Sunday, July 26, 2009

A haunted bar

From the outside, Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, Kentucky, looks like any other example of boring, ugly architecture. However, paranormal activity in and around the place has brought psychic after psychic, and an exorcist, to the bar, in an attempt to lay the ghosts that are, apparently, out to harm the living. It has been said that the building is one of the most haunted locations in the United States.

The original building was constructed in the 1850s, as a slaughterhouse. The only tangible remnant of the first structure is a well in the basement; this is where blood from slaughtered animals was drained. At the beginning of the 1890s, the slaughterhouse was closed, but the story is that the basement was used by Devil worshippers who sacrificed animals, then threw the corpses into the well. In 1896, the fun came to an end when a murder trial rocked the area. Thousands of people milled around the courthouse, unable to get in, while others (who actually bought tickets to the trial) enjoyed the show indoors.

The trial concerned the savage murder of Pearl Bryan, from Greencastle, Indiana. 22-year-old Pearl was very popular and a member of a good family. She was also pregnant. Her lover (introduced to her by her cousin, William Wood) was Scott Jackson, a student at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in nearby Cincinnati. Unknown to both Pearl and Wood, Jackson was said to be member of the Devil worshippers meeting in the old slaughterhouse. Jackson soon became intimate with Pearl; when she became pregnant, she went to her cousin for help. Wood told Jackson of this turn of events, and Jackson made arrangements for Pearl to travel to Cincinnati for an abortion.

On February 1, 1896, Pearl (now five months pregnant) told her parents she was going to Indianapolis. In reality, she had arranged to meet Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling, in Cincinnati. Her parents would never see her again.

Jackson first tried to induce an abortion with chemicals, such as cocaine (which was found in Pearl's system when an autopsy was performed). He then tried dental tools, to no avail. Pearl was now bleeding and very frightened, but still pregnant. They traveled to an out-of-the-way place near Fort Thomas, Kentucky, where the two men had better luck with the dental instruments when they used them to murder Pearl by decapitating her. Later examination by a doctor determined that Pearl was still alive when her head was cut off; this conclusion was reached due to blood discovered on the bottoms of some of the leaves at the murder scene.

Pearl’s headless body was discovered less than two miles from the former slaughterhouse; she was identified by her shoes. During the trial, Walling testified that Jackson had first had the idea to dismember Pearl and throw the parts of her body into the sewers of Cincinnati. As it was, only her head was taken. Her long hair was later found in Jackson’s room.

Pearl’s head was never found; the story is that it was used for a ritual at the former slaughterhouse, then thrown into the well. Jackson and Walling were found guilty and sentenced to death. Charges had been brought against Wood, but were dropped when he agreed to testify against Jackson and Walling. Some reports stated that Jackson and Walling were offered life sentences if they would tell the authorities where Pearl’s head was. They refused, and were hanged behind the Newport courthouse on March 21, 1897.

Rumors got out that Jackson and Walling feared "Satan’s wrath" if they gave away the location of Pearl’s head. A reporter commented after the hanging that as the noose was put around Walling's neck, he threatened to come back and haunt the place. The same reporter also claimed that a curse seemed to have befallen many of the people involved with the case, with many of them experiencing various misfortunes and dying tragically.

The slaughterhouse was torn down some years later, and a roadhouse was built on the site. During the Roaring '20s, it was a speakeasy. Stories are told of many murders occurring on the premises during that time. Given the fact that the place was a den of alcohol and gambling, both illegal, the murders were never reported, and the bodies taken elsewhere; this meant that all the murders went unsolved.

Prohibition ended in 1933, and the building was bought by E.A. ("Buck") Brady. He operated a tavern/casino, the Primrose. Once news of the thriving business reached Cincinnati mobsters, they attempted to muscle in on it. Brady resisted all their attempts. The mobsters then began to vandalize the place, as well as harassing and even beating up customers outside. Eventually, a shooting occurred, in August of 1946. Brady was charged with the attempted murder of Albert "Red" Masterson (another crook), but he was released later. Buck then sold his business to the hoods. Almost twenty years after the shooting, in September of 1965, Brady committed suicide.

The building now became another nightclub, the Latin Quarter. During the 1950s, another ghost joined the ranks. Johanna, the daughter of the club's owner, fell in love with a singer performing in the club and (shades of Pearl Bryan!) became pregnant. Her father, outraged, had his mob buddies kill the singer. Johanna tried to murder her father with poison, then killed herself. Her body was found, of course, in the basement. The autopsy report stated that she was five months pregnant, just like Pearl.

In early 1978, the building was purchased by Bobby and Janet Mackey; they planned to make it into a country bar. Mackey, a singer, was well-known in the area. The bar became a popular hangout quickly.

The first employee hired to work at the new bar was caretaker/handyman Carl Lawson. Not only did he work in the building, he also lived there. His apartment was located upstairs. Lawson was also the first to report strange happenings in the building. "I’d...make sure that everything was turned off. Then I’d come back down hours later and the bar lights would be on. The front doors would be unlocked... The jukebox would be playing the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ even though I’d unplugged it and the power was turned off," Lawson said in an interview.

Lawson also saw the ghost of an angry-looking man behind the bar; he was the only person present who saw it. Not long after this, Lawson came into contact with a ghost named Johanna. Lawson could see and hear Johanna, and the two of them carried on conversations, which led to the idea that Lawson had started talking to himself.

Lawson came to the realization that the basement was the center of the paranormal activity; more precisely, the location of the well. Lawson was aware of the stories surrounding the history of the site. He decided to bless the well with holy water, in an attempt to calm the place. The plan backfired, and the activity, rather than decreasing, increased. Other employees, as well as some customers, now began to experience the phenomena. Items moved with no visible cause; voices were heard. Bobby Mackey, not a believer in ghosts, worried that the stories would drive away existing and potential customers. However, soon his wife had experiences of her own.

Janet, when in the basement, smelled an overpowering scent of roses (the scent that always manifested itself when Johanna was near). An invisible force seized Janet around the waist, lifted her, and threw her down. She ran to the stairs, only to encounter a strong force that was trying to push her down the steps. A voice began screaming, "Get out!"

Janet was five months pregnant at the time.

Writer Doug Hensley overcame the initial resistance of customers and staff alike to investigate the ghostly happenings. He soon had thirty affidavits testifying to the paranormal activity in the club. One story concerned a headless ghost wearing clothing from the 19th century; this ghost had been seen by several people, all of whom gave the same description of her. Hensley dug through historical records and old newspapers, finding the forgotten stories of Pearl Bryan and Buck Brady. (Brady's ghost has also been seen on the premises.) Hensley wrote a book containing these stories, and he has taken part in several investigations. An attempt, in 1994, to exorcise the place had as much effect as Carl Lawson's holy water.

The club is still open, still popular, and still haunted.

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