Oasis Bordello Museum: A 1988 Cat House Frozen in Time

Jan 5, 2017 2 comments

In the heart of the Silver Valley mining district in the US state of Idaho, is an old dusty town called Wallace with a population of about eight hundred. But when the mines were booming in the early to the mid 20th century, there were four times as many residents. At that time men outnumbered women 200 to 1, so brothels were another thriving business.

Wallace had several active whorehouses servicing the men at night after a laborious day of work at the mines. When prostitution was outlawed in 1973, all but one closed. Run by Madame Ginger, the Oasis Rooms simply took down its sign and continued operation. Madame Ginger made sure that enough donations were made to the local police fund to keep trouble out of the way. Law officers weren’t the only ones who benefitted from Madame's philanthropic activities. She also made generous contribution to the local economy, sponsoring the Wallace High School’s band uniform, for example. So when the FBI got wind of her illegal operation and prepared to raid her brothel in January 1988, Madame Ginger was tipped off. The employer along with all the girls grabbed whatever they could carry and vanished, never to return again.


Photo credit: visitidaho.org

When the occupants hastily left town, they left behind many personal items such as clothing, makeup, toiletries, furnishings, magazines and food in the cupboard. Even the groceries still sat in a bag on the kitchen counter. A former mine worker and a local named Jack Mayfield and his wife, Michelle, bought the two-story brick building, and in 1993 turned it into the Oasis Bordello Museum.

The bordello is preserved exactly as it was on the night the girls fled, save for the mannequins that the owners dressed in the clothes the girls left behind and placed them around. One mannequin dressed like Madame Ginger lounges on the couch with a joystick of an Atari 5200, which she was very fond of playing. Another in a shower cap soaked in a bathtub filled not with water but foam peanuts. Lingerie hung from mirrors and lamps, and dressers cluttered with vanities. When Jack and Michelle bought the place, one of the walls in the kitchen was covered with names of locals and phone numbers, but this was painted over to save the men from embarrassment.

Taped to the wall in Madame Ginger’s office and reception is the brothel’s price list broken down by sex act and timed to the minute. For $15 a client can have eight minutes of straight, “no frills” sex. For $30 clients can have a “French” for fifteen minutes, and anyone fishing out $50 can spend half an hour with a lady of their choice and take a bubble bath with her.

The timings were strictly enforced. Madame Ginger maintained a bank of wind-up kitchen timers, one for each sex room. When the timer rang, the madam would knock on the woman's door and announce that the customer’s time was up.

Much of this information was provided by former prostitutes who worked at the Oasis Room and have returned to see the place. According to the information provided by them, the women worked 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight, attending to 35 to 40 clients per night. On a good weekend, they could make $2,000, but 60 percent went to the house. The girls kept the rest.

The first floor of the museum now serves as a gift shop where visitors can buy glow-in-the-dark panties, double-entendre T-shirts, mugs and aprons printed with the bordello’s price list.


Photo credit: visitnorthidaho.com


Photo credit: roadtrippers.com


Each prostitute was assigned a locked wooden box, where she deposited her earnings between customers. There's an egg timer atop each box. Photo credit: www.spokesman.com


The Oasis bordello’s price list printed on an apron for sale at the museum’s gift shop. Photo credit: Sheart F/Tripadvisor


Photo credit: visitidaho.org

Oasis Bordello Museum

Photo credit: RZx Photographer/Flickr


Photo credit: For 91 Days/Flickr


Photo credit: For 91 Days/Flickr


Photo credit: For 91 Days/Flickr

Sources: Roadside America / Dallas News / LA Times


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