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See any ghosts in this mirror? Some have.

Showboat patron stays after bar closes

The term "spirits," referring to alcoholic beverages, came from when tavern patrons gave a toast and clinked glasses together. This ritual was thought to release bad spirits from the glass, leaving only the good ones to imbibe. The bad spirits are left to hang around the bar.

"Thus, if you're looking for a place where bad spirits are hanging around, look no further than a bar," former Showboat Saloon owner Mike Showalter said.

Whether it's the unwanted bad spirits or a friendly female patron that allegedly died in the apartment above, Showboat has housed several mysterious happenings over the years including cold spots, doors opening or closing, kegs of beer moving, a pinball machine playing itself and a female apparition in turn-of-the-century clothing appearing in the giant mirror.

When Showalter purchased the tavern in 1991, he said people told him the stories.

"These stories have been passed down from generation to generation and, with that in mind, I believe that the cold spots in the basement, jukebox turning on at odd hours and shifting cases of beer are not related to a drafty old building, electronic program or employees sneaking drinks," Showalter said with a smile. "I believe it to be of an other-worldly presence."

Showalter said some patrons reported seeing a female visage in the saloon's large mirror, which some believe to be a former apartment resident.

Tricia DeFosse, the current co-owner, said bartenders have seen the female apparition appear in the upstairs apartments "checking in on her establishment."

"There's a room upstairs that they rent out, and there's some haunting activity up there, plus a little bit around the bar," said Terry Fisk, co-author of "Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations," who investigated the saloon. "It's believed that it's haunted by a young girl who at one time lived above the saloon."

Though currently dilapidated, the upstairs apartments once housed six couples. The last of those 12 residents is believed to occasionally appear dressed in period clothing from the 20s and 30s.

Dells resident Dave Pugh, who has worked at the bar, said he lived in the apartment about four years ago.

"It's supposedly haunted but there was only one incident that I experienced," he said. "There was one summer I lived upstairs, and I was dating a girl who swung by and saw me on her lunch break. When she left, I started falling back asleep when I heard my door open and close. I was thinking she came back to see me. Well I felt a tickle on the bottom of my feet, and I rolled over and no one was standing there."

Pugh added he's heard footsteps in the hallway and lights would turn on or off.

Defosse said she and her husband have only had one strange experience at the bar when an unplugged pinball machine turned on.

"My cousin, another guy, my husband and me were closing up one night. All the vending machines went to one switch, which we turned off so there was no power," DeFosse said. "All of a sudden our pinball machine started playing by itself. I've never bought into ghost stories, but I was like, 'What's going on?'"

DeFosse said the ball was flying in and around the machine as the flapper buttons went in and out. She said the occurrence lasted 15 minutes.

DeFosse added some bartenders have reported hearing kegs moving around inside the basement's walk-in cooler. When they open the door, no one is inside.

Though the stories have stretched for generations most bartenders and owners never experience anything. Showalter said that doesn't necessarily mean there aren't ghosts there. "As far as lifeless bodies are concerned, I only have to look as far as some of my former staff," he said with a laugh.


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