nice and creepy..
I found the tunnels kinda creepy and I scare really easily so this just wasn't my thing. They definitely aren't haunted and I'm sure a lot of the stories are made up. Would not recommend going. Everyone in my group hated it. It was cool to listen to the stories and see the tunnels whether it was fake or not.
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Shanghai Tunnel Tours
- Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 11:00 pm
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Credit Cards Accepted
Not Wheelchair Accessible
No Public Restrooms
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