*SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains spoilers for The Tavern Parts I, II, & III (Episodes 2, 3 & 4!) Before reading, listen to The Tavern - Part I, II, & III. Afterward, make sure to read this "Behind-the-Episode" blog for additional info and photos!
There were many things I wasn't able to include in the final episode that I can't wait to share with you here. Make sure to check out the end of this blog article where I discuss a few important details about this case that just didn't make the final cut of this episode.
At the end of the last episode, The Tavern Part II, we ended with Sara actually uncovering much more than I'd initially expected. With my research drawing up several red flags, I'd begun to doubt that the ghost stories at The Tavern were even real. My mind went as far as thinking it was all made up as a way to drum up publicity and business. Hell, they even had a ghost tour coming through the place weekly. However, despite my skepticism, the events that unfolded the night of our 1st investigation validated a lot of the claims of the staff. Something unusual was happening here, I just wasn't sure what it was.
The experiences the staff reported all centered around one spirit who they believed to be a child named Emily. And they all seemed to know a lot about her death.
What made me so skeptical was how no one knew where the story of Emily even came from. Everyone just talked about what happened at The Tavern without attributing where they got the information. It all appears to have been spread through stories and rumors. What was worse, I traced this story back in the timeline through online articles and found the ghost story at The Tavern had morphed from something else to what it is now. Instead of Emily being the murdered child of the prostitute at The Tavern, in older articles, the ghost stories said Emily was the name of the prostitute with no mention of a daughter. There were also various iterations on how the prostitute met her demise. Some say it was soldiers who killed her, some say it was a bar fight. There was no mention of the child being raped and murdered by a senator, which was the story I was told the night I first interviewed The Tavern staff.
So, what this meant to me was that this story had to be a fabrication. An exaggeration of an older tale or legend. If anything was true, it'd have to be the earlier story about the prostitute. Because stories don't become more truthful the more they are handed down and told by other people, quite the opposite happens. They are exaggerated and altered beyond recognition most times, like in the telephone game.
However, what I witnessed happen alongside Sara while we spent the month investigating this case brought my skepticism in question. If you're reading this, then you should have already listened to this 3-part series. You know that I went on a roller coaster of thoughts as we went further and further into complex mystery at The Tavern. First I doubted the story of Emily was real and when Sara first got there the things she was getting didn't match up with the stories the staff told me. Not entirely that is. The child spirit was a boy according to Sara and then there was this more prominent male figure there taking up most of Sara's interest. It wasn't until the end of the night that Sara got things more clearly and the story of Emily seemingly came through loud and clear and the male spirit's connection to this horrific tale was rising to the surface. I then found myself doubting Sara. Thinking she might have read the stories online and led me to this point to make me believe her. But my rational brain analyzed what all happened that night. I thought of how Sara had come to the story of Emily and the male spirit who did this terrible act to her. I realized the way things unfolded, Sara was getting everything wrong. If she'd read the articles online, the stories centered mostly around the prostitute named Emily, there's not much on Emily the child, that story was mostly from the staff. And there is no mention whatsoever of a male spirit present in any stories. So I began to believe in Sara's ability, once again. As if Royal Legion Tattoo wasn't enough to convince me!
But one thing still remained that truly bothered me. There was no historical proof to back up any of this story about Emily the child and gruesome murder that happened on the third floor. The staff had no idea where the stories came from. Just remember a few people passing them around, but no one knew where they'd got them.
It ate at me that I couldn't find anything to at least validate some piece of this story. I was so bothered I confronted Sara about it. She ended up telling me something that I hadn't fully absorbed until the end of our journey. She said that the only way Emily's story could be out there, being shared amongst the staff, was if someone like her, who was sensitive, had gotten bits of it while they were visiting The Tavern. Only then would this story have gotten out. By word of mouth after a clairvoyant saw something or got some information from the spirits themselves.
I wasn't completely happy with that answer, but I took it. I continued working with Sara and we wrapped up our findings after three long investigations at The Tavern over the span of a month and a half. While editing, I discovered so many clues and hidden answers to questions within my previously recorded audio files of our interviews and investigations.
There used to be a regular patron of The Tavern, I'll refrain from sharing his name out of respect, but Sam mentions him in The Tavern Part I. But apparently he'd been coming here for years, since 1986 at least. A very long time. He knew a lot of the history of the building, and apparently shared stories of Emily with the staff for years. He appears to have been a major source, if not "the" source of the ghost story surrounding The Tavern. What's interesting is that Sam mentions, and you can hear this in Part I, that this regular "claimed" to be clairvoyant. Sam kinda chuckles it off saying he wasn't sure if this guy was the real deal or not, but either way he had stories to tell. It wasn't until later that I met with Haunted ATX tour guide, Mark, to get his story that I learned that this same patron of the bar was a major resource for the tours as well. I investigated a little further and confirmed from other Tavern staff members that this regular did claim to have an ability and shared a lot of the info the staff now refers to when they tell their ghost story of Emily.
I believe Sara has a very special gift. A very strong one. I started thinking of this patron of the bar and wished I could have interviewed him and got his story too. Sadly, I learned he had just passed away shortly before I began investigating The Tavern. So I can only guess as to the origins of the story of Emily. But in my heart, I now believe what Sara said to me was true. And that this regular, who'd spent a majority of his lifetime on Earth at The Tavern, was this sensitive person that got glimpses of Emily's story that turned into the ghost story of The Tavern. And I think Sara, with her strong gift, and the time she invested in seeking out the truth there, was able to bring new stuff to the surface. Things the male spirit was doing a good job of hiding and keeping out of the light. It was a bar. I'm sure this regular went there to drink and relax, not to chase ghosts and get to the bottom of such a dark and complex mystery. So the story developed, grew, changed, and became more truthful the more time this regular spent at the bar. Much like the way it happens with Sara. She gets things wrong at first. Makes mistakes interpreting what she's seeing. She has to focus hard, hunt down the facts, interrogate the spirits, hound them for answers, to even get close to what the answers are. So I now look at what once made me skeptical. The variations on the story of Emily and The Tavern now make sense to me. This regular spent decades there, but only to pass the time. I'm sure over those years, the ghosts and the story of The Tavern came to him slowly and a bit foggy at first. And Sara mentioned that the male spirit has been here doing a good job keeping things hidden. Scaring and oppressing Emily. So it's not surprising that if this regular wasn't actively looking or trying, he might not have gotten the whole story of who was haunting this bar and why.
Now, let's dive in and get a little more behind the episode with photos and more stories and info I couldn't fit into the final episode.
As you know, Sara and I went back to the Tavern for a 3rd time to try to get some closure on this case. This time, Sara asked if we could try investigating when it was quiet and the bar was closed. So we decided to try a something atypical for ghost hunting. We did it in the morning, before The Tavern was open for business. Thankfully, General Manager Molly was down for it and joined us for this final investigation.
Here is a photo of the crawlspace and the 3rd floor stairwell. It's inside this crawlspace that Sara had many encounters with Emily. This is also the stairwell the staff were uncomfortable coming up after the photo was taken. Down on the landing below, is where Sara would often see "Walter" standing, staring up at us.
Below I'm reposting the photos that help illustrate the validity of the the infamous photo of the black figure referenced in The Tavern episodes.
This above is just a photo of the 3rd floor my wife took with nothing in it.
Below is the actual photo Rene took. Look at the stairwell. Do you see it?
Here's a closer look.
As mentioned in the episode, I confirmed that the light in the stairwell could not be turned off by itself. Bar Manager Sam took me up there and proved it to me. The lighs for the 3rd floor are all on one switch. Sam flipped for me and sure enough, when you do, the entire 3rd floor goes pitch black.
Molly and her friend Ashley pointed out seeing the face also. Look closely and you can also see, toward the bottom of the figure, what look like legs. Then there's a black mass enveloping where you'd expect a torso. The face is right in the middle of the black mass. Then, I see what I think are fingers on the angled roof just to the right of the black figure. I checked that area of the roof and there is nothing there. But if you look at this photo now, with the knowledge of what Sara got from Maria, this image isn't quite as frightening now. If you look at it as if the legs are Walter's trying to make it up the stairs toward Sara or the crawlspace. The black mass enveloping his torso, holding him back, is Maria. And I believe, after absorbing all this case, that the face we see that appears frightening to most that see it, is Maria's. But it's not evil, it's just her anger at what happened to her daughter. And it's that anger that is giving her strength to hold on to Walter and keep him back.
This is the crack between the wall and the stairs on the 3rd floor stairwell. In this Episode, this wall was the wall Sara was tapping on because Maria had just pointed to this room below. We didn't know it at the time, but there was another small closet under this stairwell.
This is the closet we discovered under the 3rd floor stairs. It looks more obvious in the above photograph, but this door was covered by a bussing cart before we took this picture. That's why I didn't see it the first time I went downstairs to look for it when Sara was asking me if there was a room below. But when I went down a for a second look, I spotted this small closet door behind the bussing cart.
Sara quickly came down and we moved the cart and opened the door. Sara saw Walter hiding inside and quickly burned burned the palo santo inside. Walter supposedly ran away. Then Sara told me that this was Walter's hiding spot. So it was important that we found it. And I found it very interesting that Maria was helping Sara hunt him down and chase him out. Look at all those wires. That's a lot of energy. I have a theory that this area has so much activity because the sprits are able to draw from the energy that's all feeding to this one spot.
One thing I didn't have enough time to mention in this episode was that I found another interesting clue in my old audio files. Look at this picture above. To the right by the Coca-Cola sign, is Walter's hiding spot under the stairs. Ahead and to the left is Emily's closet. The first night Sara and I investigated the Tavern, we had come up with a strategy to trap the prankster (who was Emily but Sara didn't know at the time) in the closet on the left. When she did, she learned the child was a young girl. Then something happened. It was the first sign of anything being uncomfortable or uneasy. If you can recall, in this moment, the little girl mentioned to Sara a man was there. Then Emily quickly disappeared as if she was scared of the man. Sara looked around but said no one was there.
Well, now knowing that this closet that was just behind us was Walter's hiding place, is it possible that Walter could have been hiding there and Emily sensed he was about to come out because he wasn't too happy that Sara was now talking with her?
I'm reposting this image of Sara's sketch page from her investigations here at The Tavern. In this episode, there's mention of the 3 letters she got on the 1st investigation. "W" "E" "M". You can see how she sketched it out on the right. There's even a little "e?" above the larger "W" or "M" flipped vertically. You see, initially, Sara thought it was just one letter. I remember on our 1st night sitting up on the 2nd floor she showed me this sketch of the letters. She said this was a letter to the male's spirit's name but couldn't tell which of the three options it was.
Note: the top left sketch of Walter that's circled was the sketch she made of him on the 1st investigation. The large male face is the one she sketched during the 2nd investigation.
Maria is the circled image on the left with her head turned with long hair hanging down. Sara could never see her face until the very end. She would appear to her facing backward. Shying away from her. Refusing to give her anymore than what you see in this image.
The above 3 photos are of the dumb waiter on the 2nd floor that I forgot to get pictures of for Tavern Part II blog. This is what we opened up to trap Emily in her closet on the 2nd floor on our 1st investigation there.
And this is the dumb waiter down on the 1st floor, right inside the kitchen. Again, another spot the prankster activity is often reported.
We don't feature this too much in the episodes, and Sara was never drawn here or had any readings about it, but this is the downstairs bathroom where many staff members and customers report strange occurrences. Most commonly, a woman or little girl crying in the stall next to them. Some reports of phone calls from unknown numbers and hearing the same sobbing or crying. And this is where Molly also had her incident when the stall doors went from all being locked to suddenly flying open.
Above is a stick of burning Palo Santo. Sara used this to cleanse The Tavern and chase the male spirit known as Walter out.
This is the blue stone that Sara left in the manager's office on the 3rd floor. She said it would keep them safe.
There's one last thing that I'd love to share with you that didn't make it into the final episode. As you heard, Sara mentions when she was able to see Maria more clearly after she got rid of Walter, that she was so young she looked a lot like Emily. It was hard to tell them apart at first glance. The older ghost stories I read online that I thought were inconsistent might make sense if this confusion happened with other sensitive individuals who might have seen Maria or Emily in the Tavern when they visited. It's a theory, but I found it interesting that Sara mentioned several times that it was hard to tell them apart. She also said she believed some of the people who claimed to see Emily actually saw Maria and mistook her for Emily. Another thing Sara said repeatedly was that the shoes on display in the glass case aren't Emily's, they are Maria's. All of these little side notes from Sara made wonder if the different ghost stories surrounding the Tavern was just due to the confusion of what sensitives might have first seen and reported because of the fact that Emily and Maria looked like the same person.
I'll always be skeptical. It's in my nature. But being here, for this crazy adventure we went on at The Tavern, I witnessed too many things that I honestly could not explain. There were too many things that fit together so well to just be coincidence. I walked away from The Tavern believing in the ghosts Sara discovered and the stories they tried to get across. But I leave entirely up to you, listeners, to decide what you believe. I hope you enjoyed this ride as much as I did.
Stay restless out there my fellow night owls,