Friday, October 16, 2015

Bobby Mackey's Gatekeeper Paranormal Tour

An Evening at One of America's Most Haunted Places
FTM file. 

Now that October is officially in full swing, I wanted to indulge in one of the season's most popular pastimes. 

No, I'm not talking about picking pumpkins or rooting on your favorite baseball team during the playoffs. I'm talking about some good old fashioned ghost hunting. And what's better than Bobby Mackey's Music World for an evening with the paranormal?

Bobby Mackey's Music World is widely known as one of the nation's most haunted places, and Gatekeeper Paranormal is responsible for handling the building's ghost tours. 

Gatekeeper Paranormal offers two-hour tours, in which one of the team members guides visitors through the building and its tumultuous history. There are also five-hour investigations available for those brave soles interested in diving deep into exploring the facility's paranormal activity.

Jill Spicer courageously offered to tag along for the tour (look, I might be a fan of scary places, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to go alone), and Gatekeeper Paranormal's Kim Short was our guide for the evening. The tours don't fall into the trap of cheap tricks and easy scares to make visitors feel frightened or uneasy about their surroundings. Ghosts aren't exactly circus performers, and they certainly don't appear on demand. There's no way of knowing whether or not you'll have a paranormal experience when you enter the building.

The tour started with Short recounting the building's history. We sat in the bar area as she recalled the building's storied past, and from time to time, she would hear unexplained noises near the bar. There wasn't anything noteworthy that occurred, but there was some slight activity during that time. Short expertly explained the building's history and was also quick to dispel any of the building's myths and legends that have yet to be proven true.

View from the bar looking onto the stage and dance floor. Shadow figures have been reportedly seen on the stage. 
View of the bar, where shadow figures have also been seen, and people have allegedly been touched by spirits. 

Bobby Mackey's Music World's physical location might be a contributing factor in creating a nerve center of possible paranormal activity: it sits on limestone, is near the river, and has a fault line running underneath the property. When you combine that with the building's tragic past, it creates the perfect storm for the paranormal. This is likely what allows the building's portals to draw other spirits from throughout the area. 

The hauntings date back to the 1700s, back before Kentucky was officially a state. As Colonel James Taylor was developing the land known today as Newport, several slaves were hung on the property. All of these hangings were illegal except for one. Passersby would report hearing moans and screams coming from the property, and the area quickly became known as Gallows Gap.

The 1800s brought the slaughterhouse and a distillery. This is where the infamous wells come into play. The wells were initially used to aid in the distillery process. The legends of satanic worship surrounding the well in the building's basement are one of Bobby Mackey's Music World's most notorious tales, however, there is no evidence to back it up. “We have found no evidence of that. None. Not saying it didn't happen, just saying that we haven't found anything,” said Short.

The well. 
The well. 

Pearl Bryan's connection to the bar was also discussed, and Short put to rest the rumor of Bryan's head being thrown down the well. “They never have found her head, so the rumors of them throwing her head down the well aren't true. She was never even on this property, so nobody knows,” said Short. But that doesn't mean she's not one of the restless spirits roaming the building.

In the early 1900s, the mob came in and took over the building. They opened The Primrose Country Club, and had illegal gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging in the building. There are quite a few classic mafia stories surrounding the building. Then, it became The Latin Quarter, which was also a mafia-run establishment. Before Bobby Mackey bought the building in 1978, it was a biker bar with a reputation for violence.

Memorabilia from The Primrose Country Club and The Latin Quarter. 
Memorabilia from The Latin Quarter

Once the building's history was covered, we were ready to explore the building and perhaps even encounter some spirits ourselves. Short's thorough explanation of the location's history prior to examining the building definitely made the experience more interesting. “I honestly didn't know what to expect going into the tour," said Spicer. "I didn't know very much about the history of Bobby Mackey's, so I definitely learned a great deal when I arrived. Hearing a lot of the information for the first time totally added to the shock factor of the tour as the guide was able to describe past events that took place in various parts of the building. Just hearing those stories and envisioning them happening was fascinating!"

The tour allowed us to experience any and all area's of the building with a history of paranormal activity. We started on the main level, and Short would point out to what kind of activity has been reported in each area. Despite all the hype surrounding the basement, Short told us that she experiences more activity upstairs in the bar rather than downstairs. 

Bobby Mackey's Music World, especially the basement, has made headlines for the demonic spirits that allegedly reside on the premises. Short's stance on these claims is that while some of the spirits may not be nice, they aren't necessarily demonic. That doesn't mean she hasn't had her fair share of creepy experiences in the building. Short has had pebbles thrown at her in the basement twice, bottles thrown down the bottle chute when nobody else was in the building, a bottle thrown in the basement, phantom smells, loud bangs from basement door, she was touched a few days before our tour, has seen numerous shadow figures throughout the building, and even caught the reflection of a full head and body in a mirror. Despite all these ghostly encounters, she says that she has never felt too frightened or threatened in the building.   

The only time Spicer or I ever felt uneasy during the tour was in the basement, which houses The Wall of Faces, the well, and the old dressing rooms. Each of these areas have a reputation for being paranormal hot spots. Spicer experienced the basement's infamously ominous nature first-hand while standing near a cell once used by the mafia during the days of The Primrose and The Latin Quarter. “For me, the most memorable experience of the tour was the uneasiness I felt when approaching the jail cell in the basement. Seeing all of the bullet holes in the walls, and knowing that the place was controlled and operated by the mafia back in the day, really made you wonder what might have taken place down in that dark and dingy cell," said Spicer. Upon exiting the basement, it felt as though a heaviness had been lifted. 

Bullet holes can be seen in the door and wall from when the mafia ran the building. 
Staircase to nowhere. Another remnant of the building's mafia days. 
Basement dressing room. 
View of basement with the dressing rooms located on the right. Shadow figures are seen here walking from one side of the basement to the other. 

Short was very attentive to us during the entirety of the tour, and would ask whether we were comfortable in a room or not. She would offer to turn on the lights in certain places if the creepy atmosphere became too much. According to Spicer, “The whole tour felt super safe, but the prospect of actually seeing something move - be it a shadow or inanimate object - really creeped me out. Part of me wanted to see something happen while another part of me wished to remain ignorant. But that's the fun, isn't it?”

Also, Short was always willing to linger in places we found interesting throughout the tour. We spent almost 30 minutes in The Wall of Faces room, which is located in the building's famously frightening basement, trying to communicate with a young girl's spirit and discussing our various theories on the paranormal. We did have some hits on the K-II meter during our time in the room. The K-II meter is a device used to measure electromagnetic fields (EMFs). It is widely used in ghost investigations because it is believed that it can measure the energy emitted by spirits. When the meter lights up, something with a higher EMF reading has come in close proximity of the device. When Short asked for the girl in The Wall of Faces room to touch the K-II device, it did in fact light up on a few separate occasions, thus insinuating that a spirit had come in contact with the meter. 

Table with toys left for the spirit of a little girl. This is where we experienced activity with the K-II meter. 
The little girl has been known to move the ball on occasion. 
The Wall of Faces

The tour culminated in a short investigation, in which we attempted to communicate with spirits while upstairs in the bar using the K-II meters and a flashlight. Short set up a flashlight on a table a few feet away, and asked for the spirits to turn it on for us. The group before us had the flashlight turn on, but we did not, which once again reinforced the fact that spirits are not circus performers. 

There were times during the tour when Short would stop to try and place a sound she had heard. At one point, there was a slight whistling noise on the audio during our discussion about The Primrose. When discussing Johanna, another one of the building's famous tragic tales, Short stopped the conversation to see if we had also heard shuffling noises. She equated the noises to someone moving around pieces of paper. I didn't hear it at the time, but there was some quiet shuffling noise evident on the audio recordings. 

In terms of photographic evidence, there are two instances in which I caught some light anomalies on the photos. Both show up as a streak of light in the photos. Check them out for yourself, and let us know in the comments what you think. 

Overall, the tour was laid back, and any questions or discussions were welcomed during our time in the building. Short was able to expertly discuss the history as well as provide us with an exciting experience in one of our country's most notorious haunts. No matter where you fall on the scale from skeptic to paranormal junkie, the tour has a little something for everyone. The building's history is enough to keep anyone entertained whether or not any ghosts make an appearance. They embrace their tumultuous past, but resist perpetuating any of the building's less reliable stories. The building is truly a time capsule of Northern Kentucky history. A trip to Bobby Mackey's Music World is truly worth your time, whether it's to chase some ghosts or just grab some drinks with friends in one the area's most unique and historic bars. 

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