First Posted: 1/26/2009 6:26:41 PM | Last Updated: 1/28/2009 12:33:32 PM
By R. Scott Teets
Photos by Jesikah Saetara
The Bishop James Long has battled evil before. So, as he stood in the unlit basement of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, he was unafraid hurling spiritual taunts into the darkness.
His words were met quickly – and quite violently – when a hand reached through the inky blackness and slapped away the recorder the bishop held. It landed some 12 feet behind him.
“It felt like nails coming over my hand,” Long said.
The attack on the bishop was marked by three bloody scratches on the back of his hand. Frightening as that alone might seem, more ominous is the fact it’s not the first such attack here.
In fact the marks on Long’s hand were very familiar to the man who stood next to him in that basement room believed to have been used by Satan worshippers long ago. Last year, when the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventure crew locked themselves inside the country bar for a night, host Zak Bagans received similar three scratches down his spine when he also provoked the spirits.
But by whose hand has blood now been drawn twice in the basement of this popular honky-tonk on Licking Pike?
There are many suspects here. Could it have been by the occultist murderers Alonzo Wallings or Scott Jackson? Maybe it was their victim, Pearl Bryan – the headless apparition that has been seen by many different people – who lashed out in anger. Please say it wasn’t the building’s infamous femme fatale, Johanna.
On this mystery, Long has no doubt:
“There is a demonic presence here.”
Add Long’s attack and assertion of demons to the long list of tales cementing a reputation that Bobby Mackey’s is the most haunted place in America, if not the world. Move over New Orleans.
►Click here to read CinciPulse.com’s profile of Bobby Mackey’s haunted Music World.
Long was among several experts who joined Bagans and his Ghost Adventure crew last week along with about 50 others taking part in a three-day paranormal symposium and ghost hunt at Bobby Mackey’s.
Yes, they were baaaack. And expectations were high that Bagans and the bunch would again come away with evidence of ghostly presence.</span>
The crew’s return trip turned out to be every bit as active and curious as the first.
Near where Long was attacked, he said there was a definite odor of rotting flesh. That makes perfect sense to those who believe the ghostly tales of Bobby Mackey’s.
An exposed wellhead in the building’s basement has been called a “gateway to hell” because of its link to occultist ritual more than a century ago. When a meatpacking plant sat on the site, that basement well emptied flesh and blood into the Licking River. After the plant closed, Satan worshippers often gathered inside and presumably used the well to dispose of the remains from sacrificial animals.
“There is a lot of evil here because of the practices that occurred here in the past,” Long said of Bobby Mackey’s honky-tonk.
Whether the place is truly haunted, of course, is debatable. Many, like Long, Bagans and his crew, firmly believe. Just as many laugh off the tales.
But no one can deny few locations boast so much tragedy over such a long period. And that alone makes Bobby Mackey’s one of the country’s great curiosities and keeps the minds of scores open to the possibility that the dead and demonic may be among us.
If there are spirits who roam or demonic entities lurking at Bobby Mackey’s, a January ghost hunt here might have been the perfect time to investigate. Matt Coates, who has helped maintain the building the past five years, said spirits seem to be most active at the end and beginning of each year.
And active it was, reported the ghost hunters.
Among the other dramatic sightings during this hunt was a yellowish face which was said to have appeared also in the Satanic worship room (often called the “Room of Faces” because so many claim to see human and demonic images on the mottled walls). It was in this room that Coates once saw appear on the floor a circled, ritualistic hexagram – about three feet in diameter, glowing neon green.
The Ghost Adventure Crew: Nick Groff, Zak Bagans and Aaron Goodwin
When the Ghost Adventure crew first visited Bobby Mackey’s
last year, they videotaped what appeared to be the apparition of a man in a cowboy hat walking in the basement. In another part of Bobby Mackey’s, a group of ghost hunters this time saw the apparition of a man fleeing, looking at them with amber eyes.
Many who made their way through the purposely darkened bar and its basement reported hearing the more typical disembodied voices. Bagans said the temperature in one area suddenly plunged to 30 degrees from 60 degrees and he felt someone, or something, brush by. One man’s flashlight inexplicably turned on.
Another ghost hunter felt a hand tug at her scarf.
“She was done at that point,” Bagans said.
There was a time, especially during the Urban Cowboy craze, when Bobby Mackey’s was legendary for its mechanical bull. As the legend of it being haunted grows, today there is no shortage of those who come each weekend to Bobby Mackey’s not just for vintage country music and a belt or two of beer, but also to find spirits of a very different kind.
Looking for them is one thing, but Long cautions visitors from trying to provoke spirits to appear – precisely what he and Bagans did in the basement. Both men prepare themselves spiritually beforehand and cleanse themselves afterward, though neither will discuss the exact means.
Long is very familiar with the legend of Bobby Mackey’s, but this paranormal conference and ghost hunt was his first visit inside. He was there both as expert during the symposium and as spiritual adviser and aid to those chasing proof of spirits, human or demonic.
Long is the Archbishop of the United States Old Catholic Church in Louisville (a dramatic offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church that traces its origins back more than a century), and he is the founder and president of the Paranormal Clergy Institute.Provoking spirits is something Long is used to and, most importantly he reminds novices, well qualified for. Long has studied demonology since he was nine years old and has performed 23 exorcisms over the past 13 years.
“As an exorcist, that’s what I do,” Long said. “This is not playtime; (antagonizing spirits) is not something you do on a Saturday night for fun.”
Certainly no one needs to remind Bagans what can happen when you taunt spirits. Beyond leaving his first trip here with three scratches on his back, Bagans said he left the honky-tonk with something more unexpected: A spirit in tow.
Two weeks after returning home, Bagans said strange things began to happen, including him witnessing floating objects. Bagans said he tried to rationalize what he was seeing, but that night things got weirder. The next day he sought aid from someone who is expert in the field.
Bagans has been to hundreds of supposedly haunted sites. His trip to Bobby Mackey’s was the first time, he said, a spirit attached itself and followed him home.
“They were trying to scare me,” said Bagans, whose jacket was emblazoned with the words “Rebel Spirit.” “They didn’t scare me.”
And Bagans didn’t exactly come away unscathed from this trip to Bobby Mackey’s.
On the first night of the ghost hunt, while he was in the basement, Bagans was overcome by violent thoughts. The feeling, he said, lasted about an hour and forced him to step away from the other ghost hunters. Bagans met privately upstairs with Bishop Long, who helped return him to normalcy.
Transient possession is not something novel at Bobby Mackey’s. Over its 30 years as the area’s best honky-tonk, many patrons and workers have reported a sense they were possessed briefly while there.
And then, of course, there is the case of Carl Lawson, the building’s longtime caretaker and former resident.
A spirit allegedly took hold of Lawson during the time he lived there in an upstairs apartment and wouldn’t let go. People began to see a difference in this previously mild-mannered man. Lawson saw it too; he said the possession put him on a path to self-destruction. In 1994, Lawson underwent a six-hour exorcism in an unused portion of the building that has since been torn down.
“I’ve been quoted before, and I still stand by it: This is the most haunted place I’ve ever been,” Bagans said on day two of the ghost hunt.
The names of human spirits purported to haunt Bobby Mackey’s are many and well-known both regionally and to the curious around the world. The ghost hunters last week frequently called out for these tragic or evil figures to appear.
Among the names invoked during this ghost hunt was the lesser-known “Timmy,” a boy believed to have died on these grounds many years before. In one of the hallways, the Ghost Adventure crew recorded a voice they said quite clearly replied, “I’m here.”
Long isn’t surprised about the voice in the dark, but he cautioned it might not be the voice of little Timmy. Quite often, he said, demonic entities will pretend to be other human spirits, especially children.
How can you tell if the spirit you encounter is human or demonic (assuming, of course, it’s not just someone pulling your leg)?
Long tells people to look for oddities in the ghostly image or imperfections in the voice they hear. Apparitions of demonic entities might be missing eyes or hands, for example. Also pay attention to the sensations you feel. Long said demonic entities bring sensations of dread, the opposite of that which accompanies human spirits.
To the curious who flock here, the basement of Bobby Mackey’s is, of course, the greatest interest. The well, if you believe the legend, is ground zero for the haunting.
But last week’s ghost hunt is proof again there seems to be nowhere ghosts won’t roam inside this well-worn building.
Some of the stories of ghostly presence in the bar are frightening, others quite quirky. In 1994, a frequent patron sued Bobby Mackey’s after he said he was assaulted by a spirit in the men’s room.
Long, for his part, was immediately drawn to an area upstairs in the bar – at the front of the building, directly opposite from where the unbelieving Bobby Mackey performs each weekend. Long said he got a terrible feeling, a sense of burning, as he approached that area.
“Something spiritual happened there,” Long said. “I’d like to know what it is.”
And so the legend grows.