Restaurants are often the setting for family dinners, dates, wedding receptions, and camaraderie among friends. They represent the dreams of struggling entrepreneurs. With so much emotional investment, it does not surprise Mysterious Heartland that restaurants are frequently reported to be haunted. Some of these specters are content to simply observe the hustle and bustle, while others are much more “hands on.” Which of these restaurants will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Big River Inn Restaurant
The small town of Genoa sits along the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. In 1896, enterprising locals saw the need for a restaurant and boarding house to serve river travelers, and the Big River Inn was born. Since then, the business has been a fixture of Genoa, even once featuring a roller-skating rink on the top floor. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, the restaurant was at one time called Whiskers Olde Tyme Inn. Several owners have died on the property, and their ghosts are believed to reside there to the present day. One former owner, Kenneth Black, died of a heart attack near the dumpster in 1999. He always kept the television in the restaurant tuned to CNN, and after his death the station often changed to CNN on its own. Current and former employees also report missing items, strange electrical behavior, and phantom footsteps.
9. Black Woods Restaurant
Two Harbors, Minnesota
Located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 6th Street in Two Harbors, Minnesota on Lake Superior, Black Woods Restaurant is reportedly haunted by a mysterious woman in white. The first Black Woods Restaurant opened in Two Harbors in 1994 and has since expanded to several other locations in northern Minnesota. Locally owned and operated, Black Woods takes pride in purchasing ingredients, supplies, and equipment from local regional markets. Since opening, employees at the original location in Two Harbors report encountering the ghost of a young woman dressed in a long white gown. No one knows who this mysterious lady is, but her footsteps have been heard throughout the restaurant, and waitresses have reportedly felt an icy breath on their neck. At least one former employee believes the ghost followed her home one evening when her husband felt an unseen presence sitting on their bed.
8. Country House Restaurant
Clarendon Hills, Illinois
It is not often that a ghost story can be tied to a real event, but the ghost who haunts the Country House in Clarendon Hills has been identified by both psychics and a former owner of the restaurant, who was there the day she died. The year was 1958. A young mother approached the restaurant’s bartender and asked if he could watch her child while she ran an errand. Sensing something unusual about the request, he declined. The young woman left, never to return—at least not in life. Moments later, she committed suicide by driving into a tree. Fortunately, her child was unharmed. Years after the incident, two brothers bought the restaurant and began to experience strange phenomenon. Guests heard their names being called, the jukebox played on its own, and employees frequently heard a woman sobbing. The new owners called in a psychic, who related the story of the woman’s suicide (although she said it happened in 1957), which the original owner later confirmed.
7. Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican Cafe
David Rolph first opened this festive restaurant at 3320 Armar Drive in Marion, Iowa in 1981. From there, the franchise expanded to twenty locations in six states. Before it was Carlos O’Kelly’s, this particular location was home to an eatery called Applegate’s Landing, and there are rumors that a carnival existed there even earlier. Perhaps that is the reason for the strange disturbances that reportedly take place inside the restaurant. According to past and present employees, plates, cleaning supplies, and pots and pans fly off shelves without explanation. Blenders turn on by themselves and lights flicker. In one strange incident, a manager left her office to check on the phone, which had been ringing incessantly, and returned to find a full cup of coffee sitting on her desk. Though speculation abounds, an explanation for this haunting is not readily apparent.
6. Forepaugh’s Restaurant
St. Paul, Minnesota
Forepaugh’s Restaurant was once a beautiful Victorian mansion, which was built by Joseph Forepaugh in 1870. There were at least two documented deaths in the home. In 1892, Joseph shot himself in the head, and a housemaid named Molly hung herself on the third floor. According to legend, Joseph was having an affair with Molly and sunk into a deep depression when his wife forbade him from seeing her. Some say Molly was carrying his child when she hung herself, though there is no evidence for this. Both are now said to haunt the home. Employees have seen their spirits, felt cold spots, and experienced strange disturbances. Forepaugh’s Restaurant offers a unique menu and serves food locally grown at organic farms in a luxurious atmosphere.
5. Savoy Hotel and Grill
Kansas City, Missouri
Built by owners of the Arbuckle Coffee Company in 1888, the Savoy Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Its restaurant, the Savoy Grill, is the oldest restaurant in Kansas City. The restaurant features stained glass windows, lanterns, and a large carved oak bar. The Savoy has served many famous guests, but some more ethereal visitors are less than welcome. According to legend, during the 1800s a woman named Betsy Ward lived in Room 505. One tragic day, she was discovered dead in the bathtub. Some say she committed suicide, while others called it murder. Regardless, her ghost is blamed for many strange occurrences in Room 505. Another ghost, that of a man named Fred Lightner, is believed to haunt a different room, and a young girl wearing a Victorian dress has been seen wandering the fourth floor.
4. Adobo Grill (formerly That Steak Joynt)
Currently a Mexican restaurant, this location was formerly the home of That Steak Joynt, one of Chicago’s most famous haunted restaurants. According to Dale Kaczmarek, a Chicago medium held séances in an upstairs dining room in the 1980s. During one séance, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times became violently ill. Waiters claimed to see shadows moving through the restaurant and felt touched by unseen hands. One waitress was violently dragged toward the staircase. Whatever had grabbed her left a burning red mark on her wrist. Kaczmarek added flickering lights, chills, phantom footsteps, floral scents, and strange howling noises to the list of strange occurrences. So far, the hauntings seem to have subsided, or at least the new owners are not talking about them.
3. Amber Rose Restaurant
Located in a residential neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio where Bickmore Avenue dead ends into Valley Street, the Amber Rose Restaurant is famous for its European cuisine. It offers an eclectic menu of German, Lithuanian, Italian, Russian, Polish, and Hungarian food, and its bar is made of imported Turkish marble. A Polish immigrant named Sigmund Ksiezopolski built this building in 1910 to house his family business—a general store and deli. His family lived above the store. His youngest daughter, Genevive, or “Chickee,” never married and helped run the business until it closed in the 1980s. In 1989, a woman named Elinor Sluzas purchased the building and opened a restaurant, despite a devastating fire that almost derailed her plans. According to past and present employees, Chickee was not happy with the changes. Her ghost has been blamed for pulling dishes, glasses, and jars off shelves and slamming doors. Blue balls of light have also been seen on the second floor.
2. Sports Rock Pizza
Rapid City, South Dakota
Located at the northwest corner of 7th and Rapid streets in one of Rapid City’s oldest buildings, Sports Rock Pizza is home to an unusual legend. The restaurant has been known by many names over the past several years, including Hooky Jack’s and Phatty McGee’s Nightclub. The name Hooky Jack is significant. According to legend, a local personality named John “Hooky Jack” Leary once lived on the third floor. As a young man, he lost both hands and an eye in a mining explosion in the late 1800s. After his hands were replaced by hooks, he was hired by the Rapid City Police Department and served the community for more than 40 years. In 1926, he was struck and killed by a car in downtown Rapid City. To this day, many employees refuse to go up to the unoccupied third floor, where they have heard footsteps. Billiard balls and chairs appear to move on their own, and disembodied voices flutter through the air. During a paranormal investigation of the third floor, one group appeared to capture a photo of a man’s transparent face.
1. Tippecanoe Place Restaurant
South Bend, Indiana
The majestic Tippecanoe Place Restaurant sits on a small bluff at the southwest corner of West Washington and South Taylor streets in South Bend, Indiana, but it was not always a destination for high class dining. Clement Studebaker originally built this Richardsonian Romanesque home in 1889 to serve as his family residence. It was designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, who also designed the building currently home to the Excalibur Nightclub in Chicago (also reportedly haunted). Unfortunately, Studebaker died shortly thereafter, and his son lost the home to bankruptcy in 1933. From 1947 to 1970, it served as the E.M. Morris School for Crippled Children. Since the restaurant opened in 1980, patrons and staff alike have reportedly encountered a mysterious woman in white. According to legend, one of the original restaurant managers had a dramatic encounter with a ghostly woman who passed through him on her way into the George and Ada suite. In the early 1990s, a hostess closing up for the night ran into the same woman as she descended the staircase. The specter’s image faded away below the knees. Others have reportedly seen the ghost of a maid named Beatrice and have heard loud noises coming from the attic.