Klondike Restaurant and Bar
This restaurant has been a local favorite for citizens of Saint Helens, Oregon for years; both for its fine eating, as well as its long reputation of being haunted. Construction on the building dates back as far as 1906, although the current owners place its grand opening in 1910. It originally opened as the St. Helens Hotel, but featured a dining room on its second floor that is today the Klondike.
In the early 1900s, Saint Helens was a busy port city that rivaled nearby Portland. In addition to the shipping business, the city had a thriving milling industry that still exists to this day. In fact, the majority of the initial clientele for the St. Helens Hotel were reportedly workers from the nearby McCormick Mill that was experiencing rapid growth, as well as other port workers. Time wore on and by World War II, the majority of the port business had moved on to Portland and business in Saint Helens waned.
Little is known about the history of the St. Helens Hotel at this point or its transition to officially become the Klondike Restaurant and Bar. What is known is that part of the building was demolished in 1954, leaving only the former "left wing," which composed the restaurant and a couple floors of former hotel rooms that are now abandoned. Continuing as a restaurant, the Klondike reportedly thrived throughout the 1970s into the 1990s, but also suffered a heavy turnover in ownership. As business in Saint Helens continued to filter out and the city struggled, the entire Olde Towne District including the Klondike was reportedly hit the hardest.
In 2007, the Klondike closed its doors for a short period as then-owner, Chad Brix, contemplated what to do with the building. A minutes-report from the Planning Commission Meeting for the city of Saint Helens on February 12, 2008 detailed Brix's plans to renovate the old building and reopen it as a hotel and restaurant. Due in no small part to its historical significance in Saint Helens's Olde Towne District, his plans to install an elevator and add-on to the kitchen and building ran into issues. With those plans apparently abandoned, Brix then turned to Dave Wuollet, part owner of the nearby Redline Sports Bar & Grill, who immediately jumped on the opportunity to reopen the Klondike and return it to its glory years.
On October 3, 2008, Wuollet and life-partner, Veronica Bartlett, reopened the Klondike Restaurant and Bar and brought the historic restaurant back to life - just in time for the city to renew its efforts in bringing tourism back to the city. As the city of Saint Helens reclaimed a historic remnant of its past, the long-rumored legends of ghosts and paranormal activity also resurfaced.
The Haunting of the Klondike
Stories of strange and inexplicable activity inside the restaurant date back years, although there does not seem to be any real infamous historical moments to explain them. In fact, the citation for "serving adulterated milk" by the Oregon Dairy and Food Commissioner in a 1916 report appears to be the only real documented moment of notoriety in the establishment's history and, even then, the ten dollar fine was later suspended. Reports of shanghaiing (kidnapping an individual for forced labor aboard outbound ships) are common in the port cities on the Columbia River (see Shanghai Tunnel Tours), but there are few if any such reports regarding the city of Saint Helens, much less the hotel/restaurant. However, there are a few possible theories as to the cause. Some report a lodger died a "tragic death" on the second floor but the accounts are unverified, while others offer the simpler explanation that a former owner decided to stick around after death. Even then, the theories do not account for the sheer number of spirits said to reside in the building. Regardless, the ghostly activity of the Klondike Restaurant and Bar has been common knowledge to the residents of Saint Helens for years and there are countless claims to back them up.
The most common claim associated with the Klondike is that of disembodied voices various staff and guests alike have reported over the years. Many have reported hearing someone or something whispering their name when no one else was around. There are also reports of objects moving around on their own and electronics that turn on and off without human aid; including radios that have been known to suddenly have their volume go up and down.
Perhaps most interesting are the reports of apparitions. One chilling account from an owner was the sudden appearance of a child at the bar. When the owner spoke to the child, the little boy reportedly vanished but not before asking aloud, "Dad?" One of the more credible accounts was reported by a local police officer that reported seeing a figure standing at the entrance on top of the stairs. The officer reportedly approached the figure and, much to their astonishment, noticed that the figure appeared to be floating with only the head and torso visible before the apparition suddenly vanished. There are other reports from people outside the building who see figures moving around in the upstairs that are closed off to the public. There are also reports from staff and guests of a shadowy apparition on the stairs that lead from the restaurant to the upstairs. Finally, Klondike waitresses have reported seeing a man dressed in a plaid shirt sitting at a window booth. When they turn away, the find the booth empty.
Whether there are historical explanations for the accounts or not, the Klondike has made believers out of more than a few skeptics. Further reports of disembodied footsteps, shadows that move on their own, and movement seen out of the corner of eyes only reinforce the tales of paranormal activity. In fact, the Klondike has been the site of multiple investigations by paranormal groups from Oregon and Washington. The stories even peaked the interest of the cable series, Paranormal State, who introduced the Klondike to the world.
In 2010, the Klondike Restaurant and Bar was the site of a paranormal investigation by members of the A&E series, Paranormal State. A September 2010 article of Portland Life reported that members of the Pennsylvania State University's Paranormal Research Society spent time shooting their investigation at the Klondike. According to the article, the episode was filmed over a three-night period in the upper floors of the building that once served as the hotel. Titled Paranormal Detour, the episode was reportedly the result of a random town selection by the crew (aided by a recommendation from a local paranormal investigative group) and also touched on the city's other recent claim to fame as a filming location for the hit 2008 movie, Twilight (see Twilight (2008): The Port Angeles Alley, etc.); although the Klondike was not part of the production and does not appear in the movie.
The Klondike Today
The restaurant still operates to this day, serving customers whether they are interested in the ghosts or not. The haunted history of the Klondike is fully embraced by the current ownership who have been known to hold certain events in the past that center around its paranormal reputation; including bringing in local ghost hunters and hosting a Tarot reading during the Halloween season. For more information on the restaurant and events, please visit their site below.