Staff at a new restaurant in West Asheville claim that ther building is haunted, so they called in paranormal expert Joshua P. Warren to investigate.
Many fondly remember The Byrish Haus & Pub on Patton Avenue as the former venue of the Barbecue Inn. But today, the menu features soups, salads, grilled steaks, sandwiches, and pizza. Besides these, it is the new “go to” place for German cuisine like kielbasa, bratwurst, and entrees like sauerbraten, beef rouladen, stuffed cabbage, and jagerschnitzel with a choice of side dishes including spaetzle and braised red cabbage.
If you’d like a slice of mild hysteria on Halloween it might be the perfect place to visit. On Oct. 19, Warren publicly conducted a séance in a back room at Byrish. He previously arrived with a variety of instruments to measure electromagnetic radiation, electrostatic charges, and other background energy fields to find out if there was anything unusual happening.
“I did indeed find erratic readings, and can demonstrate that for the media tonight if you would like to see how some of my instruments perform when I place them in certain spots where they should behave normally, but they do not. Those spots happen to coincide with places where people have reported seeing strange things,” he said.
Bartender and relief manager Jacquie Hammond said she has seen and heard things she can’t explain. Hammond has worked at Byrish for two months and on several occasions has heard her name being called, but there’s no one there.
“A couple weeks ago, Molly and I were closing up. I was in the bar area, and getting ready to walk out when I heard her call ‘Jacquie!’ She really was saying my name, but she was freaked out. She said, ‘Get in here. Do you see that? Look back by the dish room.’”
Hammond said a glow from the light in the dish room is usually visible at night.
“You couldn’t see anything but this dark figure in the corner. We looked at each other and just ran out,” she said.
She said the booth beside the ladies room in the same back corner always made her feel uneasy. One day she commented to the cooks, “This place just gives me the creeps, it’s flippin’ haunted.” The wide-eyed kitchen staff asked why she said that, and agreed with her.
Warren said some workers have had negative experiences so alarming that they felt they could no longer continue working there.
“As a matter of fact, there are some employees who are not happy we are here right now because they are afraid it is going to stir up this activity even more, and make their work environment still more spooky and freaky.” Hammond said the cooks refused to work on the night of the séance. “They wanted nothing to do with this,” she said.
A server that started about three weeks ago was working the opening shift when she saw a man in the corner booth sitting with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him. Because she was new, she thought that she arrived late and had misunderstood what time the restaurant opened.
“She shuffled over, looked in the booth, and was startled to find there was nobody there,” Hammond said. She also reports that ceiling lights above the bar flicker, and the end soda dispenser gun inexplicably pops out of its holster whenever a female bartender is near.
Warren said there was reportedly a male entity behind the haunting. Lights were dimmed in the back room for the séance that followed. Participants were seated around a long wooden table equipped with a Ouija board, and illuminated mostly by candlelight. Warren instructed the crowd of about 60 in the room and the 10 others seated around the table with him to be of one mind as they asked the spirit to reveal itself.
Some felt the massive table vibrate, while others reported seeing orbs of amber light materialize just below the ceiling and dart off in various directions. Many agreed that the temperature in the room had noticeably dropped. One young lady was distraught by an emotional impression of two tragic female spirits, and another sensed a man who was a “power to be reckoned with.” All joined hands around the table as local spirit medium Shelley Wright and Warren completed the circuit by each placing a hand on the planchette between them, lightly resting upon the Ouija board. Warren called forth the spirit, and the planchette glided first to the letter “O” and then to the letter “H” – the net result of that session.
Also in attendance was Vance Pollock, a gifted colleague of Warren’s who is adept with research. He discovered that the Barbecue Inn was built by Gus Kooles, a man of Greek ancestry who previously owned the Rathskeller in downtown on Haywood Street. In 1930, a German Jew and Kooles’ contemporary, Gus Adler, opened a German restaurant and lounge he called the Old Heidelberg in the building best remembered as the Sky Club on the west face of Beaucatcher Mountain. Warren was certain these men would have been acquainted. With the rise of the Nazi Party in Europe, business at the initially popular Old Heidelberg was decimated. Despondent from his failure in business, Adler became an alcoholic and died in a house fire in 1952.
After the séance, Pollock revealed that in 1896 real estate mogul Oliver Cromwell Hamilton (O.H.) purchased the first of 15 tracts of land on Beaucatcher from E.T. Clemmons. Hamilton called the development Ardmion Park, and here he built the home we know as the Sky Club. He and his wife Catherine moved to Asheville from Chicago around 1895. Their daughter Mary was either already born or soon to be born. Birth records from Chicago and Asheville differ on this point.
“This O.C. Hamilton, he’s a spook. By that I mean he doesn’t appear on any register of deeds, or any other records in the country except for once in the 1900 Buncombe County census record with his wife Kate (nee Catherine Brady) and his daughter Mary Amalgad Evelyn Hamilton, living at Ardmion on Beaucatcher,” Pollock said.
Buncombe County deeds show John Joseph Carroll, a Roman Catholic priest from Chicago, purchasing land in Asheville including parcels on Beaucatcher from E.T. Clemmons in 1896. Carroll’s mother’s name was Mary Amalgad Carroll. Hamilton named his daughter Mary Amalgad Evelyn Hamilton.
Pollock said he found an article about Kate Hamilton published afterward in the Asheville Citizen-Times stating that her husband, O.C. Hamilton from Chicago, died in July of 1916. An indenture dated March 1915, and registered with Buncombe County in July of 1916, shows a transfer of 13 tracts of land from John J. Carroll of Chicago to Mary A.E. Hamilton of Asheville in consideration of $10 and “for love and affection.”
Rev. Carroll also died in July of 1916. Both were born in 1856.
Pollock concludes that, “This evidence is far more than circumstantial to indicate O.C. Hamilton was the assumed name of John J. Carroll. They were one and the same man.”
One only hopes now that the spirits have had their say and that blessings have been offered, these spirits may be at rest, and all will be forevermore quiet and still at the Byrish Haus and Pub.
By Mark-Ellis Bennett