The Willamette Valley is well-known as one of the most favored grape-growing regions in the world. But the lush, rolling hills of wine country aren't only popular with tipplers. The end of the Oregon Trail has a long and dark history that's drawn paranormal enthusiasts from all over the world.
For our final installment of Creepy Maps Month, we've chosen some truly spooky spots in Yamhill County that are guaranteed to send chills down the spines of even the biggest self-proclaimed non-believers.
1. A murder, a hanging and a gypsy's curse in Lafayette
Situated along a main route for California gold prospectors, the once-booming town of Lafayette has had its share of bad luck. For years, the story goes, locals blamed Anna Marple, a supposed gypsy who cursed it as an act of revenge after her son was hanged for murdering a local shop owner. Rumor has it, during the execution Marple screamed that the town would be ravaged by fire. The town would indeed see two disastrous fires in the years that followed, and believers to this day predict there are more to come.
The main draw here is Lafayette Pioneer Cemetery, which has attracted paranormal enthusiasts from all over the world. Though Anna Marple was buried down in Jacksonville, visitors have reported sightings of a woman roaming the grounds and the sound of laughter. Some say it's Lena, who reportedly haunts Argyle Winery, and is buried here. Whether you're a believer or not, the place is still unsettling and, if you're feeling daring, you can spend the night on the grounds as long as you sign a waiver at the Yamhill County Historical Society. An even spookier alternative is the Masonic Cemetery a couple of miles away. It's peaceful and unmaintained, and the gorgeous views and big shady oak trees are worth the quarter-mile uphill trek.
History nerds will enjoy chatting with the friendly, and frighteningly knowledgeable, folks at the Yamhill County Historical Society, who seem to know every single thing about every single person who has passed through the area. Feel free to explore their extensive research library, which includes an impressively large "MURDERS" section. Next door is the museum, housed in a creaky old church built in 1892, where visitors have reported strange sights and sounds.
GO: From I5 South, take 99W to Lafayette. The Yamhill County Historical Society is at 605 Market St., yamhillcountyhistory.org. Open Wed., Friday and Saturday 10-4,. Lafayette Pioneer Cemetery (from the Historical Society): Head north on Market St. toward 7th St. Turn right and continue until you reach Duniway Road. Continue north and the cemetery will be on the right. Lafayette Masonic Cemetery: From 99W turn right onto NE Mineral Springs Road and follow for about a mile until you come to a grassy gated road on the right.
2. Drink with the dead at Argyle Winery
Known for its selection of award-winning sparkling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, Dundee's Argyle Winery has a rambunctious ghost whose presence has been felt and heard by a number of employees. In 1908, Lena Elsie Imus committed suicide in the old City Hall building, in what would later become a tasting room. Staff have reported the scent of flowers and perfume, lights turning on and off by themselves, the sound of wine glasses shattering yet no fragments found and footsteps in a vacant upstairs room. A service technician was so shaken from his experience that he vowed never to return. But, overall, employees and locals believe Lena is a good, "gentle" spirit, even naming their Spirithouse Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in her honor. She's buried alongside her parents and brothers at Pioneer Cemetery, where her headstone reads "Not Dead, But Gone Before."
GO: Argyle Winery, 691 Highway 99W, in Dundee. 503-538-8520, argylewinery.com. Open daily from 11 to 5 pm.
3. Pay your respects at Ebenezer Chapel and O'Dell Cemetery
This one's a doozy. The directions on Google Maps aren't terribly accurate, so be sure to have enough gas in the tank. Originally built in 1856 and again in 1926, the Ebenezer Chapel stands alongside a spotty cluster of mossy, deteriorating headstones that are reminiscent of a scene from a B horror flick. Ghost hunters and paranormal experts have reported nighttime sightings of spirits, glowing lights in the forest and voices in the chapel. Legend has it that the preacher murdered his 13 children and burned them in the fireplace. Ouch. The cemetery's other residents include a Civil War vet, early Oregon Trail pioneers, two sisters who, at 2 and 9, died six months apart, and the most recent burial that appears to be from 1911.
GO: O'Dell Cemetery is about 6 miles south of Dayton, a quarter-mile south of Alderman on Webfoot Road.
4. Hotel Oregon's restless long-time resident
Built in 1905 as a stopover for weary southbound travelers, guests at what is now McMenamins Hotel Oregon have reported hearing doors opening and closing, and and voices coming from empty rooms. Some have felt a ghost they believe is a former long-time resident named John, who roams the halls leaving rooms cold in his wake. To make things even more interesting, the hotel hosts the town's annual UFO convention each May to commemorate the UFO sightings and photographs captured by a local farmer in 1950.
Join Spooks to Spirits author Tracey Ward as she retells some notable ghost stories and paranormal activity reported in Yamhill County. The event will take place Oct. 28 from 6-9 pm at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center.
GO: Hotel Oregon: 310 NE Evans St., mcmenamins.com. Yahmhill Valley Heritage Center: 11275 SW Durham Lane, yamhillcountyhistory.org.