Anna Byrne: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

I could hear the waves lapping viciously against the rocky slope as the fog moved in and the seagulls were baying loudly against the incoming tide. I could feel the salt licking my face as I was driving up through the breezy, chilly air of the coastline. A quick glance at my GPS told me I was about an hour south of Newport, Oregon. It had been a beautiful day so far on my drive up from Humboldt County on my way to check out other universities on the West Coast; my mom had always told me to shop around for my education, despite my own desire to continue on with graduate school closer to home. Even though I had been driving since six in the morning, I hadn’t fully appreciated the sun until I saw it begin to disappear behind the dismal cloud cover and bleak front that was coming off the water. I was less attuned to this type of dreary atmosphere than I had realized and for some reason, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I could feel my grip tighten on the steering wheel and I flashed back to catching black ice on the roads back home during the winter; a spike of adrenaline pumped through my body, something was strange about this stretch of coastline. Then I saw it, even if it was barely visible through the fog that was just now kissing the shore. It was the lighthouse I had heard those rumors about… The Heceta Head Lighthouse–it had been a beacon of maritime safety on the Oregon coast since 1894, but it had a robust morbid history that seemed to fly under the radar. I scooted along highway 101 in my cheap rental car, but the closer I got, the stronger I felt like I was being pulled towards it. It was an eerie trance that was dark and dangerous, but I couldn’t keep from being lost within the tunnel vision–the rest of the drive there was a blur–then I was pulling into the visitor parking for the bed and breakfast that was now set up in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage.

It’s like I blinked and I was just–there. The normally bright red roof of the bed and breakfast was dull and bluish under the gloom that seemed to linger around the white cottage and I was compelled to see if they had any vacancies. The lady at the front desk was sweet yet homely, but I suspected that there was something dark and secret hiding under the shallow layer of her calm demeanor.

“Hey there, I was hoping that you had a room available?” I barely recognized my own voice, it sounded so dreamy when I heard it out loud. It didn’t register to me that there was another guest in the lobby until he cleared his throat, it made me jump a bit but he simply turned the page of the newspaper he had his nose buried in as if he didn’t notice me either. The desk clerk handed me the key for something called the “Victoria” room and her melodious voice directed me up the stairs to what seemed to have been a master suite in a previous life and according to the desk clerk was where the lighthouse keeper and his wife slept once upon a time…

Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers Cottage
Photography by Jrozwado

I heard the name Rue come up somewhere in her story, but to be honest I kind of drifted in and out of the whole thing, I’m sure it would have been a captivating tale on any other occasion, or perhaps just in any other location. This place just seemed so hollow and there was a feeling that there were too many secrets lying just beneath its quaint and cozy facade. Maybe it was just that creepy, old and dirty-looking doll that sat on a shelf behind the counter that was giving this place a weird vibe.

Regardless, when I opened the door with that ancient-looking key, I felt my face scrunch up, “Great… it’s pink.” I don’t know who I was talking to, maybe it was just due to my own dismay to find the room was painted from floor to ceiling in that sickly pink pastel color. The bed was decorated with a floral quilt and matching pillowcases, I mean I knew I couldn’t complain about what the room looked like, after all, I only asked if they had any rooms available and this was the only one the desk clerk had to offer me. Come to think of it though, there only seemed to be two room keys missing. Didn’t she tell me that there were no other rooms available? Maybe she just meant that they needed repair or cleaning or… who knows, maybe I was just being paranoid.

The one saving grace that I could see was that the antique vanity near the corner had a complimentary bottle of wine and a glass. I sloughed off my bag onto the corner of the four-poster that was trussed up in such a girlie fashion, then grabbed the bottle and opener from the vanity and walked to the window. It seemed like the fog had lifted for the most part–although maybe it should have seemed strange, I had just arrived less than thirty minutes ago. Not a bad view though, the garden was stunningly manicured except for one small overgrown corner that looked as if it housed a headstone. That wasn’t all too interesting to me, honestly, but at least the darkness would be more forgiving on these walls, I hoped. I gave one final tug to the corkscrew and heard that satisfying pop and hello, vino!

I glanced over at the bedside table next to the window and a small pamphlet caught my eye–I picked it up without any reason, but perhaps it was due to my incessant curiosity, regardless it was in my hands; the title gave it away as a rundown of the history of this adorably macabre bed and breakfast. I took the chair in the corner, switched on the light, and flipped through this crisp little historical piece. I stopped on a page about the woman named Rue. Shit, maybe I should have listened to that desk clerk’s story, this was actually pretty interesting. I mean, I’d heard the rumors of course, but nothing I heard was as juicy and dark as the brief info in the pamphlet I was holding. Namely, because I was staying in Rue’s room, the “Victoria” room–well, at least she didn’t die in here.

I took a swig of the wine straight from the bottle, no reason to unnecessarily dirty a glass, then set the bottle down next to a plant that looked as if it were on death’s door and set the pamphlet down next to it. It was getting close to sunset here, but I wasn’t tired, nor was I going to waste the rest of my day in the room. After all, I was at a B&B that sat on the threshold of crashing waves and was within a short jaunt to a lovely lighthouse that had a creepy history that was begging to be scrutinized. I wasn’t even sure that I believed in ghosts, goblins, or whatever the hell people thought went bump in the night, I just knew that I was intrigued by it.

I was only brought out of my train of thought when one of the pictures hanging behind me crashed to the floor, the pane of glass on it shattered under my feet and the startle that overtook me made me feel as if something was grasping my throat. It escaped me momentarily that I had jumped to my feet when the picture had initially fallen and I felt somewhat silly. Coincidence, that’s what it was. Well, that’s what I thought until the one right next to it was propelled with great force down to the floor as well, I jumped back once again as the shower of broken glass sprayed past my ankles.

“Woah, what the hell!” I barely got the words out before the rest of the pictures in the room came down with the same force in quick succession. My heart rate jumped almost as quickly as I had when I found myself pressed against the foot of the four-poster bed. Everything went silent after that and I let go of an unsteady breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding in. Apparently this was going to be a more interesting stay than I initially believed, but if it wasn’t an excuse to take another swig from that bottle of wine then I wasn’t sure what was. I wouldn’t say I chugged some of it, but it wasn’t exactly a sip either–I replaced the cork in the bottle and set it gently in the bathroom sink, lest there was another exciting incident with glass objects in here while I was gone.

I rummaged through my bag and grabbed my camera, this sunset would definitely be worth capturing. I wasn’t exactly used to seeing the sun as it set over the ocean having grown up in the interior of Alaska and I had to get out of the room to get some fresh air. I swear I nearly high-stepped the entire way down the stairs back to the lobby and stopped abruptly in front of the desk where I had checked in.

“Charlie stepped out for a bit, she said she’d be back in an hour or so,” the mystery man behind the newspaper spoke up. “Did you see Rue already?” I was taken aback, to say the least, how the hell would he know? “Don’t look so speechless, I heard the pictures breaking from here. I’m guessing you weren’t just throwing a fit because of the godawful paint job.” He chuckled to himself.

“I–I, uh…” I blinked and shook my head, “I just need some fresh air.” I’d never been at a loss for words before, but there I was, stumbling as if–as if I had just seen a ghost? No. This was utter crap, I felt my head shake again before I hastily stumbled through the door. Fresh air. Fresh air. Yep, that’s all I needed. Oh wow, the colors in the sky looked as if they were bright paint splashed across a canvas haphazardly–I raised my camera and CLICK–not only had the fog lifted, but the cloud cover had completely dissipated as well. The white picket fence screamed of the “American Dream,” that simply didn’t exist where I was from, but that barely registered on my mind until I passed through the gate. There was a hard gust of wind off of the water, then my senses were assaulted with the chilled salt air and I pulled my light jacket a bit tighter around myself. If I had taken two or three more steps forward, I would have walked straight off the bluff into the tumultuous tides below.

I followed the path that wrapped around the front of the cottage and the adjacent garden and passed the recreation and grilling area when I noticed the path that disappeared beyond the shed near the back. When I approached I noticed the sign that labeled it as the way to the lighthouse and shrugged, it couldn’t hurt to get farther away from spook-central. I glanced over my shoulder at the cottage and shuddered, still unable to acknowledge it as having happened. In an effort to put that disturbing experience behind me, quite literally, I headed down the path that eventually had me shrouded in trees where I finally felt safe and more at home than I had since I left Alaska. The walk was easy and blissfully serene, it opened up to the grand structure of the lighthouse that now stood a short distance past what I could only assume had been the fuel sheds before automation had occurred.

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse

I was surprised that on such a beautiful evening, no one else seemed to be around, but there were a lot of things that seemed to be off about today. The gulls were louder near the lighthouse and the wind was sharper, I guess I answered my own question, most people would probably be indoors eating dinner instead of subjecting themselves to the bone chill that came with the violent burst of ocean gales. With no one around though, I figured I could satisfy my long-standing curiosity by doing a little harmless B-and-E. I tried the handle of the watch house and it was locked–of course, it was locked–I rolled my eyes at my own overconfidence and tried one of the windows at the side of the micro-building and it squeaked upwards with a little elbow grease.

I was grateful that I had taken after my petite Yup’ik mother instead of my gangly, bumbling Scottish father, as my hips narrowly avoided getting stuck and I clumsily slipped through and fell into an impossibly contorted mess on the other side. Luckily, I had cradled my camera so it hadn’t hit the floor as hard as my elbow had–that would leave a bruise. A cursory look around the room, while I nursed my elbow, showed me that it no longer served as a watchhouse, but instead as a storage shed for tools and other necessary equipment to maintain the upkeep of the now-automated lighthouse. I smiled to myself, my fascination with lighthouses probably spurred from the fact that it wasn’t a type of building that I was particularly familiar with and I could just smell the history in this place.

A clanking sound echoed down from inside the tower and I had a suspicion that I wasn’t truly alone–but at the same time, I knew there was no one else in the building. There couldn’t be. I moved into the tower and looked up, but the empty space in the middle of the spiral staircase that lined the walls proved to be just that–empty. Well, I wasn’t a cat, so curiosity couldn’t kill me, right? The stairs creaked underneath my feet, the light that filtered in was even dimmer as the sun sunk lower toward the horizon. I’d been curious about the inner workings of a lighthouse for years, ever since I saw my first one in a picture in a history book as a child.

There was no one in the lighthouse, I noticed when I reached the top of the stairs, and the lantern room was just as spectacular as I hoped it would be, but I ached to see what it must have looked like before automation took place in the 1960s. There was something else in the air here though–something was off, it just didn’t feel right. I looked around the cramped space and still saw nothing. I shook my head and settled my eyes on the sun as it began to disappear over the ocean, this is what I really wanted to see. No view could compare to this, my hands rested gently on the glass as I pressed against the window cautiously–CLICK. The satisfaction from getting a good photograph compared to nothing else–I sighed.

Another creak of the floor rose from behind me and my breath caught in my chest, but I was frozen, I couldn’t turn to see what it was before my head was thrashed hard against the glass. The thick glass splintered out like thin ice under a heavy boot and I could see the blood that stained the cracks as my vision blurred and I dropped unwillingly to the floor, blackness seeped into my sight, but I could still feel the pain as my body crumpled under further assault by what I could only describe as a black mass hovering over me. It was impenetrable darkness that had no interest aside from causing me harm and it won.

I awoke to a shout, my eyes were bleary, I felt like I was looking through a red lens–blood had spilled into my eyes. What I could see now was the ground threatening me from afar, I was halfway through the railing of the catwalk and was dangerously close to falling to what I could only assume in my state was certain death. There was another shout and in my delirious state, I could see an obscure figure run full speed toward the lighthouse. Blackness overtook me again.

A strong jerk brought me around once more, my legs were being pulled by someone capable and I somehow knew I was going to be alright–the man behind the paper, from earlier, was that him?

“Are you okay?” my mystery man asked me, the concern on his voice was transparent.

“Ngh–help,” I barely formed the word, “ghost?” I wasn’t sure what had happened, I just knew it wasn’t something I had ever seen before.

“Yeah, little mouse–but you’re alright now.” I could feel him drag me up and back into the lantern room–or somewhere, I wasn’t certain where I even was anymore, but even in my poor condition, I knew that this was a defining moment for me. This was something I was going to need to figure out later on down the line.

“Anna,” I huffed through my laboriously jagged breaths, “my name is Anna Byrne.”


The rest of the night was a pretty much a blur, the mysterious man with the newspaper–he identified himself as Burton Januszczyk–helped me walk back to the cottage and then quite reluctantly to his room when he realized I didn’t feel safe in my own. I fished the key out of my dirty jeans and he went to retrieve my bag from the room while I sat fretfully on the edge of his tub in the bathroom.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” He asked when he came back, with my bag in hand, “are you sure you wouldn’t like me to drive you to the hospital for that gash on your head?”

“No, I mean–yes, I’ll be okay. I just–” there was a pronounced throb in my head once he mentioned it, “–I need to know what is going on here.”

“It’s Rue.” He said in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, “y’know you should really let me take a look at that,” I felt like he was simply trying to change the subject.

“Yeah, fine.” I relented and he reemerged with a first aid kit a few moments later. I winced when he applied the alcohol to the wound on my temple, “why do you think Rue attacked me?” Burton eyed me cautiously, as he cleared the blood from around my eyes, he looked like he was thinking hard about something–what was he hiding?

“I’ve been looking into this place for quite a while now, there’s been a habit of young women going missing in this area and I noticed a trend. I’ve traced most of the disappearances to this lighthouse.” The expression on his face looked haunted. “Not to pat myself on the back, but you’re pretty lucky I was here when you checked in–I was just about to leave.”

“Wait, do the owners know about this?” I furrowed my brow and the immediate shock-wave of pain reminded me of what was there.

“Do they know?” He tried to hold in a laugh under his breath, “they’re the ones that disturbed her spirit and brought her back in the first place–they thought it would make the bed and breakfast more popular! You saw that nasty doll behind the front desk? That belonged to Rue.” His story was wild–I had never heard of anything more ludicrous in my entire life, but here I was with a dent in my skull for my own skepticism. Burton finished tending my wound just as I was getting a call from–ah, shit it was my father.

“Sorry, I’ve got to take this–hey, I’m sorry I forgot to call and tell you I stopped for the night, I–” I was cut off by the sound of his voice rushing into the receiver.

“–are ye’ okay, Anna?” my father’s voice was curiously distraught.

“Yeah da–I’m fine! What’s wrong?”

“I got tha message from ye saying tha’ yer gonna stop ‘fore Newport? Where’d ye’ end up stoppin’?”

“Oh–uh,” I didn’t know if I should tell him about what happened, didn’t want him to worry, I was fine after all. “Uh–Heceta Head Lighthouse, there’s a B&B here, it’s uh–it’s cute. I guess.” I struggled to keep my voice even as I lied to my father.

“Cut the shite, Anna–wha happen’d?” I sighed and recounted the events that had just occurred, my stomach sank when he didn’t speak for a few moments after I finished the story. I could hear a sharp inhalation as if he were about to say something–then he loudly exhaled as if he had thought better of it. “Anna, we’ve got ta lot to talk about when yer home. Get out of that place as soon as ye can, come home. Please.” The urgency in his voice made me realize there was something he hadn’t been telling me for a long time–I needed to get home.

Beware the Boo Hags of South Carolina

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Have you ever woken up in the morning completely exhausted even though you thought you got a full night’s sleep? You’re bleary-eyed and achy all over, but you’re not sure why. Perhaps you remember vivid dreams and a sense of restlessness that you couldn’t escape. Or worse yet, have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and been unable to move? Sleep paralysis affects a number of people, but what if the cause is something more sinister? Let me introduce the Boo Hag.

In the southern part of South Carolina, specifically the Lowcountry and Sea Island regions, there lives a group of people known as the Gullah. This community of Africans are descendants of the West African slave trade, brought to the area in the 1700s. Over the centuries they’ve formed their own unique culture that still thrives to this day. There are many iconic ghost stories and legends that come from the Lowcountry, but one of the most famous is the Gullah “Boo Hag”. 

Characteristics of the Boo Hag

In Gullah culture, a person has both a soul and spirit. When one dies their soul departs and their spirit remains. If they were good in life, then their spirit resides to guide and protect the friends and families they’ve left behind. But if they were wicked in life, then their spirit morphs into a terrifying entity known as a Boo Hag. Boo Hags are skinless, red-muscled creatures with blue veins and large reflective eyes. In some legends they have long gray hair as well.

Boo Hag sleep paralysis bed

These dark spirits are believed to creep into houses at night, slithering through exterior cracks and holes, and sit on the chests of their sleeping victims, sucking their breath out of their bodies. Sometimes they return to the same body to drain its energy over and over again. If you wake up in the morning feeling tired and short of breath, it may be because you were visited by a Boo Hag in the night. If you’re unfortunate enough to wake while the Hag is still “riding” you, then it may steal your skin to wear as its own (though some stories say it will rip off your skin and wear it like a coat just because). 

How to Avoid the Hag

There are some signs that a Boo Hag is near, including the smell of something rotting and air that suddenly becomes very humid. If you’re wanting to avoid a run in with the Boo Hag, there are a few things you can do. Taking a note from popular voodoo culture these rituals might help. One option is to paint your door and window frames in indigo blue (or “Haint Blue”), a color that the Gullah people believe has supernatural protective properties. Another option is to leave a broom, hairbrush, or even a colander near your bed as it is believed the Boo Hag is obsessive and will get distracted trying to count the individual bristles/holes. If it’s distracted long enough then daylight will come and it will have to depart or risk being burned alive by the sun. 

Window painted in indigo blue or Haint Blue
Window painted in “Haint Blue”

The Boo Hag has some similarities to other paranormal folklore, including various other hag myths, boogeyman legends, and sleep paralysis demons. They also have been compared to vampires, sucking breath rather than blood. Of course science will direct readers to hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations to explain such phenomena, but there’s always the possibility that it’s something the rational mind can’t comprehend. So if you’re visiting the Lowcountry, it’s best to play it safe; get out your brooms and don’t let de hag ride ya!

Sources

https://charlestonterrors.com/boo-hags-haint-blue-vampires-of-the-lowcountry-the-paint-that-stops-them/

https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-boo-hags-of-gullah-culture/

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/south-carolina/gullah-culture-boo-hags-sc/

Book Recommendation – Labyrinth of the Dolls

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Labyrinth of the Dolls by Craig Wallwork.

Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels Labyrinth of the Dolls, Bad People, and The Sound of Loneliness, as well as the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, many of which feature in various anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in England.

Craig Wallwork author photo

Synopsis

It’s been one year since the horrific murders of Stormer Hill, and the events of that time continue to resonate with Detective Constable Tom Nolan. In an attempt to find the second killer, known only as the Ragman, Nolan joins West Yorkshire’s Murder Investigation Team. Partnered with Jennifer Morrison, a straight-talking detective with her eye on promotion, the two officers are assigned to track down a new killer whose victims are all found dressed like human dolls. As the investigation progresses, Nolan becomes an intricate piece in the killer’s grand vision that puts his life in danger.

Reviews

“Wallwork is a talented crime-thriller storyteller. He delivers what genre buffs want: An investigator we care about, grisly murder scenes, unexpected plot developments, and hideously wicked ‘bad people’. LABYRINTH is everything. Wallwork develops our stalwart constable Tom Nolan even further for his readers; emotional investment is at a new level of intensity that I was not expecting.”

Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror

“I’m happy to report that this sequel retains everything I loved about the first book, while adding new twists, more insight into Nolan’s character, and a creepy new killer. Without spoiling too much I’ll just say that I loved this sequel! The blend of crime thriller and psychological horror, the police procedural elements, the impeccable pacing, the strong writing voice and vivid detail, the gruesome moments and surprising turns – all of it is great!”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

To read the full review, click here!

Labyrinth of the Dolls by Craig Wallwork is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: Don’t Take What Belongs to the Dead

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

While attending college in the Interior of Alaska, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Yup’ik—a Central Alaska Native language—on Halloween of my second year, my professor deemed it appropriate to tell us Alaska Native ghost stories. Hearing these stories in Yup’ik gave unique perspective on the particular experience of growing up in such a harsh environment, his soothing rhythm and melodious speech gave it all an otherworldly feeling. It’s important to keep in mind that while this story is told as a folktale, but all folktales begin as oral stories and all of them have honest beginnings.

The Ghost’s Tea Kettle

Snow covered graveyard
Photography by Joy Real

There once was a Yup’ik man and a white man who were traveling from one city to another, during one cold January, by dogsled. The two men came upon an abandoned fishcamp alongside the river, and wishing to avoid the harsh cold of the evening, they made camp in one of the houses for the night. They had forgotten to bring a teakettle, but longed for hot tea to provide relief from the chill of the night—the white man recalled having passed a graveyard near the fishcamp, in which there were several teakettles sitting beside some grave markers. Upon hearing the idea, the Yup’ik man told the white man that it was dangerous to take something out of the graveyard, but this advice fell upon deaf ears.

Once the white man had gotten back from retrieving a kettle from the graveyard, he began to boil snow for their tea, but the Yup’ik man refused to drink any. The two companions began to ready themselves for bed when they heard a snapping sound, the house began to shake, and fog began to drift in through every crack in the house. The white man panicked, he didn’t know what was happening, but the Yup’ik man explained to him that a ghost was trying to get into the house.

Rusty old tea kettle
Photography by Jørgen Håland

Suddenly, the door burst open violently, the ghost seeped into the house like a dense white mist, and the door slammed with a bang behind it. The white man screamed and attempted to run in fear, but his escape route had been sealed off by the ghost and he was trapped. The Yup’ik man approached the ghost without fear and put his hand on the ghost’s head—the ghost was so cold, his hand went numb, but he refused to remove it, knowing what he had to do. He gently applied pressure on the ghost’s head and the ghost began to sink slowly into the ground, but soon he grew anxious and tried to push the ghost down faster, this didn’t work to the Yup’ik man’s benefit and the ghost started to come back up.

The Yup’ik man steadied himself, took a breath, slowed down and pushed down once more with a steady and firm hand, until the ghost slowly disappeared into the ground entirely. Unable to stay in the house any longer, the two men packed up all of their belongings, the Yup’ik man told the white man to return the tea kettle to the grave from which it had been taken. They believed that returning the kettle that it would give them freedom from the ghost, but it continued to follow them as a glowing red orb—the Yup’ik man stopped and made markings in the snow, these prevented the ghost from following them, but ended with them becoming incredibly sick. Once they got to the next village, the Yup’ik man had them roll in garbage to throw the ghost off of their scent and then according to traditional practice when dealing with ghosts, they both urinated around their house to keep the ghost away. Eventually they recovered from their illness and left them with the experience that would help teach others to not take what belonged to the dead.

History and Haunting of The White Eagle Saloon in Portland, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore
White Eagle Saloon image from early 1900's

On Russell Street, the White Eagle Saloon has been serving drinks to the community of Portland since 1905. Today, the building stands a regular hot spot on the Eastside of Portland for musicians and travelers alike. Notably marked on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has acquired a set of ghost stories and tales that expands over a century. Polish immigrants, William Hryszko and Bronisław Sobolewski, opened the saloon with intent to help serve other Polish immigrants around them. Yet shortly after opening, the White Eagle Saloon garnished a reputation for itself that would endure a century later: as a puzzle piece of the past in the Albina district. Prostitutes, kidnappings and an opium den are some of the rumors circling what the building, possibly, could have hidden within the walls. The mysterious and mischievous past are never far behind us, and many who stay at the hotel today experience frequent paranormal activity. Stories surrounding the saloon aren’t soon to die, and neither are the spirits still roaming the grounds. 

Oregonian newspaper clipping from early 1900's about Polish Society not being anarchistic

Shortly after opening, the White Eagle Saloon made headlines regarding who occupied the building and what it stood for. Multiple publications in the Oregonian helped to circulate rumors. The Saloon was thought to be an opium den, a brothel, the headquarters for an anarchist group or possibly all three combined. In June of 1906, press surrounding the White Eagle alerted the Secret Service to investigate the happenings within the saloon, believing the Polish members were planning to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt. Although cleared after investigation, Portland natives were wary of the White Eagle Saloon after this press, which helped secure the saloon’s reputation on the mischievous side. Later that same June, the Oregonian printed an article clarifying that the White Eagle Saloon had, “been misrepresented by enemies”. (1) The Polish immigrants were often thought of as anarchists. Perhaps other members of the community saw them as violent members, as it was reported that many disturbances, such as beatings and brawls, occurred within the property. The Polish immigrants who came to Portland created a circle where they could retain their traditions and share their faith with other Poles. Many of these disturbances were due to politics or religion, as any Pole who did not believe in the Catholic Church was considered an anarchist (1) and one of the founders, Broinslaw “Barney” Sobolewski, was also the Minister of Justice on the Polish Cabinet (7). Regardless of the disturbances within the Polish community, the Saloon stood as meeting hall and refugee for Polish immigrants (3) where, “an immense emblem, a Polish eagle with the American and Polish flags underneath, occupies a prominent place on the wall.” (1)

newspaper clipping early 1900's about a war on vices such as prostitution being planned by the US government.

The White Eagle underwent a remodel from a wooden structure to a brick building, and beginning in 1914 lodging was offered. The original intent Hryszko had to serve their Polish community proved true, as a census taken in 1920 showed that all the guests at the White Eagle were Polish men. (2) Although there is no substantial evidence to prove that the White Eagle Saloon was also a brothel along with the offered lodging, that is not to say that “working women”, or prostitutes, did not frequent the rooms available to rent on the second floor. Proof that prostitution existed in this way on the streets of Portland is shown in an Oregonian article from October of 1917. The article discusses cracking down on prostitution, and that the policy involves, “not only in eliminating regular houses of prostitution, but in checking the more or less clandestine class that walks the streets, and is apt to frequent lodging-houses and hotels”. (4) With Prohibition beginning in 1917, the saloon began to offer “soft drinks”, but it is largely eluded that regular activities were engaged in within. 

Gritty stories surrounding shanghai-ing patrons and enslaved women in the basement have circled the saloon for decades, with little truth ever found behind them. Tim Hills, a historian who researched the origin of the White Eagle, clarified that, “the opening in the basement that is usually identified as the shanghai tunnel is actually a coal chute leading to a trap door in the front sidewalk”. (2) Not only this, but Shanghai activity decreased at the turn of the century, making those dark rumors difficult to believe – thankfully. Nevertheless, rumors of spirits from the shanghai tunnels continue to proliferate even as recently as to my last visit to the bar in late 2019. When asked about the haunted hotel the staff reported that several ghosts from the tunnels have been heard over the years.

It’s natural for a destination of this notoriety to be believed to be haunted. The White Eagle Saloon was a notable location for dozens over the decades, and the idea that spirits of the dead are still attached to the building is not a unique idea. There are a couple of prominent ghosts known to haunt the grounds, with other ghosts poking fun at current hotel guests. Recounting’s of the tales vary in dates, names and other details. With something as intangible as ghosts, these differences are bound to appear. It has been reported that a prostitute named Rose met an untimely fate within the walls of the saloon. The general tale is that Rose was a favored and frequent prostitute around the area, who was often at the White Eagle. Sadly, a customer happened to fall in love with her and schemed up a plan for the two of them to run away together. Hoping to convince her to run away with him, he met up with Rose one night, pleading with her to leave her life of prostitution. Rose refused his advances and chose to remain. In desperation and anger, whether she was pushed down the stairs or stabbed to death in her room, the man then killed Rose. Guests at the hotel reported having seen an apparition of a beautiful woman, with some experiencing the feeling of being touched while in their beds. (5) While the spirits of multiple prostitutes may be tied to the saloon, guests have been reported to experience a run-in with some sort of female energy. Local staff report that most of the activity is rumored to come out of Room #2 in the hotel where she allegedly frequently stayed.

Another prominent ghost is a man rumored to be named Sam Warrick. (6) The tale surrounding Sam is that he was born on the second floor, believed to be birthed by a prostitute. Orphaned at birth, Sam grew up in the White Eagle trading his services for room and board. It is reported that he was a bartender amongst other jobs at the White Eagle. The saloon would be his final resting place, as he never moved away and eventually passed away in his room. Some of his possessions are said to still be in the guest rooms, appearing to have been moved on their own. It’s told that Sam is one of the faces you can see in the old photographs hung upon the walls on the White Eagle, keeping a dutiful eye on his forever home. 

A quick check on youtube has several paranormal investigators who have stayed at the hotel with various measurement tools. Their reports vary and some even report that room 3 has more paranormal activity than room 2. If you get the chance to walk the halls you will see why this hotel maintains such a vibrant haunted past. It is truly spooky in the hotel although it does maintain a warm vibe regardless of the low lighting, creaky stairs and stories of hauntings.

Perhaps it’s the spirits of Bronislaw Szelaszkewiez and William Hryszko that roam the halls, as their spirits are no doubt also tied to the White Eagle Saloon. Regardless of the truth, which many may never truly know, these tales that come from the White Eagle Saloon is an honor itself to the significance the building has had in Portland. The White Eagle Saloon has seen over a century of happenings occur within its brick walls, fluctuating between a safe haven for immigrants or a final meeting place for some souls. Spirits are still welcoming new guests, so feel free to book one of the original boarding rooms any night of the week and test it yourself. If you are brave enough perhaps add the Stanley hotel and Crescent hotel to your list as well, those are certainly on mine!

Oregon has several other haunted hotels also worth investigating including Hood River, Oregon’s Hood River Hotel and The Gorge Hotel.

Index 

  1. Article: The Oregonian, June 25, 1906 “Polish Society Not Anarchists”
  2. Article: Hills, Tim. “Oregon Places: Myths and Anarchists: Sorting out the History of Portland’s White Eagle Saloon.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 101, no. 4, 2000, pp. 520–529. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20615097.
  3. Article: The Oregonian, “White Eagles True Story”, Sep 27,2001 
  4. Article: The Oregonian, Oct 13, 1917, “Vice War Planned” 
  5. Ghost Hunting Oregon by Donna Stewart 
  6. Ghost Hunters Guide to Portland the Oregon Coast by Jeff Dwyer 
  7. Article: “Journal of the American-Polish Chamber or Commerce and Industry June/July 1921” 
Atlas of Lore #1

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