After the trial ended, the slaughterhouse fell silent and remained empty
for many years. It was eventually torn down and a roadhouse was constructed on
the site. During the 1920's, the place became known as a speakeasy and as a
popular gambling joint. Local lore has it that during this period, a number of
murders took place in the building. None of them were ever solved because the
bodies were normally dumped elsewhere to keep attention away from the illegal
gambling and liquor operation.
The Nightclub Years
After Prohibition ended in 1933, the building was purchased by E.A. Brady,
better known to friends and enemies alike as "Buck". Brady turned
the building in a thriving tavern and casino called the Primrose. He enjoyed
success for a number of years but eventually the operation came to the
attention of syndicate mobsters in Cincinnati. They moved in on Brady, looking
for a piece of the action. Brady refused offers for new "partners"
and outright bids to buy him out of the Primrose. Soon, the tavern was being
vandalized and customers were being threatened and beaten up in the parking
lot. The violence escalated until Brady became involved in a shooting in
August 1946. He was charged and then released in the attempted murder of
small-time hood Albert "Red" Masterson. This was the last straw for
Buck and he sold out to the gangsters. It was said that when he left, he swore
the place would never thrive again as a casino. Brady committed suicide in
After Brady sold out, the building re-opened as another nightclub called
the Latin Quarter. Several times during the early 1950's, the new owners of
the bar were arrested on gambling charges.. In 1955, Campbell County deputies
broke into the building with sledge hammers and confiscated slot machines and
gambling tables. Apparently, Brady's promises had come to pass.
It was also during this period that the legends of the building gained
another vengeful ghost. According to the stories, the owner of the club's
daughter, Johanna, fell in love with one of the singers who was performing
here and became pregnant. Her father was furious. Thanks to his criminal
connections, he had the singer killed. Johanna became so distraught that she
attempted to poison her father and then succeeded in taking her own life. Her
body was later discovered in the now infamous basement... and according to the
autopsy report, she was five months pregnant at the time.
Bad luck continued to plague the owners of the tavern. In the 1970's, it
became known as the Hard Rock Cafe, but it was closed down by authorities in
1978 because of some fatal shootings on the premises.
Bobby Mackey's Music World
Mackey's Music World
Finally, the building was turned into the popular bar and dance club
that it is today. Bobby and Janet Mackey purchased the building in the
spring of 1978 with the intention of turning it into a country bar.
Mackey was a well-known as a singer in northern Kentucky and had
recorded several albums. He actually scrapped his plans to record in
Nashville in order to renovate the old tavern. Once the bar was opened
up, it immediately began to attract a crowd.
Despite a number of years success with the place though, the good times
have never been able to erase the "taint" caused by the history of
murder and death. The hauntings at Bobby Mackey�s Music World remain stained
Carl Lawson was the first employee hired by Bobby Mackey. He was a loner
who worked as a caretaker and handyman at the tavern. He lived alone in an
apartment in the upstairs of the building and spent a lot of time in the
sprawling building after hours. When he began reporting that he was seeing and
hearing bizarre things in the club, people around town first assumed that he
was simply crazy. Later on though, when others started to see and hear the
same things, Lawson didn�t seem so strange after all.
"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 told
author Doug Hensley, who has written extensively about the haunted tavern.
Soon, the strange events went from strange to downright frightening! The
first ghost that Lawson spotted in the place was that of a dark, very angry
men that he saw behind the bar. Even though others were present at the time of
the sighting, they saw nothing. A short time later, Lawson began to experience
visions of a spirit who called herself "Johanna". She would often
speak to Lawson and he was able to answer her and carry on conversations. The
rumors quickly started that Lawson was "talking to himself". Lawson
claimed that Johanna was a tangible presence though, often leaving the scent
of roses in her wake.
Odd sounds and noises often accompanied the sightings and Lawson soon
realized that the spirits seemed to be the strongest in the basement, near an
old-sealed up well that had been left from the days when there was a
slaughterhouse at the location. The lore of the area, Carl knew, stated that
the well had once been used for satanic rituals. Some of the local folks
referred to it as "Hell's Gate". Although he wasn't a
particularly religious man, Lawson decided to sprinkle some holy water on the
old well one night, thinking that it might bring some relief from the spirits.
Instead, it seemed to provoke them and the activity in the building began to
Soon, other employees and patrons of the place began to have their own
weird experiences. They began to tell of objects that moved around on their
own, lights that turned on an off, disembodied voices and laughter and more.
Bobby Mackey was not happy about the ghostly rumors that were starting to
spread around town. "Carl starting telling stories and I told him to keep
quiet about it. I didn't want it getting around, because I had everything I
own stuck in this place. I had to make a success of it," he said. He was
not one to believe in ghosts or the supernatural and he didn't want his
customers believing in it either. But when Janet Mackey revealed that she too
had encountered the resident spirits, Mackey was no longer sure what to think!
Janet told him that she too had experienced the strange activity. She had
seen the ghosts, had felt the overwhelming presences and had even smelled
Johanna's signature rose scent. She also had a very frightening encounter in
the basement. While she was there, she was suddenly overcome by the scent of
roses and felt something unseen swirl around her. "Something grabbed me
by the waist," Janet later recalled. "It picked me up and threw me
back down. I got away from it, and when I got to the top of the stairs there
was pressure behind me, pushing me down the steps. I looked back up and a
voice was screaming 'Get Out! Get Out!'"
At the time of this terrifying encounter, Janet was, like Johanna and Pearl
Bryan before her, five months pregnant. A coincidence?
Once Janet admitted that she had seen the ghosts in the building, other
people began to come forward. Roger Heath, who often worked odd jobs in the
club remembered a summer morning when he and Carl Lawson were working alone in
the building. Heath was removing some light fixtures from the dance floor and
Lawson was carrying them down to the basement. Just before lunch, Lawson came
up the stairs and Heath noticed that he had small handprints on the back of
his shirt. It looked just like a woman had been hugging him!
Erin Fey, a hostess at the club, also confessed to encountering Johanna.
She had laughed one day at Lawson when he was talking to the ghost. She
stopped laughing when she also got a strong whiff of the rose perfume.
Once the stories starting making the rounds, they caught the attention of a
writer named Doug Hensley. He decided to investigate the stories and started
hanging around the club, striking up conversations with the regular customers.
No one was anxious at first to talk about ghosts. "When I first talked to
these people, almost every one of them refused to be interviewed,"
Hensley said. After he talked to Janet Mackey though, many other people came
forward. Soon, Hensley had thirty sworn affidavits from people who experienced
supernatural events at the club.
He continued to collect stories and sightings, intrigued by the various
spirits who had been seen, including a headless ghost who was dressed in
turn-of-the-century clothing. Strangely, independent witnesses provided
matching descriptions of the phantom, never knowing that she had been seen by
others. That was when Hensley turned to historic records to shed some light on
the building's past. He was stunned to discover that events of the past were
closely connected to the hauntings of the present. In old newspaper accounts,
he found the story of Pearl Bryan and photos of Buck Brady that matched the
description of an often seen ghost. None of the witnesses to the present-day
paranormal activity were even vaguely aware of who these people had been or
what connections they had to the building!
Hensley has since compiled his stories into a book and has been a part of
many of the investigations at the club, including a 1994 exorcism of the place
that failed miserably. The activity continues to occur and several individuals
have even been physically assaulted by spirits. One customer even tried to sue
Bobby Mackey in 1994, claiming that he was attacked in the restroom by a ghost
wearing a cowboy hat! The case was later dismissed.
Bobby Mackey's Music World remains perhaps one of the strangest haunted
sites in the Midwest and one that has proven to be a major attraction for
ghost hunters and enthusiasts alike. Few go away disappointed from a tavern
where "spirits served" has another meaning altogether!
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TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.