If you're ever in Wilder, Kentucky and feel like stopping for a cold one at Bobby Mackey's Music World, you're likely to hear some great country music in one of the region's most historic venues. But beware. While the lonely figure saddled up next to you at the bar may look like a regular patron, there's a chance he's actually one of the honky tonk's many spirits wandering his old stomping grounds. For years, the venue has attracted both music fans and ghost hunters alike.
Like many creepy stories, the story of Bobby Mackey's Music World starts with a slaughterhouse. The location at 44 Licking Pike in Wilder was originally the site of a slaughterhouse in the mid-1800s. Rumor has it, the owner of the slaughterhouse would dispose of just about anything — or anyone — if the price was right. When the slaughterhouse closed, the building sat vacant for several years.
An abandoned slaughterhouse is the perfect setting for eerie happenings and unsavory characters. Unsurprisingly, the building's basement is rumored to have been the site of several satanic rituals in the late 1800s.
But an entrepreneur named Buck Brady had much more benign plans for the building. In the 1930s, Brady transformed the location into a nightclub called The Primrose Club. But the curse of the building lived on. The Primrose was soon taken over by the Chicago mob. Distressed and heartbroken over the loss of his livelihood, Brady died by suicide inside the nightclub.
Under mob rule, the club was renamed Latin Quarter and became a hot spot for gambling and prostitution until it was shut down in the 1950s. The club went under yet another renovation when it became a honky-tonk called The Hard Rock Cafe (not to be confused with the chain of tourist restaurants). The Hard Rock was plagued by violence. After a string of fatal shootings throughout the 1970s, the honky tonk was shut down by the authorities.
In 1978, a country singer named Bobby Mackey decided to try his hand at making the venue into a profitable (and safer) business. Bobby Mackey's Music World was born.
Though Mackey completely renovated the venue, putting in a sprawling dance floor and a mechanical bull, the ghostly patrons of years past seemed content to stick around. Customers and staff soon began seeing strange apparitions and paranormal activity.
Spirits at the Bar
The first non-living guest was a woman named Johanna, the daughter of a mob boss who managed the club in the 1930s. Johanna had an affair with Robert Randall, a former singer who performed at the nightclub. After Johanna became pregnant and her mob boss father got word of what had been going on, Randall disappeared. The heartbroken Johanna died of suicide and is still seen wandering the club. Patrons have even reported smelling Johanna's signature rose perfume.
Mackey even recorded a song about the two star-crossed lovers.
Another ghost who's become a regular at Bobby Mackey's is the headless spirit of a murdered woman named Pearl Bryan, who was found decapitated on a farm near Newport, Kentucky in 1896.
While most of the ghosts tend to keep to themselves, one patron claimed to have been attacked in the restroom by a spirit in a cowboy hat. The customer attempted to sue Mackey for $1,000, forcing Mackey to put up a sign disclosing that the establishment was filled with otherworldly spirits and stating that management was not responsible for any damage.
To make matters worse, the basement at Bobby Mackey's Music World — where the slaughterhouse drain is located — is said to be an actual portal to Hell. Those brave enough to enter the room have reported being maliciously pushed and pulled by unseen forces. There are multiple stories of a demonic figure with glowing eyes that supposedly resides in the basement.
In 2008, the ghost hunting crew from the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures visited Bobby Mackey's for a harrowing encounter. They later returned to the site for a follow-up show a few years later.
In 2017, Shane and Ryan of Buzzfeed Unsolved braved "the most haunted nightclub in America" for their own paranormal investigation. Watch their findings below.
This article was originally published in 2017. It was updated on Oct. 18, 2021.
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