Some of the city’s restaurants are known for more than their meals—they have haunted histories that spook staff to this day. If you’re willing to make room at your table for some of Columbus’ oldest residents, here are three places to try.
The Spaghetti Warehouse | 397 W BROAD ST.
Opened as an icehouse in 1891, the Spaghetti Warehouse is known today as one of Columbus’ most iconic restaurants. But long before it served up family-sized portions of its namesake spaghetti and meatballs, the lower dining room housed some longer-term guests.
Built on the city’s flood plain, early residents of Franklinton suffered high casualties when the river rose. “During these times, there’d be a lot of destruction, a lot of lives lost,” said Bernard Koher, the Spaghetti Warehouse’s Host Staff Coordinator. “They would store the bodies here in cold storage while they were in the process of burying the dead.” On top of that, “You also had injuries and deaths going on because of how dangerous of a place it was to work.”
The workers, however, seem to have mostly gone home. Fitting the restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere, it’s the ghosts of children that are seen most often. “Some guests, especially on a slower night, they compliment us on the kids in period costumes,” Koher said. “We don’t have kids in period costumes.”
A 28-year veteran of the restaurant, Koher’s described one of the first unexplained phenomenons he witnessed. A new waiter was carrying food to a table when the tray in his hand inexplicably stopped moving, fell to the floor, and spouted lasagna sauce as high as the ceiling. “The dining room gave him a standing ovation,” Koher said.
While Koher has never felt threatened, he said that hasn’t been everyone’s experience. “We had some construction guys that came overnight. They left in the middle of the night, refused to come back, and had to have someone from their company come get their tools. They refused to talk about why they wouldn’t come back in the building.”
Kitchen staff have reported flying silverware and flying bus tubs. In Koher’s words, “We got a spook central pretty much going on here.”
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Schmidt’s Restaurant and Banquet Haus | 240 E KOSSUTH ST.
Best known for its Bahama Mama sausages and cream puffs, Schmidt’s has a ghoulish history that you wouldn’t guess from its folksy German decor and polka tunes. The business began as a packing house in 1886, around the corner from a livery stable where the Schmidt family kept the animals that delivered their meats. In 1967, the family converted the stable into Schmidt’s restaurant.
Matt Schmidt, a fifth-generation member of the Schmidt family and the business’ Brand Ambassador, said that he had grown up hearing ghost stories about the restaurant. All of the stories originate on the second floor, which now holds a banquet hall for private events. It’s also the site where a re sparked in 1983 that nearly destroyed the building. While the official cause was faulty wiring, some of the sightings on the second floor could make one question whether there’s more to the story.
Schmidt said that most stories involve a woman, well-known to staff, cleaning crews, and Schmidt family members. “They would be in the office, hear footsteps walking around up here. They would get up to see who it was, they would open the door, there would be no one here. A few times, they would even get a scent of old […] cheap dime store perfume,” Schmidt said. Sometimes, she’s seen reflected in one of the long mirrors that decorate the space. Once, a customer spotted a red-headed woman on the staircase in old clothing. Feeling something was off, he followed her upstairs, but couldn’t find her. That is, until he looked at the portraits hanging on the wall which had been drawn freehand by Schmidt’s grandfather. He immediately identified one as the woman he’d seen.
It’s common for tables and chairs to mysteriously be out of place, and for things to fall for no reason. Schmidt has experienced unsettling moments while working in the upstairs office, from unexplained noises to the sound of doors shutting. Even the water stain on the ceiling above his desk looks uncannily like an evil clown. “I’ve never felt like I’m in trouble, but I’ve been freaked the hell out up here.”
Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus | 161 N HIGH ST.
Built in 1897, the building that’s now the Elevator Brewery has been home to many different enterprises. First owned by the entrepreneuring Bott Brothers, over the years the building has held the Midwest’s largest pool hall, a barber shop, a boxing ring, and a brothel. The first floor was home to The Clock restaurant for much of that time. Today, many elaborate features remain, including a mahogany bar manufactured for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
According to Will Triplett, Elevator’s Managing Partner and Co-owner and Operator, it’s not only physical objects that remain from the building’s past; at least a couple of The Clock’s regulars are still likely around. “The most famous ghost story is associated with a man named Colonel Pritchard,” Triplett said. Pritchard was a well-known gentleman and womanizer. “He was stabbed in the front of the restaurant … by a scorned woman. He came inside and died on the floor by the bar. And the woman was never found.”
Despite it being a snowy February night, the woman was barefoot. Legend has it that when it snows on the anniversary of the murder, her footprints are visible in the snow. And, as if to mark the occasion, the clock in front of the restaurant stopped at the time of Pritchard’s death. It remained frozen at 10:05 for a century before it was finally removed about 10 years ago.
Triplett has had his own unsettling experiences in the restaurant. While locking up one night, he went to shut a steel door in the basement when “all of a sudden this gust of wind came through that door … where literally I had to put my body up against it to close it,” he said. “There’s no HVAC, there’s no heating and cooling down there that forces air to move at all.” Other staff have reported doors that swing open and closed on their own, and hanging pots and pans banging together with nothing to move them. One time, a sous-chef witnessed the hands on the kitchen clock moving backwards.
While Triplett has been unnerved from time to time, he accepts the ghosts that come with the restaurant he owns. “I don’t doubt that this place is haunted. But I think that they’re friendly spirits.”