“There is not an employee that has worked here that does not have some type of unexplained phenomenon ranging from, you know, hearing footsteps, seeing glasses or furniture move, to straight up seeing entities or feeling some kind of physical touch,” said Craig Swanson, owner of The Oxford Saloon.
Since its construction in 1890, the building located on 1st street in Snohomish has overseen various establishments leaving a dark past in its wake, including 10 deaths on its premise. Prostitution, gambling, drinking, and murder, just a few words to describe the past and present life of The Oxford.
Mr. Swanson has spent many late nights alone in the bar, but sometimes he’s not so sure if he’s really alone. “It’s an old wooden building, so it’s got a lot of movements, and a lot of creeks but overall, there is always a feeling that you are never alone in this place whatsoever,” said Swanson.
Staff members also agreed with Swanson’s assertions. Some would experience ambient noise in the building that would give them a sense of footsteps or doors opening and closing. Before buying the bar in 2005, Swanson and his family were unaware of the buildings haunted history until after he took over.
“I did not believe in ghosts before I purchased the bar, but people were talking about this being haunted and I definitely dismissed it right away,” said Swanson. “After being here for as long as I have, I feel like the building itself has an energy to it.”
The building is split into three levels. The top floor was once a high-end bordello/brothel consisting of multiple rooms for the lonely men of Snohomish. The door to the stairway upstairs can still be seen to the left of the main vestibule to the entrance of the ground floor saloon. The ground floor was Blackman’s Dry Goods Store, and the basement was a cardroom.
The brothel was operated by a woman known as, Madam Kathleen. Sadly, she met her demise in the bathtub upstairs. Multiple stories explain how she died. Some say she was decapitated in the tub by a resentful lover, others say she took her own life. Either way, the same outcome still remains, her body was found lifeless in the white claw-foot bathtub in the bathroom at the top of the staircase. To this day, the tub is still in the exact same place upstairs. Maybe that’s why her ghost still roams the haunted halls, wearing a purple dress with purple bows. You can see Kathleen for yourself in the main restaurant downstairs, she is the mannequin dressed in a purple dress and black hair suspended from the ceiling.
Another suspicious death was of a woman who was supposedly forced into prostitution by Kathleen. Her name was Amelia. She was found with a broken neck in the closet of room number six upstairs. Her death was never solved, was it murder or was it suicide? An Oxford employee named Rebecca gave me the run down on Amelia and the story of her death. Rebecca explained how back in 2019 a gentleman from England came to the restaurant to do an investigation on the haunted history. His mission was to find out why the ghosts were still around after all these years. He would ask a question and turn an audio recorder on to see if he could catch a response. While he was there, him and a group of people were filming a reenactment upstairs on multiple video cameras, while Rebecca was on the main floor of the restaurant. She explained how the people upstairs all heard a loud crash from the kitchen and came running downstairs to see if she was alright. “They came running down the stairs and asked if I was okay, and I was like, ‘yeah why?’” said Rebecca. “’You were screaming help me help me’ and I said, ‘no I wasn’t screaming help me’ but they said there was a woman that was screaming… so we went back on the video camera and sure enough you could hear a woman screaming ‘help me.’”
They then moved into the bathroom where Kathleen was found and did not get many responses. But two men’s voices came prominently through the tape recorder talking about the women who was pushed down the stairs. “They said she was pushed down the stairs, it wasn’t a suicide, it was murder,” said Rebecca. After a night of responses from these two voices, they concluded that Amelia was placed in the closet to look like a suicide. The story goes that Amelia was set to marry a man who did not want to be with her. Amelia, who was pregnant, was killed in a murder for hire by a man named Edward, a local jazz musician. Rebecca said that the two men on the audio recorder kept mentioning that they should hide because Edward was there.
One of the most prominent ghosts is that of Henry the Cop. Henry was a regular at the saloon that moonlighted as a bouncer, although unconfirmed. One evening a fight broke out on the staircase between the main floor and the basement cardroom. When Henry attempted to break up the fight he was brutally stabbed to death and fell down the stairs. Many of the encounters the patrons and staff have faced focus around Henry. According to the Saloon’s website he hangs out around the stairs leading to the basement and has been seen and felt many times in the ladies’ restroom, many women have reported being pinched by him. However, he disappears when confronted.
One of the other shops next door to the Saloon has reported seeing Henry in their basement too. “The people who rented next door came over and said, ‘your ghost Henry is in our basement, there has been a shadow of a man following my daughter,’” said Swanson’s mother.
One story that Mr. Swanson remembers most vividly from the basement is from back in 2007. “I had a doorman, and I remember specifically one night I was in the basement bar about 3 am and he was just hanging out having a soda or something upstairs. He had to go back downstairs because he forgot something, and when he came back upstairs, he was just shaking,” said Swanson. “Big, big, tall guy absolutely shook. He said there was a guy sitting at the bar in the basement wearing a three-piece suit, and he had a hat on and the doorman said ‘hey we’re closed, you gotta go” and the guy looked past the staircase and didn’t say a word. By the time the doorman turned to look at the staircase and then back at the bar, the guy was totally gone.”
Another woman wearing a black dress has been described as a malevolent presence that was last seen in October of 2020 wandering behind people upstairs.
The Oxford doesn’t like to host ghost investigations anymore after multiple events led to people getting hurt. One event was when a group of photography students from Snohomish High School came to the restaurant with a spirit box that had supposedly been used in multiple graveyard investigations. Rebecca told the kids about the presence of multiple spirits upstairs but never mentioned their names. Soon after the investigations started, one of the kids came downstairs and sat down at one of the tables.; At the time, Rebecca thought it was odd. The following day she got a call from one of the kids who was a part of the investigation and told her that the kid who came downstairs has been really depressed since the investigation and has talked about wanting to commit suicide. But, he had never had thoughts like that before. Since then, The Oxford hasn’t hosted another investigation.
However, while I was interviewing various employees, I ran into two possible encounters myself. The first occurred when I was on the main floor of the restaurant interviewing Mr. Swanson. We were sitting beneath a photo of Henry at the top of the staircase to the basement when the lights turned off in the stairway. I immediately asked Craig if there was anyone downstairs and he said no. The only light switch that controls the hallway light was next to our table upstairs. It was still in the upward position. When Mr. Swanson hit the switch down and back up again the lights turned on. We went downstairs to make sure there was no one there and low and behold we were the only people.
The second occurrence happened when I was speaking with Rebecca upstairs in the old bordello. While interviewing her we both heard a noise that sounded like one of the chairs being pushed out from one of the tables. When the noise happened, she laughed and said, “welcome to The Oxford.” Later that night when I got home and was listening to the audio from that moment, I could hear two distinct sounds. Fist, the sound of the chair. Second, a distinct woman’s voice, like that of a pleasurable moan. The next day I took the recording to our audio booth at the radio station and was able to clear up the audio and it was still clear as day… A woman’s moan.
I’m not saying for a fact that either of my encounters are truly paranormal, but each occasion was relevant to the former past of the 131-year-old building.
The upstairs has recently been converted into a third-floor bar with original decorations and time appropriate artifacts. The building is now three floors, each with a functioning bar. Together, they collaborate as The Oxford Saloon. You can come and enjoy live music, food, beer, and if you’re lucky, a ghostly encounter. Come for the food and stay for the fear. Learn more about The Oxford and their haunted history here.