Is Willamette Heritage Center & Mission Mill Museum Haunted?

Willamette Heritage Center & Mission Mill Museum

This historical museum’s exhibits may come alive with ghostly apparitions during your visit

Paranormal Activity at the
Willamette Heritage Center

  • The apparition of a former worker has been seen around the mill 
  • Visitors have heard church services being held in the old church on site
  • The specter of a pastor has been seen leading a ghostly Bible study 
  • A woman’s apparition has been seen on a nearby bridge 
  • Unexplained feelings of anger or pain have been encountered at the mill

History of the Willamette Heritage Center & Mission Mill Museum

At the edge of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, is a property where history still rises tall above modernity. The Willamette Heritage Center may be best noticed by the large red mill building at its center, and its looming, silvery water tower.

The center is a collection of preserved historic buildings, now offering visitors an exploration of local history.

While the mill is the most noticeable, Willamette Heritage Center holds nine buildings on its property.

And some say there are ghosts haunting a few of them. But what kind of historic haunts might you find at this immersive Salem museum?

Timeline of Willamette Heritage Center & Mission Mill Museum's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Willamette Heritage Center & Mission Mill Museum through the years

The bright red of the Mission Mill's buildings are beautiful, and rumored to be haunted by numerous apparitions


While Willamette Heritage Center contains many buildings with many stories, the center’s mill landmark came to life in 1889. The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill opened that year, making a few types of woolen goods, like blankets and flannel. In its early years, the mill proved to be a major industrial employer around Salem.

But, in 1895, the wood frame mill suffered a devastating fire. The mill owners and employees resolved to rebuild though, and a new mill went up fast.

Ghosts wander the grounds of the Willametter Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon


The new, brick Thomas Kay Woolen Mill opened in 1896. Just as before, the mill went on producing woolen goods with great efficiency. Originally, the mill’s machinery and power all came from a central, water-powered turbine system. This system went on powering the mill until the 1940s, when the mill machines were put on different power.

Still, the turbine went on generating the mill’s electrical power, until the mill itself stopped. The wool mill closed its doors in 1962 after years of steeper competition.

Mission Mill is a fixture in the Salem community – hosting many public events, and even ghosts


Not long after the mill stopped churning out woolen goods, locals brought it back to life. In 1964, the mill was the focal point of the Mission Mill Museum Association. The group hoped to turn the mill property into a museum center, integrating other historic homes from the area.

The project came to life through the following years. By the 1980s, the mill even offered space for the local historical society to have a museum.

Willametter Heritage Center offers many public events and community functions


In 2010, the Marion County Historical Society and the Mission Mill Museum joined to form the Willamette Heritage Center. Today, the center includes the mill, historic house museums, an old church, and a parsonage.

Local legend says the expansive center may also harbor a few hauntings. Sightings of ghostly figures around the center have led many to list Willamette Heritage Center among Salem, Oregon’s most haunted places.

Is Willamette Heritage Center Haunted?

One ghost story around the Willamette Heritage Center is actually over a hundred years old. A record dating back to 1914 tells of a ghostly woman lingering on a bridge near the mill. At the time, witnesses reported seeing a mournful woman dressed in black float over the bridge as they were heading home one night.

The spirit of a woman in black is seen floating across this bridge at the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, with the first report of the activity being over 100 years old

Today, her ghost is known to appear on one of the bridges over the mill’s water stream. While the spectral woman has appeared for over a hundred years, no one has even learned much about her because, to this day, her identity remains a mystery.

A wandering woman in a black mourning dress has been reported at the Mission Mill

Salem’s Haunted Mission Mill

Another well-known apparition is the figure of a former mill worker, Wayne Mentzer. Most often in and around the Mission Mill Museum itself, Wayne’s figure has been seen floating about, as if still making his work rounds.

It’s possible he just loved his work so much he just had to keep doing it in the afterlife.

The Mission Mill itself is said to be the source of a darker energy on the property, with some visitors claiming to experience pain while in the building

Eerie Feelings Around the Museum

Along with Wayne, other unexplained activity has been encountered in and around the mill. Near the old turbine, visitors have reported feeling strange and powerful emotional changes.

Those who have experienced it say that there is a lot of anger or pain lingering around the area for some reason. But, no one yet knows why.

The Center’s Churchgoing Ghosts

Though it might be the centerpiece of the property, the Mission Mill Museum isn’t the center’s only haunted hotspot. In the nearby Methodist Parsonage home, ghostly activity has been reported by staff after hours.

At least one witness has reported the sight of a ghostly pastor leading a Bible study in the building.

Nearby, in the historic Presbyterian church, visitors have heard the sounds of ghostly voices and distant whispers during quiet times.

Witnesses say it sounds as if the church is still hosting services. Could these specters still be attending church every Sunday?

Hauntings & History at
Willamette Heritage Center

Today, the Willamette Heritage Center remains one of Salem’s best known historic museums. It also seems likely to remain one of the city’s most notable haunts. Over a century of ghost stories has made hauntings just another part of the historic charm at Willamette Heritage Center.

the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill or Mission Mill is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of Wayne, a former worker in the building

While the center doesn’t offer ghost tours or investigations, you can always pay a visit for a historic tour.

Admission offers the chance to explore the full center, and all the ghosts therein. But don’t be surprised if your tour ends in Bible study with a few good Methodist ghosts.