From mummified monkeys to kitchen apparitions, these places put chills on the menu.
The staff at Las Almas Rotas is certain that the mummified monkey moves when they’re not looking. It has been known to change positions on a dime. It’s trapped, for now, in a see-through case. It sits on the shelf, the glass shimmering and refracting light from the “Spirits Room.” There’s a devil mask hanging nearby.
Shad Kvetko, the mezcaleria’s owner and fastidious collector, has picked up a few items for the Expo Park bar in Mexico. At the Mercado de Sonora in downtown Mexico City, at a shop half decked out with witchcraft and Santería relics, he found his favorite mummy. The preserved primate had been “worked,” as Kvetko describes, by a priest of the Santería, a religion infused with both Catholic and African folklore traditions. It’s been stuffed with herbs and mummified.
This monkey is a harrowing thing to behold: Lit below in fire-red light, teeth visible in a howling rictus, eyes peeled open within a blood-starved skull, and arms wrenched into a position like it’s playing the devil’s banjo.
“I think we’re the only bar in the United States that has a stuffed monkey like this,” Kvetko says. He’s probably right. He found the monkey right around 20 years ago. Yes, that’s right, it’s the mummy’s anniversary. “He’s been with me ever since,” he says with a spark of affection.
Kvetko has always been fascinated with this kind of talisman. He fell in love with Mexico and folklore decades ago, traveling to the capital frequently to pick up ‘Annabelle’-esque artifacts from the mercado. When he lived in Phoenix, he owned and operated a shop called Saints and Sinners, which sold haunted monkey-like antiques.
Whether it’s the monkey or the 100-plus-year-old building in Exposition Park, there is something going on at Las Almas Rotas. Yes, some servers will promise that the monkey moves while eclipsed in shadow. Others have seen actual apparitions skittering around the heavy curtain near the Spirits Room. One staff member, while working late, felt that gravity-drop feeling inside when all of the lights and music suddenly snapped on above him with no logical, electrical explanation.
Earlier this year, that same staffer was alone at the bar except for one fellow bartender, and they saw a person they didn’t know shuffle into the bathroom. No one else was supposed to be in the building at the time. They froze, listening carefully, looking at each other as they heard towels shucking from the dispenser. They heard a toilet flush. Minutes went by, and no one emerged from the bathroom. The staffers opened the door and felt a lightning bolt of fear down their spines. It was empty.
The staff offer shots of mezcal around the Spirits Room occasionally — a respectful nod to the ghosts of Las Almas Rotas. Sometimes the mezcal is emptied after a while. Just tall tales? Surely. Right?
There was a happening, a poltergeisty thing, that Kvetko remembers. He was hanging out in the Spirits Room, fussing around on his phone, and he saw something in his peripheral vision. Out of the corner of his eye, a short-statured person blurred by. He assumed it was his cook. The room’s curtain actually shuffled.
“I thought it was someone trying to scare me. I could have sworn somebody was right behind me,” he says. “I saw a solid figure back there.” He looked. Nothing. No one around.
He’s one of many bar owners and chefs who are certain of one thing that has occurred in the spookiest of restaurants: Sometimes you just move forward without an explanation.
A few years ago, a customer wandered into Uptown’s Quarter Bar courtyard, which is named after the famous district in New Orleans. He asked the waitstaff: “Has anyone ever died here?” The person was a self-described medium and proceeded to spook the staff with goosebumpy stories about the history of the building. For partner Andrew Popp, it was just another day at one of Dallas’ most haunted bars.
“I remember when I worked there and I’d go back and hear my name called,” Popp says. If that wasn’t chilling enough, there were other moments when Popp was closing up. He would clomp upstairs, clomp back downstairs, and every light in the joint would be on and humming with no logical explanation.
Just a few steps away is Bread Winners Cafe, which opened about 26 years ago. It’s home to a space with a cut and dried name ― The Ghost Room. There’s a hollowed-out crawl tunnel beneath it, which, no, oh no no, is never terrifying at all. In the ghost room, a door has been known to swing open — and shut ― on its own.
In Deep Ellum, the wood groans underfoot at Local. The restaurant is located in the building formerly known as the Boyd Hotel, which was built in 1911. The original Boyd brick, with a faded ancient logo, is visible on the wall. The place has hushed energy when the dining room is quiet, like there are people hiding behind columns. Owner and chef Tracy Miller has definitely heard things — most late at night during a needed renovation of the building. “Weird stuff,” she says. “A lot of creaks and sounds” with no explanation. She doesn’t elaborate, but “for sure a few spirits hanging around.”
Catfish Plantation out in Waxahachie operates with that same certainty: “Serving Soul and Spirits” is emblazoned on the home page of their website. Four ghosts have been banging around since ’84 — the building has been around since 1895 — say multiple reports. There are “at least” four apparitions, as one CBS DFW story from 2016 reports. Maybe it’s the fried pickles that keeps them floating.
The same goes for Snuffer’s Restaurant and Bar on Greenville Avenue in Dallas. While stuffing your face with cheddar fries, ask a staffer if they’ve felt a pocket of chilled air or seen glasses move. You’re nearly guaranteed to hear the sentence, “Oh yeah, this place is haunted,” before you finish your food. On Snuffer’s website, under “About,” there’s the link entitled “Ghost.” Some staff members have seen the bone-white visage of a woman careening through the hall by the kitchen.
Do you miss seeing movies deep in the worn-in cushions of the Inwood Theatre on Lovers Lane? The ghost probably misses you, too. With the theater empty, one bar manager heard the unmistakable sound of high heels clacking on the floor above him. Grab a chilly martini at the bar, and you might catch a woman dragging a man into the bathroom by the ear, only to disappear inside the stark light above the stalls.
And if you ask anyone around the city about poltergeist experiences, you’ll hear some passed-down tales of the Stoneleigh P. Tom Garrison, owner of the bar for nearly 50 years, shrugs off sightings. Right now, as he tells it, his biggest problem is landlord drama in the middle of a pandemic. (The building’s lease runs through April 2021.)
“Never really any spooks,” he says casually. “Just the full moon. It makes people crazy.” If anything’s haunted in the bar, it’s probably the jukebox. It’s an original Packard Pla-Mor from the ’40s.
You also might assume that the Old Monk has had a ghost or two at the bar. Owner Feargal McKinney is here to bring the facts: “Sorry, not gonna fake story you, but we really don’t,” he says. Late into the night, the bar is as cozy as a library. The wait staff does have a gathering spot that seems to ward off bad energy, complete with a talisman known lovingly as Sally.
Sally is a broken doll head jutting off the back of a desk lamp, eyes wide and green as the forest. Scars mark the doll’s face, and the lips are pulled into a half-smile, dry enough to show cracks in the skin.
“They love her, cracked skull and all.”