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McMenamins Grand Lodge, Forest Grove

A Ghostly Tale

A white-haired woman in a print dress and house slippers stands at the end of the second-story hall watching us. She does not move as we approach. As we get closer, I realize that she is not real, but a portrait painted on the wall.

Pat Yoakum is taking me on a tour of McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. Pat tells me that this painting is a compilation portrait of a ghost seen by several workers while restoring the magnificent 1922 Masonic Lodge — the former home for the "infirm, widows, and orphans" of the Masons. The painting is based on vivid recollections and is an admirable likeness of some unknown former resident.

We continue our tour down the next hallway and out onto the verandas where I am delighted with the huge tubular fireescape left intact, perfect for shoving infirm patients off the second floor down the metal shute on their mattresses.

Pat tells me that her grandmother, Anna, lived here for years and died here two weeks before her 100th birthday. I ask if perhaps the ghost is her grandmother. No, Pat says, and retrieves a 1950s black and white Kodak snapshot of her grandmother that she has on her clipboard. To my eye, the portrait at the end of the hall has an unmistakable likeness to the photo. I point this out to Pat, and ask if the women residents all had the same housedresses given to them. Oh, no, she responds. Every woman had her own wardrobe.

"Look at the dress," I say.

"Oh my goodness!" exclaims Pat. It's almost the same — the pattern and the funny way it's crunched up in the front.

We walk back to compare the photo with the portrait, and as we are evaluating, a young man, whom I shall call Ben because that's his name, walks by and asks what we're doing. We tell him about the ghost portrait and show him the photo. Ben agrees. The portrait and the photo bear an uncanny likeness. Pat, naturally, has an image in her mind of what her grandmother looked like when she was much older. And besides, the portrait is comprised of ghost image recollections from others. Pat takes a beat considering, then grins broadly and says to the painted wall, "Hello, Anna."

If it's possible, the ebullient Pat seems even more cheerful than before. She takes me to the basement, following a fanciful trail of colorful mosaic and tile-work to the Game Room bar, once the Doctor's office. It's mid-week and early, so the bar isn't open yet. Pat uses her keys and then can't find the lights. We peer into the room. It is nearly pitch-black and we can barely make out the snooker tables and bar. I'm up for continuing further into the room – a covert mission exploring places where we shouldn't — but Pat convinces me this might be hazardous without illumination.

Our next stop is the store, also not open at this hour. I don't mind. There's something delicious about being in places when they're closed, like you've almost caught inanimate objects in their secret life.

We pass by walls festooned with eclectic art and investigate nearly every place there is to see, including the intimate meeting rooms — six with fireplaces — the auditorium, bar, and dining room, each with personal commentary by Pat who worked here as a nurse and also frequently visited Anna.

I leave Pat and retire to my room upstairs where I flop on the very nice bed to scan the McMenamin literature, which is, as in all of their whimsical properties and pubs, plentiful.

I walk down to dinner in the Ironwork Grill, a handsome, dark candlelit pub room featuring some of the original architectural elements and fixtures. I have a wonderful brioche with wild mushrooms and a mediocre red wine. Unfortunately, they were out of the recommended first choice.

After dinner I retreat to the Billy Scott reading room and cull through the bookshelves for something to read other than my two-month old issue of The New Yorker. I think about lighting a fire in the fireplace, but don't. I am content reading when the door opens and in walks Ben. He is carrying a book, a glass, and a bottle of white wine. He didn't see me tucked in one of the club chairs, and startled, asks if he is disturbing me. No, of course not. Would I mind if he starts the fire? Hah. I just hate a blazing fire on a cold, rainy night, with a ghost portrait a few feet down the hall.

Ben offers wine and I hesitate. I am not really fond of white wine, but what's a girl to do? I guess he's not comfortable with the thought of me swigging from the bottle, so he gallantly goes to his room to fetch a glass. (Beer pint glasses, along with a quart jar are placed on bedside tables for beer drinking convenience in private.) When he returns, I have to ask what he's doing in Forest Grove. He sells Swedish blades to sawmills. We both have Northwest logging histories, so this takes the conversation into comfortable unforeseen territory.

Wind blowing. Rain battering against the windows. Fire blazing. Somewhere around midnight, after trying to recall every wigwam burner left in the territory, we call it a night.

I get in my pajamas and realize I've forgotten that, European hotel style, the bathrooms are down the hall. I peek out my door to make certain no one is there except Anna, and scamper down the hall. On my way back to my room, I glance at the portrait. Wait a minute, hasn’t Anna moved down the hall a little? I think about banging on Ben's door & asking for one of those Swedish saw blades, but instead sprint to my room, lock my door and dive into bed.

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