WARNING TO OUR PATRONS
“This establishment is purported to be haunted. Management is NOT responsible and cannot be held liable for actions of any ghost/spirits on these premises.”
It’s not the sign you expect to see when you first enter a nightclub, but if you find yourself reading that sign in a nightclub in Wilder, Kentucky, you will have entered what some call the Devil’s Gate.
Bobby Mackey’s Music World is said to be the most haunted nightclub/ honky-tonk bar in America. The building was a former slaughterhouse in the 1800’s, and tales of murder, suicide and satanic rituals have haunted this place for years.
The oldest of the ghosts that haunt Bobby Mackey’s originate in one of the most horrific murders in America. When a young woman named Pearl Bryan made her way to Cincinnati, she was hoping to marry the man whose baby she had just discovered she was carrying. The man’s name was Scott Jackson, a former dental student. He and Pearl had been introduced by Pearl’s cousin, William Woods. They hit it off immediately, and that summer, their friendship blossomed. It was only after Jackson left for Cincinnati that Pearl made her discovery. She confided in her cousin, who wrote to Scott Jackson to inform him of the problem. Jackson arranged for an abortion in Cincinnati and then sent for Pearl. Pearl arrived at Cincinnati Grand Central Station on January 28th 1896, and was met by Scott Jackson and a friend of his she had never met, Alonzo Wailing. Jackson and Wailing had met in dental school some years prior.
Two days later, on a cold and foggy morning, a man by the name of John Hewing was cutting across a field at Highland Avenue and Alexander Pike in Fort Thomas. The property belonged to Hewing’s employer. As he walked, he stumbled upon a woman lying on the ground. In later interviews, Hewing stated that he “didn’t know if she was drunk or dead, lots of woman from town used to bring solders from post. It was a lonely secluded field. A lot of women were drunk.” Hewing told his employer about the woman in the field. The employer sent Hewing to get a nearby deputy sheriff, while other men set out to see whether the woman had awakened and perhaps left. They found her still lying there. When they took a closer look, they saw signs of a struggle and a pool of blood at her feet. They turned her over and pulled her dress down to reveal that she was headless.
Officials searched the area for her head to no avail. Bloodhounds tracked the scent that to a nearby reservoir. Officials drained the reservoir, but the woman’s head was never found. The body was taken to Newport where an autopsy was performed, which determined that the woman was pregnant and found cocaine in her stomach. It was believed at the time that cocaine could be used to induce a miscarriage. Four days later, the body was identified as that of Pearl Bryan via a manufacturer’s number on one of her shoes, which led to a shoe store and then to Pearl’s family. Police discovered letters exchanged by Scott Jackson and Pearl’s cousin, and Jackson was arrested. Alonzo Wailing was arrested soon after. Upon his arrest, Jackson accused Wailing of the murder, and Wailing in turn blamed Jackson, claiming that Jackson’s medical skills were more inept than he had first thought and that he had only been involved with trying to abort Pearl’s baby.
So what went wrong? How did Pearl end up headless in a field? Modern folklore says Scott Jackson and Alonzo Wailing were part of the occult group that used the abandoned slaughterhouse nearby. Perhaps the attempt to abort Pearl’s baby suffered complications, and she died of an overdose of cocaine, but why did they remove her head? Some say they used her head as a blood sacrifice to the devil by throwing it in the old well in the basement of the slaughterhouse. The well washed out to the nearby lake–the same lake to which the bloodhounds tracked her scent. Could this be the explanation for Pearl Bryan’s missing head?
On May 27th, 1897, on what some described as a perfect spring day, Scott Jackson and Alonzo Wailing were scheduled to hang for the crime of murdering Pearl Bryan. They were hanged together, a little after 9 a.m. As they stood on the trap door waiting for it to open, they cursed Pearl Bryan, blaming her for their deaths. A moment later, the trap door opened and the pair dropped and hung there until dead.
But why do Pearl Bryan, Scott Jackson and Alonzo Wailing still haunt Bobby Mackey’s? Could there be some affinity between Pearl’s spirit and the building? Or is, perhaps, her head still somewhere undiscovered in that place? Could it be that the evil pair of Jackson and Wailing are cursed to stay in the place of their deaths because they are afraid to cross over?
For years, the building stood empty of the living, with only the ghosts of the past to populate it. The satanic worshipers were long gone; during the trial of Jackson and Wailing, the group had been exposed and its members feared attacks from the community and either changed their ways or moved on. The building reopened as a speakeasy in the 1920’s. During this time, a number of murders took place there, and so it closed down, only to reopen in the 1930’s as a nightclub. But tragedy struck the building yet again. A dancehall dancer named Johanna was carrying on a secret relationship with a singer named Robert Randall. She became pregnant, and the pregnancy was soon impossible to conceal. Five months into the pregnancy, Johanna’s father found out and had Robert murdered. Johanna found out her father was behind Robert’s death, and so she poisoned him and then killed herself in the basement of the building, near a now-sealed well.
The current owner of the building, country singer Bobby Mackey, is a complete sceptic about the strange goings on associated with it, even though he himself is part of them. There is a railway track behind the building, and Bobby has said the same track runs through his hometown, perhaps subconsciously drawing and connecting him to the place. Another strange event in Bobby’s life happened when he was a few days old: Bobby’s mother had originally named him Randy Mackey but something had come over her, and she renamed him Robert Randall Mackey. Was this a premonition of one of the ghosts that haunts the nightclub he would later own? Did the evil that lurks in Mackey’s nightclub attach itself to him at a young age? Perhaps. When Bobby and his wife first saw the building, he fell in love with it instantly. His wife, Janet, just as instantly had an uneasy feeling of an unwelcoming presence. She claims to have seen and heard weird things, and even smelled rose perfume near the basement area. Could this have been Johanna warning Janet of what was to come? Janet soon felt something swirl around her and then wrap around her waist. It lifted her up and dropped her back down. She ran for the stairs, but felt a force push her back down and shout at her to “get out, get out.” But almost the strangest part of the story is that, like Pearl and Johanna before her, Janet was five months pregnant at the time.
After this attack, many more staff members came forward with stories of weird smells, unaccountable noises, and being attacked by unseen forces. Carl Lawson, an employee of Bobby Mackey’s, was the caretaker. His tale of Bobby Mackey’s is one that would stay with him forever.
Carl was known as a bit of a loner. He lived in an apartment above the bar, and he was constantly plagued by voices and demonic forces. Sensing the evil around him, Carl started to read up on the lore of the building. Learning the building was once a place of devil worship, he set about sprinkling holy water on the dug-up well known as the Devil’s Gate. Carl believed this would calm some of the spirits, but it had the exact opposite effect. It seemed to provoke the demonic spirits, and soon they claimed Carl for their own: Carl Lawson became possessed. A pastor named Glen Cole was called in, and he spent six hours trying to rid Carl of the demon. Video evidence shows Carl possessed by a demon. In a strange, growling voice, he claims that, “if he left then we all gotta leave.” We will never know what this meant. In 2012, Carl Lawson passed away at the age of 53.
In 2008, the season premiere of Ghost Adventures featured a visit to Bobby Mackey’s. The lead investigator, Zak Bagans, said he got three scratches on his back when he was standing in the Devil’s Gate because he had provoked the evil spirits and demonic forces that had possessed Carl years before. When the Ghost Adventures guys returned for a follow-up episode in 2010, they were able to pick up electronic voice phenomena (evidence of paranormal voices) but found themselves and their families threatened. Even Zak found himself near possession, and the guys have never returned.
But what draws so many people back to Bobby Mackey’s? Could Bobby himself be a reincarnation of the spirit of murdered singer Robert Randall? Or are the things down in Wilder, Kentucky best left alone?
By Linzi Bootman (Staff Writer for Paranormal Association)
Linzi Bootman is a paranormal enthusiast, she enjoys hunting for ghosts in her spare time. Enjoys research and is a self proclaimed geek. Please feel free to contact her at email@example.com
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