Thelma Taylor: Phantom in Cathedral Park?

Thelma Taylor was 15 when she was kidnapped at killed near the St. John's Bridge in Portland on Aug. 5, 1949. (Courtesy, undated photo)
Thelma Taylor was 15 when she was kidnapped at killed near the St. John's Bridge in Portland on Aug. 5, 1949. (Courtesy, undated photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On August 5, 1949, Thelma Taylor was waiting for a bus in St. Johns on her way to pick beans in Hillsboro when she was kidnapped by an ex-convict named Morris Leland.

He kept her on the bank of the Willamette River for the night, and told police he brutally beat and stabbed her the next morning.

He did it, court documents showed, because she refused his advances.

Since then, Cathedral Park is said to be one of Portland’s most haunted places — and people say they can still hear Thelma Taylor calling for help.

Thelma Taylor was 15 when she was kidnapped at killed near the St. John's Bridge in Portland on Aug. 5, 1949. (Courtesy, undated photo)

Thelma Taylor was 15 when she was kidnapped at killed near the St. John’s Bridge in Portland on Aug. 5, 1949. (Courtesy, undated photo)

Even 64 years after the murder, people still talk about Thelma Taylor at places like Pattie’s Home Plate in St. Johns.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve been down there at night and I’ve heard her scream for help,” Pattie said. “You know, ‘Help me! Help me! Somebody please help me!’”

Her screams, it’s said, are heard across the grassy expanse and the rustle of summer leaves in the cavernous, gothic arches of Cathedral Park.

When asked if she believes a girl’s voice can be heard calling for help, Pattie said, “Yeah, I do.”

Paulette Jarrett was 3 when her sister, Thelma Taylor, was kidnapped and killed in 1949. (May 2013, KOIN 6 News)

Paulette Jarrett was 3 when her sister, Thelma Taylor, was kidnapped and killed in 1949. (May 2013, KOIN 6 News)

Thelma’s little sister, Paulette Jarrett, was only 3 when the murder happened. Until last year, she had never seen Thelma’s grave, and never heard the ghost stories until recently.

But Thelma’s violent death troubled Jarrett for most of her life. She wants people to know her sister is still real to her and is more than a name in a ghost story — and not to believe everything you may read about the case.

“I read one piece that said she had been kidnapped and raped for a whole week,” Jarrett told KOIN 6 News. “That is totally false.”

A newspaper clipping about the funeral for Thelma Taylor in 1949. (File, KOIN 6 News)

A newspaper clipping about the funeral for Thelma Taylor in 1949. (File, KOIN 6 News)

Eric Meharry set up a Facebook page for Thelma Taylor in an effort to set the record straight with articles and court documents about the case.

“All she’s known for is being a ghost and I just kind of felt bad because that’s the memory of her just screaming every summer,” he said. “So I delved into it more.”

The court documents show Leland confessed and led police to Thelma’s body a week later — and it was not right under the St. Johns Bridge.

“Thelma was actually murdered about eight blocks north of the bridge,” he said.

His research is helping Jarrett find closure, bringing peace to her family, both dead and alive.

“I kind of wonder what she would have been if she had been able to live,” she said.

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