Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Bobby Mackey's

Located in Wilder, Ky, this is by far the most famous of the local haunts. It has a long history, and far to many stories connected to it to mention all of them here. There have been books written about it, it’s been the subject of several TV shows, including Unsolved Mysteries, Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Adventures, to name a few. And you can count on the local news to do a story on it just about every Halloween. But how much of what you’ve heard is true, and how much is hype?

Lets start at the beginning. I’m just going to give you the basics of the bars history and the tales around it, as much of it isn’t really known for sure, and what is out there varies depending on who you talk to. The site where Bobby Mackey’s sits was originally a slaughter house, built sometime in the late 1840’s, and was shut down in the 1890’s. Part of this slaughterhouse was a drain that led out to the Licking river, which is basically where the blood and other waste from the slaughtered animals was dumped. This drain is always referred to as a ‘well’, but no, it was used to discard waste.

Supposedly, with the slaughter house now abandoned, it became the gathering place for a group of local Satan worshipers. They would come to the empty building, and perform their rituals, said to sometimes involve the sacrifice of animals, and some say, small children, at the well. It’s at this point in the story were we come to the murder of Pearl Bryan. Her death by decapitation has been widely covered, and can be found in depth all over the net, but I’ll give you the abridged version here.

Pearl was a young woman from a well to do family from Greencastle, Indiana, who became involved with a man named Scott Jackson, a dental student attending the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati. They were introduced by Pearls cousin, William Wood, who was a friend of Jacksons. As sometimes happens, Pearl became pregnant by Scott, and arrangements were made by Scott and William to have Pearl go to Cincinnati for an abortion.

Scott Jackson         pearl Bryan        Alonzo-Walling

   Pearl was 5 months pregnant when she left on February 1, 1896, telling her family she was going for a visit to Indianapolis. Instead, she travelled to Cincinnati to meet Scott and his Roommate Alonzo Walling. It turns out, Scott himself planned to do the abortion. He first tried aborting the baby by giving Pearl cocaine. When this didn’t work, he tried an actual abortion by using his dental tools. Having blundered that, and with Pearl now scared, injured and bleeding, it seems Scott decided to get rid of her all together. They took her over the bridge to a secluded area in Fort Thomas, Ky, about 2 miles from the Alexandria Turnpike, and there, they decapitated her. It is believed she was still alive when they took her head. While her body was found there, her head never was, but it’s said that Scott and Alonzo were members of the previously mentioned cult, and that they took her head, and used it as part of some ritual at the well.

Pearls body was identified by her shoes. and after they knew who she was, they were able to link her back to Scott and Alonzo through her cousin William. Scott and Alonzo were arrested, tried, and found guilty. They were sentenced to death, but were offered the choice of that, or life in prison in exchange for revealing the location of Pearls head. They refused, and were hung behind the courthouse in Newport Kentucky on March 21, 1897.  Which, by the way, was the last public hanging in Campbell County. These 3, Pearl, Scott, and Alonzo, are said to be some of the spirits that haunt Bobby Mackey’s.

Moving on, the slaughter house was eventually torn down, and a roadhouse was built there. It became a speakeasy in the 20’s, and a popular place to gamble. There were allegedly several people killed there, but their bodies were dumped elsewhere as to prevent drawing attention to the illegal drinking and gambling at the site.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, the building was bought by E.A. Brady, better known as “Buck”. Buck turned the building into a tavern and casino called the Primrose. The Primrose did well for several years, until the local crime syndicate decided they wanted a piece of the action. After much pressure, including an attempted hit on Buck, he caved and sold out to the mob. It was said that when he left, he swore the place would never thrive again as a casino. Buck committed suicide in September 1965.

After Brady sold out, the building re-opened as another nightclub called the Latin Quarter. Several times during the early 1950’s, the new owners of the bar were arrested on gambling charges. In 1955, Campbell County deputies broke into the building with sledge hammers and confiscated slot machines and gambling tables. Sounds like Bucks curse has some bite to it, and his is another of the spirits said to still reside there.

It’s during this time that the building gained what has to be it’s most famous ghost…Johanna. She is said to have been the daughter of the owner, and that she fell in love with a singer that worked there named Robert Randal. Johanna got pregnant, and decided to run away with Robert. But, her father found out about her plans, and had Robert Killed. Learning this, Johanna decided to kill her father, and herself. She went to a room above the stage, and wrote a suicide note/love poem to Robert on the wall , then attempted to poison herself and her father. He survived, but Johanna did not. She was 5 months pregnant at the time. Now she and Robert are said to haunt the building (it’s getting crowded in there).

   In the 70’s, the building was called the Hard Rock Cafe (no relation to the current chain of restaurants), but was shut down after some fatal shootings on the property. Which brings us to what it is today…Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Bobby and his wife Janet bought the place in 1978, and according to legend, that’s when shit really started getting real. Again, the storied are to numerous to cover all of them (feel free to add some in the comments section), but there’s a few doozies. Janet is said to have been attacked by unseen forces there, and refused to return (she was pregnant), patrons report ghosts, headless ghosts, ghost dogs, being scratched, pushed (one filed a police report claiming to have had his ass kicked by a ghost in the men’s room), being followed home by ghosts, juke box playing though not even plugged in, miscarriages caused by ghosts, the smell of roses in the building (Johanna is supposed to have worn rose scented perfume), a room in the basement where evil faces can be seen on the walls, and on and on and on. But probably the biggest part of the story, is a man named Carl Lawson.

Carl worked for many years as the caretaker at Bobby Mackey’s. He had an apartment over the bar, so he was pretty much always there. In fact, he spent a large part of his life at that building, having previously worked there when it was still the Primrose. Carl’s story is Bobby Mackey’s main claim to fame. Carl is the one who experienced most of the hauntings, knew all the past stories, and was even supposedly possessed at one point, leading to an exorcism. It’s Carl’s story that the book ‘Hells Gate’ is based on. During Carl’s time there, he is said to have fought possession, talked to Johanna, and struggled against all the evil spirits that reside there.

So that’s the story, in a nutshell, but how much of it is true? Lets rewind and start at the beginning. Yes, the slaughter house appears to be factual, and there is a so called ‘well’ there, but what about the cult that practiced there? I doubt this is true. I cant find mention of any cult activity until the 1980’s after Carl’s story started making it’s rounds. There just no proof of it. It is possible of course, but not very likely. Which leads to the murder of Pearl Bryan. This is a true story, and can be verified easily, all except for the connection to Bobby Mackey’s. There is NO proof, or reason to believe, Pearls head was dropped into the well there (it’s not ever really a well, more like a big drain). Her body was found two miles away, and the only connection any of this has to Mackey’s is that they MAY have passed by the building on their way. It’s actually more likely the head was dropped into the river, just to get rid of it. They had hoped to conceal Pearls identity by removing the head, not offer it to Satan.

As for Johanna, I believe there’s some truth to the tale. There was a Johanna Ragan that appears to have committed suicide by poison at that location, but that was in 1914, well before the Primrose days. See her death certificate and a newspaper scan below. I believe this actual event was blown up into the tragic love story it is today. As far as her alleged lover, Robert Randal, I don’t believe he existed. Bobby Mackey’s middle Name is Randal…making him Robert Randal Mackey. I think this is just something someone came up with to add something to the tale of Johanna. And the suicide note on the wall in the room above the stage….I do not believe this was written by Johanna, but long after her death. What’s written there is actually the lyrics to a song called ‘Never’, sung by Toni Arden, and was released in the late 40’s or early 50’s. Probably just something written for some reason by who knows who, or to deliberately add to the Johanna mythos.


   And lastly, there’s Carl Lawson. He passed away last year. I was lucky enough to get to know Carl a little bit. We would talk, and he would tell stories of the bar and it’s history. A nice guy, honestly. But Carl also had a long history of substance abuse and alcoholism. Maybe Carl believed the stories he told, maybe he didn’t, and it was for attention or to cover up his own demons. Either way, I don’t believe any of them. Carl, as I said earlier, spent much of his life there. He knew all the tales and secrets of the place, and he is also where 90% of the ghost stories came from. Without Carl, Bobby Mackey’s wouldn’t be the ghost mecca it is today.


  1. I respect Carl But I think the guy WAS DRUNK THAT NIGHT NO OFFENSE SORRY
    RESPECT TO THE DEAD!!! : ) LOVE The whole story

    • I met Carl Lawson on a visit to Bobby Mackeys in 2009. I talked to him for over an hour and he truely believes he was posessed. He may have had some drug and alcohol issuses as a young man but he was clean and sober when I spoke with him. I thought he was a very nice man. I didnt take him as a scam artist. I believe he in his heart felt he was posessed and I cant say he was or wasnt because I wasnt there. R.I.P. Carl

  2. Maybe your to scared to realize that paranorma exists. Angels and Devils also. You cannot judge a man on his past and to critize him in death just shows how weak of a person you are. If you critize everything in the world and have nothing to believe in..what the point of living? Just because you cannot find newspapers and documents doesnt mean it didnt exist or happen. (BTW there is a video of his possession, watch it) Until you know what its like to be trapped in your own body and mind, don’t start judging people on what YOU think you know. and yes my name is Johanna

  3. This place is creepy. I used to drive by this place when I was a kid while on my way to see my grandma in Newport, I used lived at a trailer park in Elsmere. When driving by, I always got the feeling that someone was looking at me from the front doors. This was before I knew anything about the place, I just got bad vibes from it.

  4. Bobby Mackey states he doesn’t believe in Ghost! So you can’t say he’s making up ghost stories to sell any type of product or to bring people in to make money! And Mr.Lawson wanted to tell Mr.Mackey all the ghost stories,but,Mr.Mackey didn’t want to hear them. And over the years now his Family has made cash on the selling of these products of stories that have been keeping people coming back for more tales of murder/love/the occult/and of course Ghost Stories! But Hell after years of hearing this or that,I’d try to make money too to keep food,clothing,and to put my child through college. In which him and his wife did do by running a successful country bar an supernatural place! What’s wrong with that. Business is Business,Right!! And last two things I’ve gotta say is Mr.Lawson I hope your at peace now! And every place has their own Ghost/Paranormal problems…Thank you ever so much Kevin

    • Bobby Mackey is a good man and in the 90s he would do shows to raise money for my ministry at Storehouse Ministries in Covington. I went there I think it was twice to be a part of the fund raising events. He sat with me for a long while and we talked about his desire to help the drug problem in Northern Ky. If he is a Christian man and I would like to believe he is he is a good man. Thank you Bobby Randall Mackey

  5. I’ve only been to Bobby Mackey’s two times the first time was uneventful however the secound time I was out with my girlfriends for the evening I had 2 drinks with dinner we got to Bobby Mackey’s about an hour after our dinner and I immediately got nauseous and threw up all overtried to walk across the bar and felt so drunk and disoriented and I tripped over everything I felt like I was totally wasted and I only had 2 drinks and a glass of water and the approximately 4 hours we had that now then pass out and when I got out side of the bar i felt bette immediately after going out side unless someone spiked my water that I was drinking I don’t kno if paranormal can make you sick but I will never go back to that place it was the worst feeling in the whole worldif

  6. […] Bobby Mackey’s Music World | Creepy Cincinnati – As far as her alleged lover, Robert Randal, I don’t believe he existed. Bobby Mackey’s middle Name is Randal…making him … and it was for attention or to cover up his own demons. Either way, I don’t … 8 thoughts on ” Bobby Mackey’s Music World ” Alex Gibson said … […]

  7. I’m going on a ghost tour of this place on Sunday, let’s see if I can catch some evidence. I think this place should be respected, there’s real entity’s there I believe from all the accounts and evidence. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about going.

  8. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts but I used to go to Bobby Mackey’s with a group of friends in the ’90’s. Every time we went someone would get mad at someone in the group. That never happened if we went anywhere else.

  9. As a strong believer in ghosts and demons, I believe there’s something sinister about Bobby Mackey’s, but I can smell “urban legends” from 650 miles away. The Satanic cult story from 19th Century Kentucky doesn’t really ring true and none of the papers reported that angle to the story. There is also no report of “Johanna” or Robert Randall in any Kentucky newspaper from 1930 to 1970. I’d think that would’ve been a big story back in the days when it wasn’t uncommon to find stories of suicide and other personal or embarrassing events in the news. Good job on finding the death certificate of the actual Johanna as well as putting a name to the song lyrics scrawled on the wall. I’m fairly sure the real Johanna didn’t write that, people in the 1910s didn’t write in block letters. Nor did they know songs from 30-40 years later. It is amazing that so many people fall for these silly campfire stories. Case in point, see Why does Bobby Mackey need those stories when his joint has enough creepy history without them? Girl committed suicide there, check. It was a slaughterhouse, check. Creepy enough.

    • I lived in Newport from 1946 until 1959 during that time I saw the renovation of the building and they took off part of it and the awnigs in the front. I also played near there and never saw a ghost.

  10. As an amateur researcher into occult and esoteric subjects, a curious aspect about Bob Mackey’s place to me is the geographical location. Very few rivers on the planet flow south to north, Licking River is one of them. There is a correlation with these S to N flowing rivers and occult activity, as this appeals to the Left hand path/inverse ideology. Having first noticed this, I then went looking for nearby Masonic lodges, was not really surprised to find a Scottish Rite lodge dating from 1953 just couple miles from Mackey’s on the opposite side of the river in Covington (Madison Ave.) The pattern always repeats itself, Masons construct their temples in certain places for a reason.
    As part of my verification process, I will now explore the ley line grid in this area.
    If I have given offense to any Masons reading this, not my intention but you might want to really dive deep into what high level Freemasonry is all about. What does any of this have to do with whatever is going on at Mackey’s? Not sure yet but my experiences and travels show me there is a strong correlation of occult rituals and paranormal phenomenon with dertain location on the World Grid.

  11. I took a group with me a few years back, which would have been our second visit. I was the one who captured the Evp that Wanda said would have been Carl Lawson. He said ” look at the band-aid Miley”. I took my headphone off which I was listening to it realtime, and was putting a bandaid on the button on a laser grid light so it would stay on. Also at the same time, just had my ovilus x on the table next to my recorder that happened to say “out” as soon as the Evp came across and I was pulling the band-aid out. I love that place, and best thing is is that it’s only 2 hours from me

  12. My dad was in a car accident in front of there and is where the table cloth story came about. I am unable to find anything on it anymore. What I did find was not factual. My grandfather was a wilder police officer on scene and he told us about what happened that night on dec.6th 1981 I believe. If anyone can help me find out more information or videos I would appreciate it

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