On the outskirts of Newport, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio is a small-town named Wilder that has a population of around 3,000 people. Wilder, KY is a small unassuming town that has quite an interesting history and it seems ready to tell it to anyone willing to open up and listen.
The surrounding areas were once well known for an illicit nightlife. Back in the early to mid-1900’s, it was known as “the place” to travel for fun such as gambling, drinking during prohibition, and prostitution – the original “Sin-City”. Celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, frequented the area and most of the top entertainers of the day made this part of their touring circuit. Gangster’s had the rule of the land here, without question.
With the illicit nightlife, gambling, drinking, prostitution and gangsters, it is easy to understand the energy that still resides throughout this area, strong and poignant, reflected in many of the historical buildings.
One of the most well-known spots in this area is Bobby Mackay’s Music World. Today it is best known for its haunting tales and potential “portal to hell” via an uncovered well in the basement. This was the destination for our haunted history jaunt this beautiful weekend in June. After years of hearing stories about this iconic haunted location, and watching many of the paranormal celebrities’ investigations, I had to see for myself what the site had to offer. I fully admit that I was nervous about approaching this historical location.
A lot of the history surrounding Bobby Mackay’s Music World is well-known and talked about frequently. It has been said that the site was a slaughterhouse back in the 1850s. Reportedly the original building was renovated (although I did read a few accounts that indicated the original building caught on fire), with only the original “well” used to drain blood from the slaughtered animals remaining. After visiting the site myself, and reading various accounts, I’m not 100% clear on the slaughterhouse history. I do believe there was a farm and meat-packing plant on the land and that many animals were processed on this land. Without a doubt, that leaves a residue behind. This slaughterhouse/meat-packing plant closed in the 1890’s. There is local lure to suggest that the site was used by occultist for ceremonies and that the “well” had been the focus. In fact, there is a well-known murder that has potential ties to this historic property and the “well” – that of Pearl Bryan in 1896.
Pearl was a 22-year-old woman in the prime of her life in 1896. She resided with her family in Indiana and had a bright future ahead of her until she met Scott Jackson, who was a medical student at the time. Pearl became pregnant and the story commonly told now is that Jackson enticed her to come to Cincinnati for an abortion, which he and a fellow medical student, Alonzo Walling, would perform. Something went tragically wrong and Pearl died from the procedure. Either in an attempt to hide her true identity or for more notorious reasons, they cut off Pearl’s head surgically. That is the version of this young-woman’s death I have read about most often. However, I found an article in the NY Times, posted during the trial of Jackson and his friend. This article tells a very different account. Jackson and Walling planned Pearl’s beheading, even practicing on animals in the days before. This article also indicates that Pearl was alive and fought back during her attack. This indicates that she didn’t die from a botched abortion but from a brutal attack and murder. You can read this article here:
What is known undoubtedly is that Pearl’s headless body was disposed of on a farm in Kentucky, not far from Wilder and that both Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling were convicted of her brutal murder. They were both sentenced to death for their crime.
It is alleged that they performed a ceremony at the site of the infamous “well” with Pearl’s head. Even though they were both offered a plea that would spare their lives if they told the location of Pearl’s head, it is said they feared the wrath of the Devil. They went to their death never releasing this knowledge. Both Jackson and Walling were hung from the gallows in 1896. Before his execution, as he stood on the gallows, Walling threatened to haunt the area forever.
Bobby Mackay’s Music World had several owners over the next few decades and always seemed to do very well. One common theme however was the intervention of the gangsters in the area. There was violence, there was sex, there was alcohol, and there was murder.
In the 1950’s the location was known as the “Latin Quarter”. Legend has it that the daughter of the owner, named Johanna, met and fell in love with a performer named Robert Randall, (his full name was Robert Randall Mackay). She became pregnant and planned to run off with Robert. However, her father became aware of their plans and had Robert killed. In despair and retaliation, it is said that Johanna poisoned her father first and then killed herself in the basement of the building.
Interestingly enough, this is another young pregnant woman with an untimely death tied to this location. Although, admittedly, they have been unable to find specific documentation of this legend. Whether truth, legend or somewhere in between – the next owner of this iconic location seems to be much more than coincidental.
In the 1970’s a man named Bobby Mackay (take note of the similar name to the murdered performer) purchased this site and opened Bobby Mackay’s Music World. Although he does not believe in the paranormal himself, he fully admits that there have been too many accounts from too many people to completely dismiss it. He was also drawn to write a very catchy tune about Johanna’s story that is still requested of him today.
It was shortly after that the most notorious haunting experiences related to Bobby Mackay’s occurred. A man named Carl Lawson grew up next door to this historic haunted site – within viewing distance. He spent the bulk of his life within sight of this property. After Bobby Mackay opened up, Carl came by to introduce himself and a friendship was formed. Shortly after he became the caretaker of the place, living in an apartment upstairs. It was here that his terrifying encounters with a dark entity he referred to as “Charley” began. There were extreme physical attacks on Carl, including scratching and biting, as well as mood changes and oppression, which all lead to possession. Things progressed so darkly that an actual exorcism was performed on Carl in Bobby Mackay’s Music World. There is a video recording of it, which was shown on the original episode of Ghost Adventures, and it is quite terrifying to witness.
Today Bobby Mackay’s is a paranormal hotspot, offering tours and investigations. It is also still very much a functioning “honky tonk” on the weekends, open for music, drinks and fun and let’s not forget – “mechanical bull riding”.
I have been a fan of the show Ghost Adventures since the very beginning and have wanted to visit Bobby Mackay’s ever since their very first investigation there. Over the years I have seen other paranormal shows investigate the place, with the most recent being “Paranormal Lockdown” with Katrina Weidman. Being a paranormal investigator myself, I understand the process involved and do not usually buy wholeheartedly into the hype of a lot of these places. Paranormal activity is unpredictable and sporadic at times. But I have to admit there has been something about this sight, from the very beginning, that had me wanting to visit but also had my warning bells going off. I made sure we approached with an abundance of caution and protection in place.
And, in the end, it was a good thing that we did.
As we approached Bobby Mackay’s, my body began reacting within a few miles. My heart began to race, I began to feel nervous and uncomfortable, my stomach became upset and I could feel the intense pressure on my head that is spiritual in nature. I have learned over the years to understand these feelings as an indication of a strong spiritual presence and that my connection was already beginning. As we drove up to the property for the first time, I was overwhelmed – absolutely overwhelmed – by the energy of the land.
This I wasn’t prepared for. I could see and feel the Native American presence and influence all around me. I could also feel the energy radiating deep from within the ground and it felt strongest to me along the railroad line that runs directly behind the bar. I was drawn there and down. I have read a lot about the history of Bobby Mackay’s but none where the potential Native American influence is discussed. The music hall not only has a railroad line directly behind the building but it also sits along a tributary that feeds to the Licking River. The area would likely have been used by the Native Americans for transportation purposes – they could easily get around using the river. The presence was strong and clear, as was the feel of the land beneath my feet – stone, fault lines, something else – that acts as a natural conductor of energy. Add in the energy from the railroad, the river and the nefarious history and you have an energetic gold mine.
There are many well-known paranormal claims at Bobby Mackay’s. I am not going to focus on them here – instead I am going to focus on my experiences and findings.
There is so much energy – both residual and intelligent – in this building that it is hard to focus and narrow down what is happening. In the main room, where the actual exorcism took place, I personally witnessed shadow movement in the back corner on several occasions throughout the night. It was as if someone was walking across the stage and I would catch it out of the corner of my eye. As this is a good old-fashioned honky tonk, there are aren’t windows or other interference that could cause this movement. I was drawn to a table up close to the stage and felt pulled to sit in a specific chair. I instantly felt a male presence and then saw a male, with a cowboy hat on, walk away and into the next room with the mechanical bull. He stopped to look back and give me what I can only describe as a haughty look. Our guide informed me that a man with a cowboy hat is commonly seen sitting in this specific chair on almost every investigation. Naturally, I followed the man into this room. Although I could feel his presence, he did not show himself again. We did however have the EMF and MEL meter light up whiling attempting to communicate.
The final room on the main floor is deemed the “safe” room – it has a huge historical safe in there apparently used during the times that gambling and other illegal activities were held on the premises.
Although our guide didn’t dwell on activity here, this room held the strongest energy of the entire main floor and this energy was not positive. I felt drawn to the one corner of the room and asked the guide if there was an entrance or stair case to the basement – I was specifically seeing a basement and being drawn down. This surprised her a bit. Apparently, there is a staircase in the basement directly under this spot. The staircase has been referred to as the “stairway to nowhere” because it has been closed off. I saw a very clear scene replaying – men being caught cheating or being made for some other infraction being brought into this “safe” room. They were restrained from here, sometimes quite violently, and brought down this possibly secret staircase into the basement. From there, I feel that very few of them ever emerged again. On future investigations, despite the claims in many other areas of the main floor, this will be one of my primary focuses.
UPSTAIRS – CARL LAWSON’S APARTMENT
This is the space that Carl claims to have first and most frequently encountered the fiercely negative energy he called “Charley”. As we walked towards the steps that climbed up to the second floor, I saw a man standing in front of the steps – blocking my way. He was shaking his finger at me in a “no, no, no” gesture. He clearly said to me – “Do not go up there”.
I’m not generally in the habit of listening very well, so I kindly told him to move and went upstairs. Half way up the steps I felt the energy building and became very anxious. I felt an incredible pressure on me – holding me back or pushing me back? I’m still not sure. As I entered the apartment, I saw a large, looming presence straight back in the bathroom. It stood higher than the doorway and was darker than the darkest night. The negativity oozing from it was startling. (Apparently, Carl had many of his violent experiences in this bathroom). We spent a bit of time in this apartment – most of it with me avoiding the bathroom and I admit there was no way I was going in there. I was pulled to a door towards the back of the room and went to inspect it. It was an odd space – appeared to be a closet – with a small opening into this dark room. I felt very uncomfortable here. As I turned around to exit the closet area, I became over whelmed with this energy and got very dizzy for a minute or so.
I then noticed a burning on my arm. I looked down to see a small mark on my arm that had no explanation. I wouldn’t be the only one marked this night….
The infamous, extensively discussed basement did not disappoint. To gain access to the basement, you have to actually exit the building and walk around the side. Entering through the door, I immediately recognized the space from “Ghost Adventures” and “Portal to Hell”.
I was drawn to my right as soon as we entered, and it was a strong pull. There was a little window to another room evident, but it was too dark at this point to see through or to orient myself. It didn’t take long to understand that the area behind that wall was the “well”. This area, not surprisingly, was the most active and negative of the basement area. Which, let me be honest, is saying something for sure. The surprising part for me – it wasn’t the well itself that held the negative energy and activity.
As mentioned above, this building was known for housing nefarious activity in the past – related to gang style activity. There is a “stairway to nowhere”, which actually at one time would have opened up to the main floor – the “safe” room as it is now referred to. There is a small room, which is off the larger room housing the “well” that is reported to have been used as a “cell” for people caught cheating or engaging in other activity that the owners wanted to punish. It is within this small, dark room that I felt the most negative energy of the night. While sitting in this room, alone, I not only had my the REM pod go off and witness EMF spikes, but I did feel something “breathe” heavily on the back of my neck, heard a whisper in my ear, had my arm touched in a way I can only describe as a “caress”, and felt such an oppressive energy accompanied by a darker than dark shadow that I had to leave the room.
I have entered and investigated many historical places with plenty of dark history. It is not in my nature to leave a room because of it. However, this room had me feeling increasing uncomfortable and surrounded – I literally felt like I was being surrounded by men that did not have my well-being in mind.
We did spend some time investigating the actual room with the “well”, but my attention was pulled back to this small “cell” room time and time again. So, we decided to move on to other areas of the massive basement.
Towards the back of the basement we entered another room and I had this incredibly vivid and uncomfortable image of the entire room being splashed in blood. It covered the floor. It covered the walls. I could smell it. The image startled me. And it persisted. I was drawn over to a very specific section of the floor and I had to stand in the center of it. I saw what looked like a pentagram on the floor, surrounded by candles and oddly shaped items that looked to be made out of twigs. As I entered the center of this “pentagram”, I saw a little girl spirit standing by and staring at me. She certainly was a little girl, not something else pretending to be a little girl, and her presence confused me in this space. She would have been about 8 years old and the 1950’s came to me when I tried to get a date or time frame on her. She would have went missing from several towns away – possibly even a different state. She asked me about her brother. When I tried to communicate with her – help her – something very dark came into the room and shifted the energy. This tall, hovering energy – which I was still seeing as a shadow at this point – chased this little girl away as well as had all other Spiritual energy in the basement stepping back and away from us.
When mentioning these findings to our guide, she was surprised and indicated that they had a local in law enforcement actually come down and spray the room with luminal. It lit up everywhere, as if the walls were splashed with blood. The working theory is that the room was part of the slaughterhouse. Unfortunately, I fear that it may be something much more sinister. Additionally, she confirmed that lore suggests (as well as many other sensitives that have come through the building) there was indeed a pentagram on the floor where I indicated. The known Spirit that interacts the most in this room – that of a younger female child.
We continued to explore the vast basement, including the dressing rooms where the story goes that Johanna killed herself. Personally, I did encounter a woman Spirit in the dressing room, but I do not think her name was Johanna. My belief is that there were several women over the years, likely pregnant, that died in different ways – one being someone named Johanna. And as historical stories do, especially the tragic ones, it has morphed into one amazing story that continues to affect the building and people to this day.
Right now, I have to mention a pretty awesome fact that has nothing to do with the paranormal. Outside the “dressing room” sits an old mechanical bull that is gathering dust down in this basement. This was the mechanical bull used in the movie “Urban Cowboy” starring none other than John Travolta and Debra Winger. Although I was not able to get a usable photo of it (there was a plaque on it that kept back flashing) here is a link to my favorite part of the movie for those who may not be familiar with it. What a cool thing to come across in an old, dusty, cluttered haunted basement!
After checking out the mechanical bull and being thoroughly impressed, I wandered off through a hole in the wall to a closed off section of the basement. Although our guide did not follow, she did indicate that alongside this section there is another section of the basement that remains completely closed up still for some reason. As I walked back through this dark, dusty section I heard a very hard, distinct pounding on the wall. I turned my head towards it, confused and heard it twice more. This is the section of the basement that is still closed off and not accessible apparently. Something or someone back behind that wall wanted my attention and was strong enough to pound nice and hard. I felt a male presence back there but once again was unable to communicate – I felt that tall, dark energy standing in the way.
We returned to the “well” room. This was our final stop in the basement. As we were asking questions and attempting communication in the room, I focused on positive energy and bringing light to this dark space. I spoke to the Spirits in the basement, as well as the entire building, and told them they could leave and move on – that nothing could hold them there. They were free to come to the light, let go of their pain and suffering, and move on to what was next.
It was at this point that things took a turn.
I heard a very distinct growl in the doorway of the “well” room. As I looked up, I saw what this tall, dark energy truly looked like. It had the face of a man – almost. Its eyes were too far apart, and its face was a bit too angular – with the chin area drawn down way too far. He (yes, I got the distinct impression of “he”) had dark hair. I could not see any ears. But on to of his head where two growths that poked upward. While it was tall, the legs were shorter than normal with the torso being longer and wider than expected. Its neck was also quite long, and the arms were large, thick and he had huge hands with even bigger fingers. This thing growled at me again.
Was this Carl Lawson’s “Charley”?
Although it made me uneasy, I admit it also made me angry. Very angry. This thing, this “him”, was the monstrosity that was standing in the way of the light – standing in the way of so many Spirits leaving this place. I always try to find love in me for all Spiritual energy and so this anger was very displaced for me – no doubt not my own. It was at this point, I suggested we wrap up and leave the basement.
We had another couple with us on this tour/investigation – a young couple on their first investigation. I heard the young girl cry out a bit just then. When we turned our flashlights her way, she was pale and very visibly shaken. She also had a long, very visible, scratch down her forearm. We all agreed that yes, it was time to go.
I was the last one to leave the “well” area. As I was existing the doorway, I felt this strong energy approach me. I was shoved, extremely hard, into the doorframe. This was not a stumble or a slight feeling of being off balance – this felt as if someone much larger and stronger than me shoved me with two hands into the doorframe.
My shoulder would ache for days afterwards.
I guess this negative energy is much more vulnerable than it lets on. I was able to make it uneasy of its control over this area enough that it had to react and use its energy in an ultimate attempt at intimidation.
It didn’t work. I would return. And I would return again prepared. It breaks my heart that so many Spirits remain in this building. In the end I realized that many of these Spirits did not even die on the premises or on the land. It felt as if some that pass away in the surrounding areas are drawn here for some reason – drawn and then stuck. And the land is a big reason behind this.
I made sure to let our young, inexperienced companions know about verbal controls and protections. I asked the young girl to make sure she said that no energy could follow her home or affect her once she leaves this place. I’m not completely sure they believed me but since she was marked in such a way, I felt it was very important. I hope she did not have any lingering affects from her visit to Bobby Mackay’s. For me, the place stuck with me for quite a long time.