Bobby Mackey’s Music World is a thriving honky tonk nightclub right off the Licking River in Wilder, KY. Mackey’s holds the prestige of being considered the most haunted bar in America. Originally built to be a slaughter house, the building had a killing floor and a rumored bottomless pit that was intended to catch the draining blood. After the business was abandoned in 1890 a rumored satanic cult was thought to have been practicing dark rituals, including animal and human sacrifice. Many Wilder residents claim the bottomless pit had many a human head was thrown down into the never ending darkness. In 1891 the small group of satanists were exposed and so began one of the most notorious trials in the state’s history.
In 1885 a young woman from Indiana named Pearl Bryan, was introduced to Ohio School of Dental Surgery resident Scott Jackson. The young man was well-liked in the community and was quickly accepted by Bryan’s well to do family. The two planned to marry, but before the marriage Jackson seduced her and she became pregnant. No one could have guessed that Jackson was part of the group of satanists that practiced inside the former slaughter house.
Jackson talked Bryan into traveling to Cincinnati to to meet with Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling, who were going to perform an abortion. The two men botched the abortion and panicked. They crossed the river and traveled to Ft. Thomas. KY, a small town near Wilder. Realizing that Pearl was going to die from her excessive bleeding, the two men decapitated her while she was still alive. They left the scene of the crime, taking her body with them, but her scalp was found in a suitcase. Rumor suggests that her head was thrown down the bottomless well at the abandoned slaughter house. Her body was later recovered in a field near the slaughter house and she was identified by her shoes.
Eventually the murderous pair were caught and brought to trial. They were sentenced to death, but given the opportunity to reveal the location of Bryan’s head to receive a lighter sentence. Neither man agreed and they were hung, but not before threats to come back and haunt the old slaughter house for all time. Many men associated with the trial were killed in unusual ways, making even more people think there was something to the satanic curse that the pair vowed.
Apparently Brady’s curse came to pass in the 1950′s when the casino was sold and renamed Latin Quarter. The new owners were arrested on gambling charges many times and the tavern became a place where many shootings and other illegal activities took place after dark. During this time the owner’s daughter, Johanna, worked as a dancer at the casino. She fell in love with a man named Robert Randall who worked as a lounge singer in the bar. Johanna’s father did not approve of the relationship and when Johanna refused to stop seeing him, her father had him murdered. Johanna was so enraged that she poisoned her father with arsenic and soon after took a large dose herself in the basement of the roadhouse. Later it was discovered that Johanna was 5 months pregnant at the time of her suicide. Her revenge was not served as she hoped though, since her father lived through the poisoning. Before she died, it is believed she wrote a notorious poem on the wall in the attic which has been named “Johanna’s Poem”. According to rumor, Johanna still haunts the bar today.
In 1978, the place was bought by a country singer named Bobby Mackey. Ironically, his full name was Robert Randall Mackey, exactly like Johanna’s murdered lover. He fell in love with the old building immediately, but his wife Janet was a bit leery of the place. Soon he opened a bar on the property named Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Upon opening, the bar/dance club immediately began to draw a crowd. Though the honky-tonk club was thriving its tainted past did not go unnoticed.
Carl Lawson, the first employee hired by Mackey as a caretaker/handy man lived in the apartment upstairs. He spent most of his time at the tavern and soon began reporting strange and terrifying anomalies. Most of the people around the club laughed and called him crazy. Soon others began experiencing the same things though and changed their attitudes. Lawson told Douglas Hensley, the author of the book “Hells Gate” “I’d double check at the end of the night and 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, when I knew that I’d locked them. The jukebox would be playing the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ even though I’d unplugged it and the power was turned off.”
Lawson was the first to notice dark malevolent spirits behind the bar that seemed to be wearing cowboy hats, others were present at the time but he was the only one to notice the dark men. Later he began to have visions of Johanna. She spoke with Lawson often and he could speak back to her. He also noticed strange sounds and noises. It seemed that the spirits were stronger in the basement by the old well left behind from the bloody slaughterhouse in the property’s past. Lawson was aware of the well’s dark history of satanic rituals and had shared that information with others. Around this time, the locals began to call the well Hell’s Gate. Soon, others around the property began to experience strange things as well. Objects would be moved or thrown on their own and disembodied voices were heard along with laughter and other strange sounds.
Mackey became annoyed with Carl and told him to keep his mouth shut. He had never believed in “ghosts” and he certainly did not want it getting around that the place was “haunted”. One day Mackey’s wife Janet confessed that she too had been experiencing the strange anomalies. She told her husband that she felt an overwhelming presence there. She smelled the strong scent of roses which is said to be Johanna’s favorite scent. She even claimed to have seen ghosts on the property. Encouraged by her revelation, many people began coming forward, telling of their own strange experiences. Even stories of a headless ghost in period clothing emerged. Mackey began looking into the building’s past and found information about Pearl’s murder. In 1994, Mackey tried to have the building exorcised but the exorcism failed. Someone even tried to sue Bobby claiming that a ghost in a cowboy hat had attacked him in the restroom. Eventually, those charges were dismissed.
Bobby Mackey’s received more national attention recently when the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures filmed not one, but two episodes at the legendary club. One of which featured the show’s leader, Zak Bagans, getting the business end of a ghostly clawing attack in the basement of the establishment.
Mackey’s is open year round for basement tours, but the month of October is one of the best times to go. I’ve gone the last two years and found the place to be the supernatural hotspot that it claims to be. Last year my wife said a quick prayer before we walked through the threshold and quickly began to feel anxious and nauseated. When we were inside the actual killing room she had her ear touched repeatedly. Right after she whispered this to me, our tour guide mentioned he was in the basement earlier in the evening and experienced the same thing. He had no knowledge of my wife’s encounter.
Before the tour started last year, I asked one of the bars bouncers if I could use the restroom. He laughed and said “Good Luck.” I laughed. Once I was in the restroom my hairs started standing on end and I got goosebumps up and down my arms. I assumed the bouncer was coming in as well and I turned to talk to him, but no one was there. The sense of being watched was overpowering. The bouncer told me on my way out that a guy was in the restroom the previous night and a large trashcan flew across the room. The guy decided he wasn’t going on the tour after that.
This year’s trip in early October is my favorite so far. The sense of dread descended upon my group as soon as we entered the basement. It’s literally like someone flips a switch the second you walk in. A couple of women from Wisconsin were with our group this time around and one of the women started having issues immediately. She broke into a sweat and was shaky on her feet. Her friend comforted her and our entire group felt compelled to keep an eye on her as we went from room to room. I had a new EMF Detector that I was dying to try out. It spiked a time or two, but generally remained quiet for most of the tour.
When we finally made it to the room with the bottomless well (that has since been filled in) my EMF started going crazy. The only place I was getting the spiked readings was on top of two folding chairs located against the back wall. The closer I placed the EMF to the chairs, the higher the reading became. I asked my wife to take my picture while I sat in the chair with my EMF showing a huge spike. As soon as my butt touched the chair I jumped out of it with a start. It was if something passed through me. I felt an electric sensation through my very bones. The hair on my arms and neck were standing on end. At the very same time, the woman from Wisconsin fell over on the floor and we helped her back up. She was trembling and sweating bullets. Her friend had to escort her out of the cursed building and into the fresh air. We spoke to her after the tour and she was still visibly shaken and told us nothing had ever made her feel this way before. Nothing like an eight hour drive just to pass out in the middle of the tour.
If ghost hunting and the world of the paranormal is of interest to you, I suggest you make a trip to Wilder and see for yourself what the spirits of Bobby Mackey’s have to say. I’m not really sure what I believe when it comes to hauntings, but I do know something unusual is happening at this place. It’s simply too real to ignore.
Happy Haunting, kids!