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Sunday, July 31, 2011


This is a term I had always known, but knew little about. I just knew the basics of pressing a man into service upon a ship, aka kidnapping. Those who did the shanghaiing were, Crimps and this took place mainly in the Northwest. Crimps was a new term to me. And, the reason for this recent fascination is due to my first trip to Portland, Oregon last week.

I didn't get to learn as much as I would have liked because there wasn't enough time, but I would have loved to take the Portland Underground Tour.

The "Portland Underground" tunnels, more popularly known as the "Shanghai Tunnels," were basements of buildings that connected to other buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These "catacombs" or "tombs", as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called "shanghaiiers" or "crimps," in addition to "white slavers" who grabbed women and sold them into prostitution. Shanghai Tunnel

There are three separate tours you could take:

1) The "Shanghai Tunnels Heritage Tour" --- which is the main tour given and involves the history of shanghaiing in Portland. You'll leave knowing more about the shanghai trade in the "City of Roses" than you ever considered wanting to know.
2) The "Shanghai Tunnels Ghost Tours"
--- "Northwest Paranormal Investigations" has proclaimed that the shanghai tunnels are the most haunted place in Oregon and, perhaps, the most haunted place on the West Coast. Given upon request!
3) The "Shanghai Tunnel Ethnic History Tour" provides insights into the histories of the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Gypsies and how their histories relate to those infamous activities in the "Portland Underground." Dispels a lot of myths! Given upon request!
Shanghai Tunnel

Any one of them would have been interesting, and and when I plan my next visit back, I will be taking a tour. Or, maybe all three.

I had never been to Portland before and loved the city and the surrounding areas. It is so beautiful and clean. Not to mention that after coming from a 100+ degree heat index in Illinois to a non-humid 75 degrees was heaven. I've heard that it rains a lot in Portland, but during my five days there I never saw a drop, so we must have picked the right week. And, it is nearly impossible to get lost in Portland. We did have a map and my son-in-law is an excellent navigator, but we soon learned that if you take a wrong turn, it is easy to get back to where you need to be because of how the city is laid out.

This trip consisted of looking for an apartment for my daughter and son-in-law and visiting Marylhurst where my daughter will finish her education. Have I mentioned this place is beautiful? Marylhurst has got to be one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever been on. I wanted to go back to school so I could go there.

Between the apartment hunting and school visits we walked along the river, toured wine country (where I tested some phenominal Pinot Gris wines), ate at lots of restaurants and visited Powell's book store. Powell's was at the top of my list to visit, and I've never been to a bookstore I didn't love. But Powell's is the first one that was ever overwhelming. If you are looking for something specific, I am sure they have it.

As I do with most bookstores, I headed straight to the historical section. I could have spent hours there (and maybe I did). The only thing that kept me from buying tons of books was knowing they would be going in my luggage and I didn't want to have to haul that suitcase, nor pay the extra cost for it being overweight. Unfortunately I didn't keep that same thought when purchasing wine. I ended up buying a shipping box just for the half dozen bottles that came back with me and paying for an extra suitcase, so to speak. But, it was well worth the extra cost, and I am happy to report that none of the bottles were broken on the three different planes we were on.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and my muse was wide awake for it all. My characters usually like to stay in England during the Regency period. However, a few came to life, and I have begun toying with an historical set in the mid-1800s in Portland. I don't know what it will develop into, but I am sure it will eventually get written.

Have you ever visited a place that inspires you to write in a setting and time you never even considered before?


  1. Amy! I saw a History Channel special on these tunnels. And I was fascinated. My author mind started spinning and I wished I wrote American set historicals,because I would sooo use this. (But I don't write American set historicals. So I'll just have hope someone else writes it instead.)

    Now you've made me what to visit Portland. :)

    Whenever I'm in England I'm flooded with ideas for stories. The setting is so magical for me.

  2. I absolutely didn't know about any of that, and I wish I had when I was up in Portland several years ago. I'll have to plan another trip to learn about these tunnels. :)

  3. Absolutely fascinating! I am thoroughly intrigued now! I can totally see some great stories placed here. You have to write about this Amy! lol. I'd love to see these tunnels some day. Thanks for a wonderful post!

  4. Hi Amy. I am one of the volunteer guides for the Portland Underground Tours. Next time you are in Portland please do take the tour. If you are interested in specific history Micheal Jones, who you see on all of the programs, is always happy to share information. Just write to him at shanghaitunnels@onemain.com I am from PA and MD. I love this area and it does rain a lot. We only have two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is July through October so you were hear at the perfect time.

  5. ldchristopher,

    Touring the Underground is at the top of my list for the next time I visit Portland. And now I know the prefect time to go. Thank you for the information. I will be sure to keep Michael Jones in mind when I am researching.