Wedding guests at the Troutdale, Ore., resort Edgefield in the summer of 2006 had an urgent request for the catering staff – more wine. Michael Reed worked that wedding and didn’t expect this moment of celebration to burn terror into his memory.
“I had not worked there long, maybe two months,” Reed said. “We were catering a wedding at another building off the main one when a coworker asked that I retrieve more wine from the main building’s basement.”
The main building, a historic three-story brick structure built in 1911 as the county poor farm, is a National Historic Landmark. The structure has been a winery, hotel, restaurant, and for many years abandoned. Reed approached the expansive building that sits on 74 acres on the edge of Portland, and walked into the kitchen.
“The basement had a few entrances but the main one that we used was off the main house kitchen,” he said. “There was a stairwell as well as a small elevator for carting food and beverages.”
The chef scowled at Reed as he went through the kitchen, descended the stairs and began his trip into the unknown.
“I entered the central hall in the basement and began looking for the room where we kept the wine,” Reed said. “It was two rooms down the hall from where I exited the stairwell, so not a long journey in this massive basement.”
Reed counted the rooms and turned into the second room from the stairs only to find it empty.
“I thought, ‘Oh boy, I miscounted the rooms or something,’” Reed said. “So I checked the next one, but not before making a mental note that the room I checked looked quite run down. I just figured that was why it was empty.”
In the next room, water slowly dripped from a stained ceiling and into a dented, rusty bucket on the floor. The rest of the room was bare.
“I thought (dripping water) was strange considering the floor above was immaculate,” he said. “But I didn’t over-think it and proceeded to the next room.”
But Reed knew something was wrong at Edgefield, in this basement. His heart beat heavily in his chest as he stood in the doorway to this damp, deteriorated, abandoned room beneath the busy, modern resort.
“I had always had a very powerful fear of getting lost,” he said. “I was afraid of being erased.”
Panic pulled at Reed as he stepped into the next room, almost a quarter through the basement. It was just as empty, dark, and dank. He had to leave.
“I turned around to go back to the staircase,” he said. “I was terrified to see that the steps leading up to the kitchen were rotted and many of them were broken.”
Those were not the steps that took Reed into this empty, moldy basement.
“I looked around in growing fear, opening rotten doors that should be much newer,” only finding age and disuse, Reed said, “raced toward the darker half of the basement where I knew there were doors to the outside. The whole time afraid that at any moment someone would jump out and grab me.”
Reed’s race through the basement showed no signs of the restored Edgefield – only decay.
“I never saw anything remotely familiar as having any newness to it and to be quite honest, I thought I had fallen back in time to when the hotel sat abandoned,” he said. “I yelled out a couple of times thinking that this couldn’t be and maybe to prove to myself that I still existed.”
No one responded.
Reed ran through the basement toward a set of doors he knew should take him outside to safety.
“I found the door I was looking for and pushed it open,” he said. “I walked into a sunny normal world. People were walking here and there and all was fine. The door closed behind me, but even if it hadn’t, I had no intention of going back in the same way.”
Reed walked back to the wedding reception and told the coworker who sent him on the errand that he couldn’t find the wine.
“She looked at me with this strange expression,” Reed said. “I knew why. It was not hard to find. She asked if I used the kitchen stairs and I told her I had. She explained where it was in the second room on the left and I trotted off again feeling like a fool for returning empty handed and feeling embarrassed because I could not tell her what really happened.”
Reed walked slowly back to the main building, through the kitchen, down the stairs and to the second room. Crates of wine sat waiting for him.
“I grabbed four bottles and ran back up the stairs to the kitchen,” he said. “I was so scared that it might happen again that I nearly dropped the wine on my way up. I ran into one of the kitchen wait staff at the top. She looked at me as if I were an idiot. I smiled dumbly playing the part of (the) dumb new guy.”
Copyright 2011 by Jason Offutt
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