Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Only Ghosts Stumble Off Of Bars Stool In Germantown

By Patrick Lee & Anne Spitza of the Journal Staff

Milwaukee Journal

Oct 26, 1984

Germantown -- The ghost stories about a tavern here called Yesterday are as thick and hazy as the mist in the graveyard across the street.

There are those who say the front door of the century-old saloon opens and closes by itself.

There is the barstool that was the favorite of a former owner, now deceased. It's reported that the stool frequently falls over of its own accord -- as if a drunken occupant were stumbling on it.

One story tells of the time another former owner -- the bar has had dozens of them -- returned to the locked tavern hours after closing time and found the place lit up like a jack-o-lantern, all the candles on the tables lit, the grill fired up, the blender whirring, the deep fryer roiling and the cooler doors wide open.

But there wasn't a living soul in sight.

It's possible, of course, that the only spirits in the tavern are the kind in frosty glasses with foamy heads.

Much folklore

"There's a lot of folklore, neighborhood gossip, stories passed down from teller to teller," said Tom Gibowski, 40, one of four brothers who now own the tavern at the crossroads of Maple Rd. and Highways 145 and 167.

As far as actual sightings, I don't know if we've had any in the two and a half years we've owned it," added Gibowski, who lives upstairs with his two daughtgers and brother Donald, 24.

But there are still first-hand acounts by dozens of independent witnesses of strange happenings with no explanation.

Tom Gibowski tells of counting cash from the register alone, leaving it on the bar for a second, coming back and finding it back in the register drawer.

Waitresses tell of perfectly stacked cases of beer sitting on a level concrete floor suddenly falling over.

Adjoining school

Customers tell of the knobs of the cigaret machine rattling in and out on their own, and of the jukebox spriging to life and choosing its own records.

Some say the poltergeist is the tavern's founder, John Berg, who built the saloon and an adjoining school in the 1880's at the crossroads once called Dheinsville.

The story says Grandpa Berg went to cut ice from the creek one winter's day and fell through. He died of pneumonia a few days later while laid out in the tavern. He's buried across the street, next to his wife Margaret, in the old churchyard.

John Berg's ghost, who is buried in the old Church Cemetery across the street from the Yesterday Tavern in Germantown, is supposedly one of the spirits to haunt the tavern.

Picture taken by: Anne Spitza

Yesterday Cemetery

There's a story, hazy in its retelling, that an owner heard a noise in the bar, came downstairs and found a white-haired old man behind the bar, dropping beer glasses onto the floor. The owner, a burly man, went for the old man -- and he vanished, leaving behind only the broken glass on the floor. The owner didn't stay around to clean up the mess.

The specter was said to resemble the photograph of John Berg, standing in front of his tavern, that still hangs on the bar's back wall.

Some say the ghost is that of a man who owned the tavern several years in the 1970's, when it was called the Longhorn Inn. He died shortly after selling it.

It's his favorite barstool that's said to fall over now and then. The urrent tenants have grown fond of the ghost. When, as a waitress claims, the hotdogs turn themselves on the grill, she just says, "C'mon, Ray, I can turn them by myself."

Barrels of beer

Tom Gibowski's brother James, 37, who's tapped hundreds of half-barrels of beer, tells of the time he went into the basement to tap a keg, screwed the tap in and went back upstairs to draw the suds. Nothing came out.

He went back into the basement, and found the tap unscrewed and lying next to the barrel. No one else had gone downstairs.

"I'm not one to really believe in the supernatural," he said. "I didn't believe it at first, but I begin to wonder that there's something to it myself."

Donald Gibowski says that late one night he was alone in the tavern, watching TV. He had cleared off the bar and put everything away about an hour and a half earlier. When he shut off the TV and turned to go upstairs to bed, he noticed a beer bottle sitting on the bar.

He assumed he had simply forgotten to put it away earlier. But when he went to grab it, "it was ice cold, as if someone had just taken it out of the cooler."

Time to leave

"And it looked like someone had taken a gulp out of it," he added.

A chill went up his spine. "I just left it there and went right upstairs."

Other times, he said he has felt someone standing behind him, turned and seen nothing. "Sometimes you sit there at night and wonder if someone's watching you," he said.

There are other stories -- psychics who've come into the bar and said the spirit is a woman, a customer who saw a woman dressed in white descend a staircase, the story that a former owner buried a pile of cash beneath the dance floof. (Tom said he crawled beneath the floor once and found only a concrete slab.)

There are stories that the tavern has doubled as a funeral parlor, a stagecoach stop, that there was a suicide here, that there have been ugly love triangles, that someone is buried somewhere under the present building. None have been substantiated.

Irene Blau, director of the Germantown Historical Society, said that as far as she knew, the place had always been a saloon, with a room in the back once used as a school

But that doesn't stop the stories from flowing as freely as the beer. James Gibowski actually likes the idea of having a haunted tavern.

"It's kind of neat," he said. "He keeps an eye on the place when we're not around."


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