Editor’s note: This story is featured in the October 19 print edition of CityBeat.
Arnold’s Bar & Grill is despised by everything around it. It is small and plain because it is one of the oldest buildings in the city centre. It is also one of those that suffer the most.
Who cares? Take your pick, but let’s start at the beginning.
Smith and Susan Fawcett bought the land at 210 East 8th St. as an investment in 1833, but Smith died of unclear causes within the year. What happened next becomes hazy, but the gist is that, after some interesting legal maneuvers, Susan gained ownership and oversaw the construction of the buildings that house Arnold around 1838.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that the widow Fawcett then opened a brothel. This is speculation, but paranormal activity indicates that at least one brave female spirit still lives there. She has long black hair and wears a dark blue dress from the 19th century. Multiple Arnold employees have seen her walking around the upper floors, which were apartments for most of the building’s history. Some who have seen her refuse to enter the third floor.
The building at 210 E. 8th became a saloon in the 1860s. Simon Arnold bought the business in 1878, his family moved to the third floor and, together with his wife Kate, became the first of three generations of Arnolds to run the bar, live there and run a boarding house on the upper floors.
The overpowering smell of roses that sometimes permeates parts of the second floor is probably the brothel period or Arnold’s early tenure. Roses play a common role in paranormal activity, although believers debate their meaning. Some claim that the smell indicates the presence of an angel, although Arnold is an unlikely place to find one of those.
Other tenants can stay too. Co-owner Bethany Breeden is one of several people who describe the presence of two children who are still scammers
and play on the second floor.
Most of the ghosts in the building are “quite benign” according to paranormal investigator Dave Howard, but some feel there is one unpleasant character in the mix. It is part of bar lore that Arnold’s is still open through Prohibition. The specific truths of this claim are questionable. The saloon
it became a restaurant and “soft drink establishment” in 1919, but owner Hugo Arnold was arrested for bringing whiskey into the building two and a half years into Ohio Prohibition. He went out of business less than a year later. William, Hugo’s son, was in a jazz band in the 1920s, and it seems that small, wet types of events continued on the third floor for a while.
Ghosts can be found from top to bottom, but the second floor “Bathtub Room” is said to be the most haunted. Howard and his wife Theresa are the bosses of Cornerstone Paranormal, and they have conducted the most otherworldly research on the premises. They emphasize that they don’t “look
for ghosts.” Yes, they are believers, but they dedicate a lot of diligence to being as scientific as possible in their investigations, drawing conclusions only on what they measure with different types of equipment. This includes audio recorders, devices that record dramatic changes in static or physical electrical vibrations, as well as a camera made by customizing an Xbox.
This last invention has raised visual representations of several people around the bathtub. One seems to be washing a second’s hair; and another can be seen crouching next to the tub churning something. There is a false floor under the bathtub, said to have been used during Prohibition, and the ghostly butler who still works on bathtub gin is one of three or four spirits that Cornerstone Paranormal has identify with confidence.
The identity of two other spirits is more specific. One is likely Jim Christakos, who bought Arnold’s in 1959. In the tangible sense, you still find it there on the menu: Arnold’s famous Greek Spaghetti is Christakos’ creation. Christakos was a colorful character. During the Great Depression, he became a professional wrestler. He was good at it, he drew a following, and traveled nationally, but he was a quiet man. His skills were mainly physical, and as
pro wrestling began to change to the world of theatre, he found work where a confident, muscular man who was good at keeping his mouth shut could excel – the Newport underworld. He was a blackjack dealer who did some side work in “the collection business.”
Running Arnold was his last professional occupation, and one in which he excelled. People remember him as amiable and likeable, although patrons and employees were smart enough not to cross him. Audio equipment has picked up the name “Chris” being spoken on several occasions, and it seems that a voice wants to convey that Chris (or Christakos) is a good guy.
Steve is the most recognizable spirit, the most recent, and probably the strongest force. He was a tall, thin man, Black in life. He loved life and lived it with enthusiasm as a wicked, humorous, colorful, nattily dressed gay man. He was fashion conscious enough, in fact, that he wouldn’t make the short walk between home and Arnold in work clothes. He came to Arnold dressed to the nines, changed to start working as a cook, and then changed again before leaving the bar at the end of his shift.
Years after his untimely death, he may still be following this routine. Before work, Steve always changed his shoes at a chair just inside the Bathtub Room. Today, people often report seeing a vague movement as they pass this spot; but the most compelling stories about Steve are not vague or obscure.
Pam Diebold, who has been at Arnold’s long enough to be voted one of the best bartenders in the city, has had multiple brushes with the beyond at Arnold’s. The creepiest happened a night after closing. Diebold set the alarm, locked it and entered a cabin from the front. Then he waited for a cab that seemed confused to drive. Instead, he asked Diebold, “Is your friend coming with you?”
Diebold was confused because she had been on the street alone. When asked what he was talking about, the cabbie described a tall, thin, flashily dressed Black man who he saw facing her as she locked up. The only obvious part of this exchange was that he was describing Steve, the chef who had died two weeks earlier. Steve stayed at Arnold’s that night and ever since. At least one worker has seen him looking exactly the same as his living self.
Cornerstone Paranormal specifically noted Steve’s presence on different occasions, months apart. He changes shoes and sometimes comes downstairs, but is most often experienced as a spirit moving cheerfully back and forth from the kitchen to the bar, which he did as a matter of order in life.
Other ghosts are more nebulous. The most common experience involves the stemware hanging behind the bar. Sometimes glasses slip to the front
from the rack, hanging momentarily on the edge at the end, then falling to the floor, shattering into strangely neat piles of glass. Former owner, bartenders and patrons have all watched this phenomenon from start to finish on several occasions. In front of the bar in this same area, customers often report being inexplicably patted on the back.
Cornerstone Paranormal has also documented glassware rattling, and they use this as an example of how they operate. Howard, who works in technology security for a living, has put a lot of time and effort into understanding Cornerstone’s equipment and its limitations, consulting with geologists and
meteorologists to recognize the difference between seismic activity produced by traffic, construction, weather events, or other natural behavior versus the unexplained.
For a time, an empty wine bottle was found sitting on the floor behind the bar at the start of a day’s shift. After this happened several times with everyone denying responsibility for it, the security tapes were consulted, only to find that there were blank spots in the footage before and after the bottle appeared.
A member of staff stood stunned one day when he saw the sink in the Bathtub Room turn on. He turned it off and watched the same thing happen again. This room is considered to be the most haunted because many people have experienced all kinds of paranormal activity here on several occasions.
Although they are often shaken, people usually do not feel threatened by their ghostly encounters at Arnold’s. Diebold, however, recalls one notable exception. A patron came downstairs in a hurry, pale, sweaty, and looking very frightened. “Something really bad happened up there once,” he told her before he hurriedly left the bar and did not return.
Why does one place have so many restless spirits? There are several theories. The dubious one is that these stories are all nonsense, but that ghost stories prompt more ghost stories. Obviously, this is possible and logical, but Howard thinks there is too much consistency in the experiences at Arnold’s to deny that it is haunted. As for why here? Howard believes that Arnold is a good place for people to choose to socialize when they leave their bodies.
A spiritual counselor offered a different explanation to former owner Ronda Breeden. He says 210 E. 8th sits above the confluence of two undergrounds
waterways that meet from different directions, creating a sort of permanent underground whirlpool that holds spirits.
Regardless of why the ghosts are staying, they seem quite happy. If you want to experience the horrible feeling of evil, visit an old prison or asylum. At Arnold’s, the sex workers, the pro wrestler, the hot cook and the everyday drunks all had a pretty good time in life, and that hasn’t changed. When there are no specific sounds or voices heard on the Cornerstone Paranormal equipment while the bar is closed, Howard still hears the low hum of bar conversation, as if Arnold’s was an innocent version of The Gold Room in The Shining.
To trigger specific reactions, Cornerstone likes to use trigger words or phrases and look for reactions on a static meter. The phrase that causes him to blow up the most at Arnold’s?
As for me, I’m not sure what to believe, but if I’m going to be stuck in some earthly plane after I die – and if I have any say in the matter – look for me post death at Arnold’s.
Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown. Info: arnoldsbarandgrill.com.
Michael D. Morgan is a Cincinnati author, historian and brewing expert. This horrific story is told in his own words.
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