The Haunted History Of Portland’s Pittock Mansion

Published April 3, 2018
Updated June 24, 2020

Visitors to the Pittock Mansion have reported hearing strange noises, seeing strange things, and smelling phantom scents.

Pittock Mansion

Wikimedia CommonsThe rear, east-facing facade of Pittock Mansion.

Henry Pittock, a London-born newspaper publisher, and his wife Georgiana met and married in Portland in 1860. Henry went on to become one of the wealthiest men in Oregon society, investing in a variety of industries, including railroads, banking, ranching, and mining. He was also an avid climber and outdoorsman.

He helped to found Mazamas climbing club and became part of the first expedition climb Mount Hood.

Georgiana was also an active member of society, becoming involved in many cultural organizations and charities, including the Women’s Union and the Ladies Relief Society. She helped to found the Martha Washington Home, a residence for working women. She was also an enthusiastic gardener and was a founding member of the Portland Rose Society and the Portland Rose Festival.

In 1909, the Pittocks decided they wanted to build a home in Portland to retire in.

They hired the architect Edward T. Foulke to design the Pittock Mansion from scratch. The forty-six room mansion was built on a hill overlooking Portland with a French Renaissance exterior. The inside was uniquely designed, with oak-paneled cabinets, marble floors, a huge central staircase, modern amenities like an elevator and dumbwaiter, and, most strikingly, beautiful views of Mount Hood and the Cascade Mountain Range. Foil lines the inside of the entryway ceiling, a nod to  Georgianna’s frugal early years, when she had to save foil from old tea containers.

Henry Pittock

Wikimedia CommonsHenry Pittock, the brains behind the haunted Pittock Mansion.

The Pittock Mansion was completed in 1914 when Georgiana was 68 years old and Henry was 80. Sadly, the couple did not have many years left together to enjoy the home they had built. Georgiana passed away in 1918, just four years after construction was completed, and Henry died the following year. Members of the Pittock family remained in the home for many years, until their grandson, Peter Gantenbein, who had grown up in the house, attempted to sell it in 1958.

Gantenbein was unable to sell it and the house sat empty for several years. It was severely damaged as a result of the massive Columbus Day Storm of 1962, and Gantenbein contemplated having the mansion destroyed. However, the community rallied around the famous site, and Portland residents donated $75,000 to help the city purchase and restore the old home.

The City of Portland officially bought the Pittock Mansion in 1964, and a nonprofit was formed to take responsibility for the upkeep of the house. They spent just over a year repairing and restoring the mansion, and, in 1965, it reopened as the Pittock Mansion Museum. It is open daily to the public for touring.

Pittock Mansion Picture

Wikimedia CommonsThe main entrance of the Pittock Mansion.

Because the Pittocks died before they could really get a chance to use the home they had designed, it is believed that their spirits still hang around the mansion. Many strange occurrences have been reported in the house.

Visitors to the house have reported seeing windows shutting and latching on their own, the sounds of heavy footsteps, and a portrait of Henry Pittock moving around the house. Tour guides have reported encountering figures when they open the mansion for business in the mornings.

Some people say they have smelled the unmistakable scent of roses, Georgiana’s favorite flower. Apparitions of the couple, as well as the heads groundskeeper, have been seen and felt following visitors as they toured the mansion. All the reports seem to indicate the ghosts are far from malicious – rather, they get the sense that the ghosts are peaceful and happy to be showing guests around their beautifully restored home.

The ghosts are friendly and gracious hosts. It seems that, although they were not alive long enough to enjoy the home they had built, the Pittocks’ spirits still remain in their home, welcoming guests and enjoying the beautiful views.

After learning about Pittock Mansion, check out another crazy haunted house, the Winchester Mystery House. Then, take a look at the terrifying “murder house” of H.H. Holmes.

Aimee Lamoureux
Aimee Lamoureux is a writer based in New York City.