There’s a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore “Forest” on Division Street
“We wanted to bring something special forth from our hearts,” they say, “something reminiscent of old Portland before the commercial takeover.”
By Janelle Albukhari
Secret Forest is not a bookstore, according to its owners. It is, instead, a forest.
"One must have their third eye activated to see it," they'll tell you.
There are, nonetheless, plenty of books at the Southeast Division Street forest/bookstore, not to mention a giant leering eye hanging over a door marked "Books."
The shelves contain much, much more, however–ancient pottery, plenty of gnomes, war masks, books on feminism and science, and even a copy of War and Peace. Each room is littered with old tomes on everything from metaphysics to breastfeeding. Books devoted to the gothic and the occult share space with candles, vampire chess, pianos and paintings placed alongside unicorn shrines.
The pair who own it identify themselves only as the "Black Ghost Collective"—the business license says Joshua Milligan. They describe their collective alternately as a "back-to-nature movement" and a "metaphor for that which is forgotten."
"In November of 2011," they tell WW, "'a friend of ours approached us and said, 'Here! Take over my shop! Do what thou wilt with it!'"
And so now they own an entirely profit-free, they insist, exercise in absurdity. "We wanted to bring something special forth from our hearts," they say, "something reminiscent of old Portland before the commercial takeover."
Most people who shop at the store, they say, are "frantically relieved to randomly discover we exist." But many are a little more confused. "Some people get very angry and yell at us or make fun of us and can be downright snide because we use dim lighting and candles which sets off their hoodoo alarm." Some even demand to know exactly what the Secret Forest is.
To those people, they offer a much more simple answer: "It's a bookstore."