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Monday, October 30, 2006
A Night at the White Eagle - part 2
Click here for part 1.
Despite all the stories, despite a ghost known to haunt the place may have died in my room, despite the creepy preminition provided by the good folks at General Mills- despite all of that, I tried to get some sleep. There was no turning back now.
If I was going to be menaced by the hotel's resident spirits, I could always call for help...on the direct line to the Kennedy School located out in the hall. I'm sure a bored night clerk at a hotel a mile away would know exactly how to walk me through dealing with a poltergeist attack. After a trip to the bathroom down a hallway filled with portraits of geishas and macabre song lyrics, a rather callous decorating decision given the White Eagle's history, I returned to the Happy Rolling Cowboy room and turned out the light.
In the darkness what sounded like a woman's sobs floated into my tiny room through a paper thin wall. I turned on the lights and crept over for a closer listen. Nope, it wasn't sobbing, it was snoring. The guest next door was going off like a buzz saw.
I tossed in a pair of earplugs to keep their nocturnal snorts and the noise of passing train traffic at bay. With all this racket, would I even notice a sobbing ghost or any spirits rattling chains in the hallways? I finally fell asleep around three.
I was on the floor an hour and a half later. Someone or something was shoving me into a corner by the window. Through the darkness I could see a figure standing by the bed staring back at me. What the hell was going on here? Completely disoriented, I debated my options as "fight or flight" kicked in. I could leap at the figure with the chair nearby or make a break for the door. Whatever it was, it didn't budge. The figure was as still as a mannequin. Standing with a bedsheet in its hands, waiting for me to make my move.
And then I woke up.
Ah, just a nightmare fueled by an evening spent listening to ghost stories and eating greasy fish and chips downstairs. Whew.
But how to explain this next part? I've been unfortunate enough to experience sleep paralysis a few times in my life. I don't know if what happened in the Happy Rolling Cowboy Room at the White Eagle qualifies. I know what it feels like and I know what to expect when it happens. Traditionally, sleep paralysis means a full paralysis of all limbs. If you fall victim, you can't move a damn thing for several seconds after waking up.
I was laying on my side on the edge of the bed when I woke up around 4:30. Fully conscious or locked in some sort of waking dream, I felt something pushing against my chest. Not hands but more like a force, like a steady and strong blast of wind, nothing quite solid. As ridiculous as it might sound, the closest approximation I can come up with is that it felt like someone was scooting across the bed backwards while attempting to shove me onto the floor with their butt.
Yeah, their butt.
This "boo-ty" attack lasted around five seconds, if that. I reached out to stop whatever or whoever was trying to knock me out of bed. Then it stopped.
Gripped with fear and feeling like a kid convinced a troll was hiding under the bed, I laid there for what felt like an hour, afraid to move. If I reached out to turn on the light would a cold hand grab my arm? Scenes from The Grudge played out in my head. "Sure, go ahead and spend a night in one of the most haunted places in Portland," I angrily thought to myself. "Now you're screwed. We're not dealing with Casper here. There's an undead prostitute or bouncer in this room and they want you out of their bed."
It took me a while but I finally summoned up the courage to flip the light switch and confirm the obvious. No one was in the room. The guest next door was still snoring. A train passed outside. Quoth the Edgar Allen Poe, "darkness there, nothing more."
Completely exhausted, I considered tossing on my clothes, grabbing my laptop and running out of the hotel like a frightened kitten. Then rationality kicked in: surely this was just some combination of sleep paralysis, a waking dream and/or an overactive immigration at work here. Dead tired, I went back to sleep. After all, I'd paid $40 for this room and no freeloading ghost, imagined or otherwise, was going to chase me out. "Get lost Sam," I whispered, shaking my fist in the air for good measure. "Thanks for the company but no thanks, Rose. Screw with me again and I'll dial 411 for an exorcist. You'll be haunting an underpass by tomorrow night."
The rest of the night went by without incident.
In the morning after a shower in one of the hotel's creepy bathrooms, I headed downstairs. The bartender politely listened to my story with a smirk that plainly said, "you're stupid and/or crazy," probably the same expression she breaks out everytime a guest tries to tell her about a spooky encounter in the hotel upstairs. I asked her if she had seen anything weird go down while tending bar at the White Eagle and she shook her head. "To be honest," she said. "I think a lot of our guests drink too much at the bar, head up there and see what they want to see."
Wise words, no doubt, but did they explain away my experience? I'd had two pints over the course of three hours at the bar, barely enough to make my tipsy. If mere sleep paralysis was responsible, why was I able to reach out and push back against the "ghost" that had invaded my bed? I guess I can always fall back on "waking dream."
I'm not a psychologist but, despite everything that might point to a legit encounter with the paranormal, I remain extremely skeptical. If I was I could easily explain all of this with a lengthy medical term containing no less than six syllables.
Do I believe in ghosts after a stay at the White Eagle? No.
But would I spend another night there by myself? Not a chance.
For more photos of the White Eagle and the strange murals and paintings that fill its hotel, click here for a Flickr gallery.