I’ve been wanting to go see the Witch’s Castle for a while now and finally got to go see it – right in time for Halloween!
While the Witch’s Castle has never had any witch’s actually living in it, it is near the spot of a love story gone wrong. Back in the 1800’s, a man named Danford Balch owned the property the stone cabin was on. He hired a man named Mortimer Stump to help take care of the land. Mortimer Stump fell in love with Balch’s daughter Anna and asked for her hand in marriage. After Balch refused to give Anna’s hand in marriage to Stump, the two eloped.
They came back to the stone cabin a few week later. Danford Balch was furious and shot Mortimer Stump in the head. Balch claimed that his wife, Mary Jane, bewitched him. Balch was arrested, then escaped. Eventually he was caught again about six months later, was tried, found guilty and eventually hung in October of 1859, becoming the first legal execution held in Oregon. Mary Jane Balch, the ‘witch’ in our story, continued to reside on their property.
Although the stone house was not the original site of the Balch’s home, it was built on their old property in the 1950’s as a ranger station.
In the 1980’s, high school and college students started using it to hold parties on Friday nights and named it the Witch’s Castle because of it’s rundown appearance and remote location in the Upper Macleay Park. (Which explains the two busloads of college age students being dropped off as we reached the top of the trail while rushing to get to our car during the sudden deluge of rain that started pouring down on us while out at the Witch’s Castle.)
The Witch’s Castle is located on the Wildwood trail near the junction for the Lower Macleay Park trail in Forest Park, a huge wooded area in NW Portland.
* To any of my praying friends out there, please keep my mother – also a Mary Jane, who oftentimes dresses up as a witch for Halloween – in your prayers. The doctors have discovered her cancer traveled to her lungs. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she is preparing to start chemo soon.