Oct. 30, 2012 — After disco ruined the live music scene in the late 1970s and all the gigs dried up (hail the DJ!), I took a manager’s job at the Broken Bit — a dinner house on Highway 41 in Coarsegold about 40 minutes outside of Fresno.
I didn’t know the place was haunted when I hired on, but from almost the first evening I worked there I noticed unusual activity when I would lock the 15,000 square foot building down for the night. Even in the heat of summer, I would feel this incredible cold as I walked through the building toward the last darkened hallway that led past the pantry to the back door.
At first I felt as if someone was watching me. Then I felt as if someone was following me. Some nights it felt as if I was walking through a field of sticky spider webs. Night after night my anxiety increased with each and every step. I shuddered from the cold and trembled with fear walking down that hallway. I just shook and shook and shook as I tried to slip my key into the deadbolt.
One day when I arrived to open the restaurant, a locked exit door was wide open, and the alarm was blaring. It could only have been opened from the inside. I didn’t have an answer for that one.
One evening the bartender asked me where the sound of running water was coming from. We searched and searched, and it turned out the shower in the vacant apartment above the bar was running full blast. I went upstairs, unlocked the door and turned it off. I never figured that one out, either. I was the only one in the building with a key.
Curiously, the owners had remodeled that apartment, but spent only one night there, preferring to sleep in their motor home behind the restaurant instead. They firmly denied having any paranormal experiences.
Then one night after we closed and everyone was gone, as I counted the cash drawers I heard the sound of someone walking in the foyer, shaking a drink glass full of ice cubes outside the office. When I rushed to the foyer to check it out, no one was there. This became an almost nightly occurrence, and the ice shaking sound soon morphed to include whispered voices. I could never make out what they were saying. Then a few nights later inexplicable bangs and bumps started reverberating all around the building. Womp! Bam! Ka-pow! Stomp, stomp, stomp!
My final nightly walks through the building just kept getting colder and colder. I know it sounds crazy, but eventually I began to shut the building down by turning on all the lights by the back door so I didn’t have to walk down that freezing hallway in the dark again, humming to myself so I couldn’t notice the whispering and the strange noises.
By a stupid accident I finally found out what might have been causing these bizarre events. One day as I was handing the groundskeeper her check, I mentioned one of my experiences, and asked, “Can you believe it?” She matter-of-factly said, “Oh, that’s Janis.”
Turns out the groundskeeper’s family once owned the restaurant, and she took the groundskeeper’s job to help preserve her grandfather’s apple orchard outside the main dining room. She told me this story.
Janis had been a cocktail waitress who lived in the apartment upstairs, and she and the bartender were having a wonderful and very public romantic relationship until the night her beau discovered he was more interested in an attractive young customer.
A distraught Janice left work, jumped in her car, sped down the highway and promptly drove off a cliff to her death. Her haunting of the place began almost immediately.
“I’m not surprised you’ve met her,” the groundskeeper said, folding the check in half and stuffing it in her shirt pocket as she headed for the door. “She hates men.”
Well, after that I tried many times to convince Janis she should leave me alone because I meant her no harm, but it didn’t do any good. I worked there a few more months, and the intensity of my experiences kept increasing. Frankly, I just didn’t want to be alone in that building anymore — even for a paycheck on Friday — so I quit.
Even with all the lights on and me humming away, my nightly walk down that hallway became more than I could endure. Recently I found out some Internet ghost hunters even have called the long-abandoned restaurant one of the most haunted places in the whole country. Whoa.
I know, I know. Some doubting wise cracker is going to say, “Yeah, you quit your job because a ghost was following you? Right.”
Hey, you’re lucky you’re not me, or you’d understand. All I can tell you is beware — you never know what kind of creepy thing-gee could be lurking out there in the dark following you home this Halloween night.
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