Shakers: A Haunted History
Ahh good old Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A wonderful place known for a variety of things. Such as (but not limited to); beer, cheese, sports teams like the Bucks and the Brewers, and so much more. Milwaukee is a place with a rich culture and a long history dating back to its founding in 1846. With a history that long, there are bound to be a lot of feel-good stories, but an equal amount of tragedy; and where tragedy goes the supernatural seems to follow. Not unlike some cities with a reputation for the paranormal, such as New Orleans, Key West, and Salem(just to name a few), Milwaukee has quite a few spirits. From The Rave to the Pabst Mansion, and even hotels such as The Hilton and The Pfister, the paranormal is alive and well in Milwaukee. Another place with a long history of spiritual activity, that I feel doesn't get brought up as much as those other places, is Shaker's Cigar Bar.
Located in Milwaukee's historic Third Ward , Shaker's has been a staple of Milwaukee for decades. With the building itself having a history dating back as far as 1894, one can correctly assume a great deal of events have happened between its walls. Before the building was constructed, the surrounding land was used as a cemetery for a number of indigenous natives of Milwaukee. However, that changed in 1894 when the land was commissioned to be the site for a Schlitz Brewery cooperage house. Fast forward a few decades, after being transferred from owner to owner, and the building came into the ownership of The Capone brothers Al and Frank in 1922. The building was used as a speakeasy during the Prohibition Era during the early to mid 20s under their ownership, with a business front posing as a soda bottling place. The building indeed has a long history that is worth an article in and of itself, however I'm here to specifically talk about the paranormal occurrences and the background regarding them. So let's dive in and get a better understanding of what draws people into this eerie little slice of Milwaukee history.
Shaker's is known for 3 things: cigars, booze, and ghosts. Each one of those components is enough to pique the interest of the average person, but when you combine them, you get a whole different experience. Having been featured in multiple lists of the most haunted places in the whole state, as well as an episode of Netflix's Dark Tourist, one can only imagine what it's like being there. Fairly recently, I actually had the opportunity to go to Shaker's and see for myself. I was interested in all of the stories I had heard surrounding the place, and the tours they do there. They have a multitude of tours that you can book tickets for on their official website, where they give you some backstory regarding the place and its history. They even have a tour called the 'Cream City Cannibal Tour' that is based on notorious serial killer and Milwaukee native Jeff Dahmer(who was a patron of the bar several times). I happened to take one of the tours dedicated to the more supernatural side of the bar's history, as well as interview the owner Bob Weiss. The information I received during my time there was amazing, if not a little macabre. There are quite a few spirits that reside in Shaker's, some with no known backstory at all. However, there are some who have become quite notable within the establishment. Those ones have been named due to not only their frequent activity but their backstories and origins being revealed through means such as mediumship.
One of the more well known spirits within the bar is that of a little girl named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is known to haunt the first floor women's bathroom. Visitors and patrons have reported to have heard a little girl laughing just outside the stall and sometimes coming from just outside the bathroom door. Other reports of patrons feeling as though they're being watched and hearing the pitter patter of a child's footsteps are just as frequent. Elizabeth is also a bit mischievous, often moving items around, specifically items on the counter near the entrance to the women's bathroom, and the aforementioned interactions with guests. The background of Elizabeth is a tragic story that demonstrates just how easily the sparks of youth can be snuffed out entirely too soon due to fatal accident. The story predates the building itself, taking place back when the lot was nothing but natural earth, most likely during its time as a cemetery. The story goes that Elizabeth was playing in the area and just being a kid. She decided to climb a tree and unfortunately she fell out of said tree and broke her neck. Her story is a tragic reminder of how easily innocent life can be cut short.
Then there is the story of Molly Brennan, which is arguably the tale that fascinates patrons the most. Molly was a 16 yr Irish lass who worked as a prostitute in the 20s. In 2001, the bar underwent some renovations. Horrifyingly, a pile of bones was found underneath some floorboards at the at the back of the penthouse. A medical examiner took the bones to research them and discover their origins. It was discovered that about half of the bones were animal and the other half were human remains. Many believe these are remains of Molly Brennan. The medical examiner also concluded that the bones were at least 70 years old, which would put them somewhere around the 1920s. Meaning that the remains could indeed be those of Molly. Molly's story is one of love, disappointment, betrayal, and tragedy. Back during the later years of the Prohibition Era, when the bar was still under the umbrella of the Capone empire, the main floor was used for the business front/speakeasy as I've previously mentioned. However, the top two floors each provided customers with an opportunity to have even more fun. The building is comprised of three floors, not including the basement, and while the main hub of activity was the ground floor, the top 2 floors were used a brothel. The second floor was used as a starting point of sorts. That's where all of the "fluffers" are located. A fluffer's job was to basically get the man ready (if you know what I mean) to go up to the top floor. That's where the "A" girls were, and where the real action happened. The "A" girls were the top money makers for the Capones. Molly Brennan was one of those girls.
One night, Molly received a visit from an ex named Patrick, who pleaded with her to leave her life of selling herself for money behind and to run off with him. Molly seemed to be in agreement but the fear of abandoning her employers and facing retaliation dissuaded her from the idea. Besides, she liked the life of luxury she was afforded due to her occupation. Patrick never did give up on her though and continued to press the notion. Some time later, when Patrick had came to visit her, he found her in bed with his father of all people. Now to understand this next part, I must mention that to get from the main floor to the upper floors, one would have to go up a stairwell. That was the only way to get up there, and it was behind a makeshift gate with a bouncer guarding it. Now the bouncer on duty that night was a man named Sam. Here's where the story gets a bit convoluted. Later that night, Molly, Patrick, and Sam were found dead. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but the general consensus is that Patrick murdered Molly out of rage from the betrayal of the woman he loves sleeping with his father. That part is the most agreed upon cause of Molly's death, however, nobody knows for sure what happened to Patrick and Sam. Some believed Patrick killed Sam and then himself, some think it was the other way around, and others believe they killed each other. We may never know, but what we do know is that three lives were tragically cut short that night. And to this day, it is believed that not only does the spirit of Molly Brennan haunt the penthouse, but also the souls of both Sam and Patrick.
All in all, Shakers has become quite a place for thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts. Those who want an extra thrill can even stay the night in the penthouse. The penthouse is registered on Airbnb. However, those who attempt the stay the night should be well aware of what they're getting themselves into. According to the owner Bob Weiss, only about 10% of people actually manage to stay the whole night. There have been many different reports of all types of spooky activity. Voices, bumps, hearing what sounds like a woman's heels walking around in the wee hours of the night as well as the feeling as if someone is sitting next to you on the bed(some have even claimed to see an imprint) are some of the most reported experiences. So my advice to any who are interested is to proceed at your own discretion.
Even if you don't go to Shaker's for the supernatural aspect, it's still a fun place overall. The food is amazing, the service is incredible, the staff are all so nice and polite, and the retro vibe that one gets while in there is so authentic that you feel as though you've went back in time. I could sit here and wax poetic about the place for days, but I think just listening to a description doesn't fully do it justice. I highly suggest going there to experience it for yourself and to truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere. If you do, tell Mr. Weiss that Juwan sent you.
What's your stance on ghosts? Are they real or not? Let me know in the comments. I sincerely hope you all enjoyed reading this. Until next time, my friends.