Portland, Oregon: Historians say the story of the city's infamous Shanghai tunnels likely is a myth





Lurid stories of kidnappers seizing drunken or drugged men and whisking them through a network of underground tunnels are a cornerstone of old Portland lore. The kidnappers, as legend has it, sold the hapless men to ship captains desperate for crewmen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The so-called Shanghai tunnels have been immortalized by travel writers, television shows and even by the Portland Oregon Visitors Association, which dangles the story as a lure to out-of-towners.

The only problem is that the stories, as beloved as they have become, seem to be more fiction than fact.

Portland-area historians have found virtually nothing in their research to back up the notion that hustlers used a tunnel network for kidnapping men. A few question whether tunnels, beyond some simple connections among basements, ever existed.


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