“Now today it's a different place
Or the same with a new face
With strange mysteries hangin' in the air
People in their sane minds swear they see you today
Are you lookin' for the love they took away?
Everyone knows that you couldn't bear the pain
So you took your life in the pouring rain
You took your life in the pouring rain” ~~from "Johanna" sung by Bobby Mackey
A Side Trip to Bobby Mackey's
Suffice it to say there is no member of the GhostPRO team who would pass up an opportunity to pursue a good paranormal lead, so when opportunity comes knocking, any research and investigating a member can share with the others at a later time is fair game. Summer vacation brought me far from the steamy Upstate for a visit with my sister Kathy in Cincinnati, and the only activity of an investigative sort had been spent seeking out the local geocaches that lay hidden along the way to and from the urban attractions my sister was eager to show off.
Opportunity came knocking nonetheless at the Cock and Bull Tavern in historic Covington, KY where friendly locals mentioned the famously haunted Bobby Mackey’s bar with its “Gateway to Hell” and its close proximity to us, just over the river. Neither of us could resist the unique opportunity to tread these hallowed nooks and crannies of the most haunted bar in America where spirits are said to party hearty alongside the living. Wasting no time, that very evening found us entering the doors of the famed hotbed of the paranormal.
Signs at the entrance warn of the potential danger to customers, many of whom have reported being, touched, scratched and pushed in addition to seeing many instances of ghosts with their own eyes. Many skeptics are said to leave the premises as believers in the paranormal. This is attributed to the tragic history of the property. The building was constructed in the mid-1800’s as a slaughterhouse, and since then has been re-invented many times over as a variety of lounges and honky-tonks (the Brisbane), a mob-run casino (the Latin Quarter) and it’s current life as a popular night spot, Bobby Mackey’s, going strong since 1978.
In 1897, Pearl Bryan was tragically murdered on the property and the building has been cursed with a long string of murders and suicides ever since. In legend, Pearl's murderer was said to be a Satanist who vowed to haunt the property. What seems to hold true is that few who visit Bobby Mackey’s in hopes of experiencing a brush with the paranormal leave disappointed. The site gained worldwide fame as a paranormal happening place in 2008 when it was featured on Ghost Adventures.
The activity level is said to be the same day or night, which is good news for the cash-strapped ghost hunter who can book an affordable two-hour private tour during the bar’s quieter daytime hours. Longer investigations can also be arranged. This brings the added plus of having less warm bodies of the human persuasion present that could overpower the energies of any paranormal entities that might wish to manifest. Short tours are held hourly throughout the evening, so we chose a time slot and a chance to hear the story of the building and perhaps experience for ourselves paranormal activity.
In the tradition of a good paranormal investigator, I am never without my dowsing rods, PX, and camera, so, while waiting for our tour to begin, these were at the ready on the advice of Wanda Kay, house DJ and chief tour guide. Paranormal activity is said to abound throughout the building at any and all times, most notably in the original structure, now the basement area and also in the room featuring merchandise and memorabilia where the tours are booked. There visitors can flip through a large album displaying eerie photos taken by patrons. Wanda Kay's promise of activity prompted me to whip out my PX. This gave me the opportunity to educate the other tour participants on the workings of the device, to the delight of the management. The word “paranormal”, a first for my PX, was spoken, and a very quick response was given to my question “Who are you?” It was a name, “Alfonso” or “Alonzo”. Unknown to me at the time was that Alonzo Walling was the partner in crime of the murdering boyfriend of tragic Pearl Bryan, decapitated at the well of the old slaughterhouse.
During our tour, noise from the dance floor above, accompanied with the crashes of empty beer bottles tossed down the recycling chute, made it difficult to hear or record anything paranormal, but our guide Duke’s tale of the building’s repeated tragedies was fascinating, albeit very sad. So many associated with the structure have suffered within its walls. Those in our group who considered themselves sensitive reported seeing ghosts in the “faces” room, where various images of faces are said to appear on the wall. My sister Kathy described seeing four entities. As it was confirmed afterwards by Wanda Kay, this was indeed the room reported to be frequented by a least four spirits whose descriptions matched what my sister reported. I was duly impressed by my little sister. However, I found it surreal and a bit unsettling to stand upon the very site where the unfortunate Pearl Bryan was cruelly murdered and sad Johanna had taken her own life, not to mention where numerous other murders were said to have occurred during its rowdy Latin Quarter and roadhouse days.
Photos taken that evening captured nothing paranormal on camera in the basement, again, perhaps due to the preponderance of noise from the revelers on the dance floor above, but true to the promise of ghostly activity throughout the building, the power blew on the stroke of midnight. Shortly thereafter I was rewarded with a photo of interest, a gigantic orb hovering over the mechanical riding bull.
Is Bobby Mackey’s haunted? I, for one, don’t doubt that it is. Perhaps the entire GhostPRO team can return one day to more thoroughly – and peacefully -- explore its darker secrets.
~~Mariel Barney Hunkeler, The CatHerder
A couple of sites that explain the history of the building in depth:
Back to Road Trips page
See the photos from the Bobby' Mackey's tour: