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Oregon Ghost Conference runs March 25-27; Commissioner Rocky Smith to lead tours March 18-26.

COURTESY PHOTO: ROCKY SMITH - Oregon City resident Tom Geil, left, who owns the Ghoul Gallery in downtown OC, talks with attendees of a past Oregon Ghost Conference in Seaside.The Pacific Northwest's largest paranormal convention, which launched in Oregon City in 2012, is celebrating its 10th anniversary from March 25-27 in Seaside.COURTESY PHOTO: ROCKY SMITH - Oregon City Commissioner Rocky Smith, as co-founder and director of the Oregon Ghost Conference, meets with a smaller ghost in Seaside.

Oregon City residents involved with the Oregon Ghost Conference include Commissioner Rocky Smith, Ghoul Gallery owner Tom Geil, Victorian mourning expert Marge Harding, spiritualist psychic medium William Becker and OC Parks & Recreation programmer Holly Swogger, who co-manages the box office in Seaside with Smith's mother, Angela Smith.

Making it to a decade has come with plenty of challenges. Originally scheduled for 2020, the ninth convention was initially canceled, and organizers last year held a virtual Oregon Ghost Conference that they counted as the ninth. The first three conventions took place across the street from the Ermatinger House at the Pioneer Community Center, which the conference quickly outgrew.

Rocky Smith, director and co-founder of the Oregon Ghost Conference, said there are lots of parallels between the history of Oregon City and Seaside, which made it a natural choice for moving the conference there in 2016, having outgrown two sites in OC. Both cities have strong Native ties, Smith said, while Ben Holladay built the railroad to Oregon City, and also to Seaside, which guided the development of both cities in the 19th century.

"What I was really fascinated about and still really excites me is how tied Seaside's history is to Oregon City," Smith said.

In 2015, since it had outgrown the original site, the conference moved to old Oregon City High School, which Smith considers to be haunted.

"The Ghost Conference was partly born from the ghost stories and experiences I had at the Ermatinger House in Oregon City," Smith said. "My experience there led me to start researching haunted places all over Oregon City and led to me opening Haunted Oregon City, Books, Tours and Gifts."

In 2015, the city of Seaside invited the Ghost Conference to move to the city's convention center for its fifth anniversary. Events in 2016, 2017 and 2018 continued to grow to a point that the Ghost Conference organizers worried that they might have to move again, but thankfully the Seaside Civic and Convention Center expanded.

Becker's "Shadowing With Spirit" event at the Ghost Conference promises participants "a unique Victorian physical phenomenon" with fellow psychic medium Vivien Powell. Volunteers from the audience walk up on stage as the mediums invite the spirits to manifest on stage in their "physical form" as they step into a red light.

Becker, who co-founded the Ghost Conference in OC, said that the city is especially haunted, in part because houses, cemeteries and churches that were once on Main Street were moved to the McLoughlin neighborhood. "The houses were moved; the graves were moved; no wonder the ghosts wander so much" is a saying on the ghost tours to explain the paranormal activity.

Smith, who is known for offering ghost tours in Oregon City, will be conducting them in Seaside over spring break from March 18-26; tour tickets are $18, $15 for children 12 and under. Admission to the conference's speaker and vendor areas all weekend long is $15; children 12 and under get free admission. More information is available at hauntedseaside.com and oregonghostconference.com.


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