Northern Kentucky Music Legends Hall of Fame member Bobby Mackey wanted to be known for one thing when he opened his honky-tonk in 1978: music. And his venue, Bobby Mackey’s Music World, is well known in the Wilder, Ky. area for offering the best of both types of music: country and western.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Bobby Mackey’s gravel parking lot fills up and revelers file into the bar, order beer and head out to the dance floor. Up onstage you’ll often find Bobby Mackey himself, backed by the Big Mac Band.
Over the years, Bobby Mackey’s has become known for something else—it overshadows his country music legacy at times and it goes bump in the night.
Although Mackey isn’t a believer himself, he quickly began hearing ghost stories soon after opening his doors. At first Mackey wasn’t keen on the ghost stories circulating, and he’d still rather be known for his country music career. But we can speculate he also doesn’t mind the paranormal investigation groups from around the world showing up at his door too much. They pay out a healthy fee to spend the night in his bar, stalking the unknown.
One of these groups is our own Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee. As I detailed in a previous column, PIM visited Bobby Mackey’s over the summer as part of an epic road trip investigating famous haunts. One of their most memorable moments at Bobby Mackey’s was when team member Missy Bostrom experienced what she says was an invisible force that pushed her to the ground. Later in the night, it pushed her against a wall.
When the team marked a return date to Bobby Mackey’s, I asked to join them. On somewhat of a monster tour myself, I met PIM members Missy, Noah Leigh, Michael "Gravy" Graeve, Jann Goldberg, and John Krahn on September 22 for their investigation of the haunted honky-tonk.
We all met up at Wanda Kay’s Ghost Shop, just down the road from Bobby Mackey’s on Licking Pike Road. Wanda, a musician herself, has worked for a decade DJing and hosting karaoke at Mackey’s. She now handles paranormal tours and investigations for Mr. Mackey, and has written a book on the bar’s haunted history, Wicked They Walk: The Tour Guide’s Book.
After paying the investigation balance and signing waivers absolving Bobby Mackey’s in the case of accident (or ghost attack,) we drove to the bar. I took a deep breath and walked in.
It was quite an eerie experience walking around the famous Bobby Mackey’s. After a session in the empty bar area, we moved up to "George’s apartment," a former caretaker’s quarters. One former caretaker, Carl Lawson, claims he was possessed by demons while living there and actually has an exorcism performed on him in the building.
We next headed down to the basement, which has ghost stories attributed to every room. There’s a dressing room where a former showgirl who committed suicide named Johanna is supposed to frequent. A room containing a filled- in well (the building used to be the grounds of a slaughterhouse) is said to be a gate to hell.
But perhaps most hair-raising place is a room known as the "Wall of Faces." It was here Missy experienced being pushed and she had another freaky experience on this night. Our entry to the room is time-stamped at 11:31:44 pm. It was completely dark and we were throwing out questions, hoping to get a response, when we heard Missy struggling with her breathing. Here’s what happened next:
Noah: Hey, you’re breathing weird. What’s wrong?
Missy: (through short breaths)I can’t see anything in front of me.
John: That’s because you’re in the dark, Missy. What’s wrong?Missy:(Sounding more upset), I can’t see anything!
Noah: (turning on flashlight and shining it in her face), Is this better?
Missy: (Looking blankly ahead), No.
Noah: Look up. Her eyes are constricting fine.
Missy: Yeah, I can’t see anything, it’s like, completely dark in front of me.
Gravy: You don’t see the light in your eyes?
Missy: Yes, I’m serious.
Missy also reported that her hands were feeling really weird, that she felt them "vibrating." After a minute or so, Missy said her vision had returned. The encounter was time-stamped as ending at 11:46 pm.
"Do you feel it was someone trying to hurt you or just share with you?" Wanda asked her.
"I don’t know. I just felt like, all of a sudden the lights went out. I couldn’t see anything and I started feeling strange and breathing weird."
After Missy determined she was all right, the group continued to try to get responses in the Wall of Faces. There was nothing else, so we moved on to other rooms in the basement. There were other odd moments and feelings, but nothing quite as intense as that moment in the Wall of Faces.
PIM always looks to explain the encounters they have with a scientific explanation, so although Noah isn’t quite sure what happened to Missy, he says one explanation could be some kind of panic attack.
"I think it is possible she had a psychological event that resulted in what she reported," Noah says, also noting that the same room is where she had her terrifying previous encounter of being pushed. So was this experience psychological or paranormal? "In the end," he continues, "we will never definitively know what caused it."
Bobby Mackey’s remains one of the places where PIM has had the most encounters with unexplained activity, and although they don’t have immediate plans to return, Noah says the group hopes to investigate the haunted honky-tonk again in the future.
You can read PIM’s official reports on their investigations (including Bobby Mackey’s) and check their calendar for upcoming events at paranormalmilwaukee.com.