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The Many Ghosts of Oregon's Historic Wolf Creek Inn

Spend the night...if you dare.

Marked by a sign erected in 1925 that reads “Wolf Creek Tavern: Tasty Cuisine”, Oregon’s Wolf Creek Inn boasts of being the oldest continuously operating inn in the Pacific Northwest. But besides weary travelers, this stately guesthouse also plays host to a variety of hauntings.

Related: Something Spooky This Way Comes 

Built in 1883 as a stagecoach stop, the inn was a popular place for travelers to spend a comfortable night on the then-sixteen-day trip from San Francisco to Portland. Along with the culinary treats promised by its welcome sign, 1925 saw the addition of a new south wing built in accordance with the Classic Revival architectural style of the rest of the inn. With each passing year, the popularity of Wolf Creek grew. Soon, it became a retreat for writers, artists, and actors.

Origins of the Wolf Creek Inn

wolf creek inn
  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The origin of the Wolf Creek Inn stretches back to the early 1850s, when a clapboard lodge first appeared in the Wolf Creek area offering a night's rest to weary travelers of the Applegate trail. In 1883, orchardist and entrepreneur Henry Smith entered the picture, transforming "Six Bit House" into a "first-class hotel" along the Oregon Stage Coach line. Known then as the Wolf Creek Tavern, Smith's hotel featured 16 bedrooms, separate men’s and women’s parlors and a large dining room. While the rooms had no private bathrooms, each offered a bowl and a pitcher of fresh water. If any of the guests wished to have extra privacy, the hotel had a deluxe outhouse just outside the back door.   

Though the inn has undergone numerous transformations over the years, marks of its history remain. When working cowboys needed a place to sleep while traveling but couldn’t afford a night’s stay, Smith would let them sleep in the attic for a dime a night. Except there was one problem… the attic wasn’t fully floored. The attic only consisted of a shelf around its perimeter that was only two or three boards wide. So in order to avoid crashing through the ceiling and onto unsuspecting guests below, the cowboys jammed their spurs into the rafters. After 125 years the marks of the spurs can still be seen. 

Other guests included Hollywood celebs Clarke Gable and Carol Lombard, who stayed in the Wolf Creek Inn’s largest room on their frequent getaways northward. Other visiting stars of the golden age of Hollywood include Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Orson Wells, and John Wayne, who rented a room while filming Rooster Cogburn. The inn also counts President Rutherford B. Hayes and novelist Sinclair Lewis among its list of famous former guests.

Related: Nightmare on Chase Street: The Smurl Family Haunting 

Perhaps the soul most associated with the Wolf Creek Inn, however, is that of Jack London. London is said to have loved the inn, and stayed on many occasions. In fact, he spent one entire summer there with his second wife, during which time he finished his novel, Valley of the Moon. The room where Jack London slept has been preserved much as it would have been during the author’s visits in the early twentieth century.

And, according to some, the author returned to his old Oregon haunt after his death in 1916...

A History of Hauntings

Past guests and paranormal researchers alike have reported encountering London’s apparition in the room where he once slept. His disembodied voice has been also heard at the inn. Jack London may be the most famous specter haunting Wolf Creek, yet he’s far from alone. According to owners and paranormal researchers, several “entities” make the Wolf Creek Inn their home. One such spirit is the ghost of a female stagecoach driver who reportedly died there. While the true identity of this ghost is uncertain, many connect it to the tale of One-Eyed Charlie.

It seems that, during the Gold Rush, one of the toughest and most famous of the stagecoach drivers making the run south from Oregon was One-Eyed Charlie Parkhurst. As Charlie’s reputation had it, he “drove his team hard, spat his tobacco juice harder, and cussed like Sam Clemens.” They say that he only missed work on the day after payday, when he was too hung over to drive. In 1868, Charlie registered to vote so that he could cast his ballot for Ulysses S. Grant.

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When One-Eyed Charlie died at the age of 67, the mortician found something unexpected: Charlie had actually been Charlotte, an orphan girl who got out of the orphanage and into stagecoach driving by dressing and acting as a man. Given that Charlie voted in the 1868 presidential election, some say that she was the first woman in the country to do so.

wolf creek inn
  • Photo Credit: Rick Obst / Flickr (CC)

One-Eyed Charlie would make for a truly colorful ghost indeed, though it seems unlikely that she’s the female stagecoach driver whose specter haunts the main floor of the Wolf Creek Inn, or whose voice has been recorded on EVP. Charlie Parkhurst died in 1879, four years before the Wolf Creek Inn was built.

Related: Lady in White: The Haunted Burial Grounds of Union Cemetery 

Most of the spirits that haunt the Wolf Creek Inn are benign, but there is one that’s far more sinister. Simply described as a "vampire-like creature," the mysterious being has been seen on the grounds, and even within the inn itself. It boasts the fangs you’d expect from its ghoulish moniker, and is often described as having blood around its mouth. Some people believe this creature is actually the ghost of a mentally disturbed person who simply wishes to be seen as a monster. Others have attributed its presence to a spirit of the woods, or to some sort of cryptozoological beast.

While no one knows for sure just who or what the creature might be, it doesn’t seem to menace the patrons of the Wolf Creek Inn too much—though there is one story of it biting a guest. Perhaps the other ghosts help to keep it in line …

Related: 22 Terrifying True Ghost Stories and Strange Encounters 

The Wolf Creek Inn has remained successful since its opening although it did have a few brushes with disaster. In the 1960s, it saw a decrease of customers after Interstate 5 took traffic off Highway 99. The Inn managed to survive because its location was only a hundred yards away from I-5. In 1979, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation bought the inn and completed a complete historic renovation. Today, guests are welcomed to stay the night at the Wolf Creek Inn and bask in its history. And for those brave souls intrigued by reports of the supernatural, the Wolf Creek Inn also offers guided paranormal tours.  

Featured photo: Rick Obst / Flickr (CC)

Published on 01 May 2019

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