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The Red Onion Saloon: Alaska’s Haunted Gold Rush Era Bar


Imagine stepping into a dimly lit saloon, the air thick with the scent of whiskey and tobacco. The walls are adorned with faded photographs of bygone days, and the sound of laughter and conversation echoes through the room. But something feels off. A chill runs down your spine as you sense a presence, unseen but definitely felt. This is the Red Onion Saloon, a historic landmark in Skagway, Alaska, steeped in the lore of the Klondike Gold Rush and whispers of a haunting past.

The Red Onion Saloon is more than just a bar; it’s a portal to a bygone era, a place where history and mystery intertwine. It’s a place that has captivated the imaginations of visitors and locals alike, sparking countless stories and legends about the spirits that are said to roam its halls.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating history of the Red Onion Saloon, explore the whispers of the paranormal activity that has been reported, and discover why this iconic establishment continues to attract visitors seeking a taste of the wild west and a glimpse into the realm of the supernatural.

Table of Contents

History of the Red Onion Saloon

The Red Onion Saloon opened its doors in 1898, right in the heart of Skagway, Alaska, during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. The town was a bustling hub of activity, filled with prospectors, businessmen, and adventurers, all seeking their fortune in the frozen north.

The saloon quickly became a popular gathering place, offering a respite from the harsh realities of life in a gold-mining camp. The Red Onion was renowned for its lively atmosphere, its boisterous clientele, and its infamous reputation.

The saloon’s original owner, a woman named Dora Duffer, was a legendary figure in her own right. A strong-willed and independent woman, she ran the saloon with an iron fist, and it quickly became one of the most famous establishments in Skagway.

The Red Onion Saloon was more than just a place to drink; it was a center of entertainment, a place where people could socialize, gamble, and let loose. The saloon hosted live music, dancing, and even theatrical performances. It was a microcosm of the gold rush era, with all its excitement, danger, and intrigue.

The Red Onion Saloon Today

Today, the Red Onion Saloon still stands proudly in Skagway, a testament to the town’s rich history. It has been carefully preserved and restored to its original glory, allowing visitors to experience a glimpse into the past.

The saloon serves as a museum, offering visitors a chance to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush era and see authentic artifacts from the time.

The saloon also hosts various events, such as live music, historical tours, and themed nights. This ensures that the Red Onion continues to be a vibrant and engaging place for tourists and locals alike.

The Haunting of the Red Onion Saloon

The Red Onion Saloon is not only famous for its historical significance but also for its reputation as a haunted landmark.

There are numerous stories and legends surrounding the saloon, some passed down through generations and others whispered amongst those who have felt the presence of something unseen within its walls.

The most famous ghost associated with the Red Onion is said to be Dora Duffer herself. Some say that Dora, unable to let go of the saloon she built, has remained as a watchful spirit, guarding its legacy.

Other reported paranormal activities include:

  • Unexplained noises: Visitors have reported hearing footsteps, laughter, and even conversations coming from seemingly empty rooms.
  • Apparitions: People have claimed to see shadowy figures, including a woman in a long dress, believed to be Dora Duffer, standing near the bar or in other parts of the saloon.
  • Temperature fluctuations: Many have felt a sudden drop in temperature, as if a cold breeze had swept through the room, especially in areas where paranormal activity is reported.

While some may dismiss these reports as mere folklore or imagination, others believe that the Red Onion Saloon is truly haunted.

There are several theories to explain the supposed paranormal activity. Some suggest that the saloon’s history and the intense emotions experienced within its walls have created an energetic residue that can be felt by sensitive individuals. Others believe that the saloon is located on a site with a particular geological formation or energy field that contributes to the paranormal phenomena.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the Red Onion Saloon is a place that undoubtedly has a unique atmosphere and a certain mystique that attracts curious visitors from around the world.


The Red Onion Saloon is a remarkable place, a tangible link to the wild and untamed days of the Klondike Gold Rush. It stands as a reminder of Skagway’s vibrant past and the enduring spirit of those who braved the harsh Alaskan wilderness in search of fortune.

While its historical significance is undeniable, the saloon has also captured the imaginations of many with its whispered stories of a haunting presence. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the Red Onion Saloon undeniably possesses a unique aura, a captivating blend of history, mystery, and a palpable sense of the past.

For those who dare to venture into its dimly lit halls, the Red Onion Saloon offers a glimpse into a bygone era and the possibility of encountering something beyond the realm of the ordinary.


Is the Red Onion Saloon actually haunted?

While there is no definitive proof, there are countless reports of paranormal activity at the Red Onion Saloon, ranging from unexplained noises to apparitions. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the saloon’s haunted reputation is certainly a part of its lore and mystique.

Who are the most famous ghosts said to haunt the saloon?

The most famous ghost associated with the saloon is believed to be Dora Duffer, the original owner. Other reports mention the presence of shadowy figures, often seen near the bar or in other areas of the saloon.

Are there any tours that focus on the paranormal aspects of the Red Onion?

While some general tours may mention the ghost stories, there are no specific tours dedicated to the paranormal aspects of the Red Onion Saloon. However, the saloon’s staff and local tour guides may be able to provide information and anecdotes about the alleged hauntings.

What are the best times to visit the Red Onion for the best experience?

The Red Onion Saloon is open year-round, but the atmosphere is often described as most captivating during the evenings, when the lighting is dim, and the saloon has a more intimate feel.

Can you stay overnight at the Red Onion Saloon?

The Red Onion Saloon does not offer overnight accommodations. However, there are numerous hotels and bed and breakfasts in Skagway that can provide comfortable lodging for visitors.

What are the admission prices and opening hours?

Admission prices and opening hours can vary depending on the season. It is recommended to check the Red Onion Saloon’s website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information.