Bagdad Theater and Pub

More From Portland More From Oregon

A spirit who suicided can be a pest to the living.

Another spectral supervisor keeps watch on the theatre’s workers.



This 1927 Art-deco Mediterranean/neon persona movie palace/event center; (readings, guest speakers, Portland Ignite, comedy fest, etc.) has been beautifully restored and renovated by the brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin. There is a lot to soak in at this place, the indoor/outdoor eatery, the fabulous, palace-like theater, and the 7 storied pub and pool table area, located behind the movie screen.

The rectangular building sits on 4 consecutive lots, and it was built to last the years. It was built on a reinforced concrete foundation, with concrete walls, covered in stucco. “Building heights vary from three-and-a-half stories on the north to three in the middle to five on the south. “Other architectural features not seen every day on buildings include “multi-paned transoms, fanlight transoms, red tile hoods above windows, decorative molding, mock rafters, and wrought-iron balconies. “To further guard against fire, and add to the beauty of their masterpiece, Universal also used a variety of shed, hip, and flat roofs of red tile.


Inside the theater itself, the decor and paintings on the walls depict a building located in the Mediterranean. Decor included trompe-l’œil tiles used in brilliantly colored mosaics, ornate, wrought-iron lighting fixtures, barreled arched doorways, and motifs involving painted Mediterranean designs and characters: animals and mythological creatures.

After entering the 700 ft. lobby, the patron can go to the viewing area of their choice to see the film or event. What is unique is that the theater auditorium has couches and tables, where patrons can eat, drink and enjoy the film or event on stage as well. The in-house eatery offers light fare and home-made beer, which can be consumed inside the auditorium, or at the eatery’s inside or outside tables as well.

The seven story high Backstage Bar and pool table area is both modern yet has the same aura and decor of its 1927 nature! A boatload of money went into this beautiful renovation project, that included a “huge 20-by-20-foot mural depicting the various tales, characters and memories from the Bagdad “, reflecting its colorful history since its opening in 1927, painted by the current McMenamin’s artists it is also a perfect place to be a venue for live music. The one complaint that was voiced on the yelp review site, is that sometimes the quality of sound isn’t up to snuff. This is one area that is expensive to upgrade, and one that Mike and Brian McMenamin are probably saving their money to correct this problem in the future.



Two years before the talkie films came out in 1929, this 100,000 dollar Universal Studios Bagdad Movie House and backstage area was designed by Thomas and Mercier, built by Christman and Otis Development Company, creating a unique and fabulous theater, to entertain the citizenry of Portland, in the style of Hollywood era movie palaces and bars. It opened in 1927, much to the excitement of Portland’s citizens.

It became a place to not only see silent films, a theater orchestra, talkies, a live stage show and a vaudeville show, but also to escape the world for a little while, and enjoy the interesting decor, murals, and finery! To add to the magic, the theater originally had a fountain, and its female ushers dressed in uniforms meant to appear Arabian.

It evolved with the times to appeal to people’s entertainment tastes, that kept the theater pumping along, offering a variety of films throughout its history. The design and aura of this property inspired a variety of uses, including probably a speakeasy during prohibition, and a 1970s Art House and “Hippie” hangout. In 1975, the world premiere of “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest” took place at this theater, with the cast of the film in attendance.

When it clearly became a serious fixer-upper opportunity, Mike and Brian McMenamin bought the whole property, and restored and renovated The Bagdad Movie House and Pub, and opened it up once again to an enthusiastic crowd of its fans and movie lovers. There is of course, a private event space, which brings in rental money as well.

These two men love to restore and renovate old ballrooms, movie houses and pubs, and then run successful businesses. They have saved and restored several properties in Portland, including The Crystal Hotel and Ballroom.

In 1989, The Bagdad Theater and Pub was listed on the National Directory of Historic Places. It hosted the premiere of the film, “Of My Own Private Idaho” in 1991.



People who die in theaters, either by suicide or accidents, sometimes hang around to either continue what they did there while alive, or enjoy what the living are doing there, perhaps trying to help, or even get their chuckles by teasing the living.

A stage hand is said to have taken his own life behind the Bagdad Theater’s movie screen.

Dedicated employees, managers or owners of a business sometimes come back and visit, trying to help the new owners run their business.

An entity seems concerned about the quality of work done by the employees, working in the theater’s kitchen.



Male entity – Perhaps the stage hand.

Patrons who have used the downstairs bathroom have felt that a strong unseen presence is peeping at them while they are using the stall.

Male or Female entity

Seems to be keeping a close eye on the employees working in the kitchen, as they feel an unseen presence intently watching them as they perform their duties, through the kitchen’s swinging doors.


Perhaps so, though there isn’t any real evidence to back up the claims of either patrons or staff. While the feeling of being watched can be caused by high EMF levels, it is also possible that one or two spirits are keeping the living company, as theaters often sustain paranormal activity because of all the energy being created by public use. Suicides are known to cause restless spirits, and a manager/owner who took his or her duties seriously may well still be doing so.

More evidence should be caught and shared, so more can be made known of the possible paranormal activity. Since the McMenamin brothers hosted a paranormal investigation at one of their other properties, the Crystal Ballroom during the Halloween season, they may be open to having a paranormal event at the Bagdad Theater.

While staff and patrons have been reporting their experiences for a long time now, there have been no reports that have been posted on-line of paranormal investigations done at the Bagdad Theater.




3702 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 236-9234

Bagdad Theatre and Pub sits on the corner of SE 37th Avenue and Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in the middle of the popular Hawthorne District.


  • Bagdad Theater Wikipedia page
  • Haunts of Western Oregon by Kent Goodman

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Portland Haunts in Oregon