The Shanghai Tunnels Fallacy

Portland's underground myth

Rumors of the so-called "Shanghai Tunnels" that were designed to smuggle drugged workers from bars out to sailing ships did not emerge until the 1970s. Although crimping did exist, the Shanghai Tunnels, in fact, did not. No credible evidence proves this. Portlanders already knew the crimping was happening above street level. Therefore, there was no need for any Shanghai Tunnels to be built in the first place. However, other simpler passage ways have been found underneath the streets created by the Chinese; these other tunnels were utilized to escape police raids on the opium dens and gambling rooms.

Guest thumbnail

As Told By...

Doug Kenck-Crispin

Resident Historian, home of the podcast series Kick Ass Oregon History

Website: Kick Ass Oregon History

Doug Kenck-Crispin is the Ribald Resident Historian from He researches, writes and co-produces the bi-weekly podcast series Kick Ass Oregon History, recently featured in the Portland Mercury, Portland Monthly and The Oregonian. He has a BA in History, and is nearing completion of his MA in Public History, with an emphasis on the History of the Pacific Northwest (Portland State University). A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Doug enjoys a good yarn — the more outlandish and unseemly the better — especially when they are true!