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The Red Onion Saloon

A Bordello, Pizza, and Haunting

In the small city of Skagway, Alaska, on Broadway Street there is a building built with planks cut by the town’s founder, Captain William Moore. This building is interesting for three reasons: a bit of naughty history, pizza, and a haunting.

The naughty history of the building began just after its completion when it opened as a bordello in 1898 called the Red Onion Saloon. This was during the gold rush, when miners hoping to hit it big traveled through Skagway, which had been dubbed "The Gateway to the Klondike" on their way to find gold nuggets. Miners would come in looking for entertainment in both drink and ladies, and they found both in the Red Onion Saloon. The first floor was a saloon where the men would imbibe alcohol and dance with the women. The second floor contained ten rooms where the men were entertained by the ladies who inhabited them. Choosing the ladies was done with dolls. Each had a doll that represented them behind the bar. If the dolls were sitting up, the lady that the doll represented was available. If the doll was lying on their back, they were entertaining other guests.

As time passed and the rush for gold faded from the area, the bordello eventually faded, too, leaving the building behind to become other things. It was used as barracks in World War II to house soldiers. It also became a Union hall, bakery, and gift shop as well as a laundry and television station, but its history as a bordello would not fade, and it was destined to become a saloon again, only, this time, there would be pizza.

Today it is a historical landmark and operates as a saloon and brothel-themed pizzeria with pizzas with bordello-themed names like the "Busty La Rue" or "Lady Lavoie," and the employees dress as madams from The Red Onion Saloon’s heyday as well as barmen and musicians in period dress from that time. It is also a working museum where they give tours, and you can view items that were once in the brothel. To me, It sounds like a fun place to visit even without the resident ghost.

The haunting is allegedly the ghost of a woman who has been named Lydia and is thought to have been a prostitute at The Red Onion Saloon during the gold rush. There have been multiple sightings of her, especially in the upstairs area. Though she has been allegedly hostile to men, she does have a fondness for plants in the saloon and waters them. There have been footsteps heard on the second floor, and, if that doesn’t frighten you, she has also appeared as a full-body apparition that ran down the hall when police came to check out a disturbance. She then ran into the madam’s room. When they checked it, no one was in the room. It is often this room where her spirit is seen walking around and watering plants that are no longer there. There is often a strong smell of perfume and cold spots. Unfortunately, it is not known whether she died in The Red Onion Saloon, but one of the former madams was believed to be named Lydia, and perhaps it is her spirit that lingers.

So, if you are like me and want to do some ghost hunting of your own, The Red Onion Saloon operates from April to October. Get a drink, a pizza, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see her; but even if you don’t, The Red Onion Saloon sounds like a fun place to explore. It is certainly on my bucket list.

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