Halloween Thrills on a Budget: The Oxford Saloon

A spooky moon hangs over the Oxford Saloon in Snohomish, Washington. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Halloween thrills needn’t break the bank. I’m in the mood for an old-fashioned scare of the kind that arises “naturally” from places that are actually haunted. Nate, my husband, is not entirely sold on the idea, but Alex, our fifteen-year-old was invited to a haunted house experience run by one of the local businesses in town. I really wanted to go with him, but the “experience” cost $20 a person. Also, Moms who scare easily are probably not invited, either. However, for much less than half that amount, I could sit in a cozy bar, drink some beer, listen to a sick band, and possibly get the wits scared out of me. The destination? The Oxford Saloon in Snohomish, Washington.

Holding my liquor at the Oxford Saloon would never be a problem. Holding my bladder, on the other hand, would be, but I’d have to try if I wanted to avoid trouble.

“Whatever you do, don’t use the bathroom,” Nate warns me.

“Why?” I ask.

“That’s where the ghosts are. If we’re going to a real haunted place for ‘fun’ this Halloween, let’s just not bring anything home with us.”

“Right,” I say. “That’s why I’ve got holy palm in my wallet.”

“Did you bring any for me?”

“Why? You’re like a camel or something. You can survive long spells without having to use the restroom in a public place.”

“Still . . . we’ll be in a genuinely haunted place,” he insists.

“Relax, I have plenty for both of us,” I reply as we drive to the “most haunted” site we know in town.

Armed with our holy palm, we enter the saloon. I open my wallet to make sure the faded green leaf is still nestled between my dollar bills. This blessed palm is a family tradition with which I can’t part. Any scary event in my childhood home, was quickly extinguished with the holy palm. My parents would light the leftover leaves from Palm Sunday Mass in the event of a storm or other threat. Technically, this blessed palm, according to the United States Catechism, is a sacramental or “sacred sign that bear(s) a resemblance to the sacraments” (United States Catechism for Adults, 2008, p. 299). These sacramentals do not replace liturgical sacraments or going to mass, but they can enhance the spiritual life of a family at home, if they are used with reverence and respect. However, the Baltimore Catechism website also cautions that they “have no power in themselves, and to put too much confidence in their use leads to superstition.” I fully admit that I border on being superstitious and I may have a holy palm problem. I’ve placed blessed palm leaves in all of our cars, our luggage, and I’ve actually taped pieces of them to our furniture when we moved from Ohio. I’m pretty sure these uses are not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, but they make me feel better.

As we enter, we can see a sizable crowd has already gathered and very few seats are open. The server offers to seat us downstairs, but there are two open seats at the bar.

“We are definitely not going downstairs,” Nate says as we walk over to the bar.

He has good reason to not go down there. According to the Oxford Saloon’s website, the building we have just entered, which became a saloon in 1910, also once housed a high-end brothel on the second floor, and a place for rather dangerous and violent crowd of men who gathered in what is now the basement below. One woman, whose name was Amelia, was forced into prostitution, and she either killed herself, or was murdered in one of the rooms above. People who have seen her say she wears a purple dress with purple bows. (Oddly enough, I’m wearing a purple blouse tonight and I chose it before I found out about Amelia’s dress. Ooooh! A scaaaary coincidence–oh no!)

Also a part of the saloon’s history is a man named Henry, who was a policeman who frequented the bar. He tried to stop a knife fight one evening, but he was stabbed and killed. It is believed that he still remains near the staircase leading to the basement and women have said that they have felt his presence in the form of a pinch when they were using the restroom. Usually, according to these accounts, Henry will leave if confronted. My theory is that it’s bad enough that women may have to endure this kind of behavior from real, live men nowadays. Why do they have to put up with this from dead men too? No way am I going downstairs! No way am I going to the bathroom!

“You can always go to the bathroom if you want, Nate. Henry probably only harasses the women.”

Nate shakes his head no. Unlike me, he read the full description of the hauntings of the Oxford Saloon on the website before coming here tonight. The Washington State Ghost Society came to investigate in 2005 and, according to the account on the Oxford Saloon site, “at the end of the investigation, one group member used the bathroom. As he was relieving himself, he heard a man’s voice whisper in his ear, ‘Get out!’ Remembering to zip up his pants, the man did as he was asked, and in the future he always remembered to go before he arrived at the Oxford Saloon.”

Tonight though, it looks like the chances of a ghost yelling, “Get out!” are pretty slim.   If the ghosts decide to protest, they definitely won’t be heard. It’s loud, lively, and the band is setting up to play. I order a Diamond Knot Blonde Ale on tap and enjoy the first set from the Bill Mattocks Band, featuring blues, soul, and funk. Their first song, a unique cover of The Letter awakens the dancing spirit of many a couple. They are a joy to watch. (Some look like zombies who might not have danced in public for a while, but I’m not judging. You go, zombies! Go!)

Nate orders a beer and chips and salsa and the server talks me into a second beer. Great. Now I really will have to use the bathroom. The more I think about it, the more tempted I become. I finally work up the nerve to ask the server about the restrooms.

Me: So . . . are the restrooms . . . downstairs? Are they haunted?

Server (laughing): There are restrooms right up here and the ones downstairs . . . well, some people say Henry might pinch you on the rear end, but that doesn’t happen too often.

Suddenly, I don’t have to use the restroom anymore. The thought of using “un-haunted” bathrooms upstairs is no longer enticing. We tab out, but we are not disappointed. For a little over $20 (for the beer and chips) we enjoyed the possibility of spotting or experiencing the presence of a real ghost. Now, I can use my perfectly un-haunted bathroom at home, which will stay that way thanks to all of the blessed palm leaves I’ve been saving in case I ever visit a scary saloon.

Your Turn: Are there any haunted places where you live? Have you visited them? Any spine-tingling tales to share?


11 thoughts on “Halloween Thrills on a Budget: The Oxford Saloon

  1. Cute story. Sounds like fun.

    I lived in a so-called haunted house once, but never learned the history of the ghost. I tend to be more the “science-type” but I cannot deny my experiences in that house, nor do I close my mind to things we can’t yet explain. Even my dogs picked up on the energies in that house, behaving in a manner that made NO logical sense and never witnessed outside the house or in any other.

    After a few bizarre incidents after I moved in (some witnessed by others), I had a little chat in my bedroom, where most of the overt strangeness took place most often — firmly insisting that there was room for everyone as long as the main ground rule was observed: that “nobody in this house needs to be scared.” Things settled down practically immediately and we got along fine. VERY few strange things after that – at least not when I lived there.

    Scared the people that bought that house out from under me, however (I was merely leasing). Since I had moved to a house nearby, the adult son knocked on my door one day to ask me if I had been aware of any “strange” goings on while I lived there. I answered calmly and honestly, including how it happened that things settled down. He was clearly freaked.

    They sold the house and moved out shortly after our conversation, and I have no IDEA what they were experiencing or why, exactly, they moved out so quickly. I subsequently left the area myself (NOT to escape any ghosts, who never showed themselves in my next abode – lol), so I don’t know what the new buyers experienced in that beautiful old house, supposedly haunted.

    Happy Halloween!
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What an awesome story! Thanks so much for sharing! I had a similar experience in a house Nate and I owned in Ohio. It just always felt weird–like someone was watching me. When Alex was a baby, he would wake up in the middle of the night–as most babies do. One night, I went into his room to get him and he wasn’t hungry. He didn’t need a diaper change, either. He looked happy and wanted to play. So I picked him up and realized he didn’t want to play with me. He wanted to play with something that was behind me. He kept staring at it and smiling and reaching for it. I looked and tried to find something–maybe a particle of dust–some light–anything, but I found nothing. I started to get really creeped out, so I brought Alex (and some holy palms) to the kitchen and said,” Look, I know you love this house. We don’t. We are saving up our money and we will leave soon. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you left the baby alone.” And that was that. We all just kind of coexisted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. WOW! Too bad Alex couldn’t let you know what he saw – and great he wasn’t afraid — but how frightening for YOU.

        My 3 little Shih Tzu’s response was to guard me. One time my friend Sam and I were sitting around the table in the kitchen and all three of them ran in together and positioned themselves around me, facing outward, sitting totally silent but on high alert.

        Sam thought we had an intruder, but I knew we didn’t or they’d be barking, and told him so. He grabbed a knife and searched the house, finding nothing amiss. My dogs stayed that way for probably another 10 or 15 minutes and then, as if on command, they all relaxed and trotted off to play. This was before my “conversation” in my bedroom, and never happened afterwards.

        My bedroom lamps often went on and off before my little talk – which Sam insisted was a short in the wiring. However, when we moved the lamps to other rooms they NEVER did it – nor did radios or a alarm clocks plugged into those same bedroom outlets EVER go on and off (which would have left the clock blinking). Only lamps.

        Another experience happened when a bunch of antique tins on top of a high shelf unit turned back to front as my neighbor entered the kitchen to refill our coffee cups – clattering as she stepped through the door. She called to me in the living room, swearing she’d touched nothing. I rushed in to look for the source of the noise and we were both incredulous once we noticed the tins.

        I had to stand on a chair to turn them back around, and she had only JUST stepped into the kitchen, so there is NO way she could have done it. She couldn’t swear they hadn’t been that way, but I could! I’m not sure why I wasn’t afraid, but I wasn’t.

        Cue Twilight Zone music.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story! I have stayed in some haunted hotels. And there was a ghost/strange music in an apartment when I first moved in. I found that acknowledging their presence and telling them to go in peace puts them at ease and they depart.

    Liked by 1 person

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