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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 34 - The Old Baraboo and the Red Ghost of Arizona


The Old Baraboo Inn

The Old Baraboo Inn, but in this picture it was probably called the Bender House/Hotel
The Old Baraboo Inn in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This picture is probably from when it was called the Bender House (Hotel).

The Old Baraboo Inn is usually described by most as a historic bar and restaurant, while to others it is described as being probably one of the most haunted buildings in the Midwest.

The History


Baraboo is a town in Sauk County, Wisconsin, which is a bit south of The Dells. It is the largest city in the county. It is the hometown of the Circus World Museum which is the former headquarters and winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, which led to Baraboo being nicknamed Circus City.

The Old Baraboo Inn

The Old Baraboo Inn is what the building is called now. But that is not where this story starts. German couple, Anna and George Bender started the build on their brewery in 1864, called the Miller-Bender Brewery, and finished the build in 1868. Sadly, George died in 1874, so that left Anna and her son to continue the brewery's operations.

They also opened a two-story hotel called The Bender House - though some call it Bender Hotel in 1879. This building held a saloon inside on the first level, and a boarding house and hotel on the second level. This is what will come to be known as the Old Baraboo Inn in 1962 when it was bought by Rose and John Dombroski. This is where the name change happened (which I will call it throughout this story).

The Old Baraboo Inn was first known as a tavern and brothel. It sat directly across from a railway station that connected the town of Baraboo to Mobsterland - Chicago. During Prohibition, it is reported as being a Speak-Easy, and due to its connection to Chicago, Mobsters usually paid the tabs of those that were in attendance. Not only was the Speak-Easy selling alcohol, there was a brothel run by some of the Mobsters as well as illegal gaming opportunities.

Mobs had become prominent at this bar. There were well known ones as well as unknown ones that made this Speak-Easy their haunts. One of the mobsters that frequented it the most was Al Capone. There weren’t a ton of places during Prohibition that had illegal drinks on tap, but the old Baraboo Inn did.

Being that this was a mob-run establishment at the time, death was surely a factor. The basement was used as an area within the Baraboo Speak-Easy for killing the rule breakers, and this was usually carried out by a weirdo that simply loved to kill. They didn’t just kill people down there, they tortured them as well. There is still an execution pole down in the basement donning bullet holes from people being executed - usually after having their bones broken, or some other painful injury inflicted.

Those that were not able to pay their gaming debts, those that flirted with the wrong waitress, those that tried to cheat at the game they were playing - they all suffered and died there. Whatever mobster was tasked at enforcing rules at Speak-Easys back then usually weren’t very forgiving. In fact, they weren’t at all. They were there to enforce the rules, so if you fucked up, you paid. Simple as that. They knew what they were there to do, and there were zero exceptions made. The people that broke any of the rules were either killed by the mobster themselves, or handed over to the executioner for them to handle it.

In its 155 year history, the Old Baraboo Inn has been home to a saloon, hotel, brewery, restaurant, billiard hall, boarding house and bar.

With its proximity to the train station, rumors have swirled around for decades that this spot was host to flappers, gamblers, prostitutes and gangsters. All of which were just looking to have some fun.

That said, there was a lot of death on the grounds of the Old Baraboo.

The Building

The building sits on a ¼ acre corner lot and has 3,263 square feet of property, which includes a small parking lot that is limited to 18 spaces. The building itself is a two-story Victorian with a recently renovated basement. The outside is painted red, which earned it the nickname The Lovely Red Lady. There are beautiful windows throughout the building. Inside, the main area is home to the restaurant, while the back part of the building housed two separate areas. Both areas had a bar, and room for private dining. It now has air conditioning along with some other more modern amenities, but at the heart, it is still a small town bar.

The time that it had a brothel in it, it was located on the second floor. There was a hidden stairway that led up to the second floor within the tavern itself. Present time, the staircase is outside to give the people that live in the now apartments a private stairway so they don't have to go in and out through the restaurant.

The Fire

In 1988, there was a massive fire inside the Inn. It sat untouched for quite a while, and started to deteriorate. There were vandalisms that took place while it stood, silent and empty. There was no choice but for Rose and John Dombroksi to walk away from it.

For 10 years it sat there, slowly decaying, before a man by the name of B.C. Farr came along and bought the fire damaged building. He had the funds and the dream to rebuild this place and bring it back to what it once was - a neighborhood treasure.

The Rebuild

In 1998, Farr bought the building and began restoring the remnants of what once was. It needed some severe TLC. He started rebuilding the apartments on the second floor - which he actually rented out while he worked on the main floor. Once the second floor was done, Farr started rebuilding the main floor.

It took four years for Farr to completely finish the restoration and renovation of The Baraboo Inn. It took hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he was able to transform the fire and water damaged building into a thriving restaurant and bar, and they opened for business again in 2002.

The Odd Happenings

While doing the restoration and renovations in the building, Farr had been encountering weird things happening like weird sounds when he was alone. He also had had complaints of the tenants in the apartments on the second floor while he was working on the main floor. He got complaints of party noises from the first floor, and a very forward woman that was there often.

Once the building was complete and reopened, his staff would come to him throughout their employment and tell him about the strange things they kept experiencing, stating how much it was scaring them. Farr’s own sister had worked in the Inn while he owned it. She had a run-in with a spirit, and had refused to go into the basement where their office was located from that point on.

Farr wound up retiring in 2018, and the bar was bought by The Food Channel

While there were a lot of tragic events that took place on the property of the Old Baraboo Inn, there were also a lot of good times and celebrations. Everyone that came in stated that the atmosphere and overall vibe of the place was warm and welcoming.

However, to those that are easily scared, this may not feel very warm and welcoming to them.

In total there are said to be as many as 30 spirits that roam that Inn. There are two with their own stories that I will get into a little later. Anyone that had seen or felt anything while at the bar have never said it felt like a bad energy, more just fun and friendly. Full body apparitions have been seen and photographed. Orbs are often seen floating through the air, sometimes even making contact with the living in their path. Disembodied voices can be heard at night, and there have been numerous EVP’s of this. The spirits at the Inn are of every gender, but it is mostly the females that are seen.

What I read next will be some of what has been reported, photographed, recorded on video or as an EVP or seen with the naked eye:

  • Lights turn on and off

  • Objects are often found in places they weren’t in the previous night

  • Doors open and close on their own with no breeze

Second Floor:

  • Reports from the apartments on the second floor of loud country music and piano music from the first floor

  • Sounds that are sexual in nature are often heard from the second floor, coming from the first floor

  • There is a spirit of a female that stays on the second floor. People believe she is one of three prostitutes that died there. People that have stayed in the apartments upstairs have said that she (the entity) prefers to be in charge, or at least that is how the living feel. It’s said she likes to tease the living by appearing full bodied throughout their apartments. She also vocally haunts them, they hear her - but can’t see her.

Main Floor:

  • Full bodied apparitions of cowboys are often seen in the main tavern. Numerous voice recordings of these cowboys make it seem as though they have rugged and determined personalities

  • People feel like they were touched, but there won’t be anyone around them

  • People feel breath on the side of their faces like someone is trying to whisper in their ear

In the kitchen:

  • Utensils, dishes and cups fly off the storage racks

  • Tupperware has been seen flying through the air like a frisbee

  • Brooms have been seen floating across the kitchen on their ow

  • The cowboys are often seen moving items around or playing frisbee in the kitchen

Other Spirits:

  • There is one spirit that people believe has worked at the Inn. Often thought to be one of the previous owners or managers. This one plays tricks on the employees. If they seemingly dislike you, they will wait in the cooler for them to go in, and then slam the door and turn off the light. However, if they like you, they will re-open the door to allow you to get out.

  • Al Capone is said to haunt the bar as well, working with paranormal investigators by answering their questions in EVPs.

The things that take place in the Old Baraboo Inn have caused renters to break their lease for the apartment they were renting, and it has also caused employees to quit.

There have been NUMEROUS paranormal investigation teams out to visit, as well as psychics. They even used to hold paranormal classes and events at the Inn.

The Marys

Now, as I stated earlier, there are 2 spirits that are the most commonly seen and unknowingly interacted with. Both of them are named Mary.

The first one just goes by the name of Mary. Those that have seen her have described her as being very beautiful - like old Hollywood beautiful. She was an alleged prostitute that died tragically inside the Inn in 1903. There have been mediums that reported they’ve heard the sounds of a woman crying in the basement, and it is believed to be the cries of Mary. Farr believes that Mary was sexually assaulted and murdered in the basement.

Mary’s image has been caught on film, and in photos in front of the bar. She is most often seen wearing either a red or lighter colored dress with big earrings and a feather in her hair. She has been seen dancing to “The House is Rockin” by Stevie Ray Vaughn when it comes on the jukebox.

There was a woman at the bar that slipped a note to Farr with a list of the names of all the women that have died on the property. No surprise the name Mary was on it, as well as the year of her death, which was 1903. Oddly enough, that Stevie Ray Vaughn song is number 19/03 in the Jukebox.

Mary also tends to show up when the bar has a living history event. During these events, those in attendance are asked to dress up in cowboy or saloon girl attire.

The second Mary is referred to as Miss Mary. She is another one of the spirits at the Old Baraboo Inn. Miss Mary was a schoolteacher while she was living. But now as a spirit, she resides in the basement of the Inn. It’s believed that she looked after the younger children that passed through when the Inn was still the Bender House (or Hotel) at the turn of the 20th century. The kids had probably attended school in that building.

School Books have been found in the basement, and a portion of the alphabet had been written on the bottom step of the basement’s stairs. EVPs have been gathered of a little girl singing her ABC’s, and there have been a lot of reports from patrons stating that they have heard children singing Happy Birthday, and calling for mommy.

Two mediums visited the Inn in 2012 and made contact with Miss Mary. The mediums stated that Miss Mary told them she died in her early 30s due to an illness. They also asked her why she still hangs around the Inn, and Miss Mary replied back to them “It’s here where I feel most alive.”

The Fun

The Old Baraboo Inn has been investigated and appeared on the Hometown Horror on the Travel Channel. It has also been listed in the Top 10 Most Haunted in America by the Food network.

They have participated in numerous haunted bar crawls, investigation nights and have an extreme amount of traffic in and out through spooky season.

Hopefully whenever we make it to Circus World we can stop there for dinner and a drink!



Red Ghost of Arizona
Sketch drawing of The Red Ghost of Arizona

The Red Ghost of Arizona

In 1883 two ranchers would leave their home along Eagle Creek in Southeastern Arizona to check on their herd while their wives stayed on the homestead with the children. Even though this was near the end of the Apache Wars, renegade bands of warriors would keep isolated ranchers under siege. While these men were away one of the wives would head to a nearby spring to fetch water while the other remained at the house with the children.

This is where the woman still at home would have her attention drawn by the barking dogs and that's when she would see the red ghost—a huge reddish-hued beast with cloven hooves being ridden by a devilish rider strapped to its back, quickly locking and barricading the front door to protect her and the children and wait it out inside praying hysterically that the beast would leave her home. Even though hearing the screams from the others collecting water, she was too terrified to go outside and investigate what had happened.

As night fell on the ranch, the men would return home and hear the story of the red-colored beast ridden by a devil. The men would go out with torches in hand to investigate the ranch to see if they could find this beast. No giant red beast that would become known as the red ghost was found but what they did find was the body of the first woman nearly trampled flat and hoof prints twice the size of a horse hoof print in the mud surrounding the body. Along with tufts of red hair in the thickets around the area.

The coroner from Solomonsville was highly suspicious of their story, if it wasn’t for the horribly battered state the woman’s body was in and the remarkable hoofprints he would be convinced that she was murdered by her own family. In the end, her death was considered death in an unknown matter. As the Mohave County Miner newspaper reported.

Days later, two prospectors panning for gold several miles Northeast of Eagle Creek would wake up in the middle of the night when their tent comes crashing down on them in their sleep.

They heard a loud scream and the sounds of hoofs pounding away from them, they too would find red hair and giant hoof prints like those in Eagle Creek did days earlier.

As the legend of the red ghost began to grow in the area so did the tale surrounding it. One person said they saw it eat a grizzly bear, another claimed to chase it down and it disappeared into thin air, and its size came to be 30 feet tall at one point. But one thing was certain about the red ghost. They all would find red hair and see a skeleton rider strapped to its back.

An unknown cowboy even tried to lasso and capture the red ghost but was nearly killed by it when it charged him and his mount. Before the red ghost ran off he too would see the skeleton strapped to its back.

The Red Ghost would even escape a group of five miners that took their shots at it even though either just grazing the beast or all their shots at it missed the head of the rider would fall to the ground with tufts of flesh and hair still attached.

For several more years, the red ghost would terrorize the people of the Eagle Creek area until Mizoo Hastings, got the upper hand on it while it was grazing on his tomatoes and shot and killed the beast in one shot, bringing the red reign of terror to an end.

Upon closer inspection of the beast with scarring from tight leather straps on its body it was discovered that the red ghost was actually just a camel. It is unknown as to why a man was strapped to a camel back here in the United States during this time, one belief that the camel’s skeleton rider was originally a gold rush prospector tied himself to it in hopes the camel would take him to water. Which actually sealed his fate more than saving his life because camels are able to go 15 days without needing water. Camels will use the fat stored in their humps for energy when food and water are scarce.

The other tale of the rider is that it was a soldier from the shortly lived U.S. Army camel Corps, trying to learn how to ride a camel when it bolted off.

In the 1850s in an experiment by the U.S. Army. Major Henry C. Wayne had long tried to solve the problem of lack of water on the route from the Mississippi River to California through the desert Southwest. In 1855, Major Wayne and others went to Europe and Africa to study the habits of camels in captivity. Eventually buying 33 camels in Egypt and Turkey, and taking on three Arab handlers, they sailed back to Texas and began training.

In the years following the California gold rush, the citizens of the United States petitioned the government to build a road west. In 1857, President James Buchanan appointed Edward Beale to survey and build a 1,000 mile road from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to California. Beale was already well known at the time from his exploits during the Mexican-American War, as well as his trip bringing the first gold nugget from California to Washington, D.C. His task was further complicated by the requirement to bring along 25 camels to test as pack animals in the Southwestern deserts.

When these exotic beasts pulled an express wagon into Los Angeles in December 1857, a newspaper headline read "The camels are coming." Their approach made quite a stir among the native population, most of whom had never seen the like. The article told how camels were content to forage on cactus, could "live well where domestic animals would die", and could pull a load over a mountain where mules balked.

In 1859, the group passed by El Morro for the second time on their journey back. Edward Beale, P. Gilmer Breckinridge, E. Penn. Long, and F. Engle Jr. were all part of the group we now refer to as the “U.S. Army Camel Corps” and all inscribed their name on the rock known as El Morro.

Camp Verde fell into Confederate hands at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, and the camels fell into disuse. There isn’t any evidence to be found if the Confederates used these camels in any capacity during the war. The Confederate Army would issue a receipt to the US for 12 mules, 80 camels, and two Egyptian camel drivers. When the Union soldiers took back Camp Verde it was estimated that more than 100 camels now occupied the camp.

After the war, most of the animals were sold at auction. Some ended up in zoos and circuses while others simply escaped. As late as the early 1900s, sightings of feral camels were still being reported from Mexico to Arkansas.

Today in Quartzsite, AZ a monument to one of the Camel Corps drivers named Hi Jolly.

Hi Jolly was born, Phillip Tedro until he converted to Islam and made the pilgrimage to Mecca taking on the name Hadji Ali. His name would be butchered by the American dialect and would be known as Hi Jolly and be forever remembered by this name. Hadji Ali stood out from the rest of the riders because of his ambition and cantankerous attitude. Hadji Ali was said to be so feisty that he would drive a camel-driven carriage right through a picnic he wasn’t invited to.

Hadji Ali would pass in December of 1902 and was very popular with the locals of Quartzsite, AZ and they would erect a pyramid monument on his grave site made of petrified wood and quartz. At the apex of the nine-foot-tall pyramid is the silhouette of a camel added by the Arizona Highway Department. Along with this camel, they would add a bronze plaque and a vault that contains the ashes of the last known camel from the Corpse known as Old Topsy. The bronze plaque reads





ABOUT 1828


DECEMBER 16, 1902


FEBRUARY 10, 1856








In 2011 Hi Jolly’s grave site would be added to the National Historic Places registry.

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