Thursday, April 4, 2024

HGB Ep. 532 - White Eagle Saloon

Moment in Oddity - Sky Camping

Camping can be a relaxing way to get out and enjoy nature. Some people rent camper trailers, others prefer to use tents and sleep on the ground. Both Diane and I have done our fair share of camping over the years, however there is one camping style that neither of us would be caught dead doing. This is known as sky camping. Sky camping is an extreme type of camping that is not for the feint of heart. It is definitely a unique experience in that the tent or hammock is suspended in the air from trees, cliffs or other high points. The scariest looking location is one we recently came upon in the mountains of Shanghai, China. At this particular location the sky campers are suspended over deep caverns in their little hammocks between mountains. It is said that the whole experience is quite safe. A person is tethered at all times. Umm... OK, NO! Worse yet is if "Nature Calls" and the whole business of how you 'do your business'. We'll let you use your imagination. Or, you can use google. There are many different ways that adrenaline junkies get their fix. But in our minds, resting in a relatively risky repose, suspended hundreds of feet above rocky crevasses, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Planet of the Apes

In the month of April, on the 3rd in 1968, the movie Planet of the Apes was widely released across the United States. The American science fiction screenplay was written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. The film starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, and Linda Harrison. It was loosely based upon the 1963 novel of the same name. The premise of the movie is that an astronaut crew crashes onto an unusual planet sometime in the future. The astronauts encounter a strange society of ape like creatures who have developed into a civilization similar to a human one. With the apes demonstrating higher intelligence and speech. Serling rewrote the script outline several times before filming began. Production took place from May 21st until August 10, 1967, with set locations in California, Utah and Arizona. The final cost of the film came to $5.8 million. Planet of the Apes premiered at the Capitol Theatre in New York City before being released to the rest of the United States by 20th Century-Fox. The movie was a box-office hit, earning a lifetime domestic gross of $33.3 million.

White Eagle Saloon (Suggested by: Annie Caredio) 

McMenamins pubs, breweries and hotels are notoriously haunted. We've featured a couple of McMenamins establishments on episodes and The White Eagle Saloon is another one of those properties. The saloon describes itself as, "Echoing with tales of ghosts, mischief and mayhem, this 1905 saloon and hotel reverberates with live music and funky attitude." This is one of Portland's oldest bars and one of its most haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the White Eagle Saloon!

McMenamins and beer go hand-in-hand. They operate 24 breweries and have brewed over 75,000 batches of craft beer. They have several IPAs, Black Rabbit Porter, Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby Ale and tons of other seasonal brews and such. Our favorite named one has to be Gnomesquatch, which describes itself in this way, "Watch out for the Gnomesquatch! Nocturnal by nature, these creatures are hard to find and rarely seen, so when they are the pictures are always fuzzy. But don’t fret! We have captured the essence of these elusive creatures in a hazy IPA. Gnomesquatch Hazy IPA has a nice pillowy mouth feel with flavors of citrus and orange marmalade. Enjoy a pint today and get out and get Gnomesquatching!" Mike and Brian McMenamin opened their first bar together in 1983, making the company 40-years-old. That pub was called the Barley Mill Pub and featured a barley mill from Oregon's first microbrewery. The brothers have always prided themselves on saving buildings and remaking them into their own vision with funky graphics, avante garde music and good food and beer. In 1998, McMenamins White Eagle Saloon was opened. 

The White Eagle itself dates back to 1905 and is located at 836 North Russell Street, close to the docks and railyards in one of Portland's oldest neighborhoods that had a reputation as being rough and tumble. This area of Portland was originally known as Albina and the neighborhood here is still referred to in that way. This had been a company town controlled by the Union Pacific Railroad. It was annexed by Portland in 1891. The White Eagle was originally named the B. Soboleski & Company Saloon for Barney Soboleski, who had immigrated from Poland at the age of 19, this started as a one-story brick building that was narrow and rectangular shaped. W.C Arthur and Co. were the architects of the second-story that was added in 1914. Not sure who built the original building, but the front as it appears now would have been done by that company. The front features a decorative brick facade and a glass transom across the front first floor entrance. Soboleski used the building to house industrial supplies until an economic boom hit Portland. A Russian immigrant from Polish-speaking Russia named William Hryszko partnered with Soboleski to open a saloon in the building. They decided to name it the White Eagle Saloon for the white eagle that is found on the coat of arms of Poland, which was a white eagle on a red shield. William Hryszko’s brother Joseph took over as the head bartender of the saloon after the second floor was added. That floor was run as a boarding house and Joseph lived in one of the rooms. 

The saloon became a type of Polish community gathering place and a favorite spot for industrial workers and sailors. A crazy story connected to the White Eagle at this time originated in the national press shortly after the bar opened. In June of 1906, the press dubbed Portland as "one of the worst centers of Anarchy of Russian origin." The fact that an anarchist Polish immigrant named Leon Czolgosz had assassinated President McKinley in September of 1901, made officials and the press suspicious of places where Polish immigrants would gather. This put the White Eagle on its radar. Rumors had been circulating that a dangerous Polish Anarchist group had been meeting at the bar to plot the assassination of President Theodore Roosevelt. On June 18, 1906, officers raided the White Eagle. Neither co-owners Hryszko or Sobolewski were arrested, but it took the media changing up the narrative and actually having a reporter go into Lower Albina to interview Sobolewski and other leaders of the alleged Anarchist group. The result of the interviews calmed the fears of the public and proved there was no assassination plot.

There were eleven pubs along Russell Street and competition was fierce, so the White Eagle started offering free lunches. Other pubs followed suit and it worked out really well for the poor of the city until the city of Portland banned the practice. The White Eagle needed something else to rise above the other bars and rumors circulated that they were allowing gambling and prostitution. Historians looked into the claim that a brothel was being run on the second floor, but no evidence was ever found.  The 1920 Census showed that no women lived upstairs at the White Eagle. And although this had a history of being a rough neighborhood, police records from 1906 to 1916 show little indication that prostitution had much of a presence here. There are some who claim that it was possibly the basement that was a brothel and that an opium den might have been down there too. Businesses that engaged in these kinds of practices used vault doors at their entrances. The White Eagle did have a vault at the top of the cellar stairway, but this was a modern addition made in the 1970s. No one knows why it was added, but the Saloon's blog wondered if it was to suggest that illicit activities had gone on to enrich the rumored history.

Barney Soboleski sold his interest in the business in 1914. The building would then be known as the Hryszko Brothers Building from then on and the siblings changed the building. They were the ones who added the upstairs floor and they extended the rear of the building. And then there was that little thing about Prohibition. This may be when some illicit activity DID get started with some illegal alcohol running between the Shanghai tunnels and the White Eagle. Mention of this tunnel also brings to mind the practice of "Shanghing" men at the bar. It is quite possible that inebriated men at the bar would get pulled into the tunnel and taken to the docks and loaded onto a departing ship. And while the White Eagle wasn't an official brothel, there is no doubt that men staying upstairs would hire women to join them in the evenings. Poker games were run in the downstairs bar. Although, technically, the Hryszko Brothers changed the business name to Hryszko Brothers Soft Drinks Emporium at the time.

After Prohibition ended, sailors became the prevalent customers at the bar. They would be bringing in the shipments of alcohol and stay to enjoy a few drinks. The Hryszko brothers changed the name of the White Eagle at this time because they decided to become an official restaurant. The new name became Hryszko Brothers Restaurant and Beer Parlor. The name changed again during World War II to Blue Eagle Cafe. That lasted until 1949 when White Eagle became the name again. The 1960s would bring in a rowdy crowd once again and the second generation of Hryszkos decided they wanted to sell. A New York immigrant named Tony Ferrone became the new owner and he had a vision of opening the place to live music. This turned the saloon into a hip spot to check out through the rest of the 60s and 70s. Audrey Sampson was his wife and co-owner. Early on, women were not allowed in the workingman's bar. If they wanted a beer, they would have to stand outside and pass an empty bucket inside to be filled and then carry the full bucket of beer back home. This wouldn't really become a bar where women felt welcome until Audrey had bought the bar with Tony.  By 1976, Philip Siegelbaum and Tyler Stevens were the owners. They moved the bar and remodeled everything. Charles Hughes bought the business in the late 1970s and although the establishment had already made its image more reputable, he wanted to solidify that. So he made a rule that bikers needed to remove their jackets when they entered, as well as any weapons. The bikers didn't mind. The White Eagle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and as we said before, the McMenamins brothers purchased the saloon in 1998.

One of the coolest things about the saloon is the bar. It survived all the owner changes and renovations. It's hard to trace the origins of the bar, but most people believe that the beautiful ornately carved oak bar and back bar were built in the late 1800s in England and shipped around Cape Horn to be a part of the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition in Portland. Once the fair closed, the bar was bought to be installed in the newly built White Eagle. The tile floor features a Native American pattern. There was also a trough between the bar and the brass footrail that worked like a running water spittoon and according to former owner Charles Hughes, the trough was also used in the saloon's early days as a urinal. That trough is now covered with cement.  The upstairs runs as a hotel today featuring 11 rooms and is called a rock-n-roll hotel because it is right above a raucous bar with live music all night. So this isn't a place for early to bed light sleepers. 

As is the case with so many haunted locations, the line between fact and fiction is blurry at the White Eagle. There mostly is just oral history to fill in the formal records. One story that is told is that a lady-of-the-evening was killed by a jealous lover in an upstairs room. Her name is said to be Rose and she haunts the upstairs rooms of the White Eagle Saloon. Patrons claim to hear a woman weeping, possibly over a lost lover. Psychics have claimed to feel a deep well of sadness in the upstairs level. The basement, on the other hand, gives intuitives a feeling of violence and death. Strange noises are heard coming from the basement. Lore claims that white ladies-of-the-evening worked the upper floor, while black and Asian women worked in the basement. One of the women of color is said to haunt the basment. People are groped down here and the freezer door opens and closes by itself. Coins sometimes fall from the ceiling. One waitress was pushed down the stairs and after a couple of co-workers went to help her, they watched a mop bucket at the top of the stairs come flying at them. The waitress quit that day and didn't come back. 

Interestingly, the application for the history register talks about the ghosts. One section reads, "One of the ghosts seems to have been a Polish immigrant, Sam Warlinski. He supposedly worked at the docks for some time. Upon retirement, Sam was hired by the Hryszkos as a handyman and began boarding upstairs. (Other accounts report that Sam was adopted by the Hryszkos.) When the rooms upstairs were condemned, the Hryszkos told Sam that he would have to leave but that they would help find him a new place to live. The Hryszkos left to begin looking for a new boarding house for Sam. When they returned, they found him in his room dead of natural causes. The Hryszkos removed the body but locked the room just as Sam had left it. Contemporary accounts relate that it is now impossible to keep what had been Sam's room open. There have also been strange sightings in the upstairs windows and unexplained toilet flushing attributed to Sam." Historical records do seem to indicate that Sam died in Salem, Oregon, so did he just return here after his death?

A waitress was scared by an experience that she had. She was carrying a customer's order to their table  
and as she went to place it on the table, the plates flew out of her hand by themselves. Another unnamed spirit likes to tug on patrons’ shirts and staff members' aprons. Doors and windows open by themselves in all eleven rooms upstairs and apports appear out of thin air. One of the weirdest apparitions is described as being a vaguely human, teardrop-like form. This is usually seen looking out of an upstairs window.  

Seven years ago, a Reddit user wrote, " The following is not my experience, but was told to me by a stripper who dances in Portland Oregon. For years I've asked strippers all around Portland 'Have you seen ghosts?' One in 7 have, but only two stories stick out. Here is one of those true stories. A girl we'll call 'Angie' decided to go to the White Eagle Tavern, in the Albina section of Portland. Portland is divided by the Willamette River. West side is downtown Portland. East side is east Portland. About 6/8th's of Portland is on the east side. Back around 1900 the East Side was mainly forest and farms, with marshes, swamps, and an occasional "built up" area. One of these built-up "towns" was "Albina"; which is directly across the river from downtown Portland. In 1900, it was a small town of about maybe 700 people. It's social center was the White Eagle Tavern. On the first floor was a tavern. On the 2nd and 3rd floors were rooms (with no toilets...even today). In the basement was a brothel that included Asian girls, black girls, and a few white girls. During this time, it was illegal to be black in Oregon. So, if you were a black prostitute, you had to stay inside, and downstairs out of sight. Anyway, the story goes, they had a white prostitute who was in love with the piano player (they didn't have radios or cds in them days). But, a local cow boy (yes, they had them) were in love with the prostitute. A love triangle. Anyway, according to the legend, the cowboy was planning to marry the prostitute as soon as he came into a better financial situation. The cowboy told the piano playing to "stay away" from his woman, or else. He came into the Tavern, went to see the prostitute, only to see the piano player in bed with her. Well, he took out his gun and shot them both dead. Then, when he saw what he had done, he put the gun into his own mouth and pulled the trigger. Since then, some people have heard piano music (there is no piano), and a woman crying. Some people have seen a 3D shadow of a cowboy walking around upstairs. This is what I read online. The following is what the stripper told me. She said she didn't know that the White Eagle Tavern was haunted. Nobody told her. They went there one evening because a small alternative band they liked played there. They decided to rent a room for the night. The rooms were cheap (toilet at the end of the hallway). The rooms had no TV, no radio, a sink, but no toilet. But, they were planning to drink, the rooms were cheap, so they bought a room for the night. I think they paid 45 dollars. Anyway, they turned off the light and went to sleep. She said she 'heard' something, and she looked toward the door. She said she saw a 'shadow' coming through the door. The shadow looked just like a cowboy, but it was pure blackness. No features. No colors. She could hear the spurs on his boots as he started to walk past their bed. When he got to their bed he stopped, turned towards them, bent over, and looked at them. She could see no eyes. No features. Just pure blackness. He then straightened up, walked over to the sink, stared into the mirror (she could not see his reflection). He adjusted his cowboy hat, and then turned around and started to walk out. Once he got in front of their bed, he stopped, turned toward them, leaned over as if he was staring at them. She said she was so scared she couldn't move. He straightened back up, walked over to the door, walked THROUGH the door, and that was that. When he was gone she violently shook her boyfriend who turned over and said: 'I know, I know...I saw him too!'" 

Kathryn Kemp wrote on the McMenamins blog, "We recently stayed two nights at the White Eagle Saloon in Portland – one night on the way down to San Fran & one night on our way back. I want to start by saying that the bar & hotel are beautiful and the price is right but we now believe the hotel is haunted. Neither my boyfriend or I believed in ghosts, we are very logical people and we hadn’t read anything about the hotel being haunted when we booked it. Our first night in room 1 was wonderful and uneventful but our 2nd night in room 3 was down right scary. We had just got in from a brutal 10 hour drive and went straight to bed. We were lying in bed trying to fall asleep and the bed started moving up & down for no reason – we tried to rationalize that it was probably due to the bar below but it felt pretty creepy. My boyfriend proceeded to fall asleep but I was a little rattled and couldn’t sleep, I kept feeling like something was tickling my toes. I eventually fell asleep too and in the morning we were abruptly awoken by what felt like a object hitting the bed very strongly from below! We were both freaked, so much so that my boyfriend was looking under the bed. When we got up we also found that the water in the sink was running. My boyfriend felt that there was something in the room that just wanted us out so that’s what we did – no shower, no nothing – we high tailed it out of there! It wasn’t until today that we read many articles about the hotel being haunted. It’s too bad because we loved the place and the price was right but we won’t be able to do another night there. If you do chose to stay – don’t stay in room 3!" 

Ghost Hard conducted an investigation in October of 2023 and they said, "We experienced nonstop ghostly activity including intelligent responses from the ghost of Rose the Saloon girl. Through our REM Pod and EMF detector we had interactive conversations with the ghost in room three - supposedly the most haunted in the hotel. (Although the ghosts aren't confined to one place!) We spent the night in this haunted hotel - but we didn't get much sleep. And nonstop EMF detector action is a Ghost Hard first. We were blown away by the ghostly action we experienced." They have a video up on YouTube featuring the investigation.

Just two miles away from the White Eagle is the North Portland Library. The library started as a small reading room in a little house on Albina Avenue that opened in 1909. there were only 500 books in circulation there, but it was very popular. A quote from the annual report in 1910 said, "It is hardly possible to make comparisons to show the growth at North Albina. From the day this reading room opened, it has been a matter of wonder that so much could be done in so tiny a place.” By 1913, the reading room had morphed into a library with a new building designed in the Jacobethan style at the corner of North Killingsworth Street and North Commercial Avenue. The new location featured a children's reading room, a 150-seat meeting hall and many more books. Nurses used the building as a well-baby clinic in the 1920s. During World War II, the Red Cross hosted nursing classes and sewing circles at the library. The Black Resource Center was added in 1987. In 1996, the library was renovated and upgraded. The renovations held onto the historical feel of the building and it is very similar in style as to how it started.

And as could only be fitting in a library, it's reputedly haunted! The most well known ghost story is about the Shadow Man. Renovations done in the 2000s, added security cameras. One December, a couple of security guards were sitting in the security office joking around, when one of them caught something out of the corner of his eye on a screen. Upon closer inspection, they saw what looked like the shadowy figure of a man sitting in a chair in the conference room on the second floor. They both felt an eerie sensation. They knew the conference room was supposed to be empty. They went to investigate and crossed through the dark library to the second floor and found the room empty. They searched the entire room to make sure no one was hiding. The officers went back down to their control room and saw that the figure was still sitting in the conference room. The guards rushed back upstairs, but again found nothing. They reviewed the tapes later, and sure enough, the shadow man appears on tape in the conference room.

Patrick Provant, who had worked at the library, claimed that the bathroom on the second floor of the library was haunted by a spirit that liked to play with the hand dryer. He said that the dryer would turn on at random, often when he was using the bathroom. Patrick reported it to maintenance who fixed it. But the issue continued. They tried fixing it again and the hand dryer continued to do its own thing. Patrick said he decided to test the ghost and he asked it to turn on the dryer. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the dryer turned on. He tried the test again during a lunch break on another day and the dryer wouldn't turn on. He said, "I bet you a nickle you won’t turn it on." And it didn't. He went back to his desk disappointed and found a nickel waiting for him on his desk. A group of students from nearby Jefferson High School used the library to shoot footage for a school project on the paranormal. Patrick told them about the hand dryer and lead them into the bathroom. When he indicated which dryer was the one that went off by itself, the dryer turned on by itself. The students were terrified and ran out of the bathroom. 

We've covered some other Portland haunts like the Shanghai Tunnels and the Heathman Hotel. The city definitely has some interesting history and haunts. Is the White Eagle Saloon haunted? That is for you to decide!

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