KWJJ – The Haunted Radio Station

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  • #21

    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    A very short version of this was presented on pdxradio in 2003. Here are the additional stories from the book “A Ghosthunters’ Guide To Haunted Landmarks, Parks, Churches and Other Public Places” by Arthur Myers (Contemporary Books – 1993). Chapter courtesy of Cyn Bolsta.

    Interesting to note, KWJJ moved into the Wilcox Mansion, on October 31st, Halloween 1957.

    ________________________________________________________________________________________


    The Haunted Radio Station – A Few Apparitions Hither and Yon (Chapter 21; Page 261-68.)


    Location: KWJJ, a Country Music radio station, is housed in a mansion in an affluent residential area in the southwest section of Portland, Oregon. The address is 931 S.W. King Ave.

    Description of Place: The Wilcox Mansion is something of a show place in Portland. It was built in 1893 by Theodore B. Wilcox, a milling, shipping, and banking magnate and served as a residence for the Wilcox family for many years. During World War II it housed a Soviet purchasing mission. It then became a school of music and dance, founded by Ariel Rubstein, an eminent concert pianist, a Russian emigre. The mansion was purchased in 1957 by Rod & Betty Johnson, who moved their radio station from downtown Portland. Although now under different ownership it still has the same call letters. It is a large station with the maximum legal wattage. It has a staff of twenty-six people.

    Although the station uses all five of the mansion’s floors, as well as the basement, there seems to be room left over for public use. The current Station Manager, Michael Kern, told me, “We allow the public to use our dining rooms. People have weddings here. And we give informal tours for people.”

    The place is a beautiful Victorian residence, the first two levels built from sandstone, the upper stories from wood. The interior contains ornate mahogany woodwork, crystal chandeliers, nine marble fireplaces, gilded wallpaper in the main entryway. A legacy from its music school days, there are two grand pianos, one on the third floor, another on the first floor.

    Ghostly Manifestations: I first heard of KWJJ while working on the previous chapter, about the McLoughlin House in Oregon City. I was interviewing Nancy Wilson, the curator, when she told me about a haunted radio station in Portland. She knew about it from experience. Her husband, Larry, is a radio engineer and occasionally has worked at KWJJ. One evening she accompanied him and while waiting sat in a bay window on a landing of the main stairs, reading. All of a sudden she saw something rather offbeat.

    “I saw a woman servant, in a black uniform with a white hat, walking along in the upstairs hall,” she told me. “She went a little way and then she was just gone, she disappeared.”

    Nancy felt the woman probably dated from around the 1920’s, for her dress was not long; it went halfway down the calf. Nancy was not overly startled, for at the McLoughlin House she lives with ghosts, but she was curious. A short time later the evening shift DJ, Rick Taylor, came along. Nancy told him what had just happened, and he wasn’t at all surprised. “He started telling me about experiences he had there,” Nancy said.

    Rick now does his disc jockeying at rival Portland Country music station KUPL [now Morning Man on Oldies 106.7]. He had excellent recall of some strange evenings at KWJJ, but then, these things are not easily forgettable.

    “I’ve seen what appeared to be a ghost twice in there,” he told me “I worked five years in the mansion, and I worked evenings a lot by myself. From my studio I could see into an area where there was a grand piano. One night I saw this person walking around the piano, a guy wearing a white suit and a white hat. I thought, that’s kind of weird. He just kept walking around the piano. Finally I went out to see who it was, but there was nobody around. When Berry Burks, the announcer who worked the midnight-to-six shift, came in I told him what I had seen and he said, ‘I’ve seen that guy late at night. It’s a ghost. I don’t let it bother me anymore.'”

    Rick saw the ghost another time, still walking around the piano. And at one point he heard the piano down on the main floor playing, although to his knowledge there was no one in the building but himself.

    He had tales of doors that were locked or unlocked when they weren’t supposed to be, of lights that went on and off mysteriously, but my favorite of Rick’s adventures concerns a time he had repaired to the men’s room. As any reader of my volumes on ghostly places must have noted, ghosts love bathrooms. Rick has one of the great bathroom stories.

    “I was sitting in one of the stalls,” Rick said, “with the door open. I felt this cold breeze come in. There was a cabinet with four doors in front of me. They were piled full of teletype paper and toilet paper. I got up and opened the cabinet doors to see if there was an air vent in there that was open. I couldn’t see anything so I turned around and sat down again. And all four cabinet doors shut at the same time! I got out of there fast.”

    I spoke with Berry Burks, who followed Rick on the air at KWJJ and now does so at KUPL [No idea where he is today] “I saw an old man three times,” he told me. “He looked like he might have been in his mid-seventies, maybe a little older than that. He had white hair. There’s an attic there where they keep a lot of the memorabilia of the station, and it used to be a record library years ago. That was where I saw him twice, but I also saw him once in the main lobby downstairs. He was dressed in dark clothing, nothing out of the ordinary. He looked at me once, and we locked eyes, and he went away.”

    I asked if the apparition’s clothing was of any particular period, and Berry replied, “It’s hard to tell because I didn’t see enough detail. I was just kind of blown away by the fact that he was there. He had trousers on and a shirt. If I had to name a color, I’d say he was wearing dark brown pants and a dark olive green shirt.”

    I mentioned that Rick had told me that his ghost was wearing white clothing and was continually walking around a piano. Berry replied, “I never saw him near a piano. I’d just see him for a second or two. I would be going around one corner and he’d be going around the other.” I suspect these are a couple of different ghosts. After all, it’s a big old place, plenty of room.

    At one point I contacted George Sanders, who was General Manager of the station several years ago. He is now an author living in North Carolina. [George died Aug 15, 1998 at age 74 in Enka, NC] The interview started slowly. Sanders hadn’t seen any ghosts. To prime the pump I asked if he’d ever experienced things moving around. “No,” he said, “I just used to wish the employees would move around a little.” This was a funny line, but it wasn’t much help. But then he began to warm up, and before long he was really winging them in.

    “There’s a huge chandelier in the main entry hall,” he said, “and it used to shake. It would shake and quiver at the damnedest times. It would do it at night. I used to think it must be a truck going by, but we discounted that because there are more trucks going by in the day and it didn’t do it then. It would shimmer and shake. You’d come down the stairs and you’d hear this tingling sound. And then it would stop. And you’d go to your office and it would start again. I remember thinking it would have to be a convoy of huge trucks to cause this, because the house is huge and heavy, and it’s set back from the street. There was no way the chandelier could be affected by the wind, and it wasn’t earthquakes.”

    I am always encouraged when interviewees, presumably uninformed about parapsychological phenomena, tell me of incidents similar to those I have run into in other hauntings. It gives me confidence they can’t be making these things up. Sanders went on to do this twice. First, he told me of a picture being hung upside down, a phenomenon that figures in a haunting in a hotel in San Diego (The Ghostly Gazetteer); second, he told of the mysterious disappearances and reappearances of an object similar to the distinctive cigarette lighters that kept popping up in Tombstone, Arizona, in the first chapter of this book.

    “In my office,” he told me, “I’ve interviewed five presidents.” He had an ongoing relationship with John F. Kennedy, and had a signed photograph of Kennedy and himself on the wall of his office. Following the Kennedy assassination, the picture was turned upside down two or three times. At first Sanders wondered if this were some kind of ghoulish joke, but he doubted that. “No one on the staff was disrespectful of Kennedy,” he said. But then he mentioned something that indicated to me even more strongly that this was not being done by someone with a very bad sense of humor. The upside-down picture hung flat against the wall, just as the picture had in the San Diego hotel. Sanders said:

    “I hung that picture myself. The wire was geared to hang the picture right side up, but when it was upside down those times it was flat against the wall. That doesn’t seem possible. I’d keep trying it, I’d turn it around, but it wouldn’t hang flat against the wall. In fact, when it was upside down it wouldn’t stay hung at all.

    There was another thing that I thought at first might be some kind of a gag. Out of nowhere, on my desk there appeared a circular, plastic emblem of the Virgin Mary. I assumed that one of the guys on the staff had done it. I settled on the owner, Rod Johnson. So I’d take the thing and put it someplace for him to find. I’d hide it in his office, like in a book or whatever. He would always claim he never saw it. But the thing would always return. It would be on top of my desk, or I’d find it in a drawer. I thought we were playing a game.

    Rod flew his own plane, so one time I got some glue, the kind that when you glue something you can’t take it off, and I glued it to the outside of his plane. He claimed, and I know he wasn’t lying, that he never saw it there.”

    At this point in the story I found myself questioning a couple of things. Why was Sanders so sure Rod Johnson wasn’t kidding him? Why was he sure the emblem hadn’t fallen off? I was making skeptical noises when Sanders slipped me the clincher. He said, “It’s now here in my house in North Carolina. I do not remember anyone giving it to me. About six months ago, it showed up way in the back of a drawer of my desk.” He said the desk had never been in the radio station, it was strictly an East Coast desk. This certainly sounds like an apport, an object that pops in from another dimension, presumably materialized by a spirit.

    Another star witness is Michelle Helm, who works in marketing at the station. [No idea where she is today] She gave me a story that reminded me of a ghostly cat who left indentations and warm spots on beds in a house in New Jersey, duly recorded in “The Ghostly Register.”

    “About three years ago,” Michelle said, “there was a girl who worked here named Beth Kent. One time she came into my office with an armful of papers to put into a file cabinet. She went to put them down on a chair, and then she stopped, and she looked at me with a very peculiar look on her face. I asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ And she said, ‘It was like I couldn’t put them down, as though there was something there.’ She put the stuff on top of the file cabinet instead of on the chair. I walked over to the chair and felt it, and it was warm. I reached over to a chair that was next to it and felt it, and it was cold.”

    Michelle had another good account, but allow me to lead into it with a story from Rick Taylor, the ghost-spotting disc jockey. “One time,” he told me, “they hired a young couple to come in to clean the house. I don’t remember their names, because they were only there for one night. The gal went down into the basement to find some cleaning products and she heard some very heavy breathing. She came up looking white as a ghost. Her husband and I went down there and we couldn’t find anything. But they quit that night.”

    Michelle Helm told me, “The Sales Department used to he located down in the basement. It was pretty much of a dungeon down there, but there were cubicles for the sales staff. Beth Kent worked there. She said she’d be typing along and periodically out of the corner of her eye she would see like a figure go by, but when she looked it would be gone. She figured he must be friendly because he never like knocked anything over or did anything to her. But the thing of it is that THAT area where he was walking by went to the entryway of a tunnel that connected the mansion with the carriage house.”

    Just another ghost following a familiar path?

    #1310

    jimbo
    Participant

    “She said she’d be typing along and periodically out of the corner of her eye she would see like a figure go by, but when she looked it would be gone. She figured he must be friendly because he never like knocked anything over or did anything to her. “

    Interesting!!!

    Over the last 30-40 years, I have had similar things (sightings)late at night at KATU. It has been a while since the last time…10+ years, but it has happened on maybe 5-6 times.

    #1311

    jr_tech
    Participant
    #1312

    kennewickman
    Participant

    I have had experiences like that too….’out of the corner your eye’ type things. Also, feelings of being ‘watched’…when i was doing Xmitter maintenance or being news reader ripping the wire machines in the Xmitter room at the old KYXI in 76’77’…but that could have been just active imagination or the effects of high EMF which can make some people nervous/on edge and or ill if exposed for a long period of time….and of course this all relates to the suicide at that location in 1972…..who knows…

    Happy Halloweeeeeeeeeeen…. 😈

    #1313

    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    👿

    #1314

    AlanCaruso
    Participant

    I worked for KWJJ in the mansion at the time Bubba did afternoons and then a few years after. Not once did I hear or see anything. I even spent time in the scary attic and down in the basement where an underground passageway was blocked off. Not so much as a floating apparition, the rattling of chains or moaning (except when Bobby Sherman was around) or even Slimmer.

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