Archive for Historic Site

Ghosts of the White Eagle Saloon

Posted in Commentary, History, Investigations, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by S. P.
White Eagle

White Eagle Saloon (Photo: McMenamins)

Located in one of the oldest sections of Portland, Oregon, close to the docks and railyards, the neighborhood around the White Eagle Saloon has held a reputation as rather “rough and ready” for most of its history. As the decades progressed, many of the older buildings around the White Eagle found themselves demolished and the area becoming increasingly industrial. However, in keeping with its tough reputation, the White Eagle soldiered on, continually operating as a bar, but also at times alternately as a brothel, cheap hotel, and rooming house. The building itself is two-story brick, about thirty feet wide, seventy feet long, and forty feet tall. The White Eagle is currently a “hip” corporate-owned saloon hosting live music on the main floor and a small historic hotel on the second floor. Along with continuing to host spirits of the alcohol kind, the White Eagle also, apparently, continues to play host to a number of spirits from beyond the grave.

Ghostly manifestations include disembodied voices and mysterious apparitions. Previous owners and employees reported hearing a woman crying on the second floor, only to find it completely deserted upon investigation. In connection with this voice, there are also reports of a vaguely human, teardrop-like form appearing in one of the second floor windows. Additionally, witnesses have reported hearing voices and people walking around in the main floor bar area while working alone in the basement after closing. One unusual report involves a toilet in the men’s room. Witnesses claim to hear in the quiet after closing footsteps leading to the men’s room, the men’s room door open and close, and then the toilet flushing. The only truly distressing report occurred several years ago when a waitress claimed to have been pushed from behind by invisible handles while going down the stairs to the basement. A bartender and doorman who rushed to assist her claim a mop bucket at the top of the stairs came flying towards them. Not surprisingly, the waitress reportedly quit her employment the following day.

The White Eagle certainly has a reputation as a tough and shady joint. The first bar at the location, B. Soboleski and Company Saloon, open in 1905 in a 1880s wood frame building. The present brick building opened in 1914 with a change in ownership and name to the Hryszko Brothers Saloon. During its heyday, the area teemed with saloons filled with dockworkers, rail workers, sailors, and prostitutes. The neighborhood itself served as a melting pot of Chinese, Russians, Germans, Slavs, and Poles. Many saloons in the area, including the Hryszko Brothers Saloon, were rumored to have tunnels leading directly to the wharfs used to shanghai sailors. Reputedly, prostitutes lured unwary drunks to the basements of the establishments with a promise of fun, where waiting thugs rendered the man unconscious, robbed him, and then used the tunnels to dump him on the streets (if he was lucky) or sell him to sea captains in need of crew (if he was especially unlucky). According to legend, the “shanghai tunnel” at the White Eagle was filled-in during the 1910s. However, the Hryszko brothers’ establishment held a reputation for gambling and prostitution. Even after Oregon Prohibition in 1917 forced a name change to the Hryszko Brothers Soft Drink Emporium, old-timers claimed illegal activity and alcohol continued to flow freely.

In 1938, another name change brought the Hryszko Brothers Restaurant and Beer Parlor and an improved reputation. During World War II the bar became known as the Blue Eagle Cafe and business boomed with workers from the nearby shipbuilding yards. A further change in 1941 ushered in the current name: the White Eagle Cafe and Saloon – reportedly a nod to the white eagle on an early Polish flag. Never considered a great neighborhood, the area around the White Eagle slipped into economic decline during the 1960s, with the White Eagle changing hands from the Hryszkos family to Tony Ferrone and becoming known as a rowdy “biker bar.” Things changed in 1978 when a tool and die maker named Chuck Hughes fulfilled his dream of owning a bar by purchasing and “cleaning up” the White Eagle. He continued to run the White Eagle for many years until it finally passed into current ownership by the McMenamin’s company in 1998.

There are certainly spirits of one kind or another still holding court at the White Eagle. Whether only of the liquid kind or also of an otherworldly nature is left to the decision (and imagination) of the reader…

[©2016 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

There’ll be Scary Ghost Stories…

Posted in History, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2011 by S. P.

Railroad Convict Labor (Image: http://www.learnnc.org)

There’ll be scary ghost stories

And tales of the glories of

Christmases long, long ago.

Gentle readers, in the “spirit” of the Season, I present my humble contribution of a “scary ghost story.” Turn down the lights, curl up with your computer in that big comfy chair by the fire and enjoy. Don’t worry, that noise outside is just the wind, or Santa, probably…

The metallic tink of a chorus of pick axes striking rock filled the crisp air like a bizarre industrial age symphony. In the best of conditions building a railroad was hard work. In rough terrain it was hell. This was rough terrain. Had it not been for the winter cold, the laborers would have sworn they were in hell.

In 1883, the directors of the Western North Carolina Railroad were determined to build a line linking Bryson City and points west with Dillsboro and the outside world. They’d be damned if trifling things like mountains or even the lives of workers would stand in their way, especially in the case of the men working to complete the Cowee Tunnel near Dillsboro, North Carolina.

These were no ordinary railroad workers. The area was considered so dangerous, few men signed up for the job. The state of North Carolina came to the aid of the railroad by supplying prison convicts, mostly black, for labor.

The prisoners and their guards camped across the Tuckaseegee River near a hairpin bend which Cowee Tunnel was being built to bypass. Each day groups of twenty prisoners were shackled together in ankle irons and ferried across the river in rafts under the watchful eye of a guard.

On that cold fateful winter morning in 1883, tragedy struck. The river was running high and the current swift that morning. Before they even realized what was happening, the angry river capsized one of the rafts and tossed twenty prisoners and their guard into its frigid waters. Weighed down by the heavy chains, nineteen of the prisoners met a horrific death by drowning. Only one prisoner, Anderson Drake, managed to free himself and rescue the guard, Fleet Foster.

Unfortunately, Drake, unwilling or unable to part with his criminal ways, stole Foster’s wallet during the rescue. What should have been a heroic triumph became brutal punishment when the wallet turned up at the bottom of Drake’s duffel bag. The guards whipped Drake and sent him back to work on the tunnel.

The bodies of the nineteen less fortunate convicts were pulled from the river then hastily buried in unmarked graves on the hillside near the mouth of the tunnel. Since no one much cared about the fate of a few prisoners, their unmarked graves were quickly forgotten as work immediately resumed on the tunnel. Even today, the exact location of the graves remains uncertain.

What seems not so uncertain is the restlessness of their spirits. From shortly after the time of the mishap itself to the present, witness after witness near Cowee Tunnel report hearing unexplained sounds of splashing water, clinking chains and axes, and perhaps most disturbing of all, loud, mournful, pitiful wails of anguish. Do the dead still haunt Cowee Tunnel, seeking to remind us of the presence of their nearby, but neglected, graves?

If you’re brave enough to find out for yourself, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Their excursion train runs from Bryson City to Dillsboro, passing through the infamous Cowee Tunnel. Just to be safe, you might want to keep the windows of your carriage closed…

Merry Christmas and have a spook-tacular holiday!

Sources:

Baldwin, Juanitta. Smoky Mountain Ghostlore. Virginia Beach, VA: Suntop Press, 2005.

Osment, Timothy N. “Railroads in Western North Carolina.” Learn NC, no date. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newsouth/5503.

Taylor, Troy. Down in the Darkness: The Shadowy History of America’s Haunted Mines, Tunnels and Caverns. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003.

©2011 S P Schultz, All Rights Reserved

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe…

Posted in History, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by S. P.

The Borden House (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

August 4th, 1892, began as a typical day for the Borden household in Fall River, MA. The patriarch, Andrew Borden, departed the home in the morning for his normal routine of checking in at the bank where he was president and stopping by the post office. Meanwhile, his second wife, Abby, and his daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth, went about the daily chores at home along with the family’s hired maid, 26-year old Bridget Sullivan. Elizabeth’s older sister, Emma, was not at home.

Around 10:45 am, Mr. Borden returned home. Claiming he felt ill, Andrew sat down for a nap on the sofa in the front room. Bridget Sullivan later testified that she was lying down in her third floor room when she heard Elizabeth around 11:00 am frantically calling out to her that someone had killed Elizabeth’s father. Rushing downstairs, Bridget saw Mr. Borden’s body slumped in the sofa as if he’d been sleeping. The left side of his face was a bloody pulp.

The body of Andrew Borden. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As neighbors tended to Elizabeth in the kitchen, Bridget made another grisly discovery. She found the body of Abby Borden slumped on the floor of the upstairs guest bedroom, likewise dead from blows to the head.

In the ensuing police investigation, it was discovered both Bordens died from hatchet blows to the head – 18 or 19 in the case of Abby and 11 for Andrew. Despite a heavily contaminated crime scene – it wasn’t secured until hours later – the police discovered a hatchet head broken off from its handle. The police assumed this was the murder weapon. With the crowds tramping through the house in the hours following the murders, most other physical evidence was destroyed.

Elizabeth told several varying and inconsistent stories to investigators regarding unknown mysterious persons. However, in the end, the police believed the circumstantial evidence pointed towards Elizabeth as the murderer. She was arrested on August 11th and tried at court in June 1893. With only weak circumstantial evidence and no witnesses, the jury acquitted Elizabeth on June 20, 1893.

Following the murders and trial, Elizabeth and Emma moved into another house in Falls River. In June 1905, the two had a falling out and Emma moved out. Both sisters died in 1927; Elizabeth on June 1st and Emma on June 10th. Neither ever married.

Rumors have swirled since immediately following the murders. It’s clear that following the death of the sisters’ biological mother, Sarah, in 1863, the Borden household was not a pleasant place for the sisters. Neither particularly liked their stepmother and by all accounts Andrew Borden was not a particularly cheerful fellow. While most believe Elizabeth was involved in the murders, many believe she didn’t act alone. Claims of incest and mentally handicapped illegitimate children still surface. We do know the Borden sisters were very upset with Andrew for giving property to relatives while providing them nothing. However, like so many similar murder cases, it’s likely that we’ll never know the full truth since those who did are now long since dead.

The Borden house currently operates as a museum, and bed and breakfast. Extensive paranormal claims surround the property, including reports of a very mean apparition of Andrew Borden. Are they real or merely products of over-active imaginations?

[© 2011 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

5th Annual PIA Conference a Success

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by S. P.

2011 PIA Conference

The fifth annual Paranormal Information Association Conference came to a successful conclusion this past Sunday in Sebring, Florida. The PIA, which began life as the Florida Ghost Gathering, aims to bring together researchers of anomalous phenomena from around the state in order to share ideas, network, and build friendships. Unlike other conferences which largely cater to “fans” of “paranormal” television, the PIA Conference is open only to members of organized research and investigation groups. Another key feature of the PIA Conferences is the fact they are held “at cost” – everyone, including speakers, pays a modest registration fee and no one makes money off the conference. No, you won’t hear the latest “celebrity” speaking about the latest “hit” television show. Instead, you will encounter people with decades of actual field experience in anomalous phenomena research eager to share ideas and information with fellow colleagues. Also, unlike other conferences, the PIA Conference is not limited to merely the discussion of “ghosts,” but includes all areas of anomalous phenomena research including cryptozoology and UFOs/UAPs.

This year’s gathering was held at the historic Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring, Florida. The lodge opened in 1916 and has seen its share of well-known guests, including playing host to a meeting of US governors in 1924. The Kenilworth served as the perfect backdrop for the PIA Conference. The organizers of the PIA Conference hope to establish good relationships with a few historic hotels around the state in order to set-up something of a “rotation” for future PIA gatherings.

The event featured an excellent line-up of speakers on a wide variety of topics. Along with a variety of presentations, another hallmark of PIA Conferences are social activities to encourage networking and the building of relationships and friendships among various teams and investigators. This year’s event delivered in this aspect as well with all of Saturday evening devoted to social activities.

PIA’s organizers understand that the “turf wars” and personality conflicts which seem to dominate the field are not helpful. Their events are dedicated to breaking down those barriers by helping everyone understand we’re all working towards the same goal and we can more easily reach it by working together rather than by working against each other.

If you’ve already attended a PIA Conference, I’m sure you need no further motivation to keep attending. If you haven’t attended, I highly encourage you to do so – I strongly suspect it will only take one time to make you a regular!

The Christmas Tree Ghost Ship

Posted in History, Locations, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by S. P.

The Rouse Simmons (Image: Chicago Christmas Ship)

The rats always desert a sinking ship.  The though kept repeating through the mind of sailor Hogan Hoganson as he watched rats fleeing the Rouse Simmons; dropping into the frigid water on that cold November day in 1912 as the ship sat tied to the wharf in Chicago.

The Rouse Simmons was the famous Chicago “Christmas Tree Ship.”  Every year at Christmas time, her captain, Herman Schuenemann, sailed across Lake Michigan to Manistique, Michigan, to pick up a load of Christmas trees.  Returning to Chicago, he’d tie-up near the Clark Street Bridge and sell the trees directly to residents of the Windy City.  Schuenemann also earned the moniker “Captain Santa” through his generously giving trees to needy families.

By the time the Rouse Simmons prepared for that faithful 1912 trip, she’d become fairly long in the tooth.  Built in 1868, she’d plied the Great Lakes lumber trade for around twenty years.  Following her lumber service, she changed hands several times until Herman Schuenemann acquired the ship in 1910 in a partnership with fellow captain Charles Nelson and businessman Mannes Bonner.

Schuenemann had the Rouse Simmons recaulked prior to his 1911 Christmas tree trip, but failed to do so before the 1912 sailing, possibly due to his financial situation in connection with debts owed.  Since the other passages had gone off without a hitch, Schuenemann likely expected no trouble.  Besides, even with a heavy cargo of 5,000 Christmas trees, the only real danger came if the tress got wet and froze.

Ominously, Schuenemann’s brother August had died during one of the Christmas tree runs in November 1898.  August had purchased 3,500 trees in Sturgeon Bay and was heading back to Chicago sailing the S. Thal with a crew of three when the ship was caught in a fierce storm off Glencoe, Illinois.  The S. Thal broke apart and went down with all hands.  Herman likely only missed the trip due to the birth of his twin daughters that October.

Despite the trepidation of some of the crew, including Captain Nelson, who told his sister before the voyage, “I know the Simmons isn’t safe, but I promised to go and I can’t go back on my word,” the ship reached port at Manistique without incident.  There the crew and dock hands began filling the ship with trees.

Already troubled by the vision of fleeing rats, the loading of the trees proved the final straw for sailor Hoganson, who refused to sail on the return trip to Chicago.  As he put it:

“When [the captain] had filled the hold with Christmas trees, we were ordered to pile up a deck load.  The load grew and grew and still they had us pilling more and more trees on top…I protested to Captain Nelson, telling him that if we struck heavy weather, the boat would be too top-heavy to weather it.  But the captain seemed to think he knew more about it than a seaman, and ordered us to pile more trees on deck.”

Captain Schuenemann, center (Image: Chicago Christmas Ship)

Schuenemann’s desire to pack the ship with as many trees as possible was likely due to the fact the unpredictable winter weather discouraged other captains from sailing late in the season, while a major snow storm had covered the tree farms in Michigan and Wisconsin.  With the shortage of trees from other sources, Schuenemann possibly saw the potential to make extra profit and pay off his debts.

The Rouse Simmons set out for Chicago on November 21st with Schuenemann, Nelson and nine other crewmen.  Despite the Great Lakes’ reputation for ferocious winter storms, the 1912 season on Lake Michigan had so far been relatively quiet with only one major storm.  Unfortunately for the men of the Rouse Simmons another major storm was brewing and they found themselves right in the middle of it.

During the night of the 22nd, fierce winds and waves battered the ship.  Two men were sent on deck to check the lashings for the trees.  A giant wave washed both men overboard along with several trees and the ship’s small boat (her only life boat).

In desperation, Captain Schuenemann directed the dying schooner towards the safety of Bailey’s Harbor.  The storm worsened and continued to buffet the vessel.  The trees remaining on deck began to cake with ice, adding significant additional weight to the already overloaded ship.

The logs of the Kewaunee Life Saving Station record the crew spotting a ship matching the description of the Rouse Simmons at 2:50 pm on November 23rd.  She was riding low in the water and flying a distress flag.  The station’s rescue boat was out on another mission, so Keeper Nelson Craite telephoned Keeper George E. Sogge at nearby Two Rivers Life Saving Station, alerting him about a vessel in distress.

Shortly after 3:00 pm, Two Rivers station launched their gas-powered rescue boat Tuscarora in an attempt to assist the ailing Rouse Simmons.  The poor visibility made the task almost impossible.  The rescue boat momentarily spotted the Rouse Simmons riding dangerous low in the water, but quickly lost sight of her in the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.  After an unsuccessful two-hour search, the storm and coming darkness forced the Tuscarora to return to port.  The Rouse Simmons and her crew were never seen or heard from again, although hope remained that she might have found safe harbor to ride out the storm.

A few days later, all hope was lost as bits of the Rouse Simmons began to wash up on shore, including a note.  The note, found stuffed inside a bottle crocked with a small piece of pine cut from one of the Christmas trees, read:

“Friday…everybody goodbye.  I guess we are all through.  During the night the small boat washed overboard.  Leaking bad.  Invald and Steve lost too.  God help us.”

True to form that the Great Lakes never give up her dead, the body of Captain Schuenemann was never recovered.

In 1924, Captain Schuenemann’s wallet, still wrapped in protective oilskin, was discovered in the net of a fishing boat.  Then in 1971, a salvage diver discovered the remains of the Rouse Simmons, her hold still filled with Christmas trees, resting in 172 feet of water.

Yet, since shortly after her fateful final voyage, Great Lakes sailors have reported seeing the ghost of the Rouse Simmons.  She’s most often spotted on moonlit nights, her sails ripped to tatters and wildly flapping about as if blown by gale winds, as she and her phantom crew continue in desperation to reach safety.  Sailors claim one moment she is there and the next she has vanished…

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

A Glass of Water and a Cursed Town

Posted in History, Locations, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by S. P.

Hendry County Courthouse (Image: Author)

It all began with a misunderstanding over a request for a glass of water.  On June 3, 1926, Henry Patterson, a black laborer, knocked on the backdoor of a home in LaBelle seeking a glass of water to help combat the hot, sticky Florida summer.  The housewife, seeing a strange black man at the backdoor and fearing the worse, fled screaming in a panic through the front door.

Rumor and hysteria spread like wildfire.  Several men of the town worked themselves into a fever pitch.  Before he even knew what was happening, Henry Patterson was dead, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds.

The sheriff rounded up about a dozen men believed responsible for Patterson’s death.  Not surprisingly for a small town in the 1920s south, evidence during the trial proved contradictory and confusing.  As a result, the judge ruled it was impossible to fix blame and dismissed the case.  No one was ever convicted for the senseless murder of Henry Patterson.

Following the trial, the rain dried up.  With little rain already, farmers looked forlornly towards the sky.  It rained in the counties near LaBelle, but not in or around the town itself, save for a few teasing drops – barely enough to even wet the dust.

Thunder boomed and rolled ominously on the horizon, but this wasn’t unusual for a Florida summer.  Suddenly, the town was jarred by a sharp crack and the sound of a massive explosion.  Residents felt the ground itself rumble.  The smell of ozone filled the air.  Rushing outside, townsfolk discovered a stray lightning bolt had stuck the courthouse clock tower, smashing and setting fire to the clock works.  The lightning strike caused the clock bell to sound and its vibrations lingered as the storm clouds quickly dissipated.

The town fathers said it was simply a freak of nature and quickly ordered the clock repaired.  But then the same thing happened again – and again.  The tower and the clock works were inspected and a lightning rod system installed.  Nothing seemed to help.  The clock was repaired only to be struck by lightning again.

Quiet whisperings began to circulate that Henry Patterson was having his revenge on LaBelle.  Cooler heads dismissed such suggestions as utter nonsense.  Events soon caused even the skeptics to question their off-hand dismissal of an otherworldly explanation.

As the town prepared to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, 1929, storm clouds again formed over LaBelle.  A massive bolt flashed from the clouds with a deafening roar.  It smashed into the clock tower with enough force to break off a large stone which smashed through the courthouse roof.  Venturing inside, residents discovered the stone had crashed into the courtroom where Patterson’s trail was held, nearly crushing the judge’s bench.

Coincidence or not, the town fathers decided to take no more chances.  The clock was dismantled, its works and massive hands stored in the courthouse basement.

Years passed; old residents left or died off, new people arrived.  Over time, people became so used to seeing the clock face without hands, many believed it’d never had any to begin with.  Some outsiders seeing the handless clock even assumed LaBelle was so laid back, the town didn’t bother to keep time.  The old clock bell was removed and given to a local Baptist church.  For years, the clock tower sat as a mute reminder of LaBelle’s shame.

As the years passed, the few remaining old-timers noticed the lightning strikes had stopped.  Hesitatingly, talk began of getting the old clock running once again.  New works were installed and the hands placed back on the clock face.  Finally, at 3 pm on Saturday, February 22, 1975, the clock was started.  It ran perfectly.  It continues to run to this day without incident.  Apparently, Henry Patterson satisfied his revenge.

“Celebrity” Ghost Hunt

Posted in Commentary, Investigations, Locations, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by S. P.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

I just received an announcement from a ghost walk operator advertising “special” pricing for a “ghost hunt” with a TV ghost-show “celebrity.”  Yes, for the low, low price of $150 (normally $250, so we’re told), you and forty-nine complete strangers get the “opportunity of a lifetime” to “ghost hunt” in a semi-well known location.

I’ve visited the location in question.  I know for a fact any sort of serious investigation of the location would accommodate no more than four to six – maybe eight – people at the most.  When I visited this location during its normal operating hours, less than fifty people we present – and that didn’t exactly make it empty!  I simply cannot fathom fifty people milling around, “ghost hunting” at this location at one time.

As I’ve said before in regards paranormal “certification” and “degrees,” people are welcome to spend their hard-earned money however they see fit.  Yet, I think it’s extremely disingenuous of promoters to bill events such as this as an “investigation.”  At the most, it’s a group tour of an interesting location.  Anyone who attends events such as these and believes he or she is conducting actual paranormal research is deluding him- or herself.

My advice: if you’re interested serious paranormal research, skip the “celebrity ghost hunts” and instead invest your $150 in quality books which will give you a firm foundation in the subject.  Then visit locations with your own small group for the low, low cost of nothing!

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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