GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual social gathering of regional ghost hunters and those that just like ghost stories. 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 (square) G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you, without asking the staff about our group.
THE DATE: July 13th, 2012 (Friday the 13th)
THE PLACE: One-Eyed Gypsy
901 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles (Downtown) (Map)
THE TIME: 8:00pm to the witching hour (Happy Hour 5pm-9pm)
What is the oldest bar in Los Angeles? This has been a long-standing debate among those that study the local alcoholic arts. When this topic arises, the saloon at 901 East First Street is always in the discussion. Although the building has been altered and rebuilt, and it has changed ownership and names over the decades (One-Eyed Gypsey, Bordello, Little Pedros, Caruso's Lunch Counter, Tony's Cafe, Panzich Cafe, Pitzel's Restaurant, etc.), it has continuously operated as a local watering hole since at least 1899 when J.H. Klohn got a license to sell alcohol at this address (and maybe even earlier).
Given the amount of alcohol served here for the last 113 years, is it any wonder that this place has many legends and ghost stories associated with it? It has also been on GHOULA's radar since we started "Spirits with Spirits."
Employees claim that voices call out from empty rooms, and unseen hands will touch, push, and sometimes pinch (or "goose") them in the wee hours of the night. Objects move, doors open and close, and lights and faucets turn on and off. Most of the activity seems to occur around the men's restroom, but one well-witnessed event occurred at the bar when a crown that sits upon the head of a stature (high above anyone's reach) flew across the room.
It has been said that this establishment at one time was a brothel, until it burned to the ground killing all those inside. It has also been said to have been a speak-easy during Prohibition. Plus, during it's time as a notorious biker-bar in the 1980's, at least six unreported murders are said to have occurred within its walls, including the untimely death of a former waitress.
Although such legends are hard to confirm (and as such are common with old bars), this doesn't necessarily mean they are not true. There does seem to be old newspaper accounts that offer some support of these often repeated tales. For example, in 2006, a barroom brawl did erupt into gunfire on the street outside the entrance, leading to one murder.
During Prohibition, one former owner was arrested when the police seized 250 gallons of wine (11 barrels) from the basement. It was later discovered that the alcohol was legal and the owner had the proper permits. The next owner (also during Prohibition) was also arrested and charged with running an illegal bootlegging operation out of this saloon. That owner claimed the police force were only exposing him because he wouldn't pay their "protection" fees.
Also, there was a period when the saloon rented out rooms on their second floor to transient railroad workers and others. When Dan Pitzel operated the saloon during the turn of the last century, the police commission, because of local pressure, half-heartedly threatened (for many years) to revoke his license, claiming Pitzel was "violating the rules" because of the "improper conduct" that occurred in this saloon (which was frequented by local police officers). It is left to your imagination what "improper conduct" from a saloon on the edge of town that also rents rooms could mean.
Although the current staff believes that the bar is haunted by a female entity, most likely a former madam (when it was a brothel) or the before mentioned murdered waitress, it is interesting to note that in 1902, a 26 year old waitress, Miss Anna Feliz, committed suicide a couple of blocks away. She apparently had been ill for some time before, and the pain and suffering from working here with that illness just became too great one night. Some have theorized that her "sickness" may have been the result of a botched abortion, which was not uncommon in brothels of the time.
Additionally, given the bar's placement next to the L.A. River, the possibility of everybody's favorite ghost, La LLorona, can't be ruled out completely as the resident female spirit. Incidentally, The One-Eyed Gypsey has the greatest "Woman in Black," LLorona-esque fortune-telling arcade machine in the city. (Well worth the 50 cent asking price.)
That stated, considering the ghostly activity in the men's restroom, and the frisky nature of the "spirit hands" that touch the female staff, it is also quite possible that at least one male entity also haunts this site. Could it be the man that was shot in the barroom in 1906 (the only murder within its walls reported)? Could it be one of the men said to have committed suicide off of the 1st Street Bridge after having had a last drink here? Could it be the mysterious man that supposedly groaned all night from his room upstairs only to be found dead in the morning with a belly full of poison? Then again, it could be any of the many colorful characters who have owned, bartended, or past through the doors of this colorful establishment in the last century.
So, come out to the One-Eyed Gypsy this Friday the 13th, and ponder these super-natural possibilities over a glass of their signature "Siren's Punch" in quite possibly Los Angeles oldest bar... if you dare!
(to read about last month's haunted location... )
(to see a map of previous SPIRITS with SPIRITS locations... )
The area as it was in 1929.