By Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
Lincoln City’s Taft district is no stranger to spooky goings on, from the abandoned schooner that drifted into Siletz Bay and sank beneath the waters, to restless burial grounds and even a haunted fire truck.
All these elements beg a single question about Haunted Taft: Ghosts and Legends of the Oregon Coast, a walking tour beginning this Friday, Oct. 19, and continuing every weekend through Oct. 27 — why has it taken so long for this tour to happen?
Without giving too much away, local lore enthusiasts, including professional storyteller Doug Force, are abuzz with excitement to share tales like the one about the sunken schooner, which some bayfront residents swear they can still see sailing toward them on foggy nights. Or the story about the restaurant that was built over Native American burial grounds.
“Over the years the owners and employees have sighted weird happenings like a pair of scissors flying across the room,” said Shellie Stuart, one of the organizers of the event. “Even before they knew it was the site of a burial ground they say they felt a presence, and for some reason they can’t explain, that it was a Native American. It’s not a negative presence, more of a calming one.”
There’s little as dear to the heart of Oregonians as the story of the Sasquatch, and Haunted Taft will feature its own story about a local sighting of this woodland wild thing.
Stuart is a fan of ghost tours and says that she seeks them out when she travels.
“I think these types of tours are a great way to get to know the more interesting, offbeat parts of an area,” she said. “And it’s a great way to get to know the character of a place too. It’s not that I’m a huge believer in ghosts, I just think it’s a fun way to get to know about where you are visiting, or even to find out some things you didn’t know about where you live.”
The tour takes about one and a half hours, involves walking about half a mile on flat, paved streets, and is wheelchair accessible. The halfway point will be at a covered fire pit, where participants will gather for a few stories around a cozy fire and enjoy some hot apple cider and sweets.
The tour will be conducted rain or (moon)shine; and should rain appear, tickets include goody bags with emergency rain ponchos. The bags will also have a flashlight, fun Halloween-themed items donated by local businesses and a commemorative t-shirt with a special effect.
“The event logo has tentacles wrapping around it,” said Susan Wahlke, another member of the organizing team. “On the t-shirt that part will be glow in the dark; it’s going to be really cool.”
Though some fantasy is woven into the tales, most are grounded by true events and historical places. In that spirit, the itinerary includes the Snug Harbor Bar and Grill, which opened in the early 1930s and is the longest continuously running pub on the Oregon Coast.
“We’ll end the tour there, so people can have an adult beverage if they want,” Wahlke said. “What better way to end it? When you have a place that’s been around for that long, there are bound to be some hauntings.”
Haunted Taft will have three tours at 5:30, 7 and 8:30 pm on on Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 27. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for kids aged 13 to 17, and free for those aged 12 and under. The tour is not recommended for children younger than eight.
Tours depart from the public parking lot across from the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, 4907 SE Hwy. 101, between SW 50th and SW 51st Streets. For more information, go to hauntedtaft.com.