At Mysterious Heartland, we have patronized many drinking establishments on our travels to allegedly haunted places all over the Midwest, but sometimes the pub is our destination. From the ghosts of former owners who refuse to leave, to ladies of the evening from a bygone era, many are said to contain “spirits” of a supernatural variety. Which one will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. J&B’s Bar and Grill
Northern Michigan is home to many unusual places, and the tiny community of Johannesburg is no exception. J&B’s Bar and Grill is located on the outskirts of town at a 90 degree curve in State Route 32, east of Interstate 75. The existing building is a combination of a former service station and one-room schoolhouse. Joe and Nettie Buc first opened The Spot Bar at that location in 1946. In 1997, Judy and Bill Pappas purchased the business and renamed it J&B’s Bar ‘N’ Grill. The bar is believed to be haunted by a former owner, but no one is certain to which owner the ghost belongs. Their best guess is Stanley Krol, who purchased the building in 1950 and was responsible for adding the one-room schoolhouse. He died in the bar. Employees have heard a mysterious voice call their names, ask questions, and issue requests. At other times, items have gone missing only to reappear again. Apparitions have also occasionally been seen.
9. Bombshell Bar & Grill
St. Charles, Missouri
A onetime residence-turned-clothing store-turned-pub on Main Street in historic downtown St. Charles, Missouri, Sarah Schneider and Cass Wilson got more than they bargained for when they opened the Bombshell Bar & Grill in 2013. That location was formerly home to Rumples Pub, owned by Frank and Brenda Hackney. According to James Strait, author of Weird Missouri, a ghost in Rumples Pub was responsible for knocking drinks and silverware off tables, and patrons sometimes caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure standing in the doorway. Sarah Schneider and Cass Wilson say not much has changed in the way of paranormal activity. Schneider recalls hearing a feminine voice whisper her name when she was alone. Bottles rattle on their own, and Wilson claims to have heard the guitar on the wall play a few chords. Although a little spooked, the new owners say they will tolerate the spirits, as long as they are not too disruptive.
8. Bodega Brew Pub
The Bodega Brew Pub sits at the corner of 4th (Highway 53) and Pearl streets in downtown LaCrosse, Wisconsin, just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. A man named Paul Malin opened a pool hall called the Union Saloon at that location in the late 1800s and operated it until his death in 1901. Over the next century, Malin’s ghost has allegedly haunted the bar, alongside a few anonymous specters. One owner became so frustrated with the activity that he blamed it for his decision to sell the bar. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, employees have seen the apparition of a man wafting through the Bodega Brew and have heard the click of high heels walking across the basement floor. In another strange incident, an employee stacked bricks in the basement, only to return moments later and find the bricks back in a pile.
7. Spirits Lounge
In 2006, Gary Graham and Tim Brueggeman purchased this old Masonic temple and planned to open it as a bar, restaurant, and banquet center. The two made extensive renovations, knowing the building already had a reputation for being haunted. Unusual occurrences happened almost immediately upon its grand opening in 2007. Built around 1900, the Piasa Lodge of the Freemasons occupied the building for nearly a century. According to Gary Hawkins, who placed the former lodge on his ghost tour, it is occupied by dozens of ghosts, including two master Masons named James Brown and Frank Harris, a woman named Mrs. Smalley who haunts the lady’s lounge, and two children. Four Confederate soldiers who died of smallpox are also believed to haunt one of the former temple’s two basements, which were all that remained of an older building over which the Piasa Lodge was built.
6. Gaslight Restaurant & Saloon
Rockerville, South Dakota
Famously located at the entrance to the Black Hills National Forest, the Gaslight Restaurant & Saloon sits along Main Street (Highway 16), about 12 miles southwest of Rapid City, South Dakota. Terry and Ardis McCullen originally opened the Gaslight in the 1958 in a former mining town dining hall, intending it to be a tourist attraction. Kieth Brink and Steve Zwetzig bought the saloon at auction in 2000, but its most recent owner was a man named Walt “Drake” Peterson. It offered live bluegrass music every week. Located in an actual ghost town, several strange tales surround the Gaslight. Patrons and staff have felt unexplained cold spots and the presence of a man near the door, and have witnessed bottles falling from shelves. It is also allegedly haunted by Samuelson Harney, former owner of the Hotel Harney. In 2013, the original saloon was destroyed in a devastating fire, but a brand new structure was erected in its place.
5. Captain Brady’s Showboat Saloon
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Since the 1950s, when Tommy Bartlett’s Thrill Show settled in the area, Wisconsin Dells has been a premier Midwestern tourist destination. Visitors flock to see the beautiful sandstone formations along the Wisconsin River, which gives the Dells its name, and partake of the local nightlife. The Showboat Saloon has been a fixture of that nightlife since 1965. Located at the corner of Broadway and LaCrosse Street within eyeshot of the Wisconsin River, William and Minnie Stanton erected this building in 1907. It was originally a tavern called Stanton’s Palm Garden, but Prohibition forced the Stantons to get creative and turn their establishment into a candy shop. After the 18th Amendment was repealed, it reverted to a tavern. The Showboat Saloon opened at that location in 1965, with an emphasis on live and interactive entertainment. According to legend, the ghost of a girl named “Molly” haunts the second floor, which once served as offices for the Milwaukee Railroad Company. Doors appear to open and close on their own, kitchen appliances turn off and on, and indiscernible voices have been heard near the stage. Some patrons have reportedly seen reflections of people dressed in old fashioned clothes in the mirrors.
4. Ye Olde Trail Tavern
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Located along the main drag in tiny Yellow Springs, Ohio, the Ye Olde Trail Tavern is allegedly haunted by the “Blue Lady,” who is not shy about making her presence known. The tavern has a long history and occupies the oldest home in Yellow Springs. Fances Martin Hafner built the original structure in 1827 from trees growing on the property. The floors are thick, dark wood and a stone fireplace sits along the wall. Several female ghosts might haunt the tavern, but the most famous has come to be known as the “Blue Lady.” She appears to be in her 30s, with light colored hair tied in a bun, wearing a long blue and white dress. She has been known to express her displeasure whenever anyone fails to take her seriously. Once, after the owner pretended to be the ghost and jumped out of a bathroom stall to scare her friends, she found all the cases of food in the refrigerator inexplicably frozen solid. Others have seen the ghost of a woman with long, black hair. No one can explain the origin of this strange activity.
3. Billy’s Bar and Grill
Located along Jackson Street in the “Halloween capitol of the world,” just north of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Billy’s Bar and Grill is in the perfect place to have a haunting. In fact, this former hotel and brothel is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of ladies of the evening from a bygone era. Anoka, Minnesota sits at the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi Rivers, so it was a popular stopping point for loggers moving their goods further south. In 1877, a Swedish immigrant named Charles Jackson built the Anoka (later known as the Jackson) Hotel to serve the loggers who would go there to unwind at the end of the month when they received their pay. At least one confirmed murder occurred there. In 1885, a man named W.F. Mirick shot Peter Gross outside the hotel, and Gross lingered and died in a room on the third floor. The building, however, is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of former prostitutes, as well as by Mrs. Jackson. According to legend, Mrs. Jackson was either murdered or committed suicide inside the hotel, but neither of these tales are true.
2. Excalibur Club
Constructed from rough granite blocks that give it a castle-like appearance, this Romanesque Revival building has had a long and colorful history. Built in 1892 by the Chicago Historical Society, since 1931 it has been home to the Loyal Order of the Moose, the WPA, a technology institute, a magazine company, and finally, a nightclub called the Limelight. When the Limelight opened, its staff almost immediately noticed unusual activity, especially on the third floor. On the pool table, balls rolled around on their own. The sound of heavy boxes moving in the storage room was often heard, even though the room was locked and empty. Hauntings continued when the club became the Excalibur in 1990. One bartender was reportedly trapped in a bathroom stall for several minutes, as though someone was holding the door closed. On one visit, author Scott Markus claimed to hear keys rattling and witnessed a figure that seemed to vanish behind a support column. Thanks to these and many similar incidents, the Excalibur is a favorite subject around Halloween for local radio and news stations.
1. Slippery Noodle Inn
Opened in 1850 as an establishment called the Tremont House, the Slippery Noodle Inn is the oldest continuously operating bar in the State of Indiana. Although its name has changed many times, it has traditionally been owned by ethnic Germans. With such a colorful history, it is no wonder it is home to a ghost or two. The Tremont House was a stop on the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and a brothel until 1953. Its days as a brothel came to an end after one man killed another in an argument over a girl and left the bloody knife on the bar. The establishment became known as the Slippery Noodle Inn in 1963 and is one of the best blues bars in the nation. According to Wanda Lou Willis, author of Haunted Hoosier Trails, the bar is haunted by the ghost of a tall black man wearing overalls. He has been spotted in various places around the bar, particularly in the basement, where there is a strange, dark cavern the owners call the “cubbyhole.” No one seems to know the purpose of this hole, but a visiting coroner once said it “reeks of death.”