Alaska has always been a destination on my bucket list. The state is the largest in the United States and has some of the most beautiful land on Earth. You have abundant wildlife, acres of forests, mountains, snow, cold, and great history. I could probably have a post entirely on Alaska, and in the future that may happen, but today we are simply going to focus on one city, and more specifically, one in the town. The Red Onion Saloon.
Skagway, AK, is in the northern part of the lower panhandle of Alaska. Approximately 103 miles from Juneau, the state’s capital. It is one of the very few southeastern towns that can be driven to, accessible by road from both Haines and Whitehorse.
The Red Onion Saloon is an historic saloon and brothel museum in Skagway, Alaska. The building has served many purposes, but the upstairs brothel rooms were never touched. Today, the staff dresses up as working girls from the late 1800’s, serving food, drinks and offering tours. And if you ask anyone who has visited or worked there, sometimes you will find visitors that never left.
The Red Onion Saloon was the grandest most stylish brothel in Skagway. The ladies were treated very well and were valued assets. They were provided good working conditions, and their Madam provided for all their needs. They had a bouncer that protected them and ensured they were not robbed, or that their male guests didn’t overstay their welcome.
Each lady had a twelve-hour shift, with fifteen minutes allotted for each client. $5 was the cost for 15 minutes with a lady. Doing the math, a working lady could have up to 48 clients in a 12-hour shift. Of the money she earned, she was able to keep $1.25. $2.50 went to the Madam, and the other $1.50 went to the bouncer. Earning $60 a day in 1898 is approximately earning $1800 a day in 2022.
The Saloon was built in 1897 and was used a brothel in 1898 for the miners who were there to strike it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush. The planks for the brothel were personally cut by Captain William Moore, the founder of Skagway, and upstairs were 10 small rooms, and each room had multiple doors for quick exits when needed.
The brothel had an interesting way of showing if a girl was available for work or not. They used dolls which resembled the girls. If a customer picked out a girl, the doll resembling her was laid down. This meant that the girl was unavailable. If the job had been done, the doll was seated upright again.
Since the Saloon was opened it has served many purposes, today it’s a Saloon again and the upstairs rooms in the museum are as they were back when the guests were looking for the company of a young woman. Having all of these antique items also attracts ghosts froenm the past. You may encounter many items that are “trigger” items such as a silver dress found under the floorboards.
There are at least three entities in the Red Onion Saloon. Two women, and one man. The women are believed to be Diamon Lil, a madam who doesn’t feel like moving on. And the other woman is known as Lydia. Lydia is believed to be a working girl in the brothel. The man is not known, he’s not friendly and it’s believed he may either be a bouncer/security for the brothel, or even a guest of the brothel.
What you may experience at the Saloon depends on if you are a man or woman. Diamond Lil only lets herself be known to men. They have claimed that they feel hands on their legs and soft whispers are heard in their ears.
Lydia is sometimes seen wearing a long dark dress. She is hostile towards men, and it’s believed she blames them for a venereal disease she may have contracted. The smell of her perfume lingers in cold spots. Lydia prefers the scent of lilac. Lydia is friendly towards women on the tours that come through, she may even caress your hair, but with men she likes to play tricks on them.
The unknown male is not a friendly spirit. He brushes roughly past employees and guests. He tends to move certain objects the staff needs to do their jobs, such as keys and expensive drinks tend to disappear and later reappear in strange places. It’s a possibility that the bouncer stays to protect the spirits of Lydia and the Madam.
There was a musician who was performing in the Saloon and was staying upstairs in the Madam’s room at night. One night he stated that he had experienced a very strange and sensual sensation by and unseen presence in bed with him.
There are tours available as well as great food, drinks, and souvenirs. There is a “Quickie” Tour that is approximately 20 minutes and includes a Red Onion souvenir garter. Besides the Quickie Tour, the Red Onion is part of a larger brothel tour in Skagway and is the last stop on the tour. You will then be able to participate in a champagne toast and explore the halls and rooms of the brothel.