Halloween Tales from the Barbershop

NOTE: This is a repost of an article by Hannah Swernoff from October 30, 2015.

In observation of Halloween, let us recount some of the more gruesome and ghastly stories of Multnomah’s past. I met with Ivan “the Hariable” Tadic in order to hear these tales for myself. We talked on a gray and foggy Thursday morning in late October. No customers were in Multnomah Barber Shop yet so it was just Ivan and I. The curtain to the street was closed, blocking the sights and sounds of outside passers-by. He slowly sipped on a cup of coffee as he told these stories.

The Meat Slicer

The first story Ivan told me was about an unfortunate incident with a meat slicer in Bill Ryan’s supermarket. Ivan was in the Navy, fighting in the Korean War, when this accident happened in the early 1950s. He warned me against scaring the new tenants of Bill’s groceries: Bishop Barbershop and the new restaurant Tastebuds with this story. But the tale was told regardless.

It was a Sunday afternoon and the meat slicer for the supermarket decided to go into work to get caught up for Monday. He ran the meat slicer for a while and was getting ready to go when he stepped away from the running machine to put on his leather jacket. When the man went back to the machine to turn it off, his jacket was caught and he was almost decapitated and died.

A little while later, after her husband did not return home, the meat slicer’s wife called Bill to see if he could check the store. Bill went down to the market and tried to open the front door, but it was locked from the inside. So Bill went across the street to the fire station, where the Neighborhood House now stands, to get the firemen’s assistance. With an axe, they broke into the building and heard that the slicer was on. There was blood from the floor to the ceiling and Bill and the fireman saw feet sticking out from the meat slicer.

Three weeks after this tragedy, the meat slicer still sat in the back of Bill’s supermarket. Bill’s reluctance to get rid of this deadly equipment almost cost him his business, but just almost. Once Bill disposed of the meat slicer, this troubled period came to a close.

Bill Ryan's Grocery, ca. 1955.

Bill Ryan’s Grocery, ca. 1955.


The Nu Cafe Massacre

This next Halloween haunt hit a little closer to home for Ivan, because his barbershop used to be right next to the scene of the crime. In 1973, Bob Symes worked for the water bureau, shoveling materials, and frequented he Fat City Café after work. He was a little stocky guy who wore big glasses and was dating Vivian Robinson, one of the waitresses at Fat City. Thirty-year-old Vivian would tease 58-year old Bob while she was separated though not legally divorced from her husband I.L. Robinson. After some time, Bob got frustrated with this situation and brought a gun to the restaurant. He chased Vivian around the restaurant with his gun and shot her fatally in the back when she was halfway down the stairs. He then went down to the bottom of the staircase where Vivian’s body was and, with one foot on her back, shot himself in the head in a horrific murder-suicide. Though Ivan’s barbershop has moved and no longer shares this staircase with Fat City, he remembers this story well.


Oregonian, Tuesday, May 15, 1973, p 4M.

Oregonian, Tuesday, May 15, 1973, p 4M.

With these gruesome tales in mind, I wish everyone a ghastly haunting season and a spooky Halloween.

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3 Responses

  1. Jeff says:

    Does anyone know about what caused the fire at MRS. MURPHY’S CHOWDER HOUSE at SW 19th Avenue and Barbie Blvd.? Any idea as to why the place was not rebuilt? In the early 70’s, a MRS. MURPHY’S opened up in an existing building on the grounds of JESUIT HIGH SCHOOL. Was that owned by the same people who had the Barbie Blvd. location?

  2. Joel Miller says:

    The building that housed Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder House at 8130 SW Barbur Blvd was destroyed by fire on January 4, 1969. According to The Oregonian, the operator of the restaurant, Herman DeVault, reported that he had left the building at 12:30pm about an hour before the first alarm was sounded. DeVault told firefighters that a basement refrigeration unit had been malfunctioning during the morning and might have been the cause of the fire. Sheet ice surrounded the restaurant which hampered firefighting efforts. DeVault lost many art objects and paintings due to the fire. DeVault reopened Mrs. Murphy’s temporarily at 2390 SW Madison Street in August 1969 and then the new Mrs. Murphy’s Seafood & Steak Restaurant at 8500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy in Raleigh Hills in September 1969. The property and building on Barbur Blvd was owned by Dick Edwards. It started life in the 1930’s as Edwards’ Dine and Dance. From 1948 until 1953 it was Club Indo-China and then the Bamboo Garden. From 1956 until 1964, it was DeVault’s Chuck Wagon and then Mrs. Murphy’s until the fire. By 1975, Dick Edwards had built a new restaurant on the lot called D.G.’s, 8124 SW Barbur. In 1978 it became Dave’s Restaurant and finally Golden Touch Restaurant in 1984.

  3. timlyman says:

    For more Multnomah Halloween stories and History, visit us in the History Center. Call 5803-893-5549 for hours.

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