26 Mar 2014
Ghost Experience at The Campbell House
Exterior view of the south side of the Campbell House, showing the three upstairs windows.
On Halloween night 2010, the cable television network A&E broadcast an episode of “Paranormal State”, a show which follows the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Team investigating ghost hauntings. Their episode that night featured Eugene’s Campbell House.
In December 2013, I was in Southern California when the show was repeated. As it was being broadcast, I telephoned the Campbell House and inquired about the hauntings. There was a cool reception from the concierge that night. They all knew about ghost experiences in the house, but were reluctant to elaborate.
Ghost experiences are normal in the City of Eugene. Writer Kevin Baird covered Haunted Eugene with local author Kent Goodman in November 2013, briefly mentioning the Campbell House.
Located at 252 Pearl Street adjacent to Skinner Butte, the Campbell House was originally built in 1892 by timber owner John Cogswell, for his daughter Idaho. Cogswell had another daughter, an older sister to Idaho, who passed away at four years of age, before Idaho was born. Idaho, after being widowed, remarried in 1897 to Ira Campbell, owner of the then Eugene Daily Guard Newspaper. Ira and Idaho Campbell had three children, Cogswell, Celeste and Jackson, before Ira passed away in 1904. Cogswell played football with Navy in a Rose Bowl team, was a business owner in Eugene, a naval submariner, and had two daughters with his wife Mary Ruth. Celeste was a University of Oregon graduate, assisted with nursing duties during World War 1 and 2 and never married. Jackson was 17 years old when he was killed in a hunting accident. It’s against this background that our ghost story takes off.
Years ago while staying at the Campbell House, I asked then girlfriend Suzi to marry me. We had not been back when we saw the Paranormal State television show, and shortly thereafter, I made reservations. Flying from interstate, we arrived Friday afternoon full of excitement. The staff warmly greeted us and when we told them our story, they offered one of the rooms covered by Paranormal State. We took the opportunity, accepted and moved into the Cogswell Room on the second floor.
The room was immaculate. Against the rose walls, the room occupied the center window of the second floor overlooking an old oak tree. It included a queen size bed, a writer’s desk, a fireplace with a flat screen television over it, and a second television inside a cupboard. I thought that a little odd, as we settled in and began unpacking, when we had our first encounter.
The Cogswell Room view from the doorway.
Suzi was inside the bathroom and I was at the writing desk when I heard a loud crash.
“The inside handle of the door fell off,” my wife announced. I walked in and picked up the diamond shaped door handle, still in one piece. A single gold screw was tightly bound inside the handle, which prevented me from securing the handle.
“I was doing my makeup and I heard the handle fall behind me,” she said. From my luggage I pulled out a Swiss army knife, used the flat tipped screwdriver, and reattached the handle. We left a short time later and on the way out, asked one of the staff about the room’s occurrences.
“Oh yes, that room has been quite active. There have been several ghost sightings of a little girl in the room, but nothing like the room downstairs.”
In one of the lower bedrooms, another ghost is reported to be an incubus, a male “presence” which is amorous with female guests. We excitedly asked the employee for more details, and she revealed that she personally had some encounters, but nothing of a sexual nature. We left the Campbell House talking to each other about why a presence remains in a building. After dining that night, we returned to find all the lights in the room out.
“Didn’t you leave the lights on when we left,” my wife asked. I couldn’t be sure, and we agreed that that was something we probably couldn’t pin on a supernatural experience. Suzi went into the bathroom and began taking her makeup off. We were talking about “the little girl” when Suzi called me into the bathroom. She was standing before the sink and pointing at her skin care product that was on the floor.
“I put that on the shelf a minute ago and now look at it. It’s like someone picked it up and deliberately put it there.”
The hand cream which mysteriously was placed on the floor.
She was right. The product on the bathroom floor looked like it was “placed” there, as opposed to falling to the tiles, which neither of us had heard. I picked it up and put it back on the shelf and snapped a photograph of it for good measure.
From the outside room I watched as Suzi took the last of her makeup off, before she turned again and looked down. Unseen by me, and untouched by my wife, the skin care product had again, been placed on the bathroom floor.
I opened my laptop and began to do a search of the family. Jackson Campbell was 17 years old in 1917 when his life was cut short. He had been hunting in Harrisburg with two of his cousins, when he was killed by an accidental shotgun discharged. Jackson was interned at the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery beside his father, Ira. My wife and I talked about it for several minutes, before we heard the inside handle of the bathroom door fall off again.
Neither my wife nor I had any previous encounters like this. If there was a ghost haunting the room, it was mischievous, and not a threat to us. Suzi then had a soft conversation with our “presence”. She thanked them for allowing us to stay in their room, and that we would respect their residency and asked for an uneventful night. We bed down and slept without further incident.
The next morning, the inside door handle of the bathroom was off again, and Suzi’s skin care was again on the ground. We had not heard the door handle come off during the night, and we accepted the movements for what they were. We were packing to depart when one of the Campbell House staff walked by the open door. Suzi brought her into the room, and advised her that the inside bathroom door handle had come off. The employee went pale, and said that the door handle had only recently started to “come off” despite being secured several times. She said that a recent guest who had stayed in the room, reported being uncomfortable with a painting that had hung over the fireplace, and requested that it be removed, or that they be reassigned to another room. When I asked, the employee indicated that the guest reported hearing a male voice in the painting tell her repeatedly that “it wasn’t an accident.”
An undated picture showing the old picture above the fireplace, depicting a hunting scene.
After the employee left, a quick search of the internet found a photograph of the room, with a large painting of a hunting trip depicting Jackson Campbell. The space once occupied by the painting was now where the large screen television hung.
Our luggage was packed and we were about to leave when Suzi set her handbag on the end of the bed. We were standing at opposite corners having a debate about where to stop for breakfast, when her handbag flew four feet to the side, off the end of the bed. Both of us stood in silence for a moment, it was the first “occurrence” that both of us had seen. We both kneeled down and picked up the contents of her handbag before I started looking for the room key. The key wasn’t where I left it – on the writing table next to the car keys. I located the room key adjacent to the hand cream on the bathroom shelf.
With our luggage packed we left and settled up downstairs. To the reception officer, we thanked them for our stay and out of earshot of other guests, briefed them on our experiences. Nothing we said appeared out of the ordinary to them. After loading up the car outside, we stood in silence and looked at the room when had stayed in. As we stood there, one of the rooms’ wall mounted lights turned on, without either of us seeing a hand under the shade.
Neither of us are believers in the “supernatural” but there were some occurrences, minor in nature, which considered collectively, gave us pause to think. At no time did we think we were in danger, and at no time did any of the Campbell House staff shun our discussions. When we return later this year, we’ll confidently be asking to stay in the “other” downstairs room.
Epilogue: After writing the first draft of this story at our residency, I went into the bathroom to retrieve the name of the hand cream. Upon my return, large chunks of the story centering on the hand cream, had been removed, obliterated from the history and had to be rewritten. Photographs taken of the hand cream were now deleted from the story, and my camera.