Charlie, the Resident Ghost at Merchants
Last week I wrote about the folklore of the headless horseman, an eerie but harmless spirit that has permeated a variety of cultures over hundreds of years. But today I’m telling you about a ghost that is only ours, and his name is Charlie. Charlie lives at 401 Broadway, otherwise known as Merchants restaurant.
Charlie is the name he’s affectionately been given over the years, based on the belief that he is the gentleman in the love letters that were found hidden inside the wall when the building was renovated. Unfortunately the letters were glued onto an interesting decorative sheet when they were found in the 80’s, so we are unable to remove them at this point, but we can read them, and they currently hang on the third floor of the restaurant.
According to the letters, the story goes like this: a young woman named Georgia and a young man named Charlie are in love, but Charlie goes off to fight in the Civil War, so they send letters professing their love and longing for each other. The letters are romantic, poetic, filled with the promise of young love, the desperation of being apart, and the terrors of war. Reading them makes you wonder if your relationship, filled with text messages about plans for the evening or who can pick up dinner, has lost its spark. *Sigh*
And then you read on and find that Charlie couldn't withstand the distance. He was untrue to Georgia, and the tone of the letters change from loving prose to venomous attacks. Georgia is beside herself with anger and embarrassment and she does not hesitate to let Charlie have it.
This is the end of the letters between Georgia and Charlie, or at least, that to which we are privy. It has long been rumored that there is a spirit in Merchants, so it has been assumed it is the ghost of Charlie coming back to find his lost love. But here’s the catch: no one knows for certain why the letters are in the wall. We don’t know who had the letters and thus, the tie to the building. It could be that one of them worked at the pharmacy or hotel, or was the relative of pharmacist, which is what some have said. People have said they have seen a male figure hanging by his neck from the middle window on the third floor of the building. The restaurant has gotten calls at 4am from people who say the lights are going off and on or they see a man in the window.
Many staff members have had encounters with Charlie. One employee, Brenda, who has worked for Merchants since it opened in 1988, has had numerous interactions with Charlie over the years. She says most of it is mischievous, like the time she was busy prepping in the third-floor kitchen and she heard a big crash. She ran out to the dining room and all the chairs were turned over on their backs. She picked them all up and put them back in their place, went back to the kitchen and started working, and again – crash. She went back out and the same thing had happened. She knew there was a presence in the dining room and she said out loud, “That's enough, I’ve got work to do,” picked all the chairs up, and got back to work. When it happened a third time Ms. Brenda lost her patience and yelled, “Charlie! I know it’s you and I know you ain’t got nothing better to do but I am working so please stop this right now!” Finally, after three times, he left Ms. Brenda alone.
Brenda also mentioned told me about how Charlie likes to mess with people in the basement of Merchants. (Y’all it really is a creepy basement.) Often the delivery guys found themselves locked in the beer or liquor room down there, sometimes for long periods of time, until someone rescued them! Jessi Weaver, who has worked for Strategic Hospitality in various roles for 8 years, once got locked in the private dining room on the third floor. That room is the same room in which a group of Japanese businessmen held a dinner one evening, where they all smoked cigars and enjoyed their steaks. After they returned home, they mailed a picture back to the restaurant of them together in the room – and guess who joined their dinner? Clad in a soldier uniform, Charlie sat with the men, smiling in the picture.
As long as Charlie remains the mischievous presence he’s been so far and keeps the employees on their toes, I say mi casa eis su casa Charlie! There is enough space in that big old building to share so let’s keep co-existing!