Across the river from Portland's shanghai tunnels, the White Eagle Saloon welcomed the seedier side of frontier life in the early 20th century. After the work whistle blew, men left docks hungry and searching for more than food. They'd board the trolley that lumbered up Mississippi Avenue and leapt off in droves as the conductor yelled out, "Next stop, Bucket of Blood!" So named for the brawls that erupted in the saloon and crept out into the night, the White Eagle's less than pristine reputation rivaled the infamous tunnels in Portland's Chinatown.
The two-storied brick building housed a "white" brothel upstairs and a "black and Chinese" brothel in the basement. The lonely spirit of Rose wanders the thirteen rooms upstairs, her weeping heard to echo the silent rooms. Rose was a "working girl" and considered the personal property of the saloon manager. One of her paying customers had fallen in love with the girl and wanted to take her away from this life of danger and dead-ends. Frightened by the prospect of confronting the manager, Rose refused. When her young lover faced his cruel adversary, he was beaten nearly to death. Undaunted and sure of his love, he again pleaded with Rose to run away with him. When she refused, he grew enraged and stabbed her to death in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Rose didn't let that little mishap daunt her spirit, patrons have reported being propositioned by a woman that could only be the ghost of the long-dead prostitute.
Now owned by the McMenamin Corporation, the previous owner had ventured upstairs only when needed. The rooms all have working locks though each time he attempted to enter the rooms, some would refuse to open while others stood ready for visitors. He closed off the upper level and simply let the inhabitants be. Another spirit that haunts the upstairs is that of Sam. Taken in as a child, he worked in the saloon the length of his life. When he died an old man, his shade continued to watch over his home. His belongings remained in his room though they have been found moved to other rooms on the second floor. Passersby have reported seeing the image of a man gazing from the second floor windows as they pass by, perhaps he's watch over them too.
The basement held the secrets of saloon. The black and Chinese women brought in from the docks or sold as virtual slaves were held in tiny rooms and made to sell their bodies in lieu of beatings from the management. Children born to the women were disposed of quickly so they could return to work. The spirits of these desperate women clog the atmosphere, their pain etched into the walls and mark the air. A tunnel was dug to assist the owners in their nefarious deeds of drugging men and selling them to ship captains a quarter of a mile away on the Willamette River. Snaking through the banks of the river, the men never had a chance. One owner of the saloon in recent times had an office in the basement. At night, he would hear over the low hum of his television, music cascading down from the bar after closing. Another time, coins would fall from the ceiling into the basement. At one time, he felt what appeared to be a strong earthquake that shook the building to its core. When turning to the television, he could find no reports for what he had just felt. A waitress, beginning her decent down into the basement was shoved from behind, in full view of the owner. She tumbled the length of the stairs and sustained minor injuries.
The bar section is a long, narrow band that spans the building front to back. Tequila was the beverage of choice for many years, the patrons lining up to match the row of shot glasses on the bar. There is a small dance area near the back and live music dominates on many nights. The spirits apparently have frequented the bathrooms. One lady, while using the facilities, entered into a toilet paper fight over the stall walls with a friend, only to discover there was no one there after her friend had left ages earlier.
Luckily for us, McMenamin's has decided to open up the rooms upstairs for nightly visitors. Rates are incredibly cheap so if you'd like to stay after imbibing a bit too much Jose, please contact their website and make a reservation for a room with a BOO! (Sorry, I just had to do it)
Author's note: I have visited the White Eagle and while I was refused my request to peek upstairs (this was before the opening of the hotel part), I did get the distinct feeling of being watched while there. Heck, I should've whipped out my handy-dandy Shadowlands Press badge, who knows what a story I would've gotten then .
- by Stacey Graham (WyntersMoon@theshadowlands.net)
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