During the mid-1800s, the area now known as the Witch's Castle in Oregon was home to a slew of urban legends. The most well-known is that of a Romeo and Juliet-type tragedy, otherwise known as the love story between Mortimer Stump and Anna Balch. As everyone knows, the ending was not a happy one for Romeo and Juliet, nor was it a happy one between Stump and Balch... Thus leading down the rabbit hole that is the haunted woods - one of many in the US - of Witch's Castle.
The True Tragedy Of A Fated Couple
Back before the days of social media and text conversations, there's the story of the Stump and Balch families. Deep in the Oregon woods, the tale goes that Mortimer Stump was hired by the head of the Balch House, Danford, who needed help on the homestead. Mortimer was from Vancouver and happened to fall madly in love with Balch's daughter, Anna.
Anna, at the time, was only 15-years-old and the love was forbidden by her father. If pursued, Balch threatened to end the life of her love interest. Though a threat that Balch would willingly carry out, Anna and Mortimer soon fled to Vancouver to elope. The problem arose when they and the Mortimer family came back to Oregon to gather supplies and found Balch wait for them - Mortimer was shot on the spot, thus leaving Anna a widow.
Balch would later make the claim that it was his wife who had "bewitched" him to carry out the atrocious deed. After going on the run from the authorities, Balch was later captured and hung in what would be Oregon's legal hanging in October of 1859. Some say that the two families continued to be at war, both wanting justice for the wrongdoings they'd be dealt.
The Abandonment Of The Witch's Castle
After Balch was hung, his wife continued to live in and keep the homestead going for as long as she could. By 1897, the land was turned over to the city by Donald Macleay, when it was turned into a public park. Contrary to popular belief, the stone structure that sits on the spot now was actually built in 1950 on the spot of the previous Balch homestead. The stone shelter held bathrooms and a ranger station but fell into disuse roughly a decade later.
Many believe that the structure got its name from the fact that Balch had accused his wife of bewitchment, but the true origin has never been nailed down. There's also a theory that it was given that nickname by young kids who would sneak into the woods after dark, claiming there were dark and unnatural rituals that occurred on the spot where the stone building now sits.
How To Get There And What People Say Today
It's not difficult to find the Witch's Castle, but the hike itself can be rather strenuous. The trail from the Upper Macleay parking lot will lead hikers to the stone building after nearly a mile, as long as they head out on the Aspen trail. Thurman Street can provide access to this trail, which will take hikers through the woods for an eerie glimpse at what once was.
Today, hikers claim that they can hear phantom toilets flushing and a general feeling of deep unease. Others claim that the overall feeling of discomfort and fear is undoubtedly present, making the destination one that has spooked many a visitor seeking out the old Balch property.