Detroit Masonic Temple - Detroit, MI
Seeing that this is a list concerning the most haunted concert venues in America, it’s only right that we begin in the most nightmarish city in the country right now: Detroit. Now while the Motor City has descended into a full-on dystopia, one building that has not yet fallen victim to hard times (save for when Jack White paid its outstanding property taxes) is the historic Detroit Masonic Temple.
Designed by famed Detroit architect George D. Mason, the 14-story Masonic Temple broke ground in 1920 and is the largest temple of its kind in the world, with over 1,000 rooms, three ballrooms, three theaters, pool and a bowling alley. But because it is a Freemason hangout, the structure reportedly contains secret floors, hidden chambers and tunnels that allow Masons to travel throughout the premises undetected to perform, y’know, Freemason things. The haunted part comes from the building’s father. As legend has it, Mason dived deep into insolvency when constructing the temple, so much so that his wife packed up her bags and left. With his personal and business affairs in disarray, Mason sought release from his torment by ascending to the top of the temple and flinging himself to the grave. Now the specter Mason wanders the temple, and people claim that they’ve seen his apparition climbing the stairs to the roof on numerous occasions.
Music Hall - Cincinnati, OH
We’re not architects, nor are we well-versed in the particulars of construction work. But the first lesson that instructors impart to aspiring architects and construction mavens in architect school and construction school must surely be to never, under any circumstances, build anything on a burial ground. It’s common sense. But sometimes common sense deserts even the most sensible among us, which is why the people behind the development of the Cincinnati Music Hall chose to erect the classical music venue on a pauper cemetery.
Before the Music Hall took over the grounds in 1878, the spot held Cincinnati's first mental institution. A cholera outbreak struck in the 1830's leaving many children parentless, and the asylum was converted into an orphanage and quarantine area (sort of like the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell of its time). The orphanage fell into disrepair, and the grounds of the building ultimately became a graveyard for deceased homeless people, suicide victims and wanderers.
The city ended up buying the land and built exposition buildings over where the cemetery orphanage once stood. The expo buildings were then demolished to make way for the Music Hall where, throughout the structure’s history, expansions and renovations led to several gruesome discoveries. Two 1927 expansions uncovered over 60 coffins, and in the ‘80s, while adding an elevator shaft to the hall, workers found a stockpile of bones behind a concrete wall. Since then, the Music Hall has been home to ghost sightings, including a roaming poltergeist boy in 19th century period dress, strange music playing after hours, and waving ghosts in viewing boxes. But hey, at least they're friendly.
Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
When it opened in 1927, the Florida Theatre was one of the premier movie theaters in The Sunshine State. The hallowed stage has hosted music legends such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Fleetwood Mac and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but, according to the theatre’s website, the roots of the theatre are slightly more wicked. Like the Cincinnati Music Hall, the brains behind the operation saw fit to build not over a cemetery, but where a demonic police station once stood. OK. Scofflaws no matter how dastardly aren't quite the same as a hobo burial ground, but still, the point stands. These days, people claim that a spirit haunts the upper balcony, while staff have reported paranormal occurrences, like lights shutting on and off, and doors inexplicably slamming shut.
Bobby Mackey’s Music World - Wilder, KY
Dubbed “the most haunted nightclub in America,” Bobby Mackey’s in Kentucky may very well have the bloodiest backstory, if not the most fantastical. In 1850, the area contained a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant. The plant eventually shut down, but it's been speculated that the site remained popular among occultists who transformed the basement of the factory into a sacrificial chamber where humans and animals would meet their end.
Decades later in 1896, the headless corpse of 22-year-old Pearl Bryan was discovered about two miles from the plant. After falling pregnant, Bryan’s boyfriend Scott Jackson, a dental student, attempted to perform an abortion on Bryan. The abortion predictably went awry, as abortions performed by dental students are to do, and Bryan died during the procedure. Jackson and a friend decided to get rid of any evidence, and removed Bryan’s head and dumped her body in a field. It was the perfect plan, except that in their head removal zeal, the two forgot to remove Pearl’s shoes from her body. When he was awaiting death, Jackson vowed to haunt the area for eternity.
Out went the slaughterhouse, and in came a lively speakeasy in the ‘20s and ‘30s that was a refuge for local scoundrels and organized crime. By the time the 1950's rolled around, the club was named the Latin Quarter, where a singer named Robert Randall performed. Randall fell in love with the nightclub owner’s daughter who became pregnant. The nightclub owner put a hit out on Randall and had the singer killed. Distraught, the daughter poisoned her father and committed suicide in the basement.
So far, so reasonable. Understandably, police shuttered the building, until country singer Bobby Mackey purchased the venue in 1978. Since then, the ghost stories have ran abound, with extraordinary tales that include sightings of a headless ghost, a story of a possessed custodian whose exorcism was performed in the club, to even the rumor that visitors can find a gateway to the underworld in the basement. Bobby Mackey's also runs a thriving haunted tour business, so that might explain the screwy narrative of the bar.
The Masquerade - Atlanta, GA
If you thought Bobby Mackey’s hauntings were implausible, The Masquerade might have it beat. In the 1800’s, the DuPree Excelsior Mill stood where The Masquerade is today, and the mill had laughably bad luck. There was a fire, a spate of accidental deaths and an upsurge of tuberculosis just in case anyone had the fortune to evade the other death options. Fast forward to today and the ghost of a tall black man supposedly lurks the club (it is Atlanta, after all), and the bar experiences the usual paranormal gags like disembodied screams and cold areas. Most astounding is the belief that a vampire lives in the club. Perhaps playing up the whole haunted schtick, the three floors of the place are named Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.
Orpheum Theatre - Memphis, TN
It’s one of Memphis’ most beautiful venues, and also might be one of its most haunted. As history tells it, back in the 1920's, a little girl named Mary was killed in an accident on the street in front of the Orpheum. Since her death, people maintain that ghost-Mary resides in the theatre, either heard playing the organ or seen running through the aisles.
Roseland Theater - Portland, OR
And now for something a bit more up to date. In the late ‘80s, before Roseland was Roseland, the club was owned by a guy named Larry Hurwitz. Under Hurwitz, the venue was a new wave hotspot called Starry Night. The club also employed a 21-year-old promoter named Tim Moreau. In 1990, Moreau discovered that Hurwitz was running a counterfeit ticket scam. After a John Lee Hooker show, Moreau confronted Hurwitz with the information and threatened to go to the cops. Four days later, divers found Moreau’s body in the Willamette River weighed down by microphone stand bases. Ten years after the fact, Hurwitz was convicted of murdering Moreau. But by that time, the club had switched hands to Oregon Theater Management, which changed the name of the venue to Roseland. With that history in mind, residents have ran with it, saying that Moreau haunts Roseland to this day.
Sloss Furnaces - Birmingham, AL
Perhaps the greatest haunted venue of them all (and one of the most haunted places in the United States period) is the Sloss Furnaces. A stirring and immense collection of rusted steel and industrial ambitions, the former steel mill hulks on the outskirts of Birmingham and has a sordid and blood-soaked history.
Today, the most dangerous aspect of many people's jobs is sitting too much. When James Withers Sloss opened the facility in 1882, the workplace was replete with dangers that could end life in a split second. Low-paid workers were subject to any number of ghastly scenarios: fall to the death, boiled after slipping into molten steel, carbon monoxide poisoning, exhaustion, clothes trapped in gears. However, it was the graveyard shift workers who got the short end of the stick. A foreman named James "Slag" Wormwood ruled the night hours at the plant. Known for pushing his charges to the brink, under Wormwood’s watch 47 employees perished, more than any other foreman. Perhaps in an act of retribution, the fates saw to it that Wormwood met his end, the menace falling into a pool of melting ore.
But if you believe the ghost stories, Wormwood is still around and got the last laugh. Visitors claim to have seen the ghost of Slag slinking about the grounds, with his anguished howls and verbal abuse cutting through the air. Moreover in 1971, the year the plant was closed, a worker allegedly encountered a half-human/half-demon who beat him, severely burning his skin.
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