Thursday, August 13, 2009

TONIGHT: Spirits With Spirits at the King Edward Saloon

The King Edward Hotel (photo source)

Any ghost enthusiast in the greater Los Angeles area should be familiar with the group GHOULA, or Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles. In addition to occasional extracurricular activities, GHOULA holds meetings on the 13th of every month (called "Spirits with Spirits") at haunted bars, taverns and restaurants around L.A. I've only been attending for a few months myself, but past meeting places have included the Cat and Fiddle on Sunset and the Queen Mary in Long Beach. For August, our haunted locale is downtown, at the King Edward Saloon at 121 E. 5th Street. Here are the details, taken from the GHOULA blog:

GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual gathering of regional ghost hunters. Open to all, from the curious skeptic to the passionate phantom pursuer. Make friends, and toast a ghost! Let's put the “Boo!” back into “booze.” All those who attend will receive a free G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have, please wear it so others can find you.

THE DATE: August 13th, 2009 (Thursday)
THE PLACE: The King Edward Saloon
(121 E 5TH St @ Los Angeles St.) map
THE TIME: 8pm to the witching hour


The King Edward Saloon, a.k.a. The King Eddy Saloon, a.k.a. The King Edward Bar, just might be the oldest bar in Los Angeles (despite Coles's claims), opening their doors for business in 1906. President Theodore Roosevelt (when staying at the adjoining hotel) is said to have frequented this bar after hours (for his safety). Though there have been many changes in the neighborhood, and Prohibition (when its operation moved into the basement), this tavern has endured. It also remains the last survivor of the fabled "skid row bars" of Los Angeles.

This historic bar (even if it is mostly ignored and forgotten) occupies the South-East corner of the even more historic King Edward Hotel, designed by Parkinson and Berstorm (Parkson later designed many L.A. landmarks, including Union Station, City Hall, and Bullocks Wilshire). When this building first opened it not only proudly boasted that all the materials that went into the construction orginated from Los Angeles, but that due to its unique design was "absolutely fire-proof."

Those features aside, this saloon has another reason to brag. It is home to one of the great archetypal ghosts of America, the "vanishing hitchhiker." This apparition/urban legend has been seen in some form all over the United States (the most famous one being "Resurrection Mary" outside of Chicago), and even locally different versions of this story have been connected to the San Fernando Mission and Mulhulland Drive.

The Kind Eddy's version of this tale is that an awkward woman (possibly inebriated) introduces herself to a male patron at closing, and asks for a ride to her home in the Belvedere Garden section of East Los Angeles. The man, either with the best or worst intentions, agrees and even offers his coat to the shivering woman. On route, she demands that the driver pull over at the Evergreen Cemetery, where she mysteriously jumps out of the car and disappears into the dark grave yard. When the driver goes to look for her (and his jacket), he finds that she has completely vanished into thin air. As he leaves, he notices his jacket draped over a tombstone bearing the same name as the one she gave.

Is this ghost story a true haunting? Is it just another urban legend? Or, is it a hoax perpetuated by a woman with a sick sense of humor? Go to the the King Edward Saloon and find out for yourself.

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