Most small-business owners will admit they didn't know what they were getting into when they opened up shop. They'll tell you creepy stories about crabby customers or meeting payroll. At least those risks are expected.
The business owners here have an added risk of the supernatural variety. Their businesses are straight up haunted.
How spooky are these tales, you ask? Let's put it this way: we were aiming for 10 stories. We stopped at five.
1. A Skeptic Changes His Mind at Faded Banner
A true skeptic, Don Allison laughed at the rumors about the building he was renovating for his business Faded Banner Publications.
"We had a fellow stop by right after we bought it," says Allison. "The first words out of his mouth were, 'You know this house is haunted, don't you?' Again, we're laughing, and I'm thinking, 'That explains the half empty booze bottles we're finding around the place.'"
Then Allison and his wife had similar experiences, like the sound of footsteps running down an upstairs hallway, doors slamming even though they were jammed open, and radios turning to the ghost's preferred stations.
But perhaps the freakiest story starts in Allison's basement. After seeing the experiment on TV, Allison tapped out "Shave and a Haircut" and waited for a response. At first, nothing happened. But he had learned that it can take spirits time to build up enough energy, so he gave the ghost a second shot. He waited, did it again, and got a clear "bump, bump."
And then he heard steps going across the basement and up the stairs.
Ghost management tip: Spirits are tricky, like the one that insisted on turning off his radio whenever a classic rock song came on. When Allison asked, the ghost stopped messing with the radio. Instead, it turned off the generator.
For more scary stories, check out Allison's book I Met a Ghost at Gettysburg.
2. The Lady on the Sofa at Cool Savannah Tours & Gifts
First, it was little things, like the staff feeling like someone was watching or items falling from shelves for no reason. But then customers started asking the Scarpatis about a woman sitting on their sofa. Every time, over the course of two years, the people said the woman was dressed in Victorian clothing and had trauma to her neck.
(Want to know who the lady on the sofa is? A Cool Savannah employee did the research. Read her findings in "Wandering, Seeking Spirit in Haunted Savannah.")
A local author / paranormal investigator offered to investigate, and that's when things really got strange, says Brenda Scarpati. Their Yorkipoo Winston, who usually never left their side, whined and refused to go in the room. Their daughter Tracy felt a hand on the small of her back.
When the investigation was over, they listened to the recordings. Here's some of what they heard:
- Before any questions were asked, they heard a voice say, "Hey, buddy Mike."
- They wondered why only Tracy felt anything, and a man's voice replied, "Dirty girl."
- When they asked, "Do you like Winston?" a little voice said, "Give me the dog."
Two days after the investigation, Tracy and Brenda went to open the shop. They found all of the pictures in the front and back rooms tilted to the right, and one room had claw marks in the wallpaper. The middle one, where the lady sits on the sofa, was untouched.
Ghost management tip: Sometimes spirits require a workaround.
"It was a unanimous decision by the staff to come in early in the morning so at closing all they have to do is secure the cash and leave," says Scarpati.
3. Too Many Ghosts to Count at the Pixy Theatre
After listening to owner Mike Harding's stories, we may have to declare the Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh, Indiana, the spookiest small business. He and his employees experienced every kind of paranormal phenomena, from a ghost that hates hip-hop so much it smashes the boom box to the specter of an eight-year-old boy hanging out in the back row.
However, the big creep-out may be the one that had 250 witnesses. According to Harding, they had a full house for their Christmas performance.
"And in the dead middle of the show, something slaps my girlfriend on the top of the head. She screams and the freakin' curtains blow out from behind the stage and hover over the top of the band. The only thing that would have caused that is if somebody had opened the stage door behind the curtains," he said.
Hardy headed back to check it out. No luck. The doors were locked from the inside.
Ghost management tip: You can minimize your paranormal troubles with inter-realm communications. For example, one Pixy Theatre employee was sweeping up the stage when the lights started to flicker.
According to Harding, the employee called out, "I know you're there, I'm not afraid of you, and I'm not here to cause any problems." And the lights came back on.
4. Things Go Pop in the Night at Onyx Spirits Co.
Adam von Gootkin (@AdamvonGootkin), cofounder of Onyx Sprits Company and Distillery (@OnyxMoonshine), says he and his business partner Peter Kowalczyk were playing a game of ping-pong in the tasting room when he saw the first ghost.
"Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone walk from my office right across the hallway to the next office," says von Gootkin. "And I'm like, Pete, somebody's here."
A security breach in a distillery is a big deal, so they checked it out. Nobody was there.
It would be easy to dismiss that as a trick of the eye. But eerie things kept happening, like slamming doors and footsteps in the hall. It only took a handful of incidents for von Gootkin to get the heebie-jeebies and call in the big guns: The Atlantic Paranormal Society (@Official_TAPS).
The TAPS team set up their equipment – camera gear, electromagnetic readers, and whatnot – and put von Gootkin in his office where he tried to speak to the spirits. And that's when the electromagnetic reader registered a change in the air.
Von Gootkin says the beeps made the hair stand up on his neck. But that wasn't the worst of it.
"With my own ears, I heard kids giggling behind the bar and bottles pop."
Feeling doubtful? You can listen to the TAPS recordings here.
Ghost management tip: Sometimes professional help is your best option, but be forewarned. According to TAPS, spirits can be more rambunctious once they're used to the investigators.
5. The Floating Lady at Buena Vista Winery
George Webber has played The Count while giving tours at the Buena Vista Winery (@BuenaVistaWines) for nearly five years. In that time, he has met at least 10 people who have seen ghosts at the winery. But the one he remembers best is his coworker who was working late after an event.
"It was like 11:30, and she's trying to get out, so she told the one lady who was working with her, 'Don't let anybody into the building,' and went inside," says Webber. "Not a second later, she saw what she thought was somebody going up the stairs."
Tired and frustrated, she turned to call out at her coworker. Instead of finding the other employee, she saw a ghostly white figure float up the stairs.
Ghost management tip: Friendly or not, ghosts can freak out your employees. Buena Vista lost two successive crews of cleaners because they heard a baby crying in one bathroom. Unfortunately, there isn't an insurance policy for that.
Need more scary tales? Read "Small Business Spotlight: Ghost Stories at The Worthington Inn." Happy Halloween!