Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Bobby Mackey’s Music World


Bobby 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 with blood.


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 escalate.

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!