Creatures of the night, be forewarned: Portland’s newest goth bar isn’t all that goth.
Sure, there are creepy sights in view as soon as you enter Raven’s Manor, from haunted dolls to dusty grimoires, which, on closer inspection, turned out to be the Encyclopedia Britannica. But don’t go expecting the westside version of the Lovecraft. Instead, think Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
Masterminded by co-owners Rebecca Vega and Jared Bradley, Raven’s Manor opened in the former home of high-minded, short-lived Old Town nightclub No Vacancy in April, immediately drawing lines of interested, if not exactly ghoulish, customers. On the night we visited, patrons in full-body lace gowns mingled with others sporting brightly colored soccer jerseys. Not a single person was wearing corpse paint.
It’s hard to imagine whiling away long hours in the lounge’s darkened halls. The bar fires off glowing drinks and pentagram-seared burgers with assembly-line efficiency, and the extremely competent staff is ready to shuttle you through your visit in order to turn over your table as quickly as possible.
But that’s not to say Raven’s Manor isn’t worth the trip—it’s a fun experience that aims to appeal to a broad clientele. And just because it delivers scares with a commodified wink doesn’t mean there aren’t some true chills involved.
How spooky is it? Here are the top 10 spookiest things we saw there, ranked:
10. The clientele: From the servers to curious customers wearing long shorts and Toms, Raven’s Manor is a place where everyone is persistently pleased to be there. At one point, a group began to clap loudly, seeming to signal a possible chain restaurant-style birthday chorus. We craned our necks outside our intimate, carriage-style booth and observed a merry group simply excited for the Sweeter Than Death sweet potato tater tots.
9. Grave Water Deadly Tonic: Moments into our visit, our server spilled a Grave Water cocktail all across our table. For the rest of the evening, the air around us held a deeply pleasant scent of roses, which, as any Catholic will tell you, is a sign the Virgin Mary is near. Saints and virgin births are still pretty spooky in the grand scheme of ghostly happenings, but also fairly Bible-y. Important note: The Grave Water was hands down the best drink we tried. Its rose water, though fragrant, is perfectly balanced with elderflower liqueur and vodka.
8. Old Town location: Located on Southwest 1st, in Old Town, it’s easy to imagine the haunt-themed establishment couldn’t possibly hold a candle to the surrounding neighborhood, but the lounge is actually situated on one of Old Town’s quietest streets, with low traffic other than the Red and Blue Line MAX trains shuffling diligently past.
7. Chilled Brain dessert: The Tillamook White Chocolate Raspberry Yum ice cream, set in a pleasing brain shape, comes atop an impenetrable chocolate brownie that gradually gives up its defenses as the dessert warms. If you give it a minute, the ice cream loses the frost that is likely a result of its brain mold. Hit it with the accompanying chocolate ganache and you’re no longer remotely frightened—just delighted.
6. Absinthe torture device: Are you even making absinthe correctly if it isn’t presented to you in a crystal goblet beneath what appears to be a medieval-looking torture device? We think not. Water got absolutely everywhere, and the absinthe tasted like fennel, licorice and herbs.
5. Food coloring: The mostly deadly thing about Raven’s Manor was what all the food coloring did to our poor stomachs. The Eerie Elixirs are a lot of fun—Dr. Raven’s Reserve is served in a glowing, smoking Erlenmeyer flask—but at the end of the evening, we were not drunk at all, only deeply queasy from the rainbow of body-part-themed beverages and snacks consumed.
4. The eerie (if clichéd) music: The jaunty notes of Scott Joplin-esque ragtime piano only further added to the Disney-like approximation of spookiness that ran throughout Raven’s Manor. With a shiver, we wondered if they had the rights to Kubrick’s The Shining score as it thrummed above.
3. Ghostly voices in the restrooms: The restroom recordings of ghostly murmurs and cackles are much appreciated as an ambient solution to toilet-stall stage fright. However, one woman entered and—apparently near her wits’ end with all the spookiness—loudly exclaimed, “I just wanted to pee! Enough with this shit.”
2. Real candles: The lit candelabras on the larger group tables, surrounded by groups of carousing friends—many of whom seemed to be wearing extremely flammable tulle-based ensembles—are one of the spookiest aspects of Raven’s Manor, at least from a public safety standpoint.
1. Blood smear placements: From the bloody handprint on the creepy painting that seems to be watching you when you enter to the haphazard smear at the bottom of the bar’s basement stairs, the blood placement at this bar cannot be understated. Creepy dolls are a passing fad. Bloodstains on the restroom faucet are forever—and ultimately even more upsetting to that overstimulated woman having a panic attack in the toilet stall.
GO: Raven’s Manor, 235 SW 1st Ave., ravensmanorexperience.com. 5-11 pm Wednesday-Monday.