X is for...X Marks the Spot
Whoopsidaisy...Guess my Saturday (and Sunday) got away from me and I forgot to post my X topic! So here's to a little catch up :) X is for...
X Marks the Spot: Shanghai Tunnels
See what I did there? Sneaky sneaky. Anywho, moving on. In the Oldtown/Chinatown area of Portland, there is a magical underground network of tunnels that are less...magical and more maniacal. Comprised of a network of underground tunnels connecting the basements of several hotels and bars along the waterfront of the Willamette River, the Shanghai Tunnels were originally built to move goods from the ships docked along the waterfront into the basements of their respective destinations in order to avoid streetcar and pedestrian traffic.
During the height of the shipping days in the Willamette Ports, unsuspecting drunks in the bars above the tunnels would suddenly disappear into the floorboards (through a strategically placed trapdoor), finding themselves on a ship bound for China when they would awaken from their drunken stupor; hence, how the tunnels got their name. Other means of Shanghaiing men and women into the tunnels ranged from knocking them out, drugging them, or physically restraining them.
Shanghaiing became a commons means to fill the slots on board ships in the large ports along the West Coast when men were abandoning the trade left and right for the riches of the Gold Rush. San Francisco, Port Townsend, Astoria, and Portland were some of the most notorious for shanghaiing men; Portland soon became the most infamous and crimps, those who practiced Shanghaiing, would use any and all means to fill the ships with bodies. The most successful of the crimps could make up to $9,000 a year in the late 1800s (nearly $260,000 in today's market).
When stricter laws were placed on those entering the shipping service, Shanghaiing became a more difficult means of cash and, therefore, soon lost favor. Men who worked on the ships had to be conscious when they boarded and sign up in the presence of a shipping commissioner to ensure that they were not being coerced into signing up, a law that had not been required prior to 1872.
Today, there is only a small portion of the tunnels that are open to the public. The majority are boarded off or used by local businesses as storage areas. You can go on tours of the supposedly haunted tunnels, though, or watch the Ghost Adventures episode :)