The men’s room at The Cantina is a tiny room, with dark gray walls and an impossibly tall ceiling. It’s at the end of a hallway, and the hallway bends to form the door – not an easy place for sound to travel much. The four of us, two men and two women, stood in the men’s room asking questions. After we asked “Can you tell us your name?”, we all heard an improbable sound – a woman’s indistinct moan.
It was just a snippet of sound, not a drawn-out cry. But we all heard it. [For a similar sound, and the story behind it, I invite you to visit the Ghosts of the Illinois River fan page on Facebook, or www.ripillinois.org, and read the story of “The Ghost Fart”.]
We did several more investigative sessions, mostly working with the voice recorders. Doug had the most delightful experience – one of the entities we encountered seemed to like him. He was holding one of the MEL meters, and getting readings of unnatural cold along with high EMF. The readings changed when he moved the meter, and he finally narrowed his field down to a spot, about three feet high, just in front of the stage. I held my hand out over the spot Doug had pinpointed. My palm seemed to tingle with a low-grade electric awareness, a tingle that faded when I moved my hand away from that spot.
Jim and I sat for a while, along with London Depew, in the office of The Cantina, still asking questions, still hoping that some spirit would oblige us and answer. We didn’t get any responses, although something strange happened at that point too.
The office area leads into the back hallway (the hallway connects the office area and the front room, where my medium friend spoke of the men of the club that still met in the bar). I’m not the only person who has gotten weird vibes from the back hallway.
Doug was still wandering around the main room of the bar, charmed that the entity (according to the MEL meter readings) seemed to be following him. He got as far as the door to the office – then the meter’s EMF readings dropped to zero, and the temperature went back up to normal room temperature. Doug stepped back out, and the entity came back to hover around him. But no matter how Doug encouraged and cajoled, the entity refused to follow him into the office. The meter picked up a presence wherever Doug went in the building – a presence that stopped resolutely at the threshold of the office door.
It was getting late, so we wrapped up the investigation. I turned the lights on, the IGSS team collected all their equipment, and they left, thanking us for the opportunity to investigate such an active site. Later, Krystal and Rob shared the results of the investigation with us, including several EVPs. The team decided that The Cantina is haunted by an intelligent entity. They think it’s a female – they didn’t find any evidence of our top-hatted gentleman, but perhaps he was just keeping quiet that evening. Doug swears “Top Hat Guy” is still there, as he saw the shadow the evening of April 7th, during the Whistle Pigs concert. Also, several weeks after the investigation, there was another curious incident at the bar that seems to support the theory that it’s a woman who haunts the place …
Rob and our bartender, Colby, had locked the doors at one in the morning. They were sitting in the front room on the couch closest to the bar, talking and winding down from the evening. Colby is a tiny Italian girl in her twenties, cute as a bug, with large, dark, trusting eyes – and unfortunately, she was having guy trouble. She poured her heart out to Rob, who listened patiently. Colby did a bit of quiet sobbing, because (it’s true) guys can be jerks at times. Rob pulled her in for a hug, and she leaned in gratefully.
Then she stiffened in Rob’s arms. “I can see a shadow on the pool table!” she said in a fierce whisper.
She sat up, shuddering. “And why is it so cold all of a sudden?” She rubbed her arms as she shivered.
Both Rob and Colby are unyielding skeptics, but after Colby saw the shadow standing by the pool table, they were both left wondering if maybe her sobs had upset one of our resident spirits. They spent some time, these nonbelievers, trying to communicate with our ghost. Rob stood at the end of the bar, snapping pictures with Colby’s cell phone, while Colby stood next to the pool table, encouraging the spirit to stand next to her. Nothing anomalous showed up in the pictures, although Colby says she saw the shadow again, this time hovering against the wall that forms the hallway that leads to the men’s room. Eventually, Rob and Colby left for the evening – but they poured a shot glass full of whiskey and left it at the end of the bar as a friendly gesture for whoever it was Colby saw.
People continue to have personal experiences with our spirits, even people who swear they don’t believe in ghosts. As I was typing up this post, I was sitting alone in the bar, watching the place while Rob ran an errand. The afternoon was warm, and I was wearing shorts. I was sitting at the bar, with my bare knees touching the rough carpet that’s tacked up to the bar. As I typed, the floor flexed behind me as if someone was walking across it, enough to bring my knees away from their contact with the rough surface. I whipped around – but of course there was no one there. I had announced to the ghosts after Rob had left that I was writing about them. Maybe someone wanted to read over my shoulder as I worked. The Cantina is our bar, but I don’t mind sharing it with a couple of friendly ghosts.
Sylvia Shults is a ghost story addict. She loves them so much she’s written quite a few of her own. She also writes horror fiction and romance, and is the first to admit that there’s a very fine line separating the two. When not behind a keyboard, she can be found out in her garden, wandering the woods, riding her Ducati Monster motorcycle, or happily lost in a book. She lives in Pekin with her husband, two furry German shepherd daughters, two rotten cats, and far too many books.