Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Tales of death and portals to hell make Bobby Mackey’s one of the most notorious haunts in the US

Terrifying Paranormal Claims at

Bobby Mackey’s Music World

  • Said to be home to a 'portal to hell' through an old basement drainage well
  • Spirits here are famously known to be aggressive, attacking and scratching people at times
  • Shadow figures and unexplained sounds are often reported
  • Reportedly haunted by a spirit named 'Johanna'
  • Also said to be home to the spirit of a local murder victim, Pearl Bryan
  • At least one demonic possession is said to have happened here

Music and Mystery at

Bobby Mackey’s Music World

A short drive from the Ohio border, on a thin strip of land between an old rail line and a dusty rural highway, sits a deceptively unassuming building that might look more like a rail depot than a locally lauded music venue. But if the look of the place doesn’t necessarily draw you in, perhaps the sounds of live country music, mechanical bull competitions, and all around raucous good times might.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World has been a hopping honky tonk for over four decades, but over time, it has become famous for things far different than music. For years, tales of intense and sometimes violent hauntings have leaked out of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, emanating much further than the sounds of live music ever could.

Timeline of Bobby Mackey’s Music World's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Bobby Mackey’s Music World through the years


Long before the property at 44 Licking Pike was well-known for its music, it was known for something a little different: animal slaughter. Beginning in 1850, a small slaughterhouse was built on the land. Almost nothing remains of this slaughterhouse except for a few well-like drains in the basement of the current building, which were once used to drain animal blood out of the slaughterhouse. But, by 1930 the property’s life as an entertainment pub had begun.


The 1930s club was named the Bluegrass Inn. But, a few short years after opening, it was bought by a local mobster, E.A. “Buck” Brady, who turned it into a tavern/casino called The Primrose. Another local mob in the tavern game, the Cleveland Four, soon tasked enforcer ‘Red’ Masterson with muscling Brady out of business. While no records remain of the negotiation methods Masterson used, one thing couldn’t be denied: they worked on Buck Brady. Brady soon sold The Primrose to the Cleveland Four and retired.


The tavern then turned into the Latin Quarter, and soon earned a reputation for violence. But, locals weren’t about to put up with the Cleveland Four’s influence for long, as lawmakers pushed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to expel organized crime. This made the Latin Quarter a target and devastated its business. The Latin Quarter closed in 1961, and a revolving door of new owners followed. But, one thing that didn’t change was the tavern’s violence. Locals came to know the pub as the “Bloody Bucket” thanks to the level of crime there.


In 1973, the club changed names again to the Hard Rock Café, though it held no relation to the popular restaurant chain and operated as a biker bar instead. However, after several shootings at the bar, it closed in 1977. Finally, the building was bought by Bobby Mackey in 1978 and converted into Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Bobby Mackey spent the following years rehabilitating the club’s bad reputation and bringing in live music with popular regional acts to bring crowds back that had once been scared off by violent crime.


Bobby Mackey’s endeavors succeeded, and against the odds, his version of the club prospered. He installed a large dance floor and a mechanical bull, and by the late 1980s, Bobby Mackey’s Music World was resurrected from its “Bloody Bucket” reputation. But, for many who visited the newly popular honky tonk, there seemed to be more than just music filling the air. As time went on, more and more patrons left Bobby Mackey’s with stories of strange and often unexplainable occurrences, bringing forth long-lasting paranormal legends.

Demonic Possession at Bobby Mackey’s Music World?

Once locals and employees started examining the unexplained events at Bobby Mackey’s Music World, the reportedly paranormal happenings became more severe, and potentially even demonic. At one point, the then-caretaker of the club, Carl Lawson, was said to be possessed by a demonic entity that supposedly came from a history of satanic rituals held on the property.

Though Lawson was exorcised of this supposed entity, the demonic side of the story never truly abated. And, this event stoked more interest in the paranormal activity at Bobby Mackey’s.

Bobby Mackey's Music World contains a reported portal to hell

Not long Lawson’s story came out, theories about the exact sources of these hauntings began to swirl. Two spirits were soon identified as local women with tragic backstories: Pearl and Johanna. The first spirit is that of Pearl Bryan, and Lawson claims he was told of her presence at the club during his possession.

Lawson explained that, during his possession, he learned she was sacrificed as part of a satanic ritual on the property and had her head thrown down a well in the basement, turning the well into a ‘portal to hell’. And, while pulling up a few basement floor boards revealed a well-like slaughterhouse drain from the original 1850s structure, not much else matched the true fate of Pearl Bryan.

Pearl Bryan & Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Pearl Bryan was a woman who once lived in the area who was indeed murdered in 1896, and was decapitated as part of the murder. However, there was not any connection with satanic ritual, nor did her murder take place near the current Bobby Mackey’s property. In fact, it occurred several miles away. The reality of Pearl Bryan’s unfortunate demise is much more straightforward than a sacrifice to Satan.

She was simply the lover of a man named Scott Jackson, who impregnated her out of wedlock and demanded an abortion. When all attempts failed, he opted to poison her with an overdose of cocaine, which also failed. Jackson and an accomplice, Alonzo Walling, decapitated Bryan and tossed her head not into any well or drain, but off a bridge into the Ohio River. Both were later convicted and executed for her murder. Despite this, numerous reports remain of patrons and employees at Bobby Mackey’s encountering Pearl’s ghost.

The Jilted Lover Ghost of Bobby Mackey’s Music World

The other female spirit at Bobby Mackey’s is Johanna, who has an equally unfortunate backstory. Johanna’s ghost has become so well known that Bobby Mackey once wrote a song about her and her uncertain past life. The song goes that, in life, she was Johanna Jewels (possibly a stage name) and was a performer at the Latin Quarter, along with the daughter of one of the mob-connected owners.

Johanna went on to start a secret romance with a bar patron, Robert Randall, who eventually got Johanna pregnant, and when her father found out, he had Randall killed. Johanna, in a fit of depression, took her own life in the building.

Fact & Fiction:

Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Much like the real story of Pearl Bryan, there are many inconsistencies between legend and life in Johanna’s story. None of the Cleveland Four mobsters nor any proprietors of the clubs before Bobby Mackey’s had daughters named Johanna. And over time, many researchers have identified the name Robert Randall as likely just a simple derivation from Bobby Mackey himself, as his full name is Robert Randall Mackey.

However, there is a record of a Johanna Ragan committing suicide by poisoning in the area. She is recorded as having died in 1914, long before the property’s use as a tavern, and did not die at 44 Licking Pike, but rather 44 Pike Road – several miles from the site of Bobby Mackey’s Music World. But, much like the entity of Pearl Bryan, visitors continue to report encounters with the spirit of Johanna, though which Johanna still remains in question.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World Paranormal Legend

Despite the established differences between local lore and historical record, reports of powerful hauntings continually come out of Bobby Mackey’s, and it gained a reputation as one of the most profoundly haunted buildings in the United States.

Since the 1990s, Bobby Mackey’s Music World has been featured on numerous television programs documenting its paranormal tales, including National Geographic’s Is It Real?, Discovery Channel’s A Haunting, Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Most Terrifying Places in America, Destination America’s Paranormal Lockdown, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, and the Buzzfeed Unsolved web series.

Perhaps most famously, Bobby Mackey’s hosted the very first aired episode of Ghost Adventures and included a scene that showed host Zak Bagans being scratched by an unseen force in the basement, near the drainage well now reported to be the ‘portal to hell’.

So You Want to Experience Bobby Mackey’s Music World?

Along with being a regular stop for paranormal television productions, Bobby Mackey’s is an in-demand location for paranormal investigators and enthusiasts of just about every variety.

Bobby Mackey

Private investigations and public events are common, and more stories of intense experiences with the honky tonk’s ghosts continue to come out all the time. Teams have captured potential EVPs, photographic anomalies, video footage of strange occurrences, and have had countless personal experiences while investigating through the building.

Though the lore and history don’t quite match up, some consider the tales just another layer of intriguing mystery behind Bobby Mackey’s Music World, using them as further incentive to keep investigating the ghost stories to learn what the full story might be. Regardless, the club continues to be a must-stop spot both for local fans of country music and far-flung investigators of all things spooky and scary.