MILWAUKEE— A Milwaukee spot is known as “America’s most haunted cigar bar,” and gets to play that up around Halloween.
Shaker’s Cigar Bar is in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point. The building was built in 1894, as a cooperage for Schlitz Brewing.
Then prohibition hit.
“That is when the Capone brothers, Al, Frank and Ralph Capone, took ownership of this building,” said Marley Decker, a tour guide for Shaker’s. “That’s when it operated as a speakeasy, and then the brothel on the top two floors.”
Drive by at night, and there’s no mistaking that this place embraces its reputation as haunted. The building is lit up purple, with ghosts in the windows and on top of the roof.
The basement is objectively creepy. It’s dark, obviously old, and has cobwebs everywhere. It was a secret hideout and meeting room for the Capones.
There’s a cistern that Decker said has brought out bad spirits every time they try to cover it up.
“The well goes down so far to the point that you can’t see the bottom,” she said. “So you can imagine that when the Capones owned this building, this was probably a really perfect place for them to throw things that they never wanted to be found again.”
Decker said she’s more amused and curious by all the paranormal happenings, rather than freaked out.
“Even though I’m a firm believer, I’m also a really big skeptic, in the sense that I try to debunk everything that happens,” she said. “So I kind of like when I have unexplainable experiences, because it proves my skepticism wrong.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s immune to fear. Also downstairs is a door to a seemingly mundane storage area. Decker said it’s put out negative vibes every time they have mediums come through.
“There was one night that I was grabbing napkins over there, and the door went like this,” she said as she shook the door. “That is something that I hope never happens to me again. That is definitely the thing that’s scared me the most since I’ve worked here.”
The door has been blocked off for years. It now has a crack in it that was not there when the door was locked. The lock itself has bent outward, as if someone was pushing on it from the inside.
At one point, the owner had someone come in with ground penetrating radar. They could see discrepancies under the concrete, but most of it was far too deep to tell what it was.
However, there were two things closer to the surface.
“He came across two full sets of human remains sort of huddled up next to each other,” Decker said. “They reported this to MPD, who said because they were so old, and they didn’t match with any open cases, they didn’t have to dig them up unless Bob really wanted them to. So they decided to let them be, and those remains are still under the concrete in that corner to this day.”
Today, there are two plastic skeletons laying on top of the spot where the bodies are down below, marking the spot.
Shaker’s owner Bob Weiss would have to request help again when they worked on the roof.
“Inside this wall, they came across a mass of charred bones,” Decker said. “The medical examiner was able to confirm this was a female in her late teens early 20s, and the remains were about 70 years old.”
Staff believe it to be Molly, who was the top girl working at the brothel. She was just 18 when she was murdered, dismembered, and her body burned in the fireplace of her room, to avoid detection by the mobsters downstairs.
Decker said the main level tends to get the most ghost activity though. One of the first stops on the tour is in the women’s restroom.
“The spirit that stays back here is a spirit named Elizabeth. And Elizabeth is actually the spirit of an 8-year-old girl,” she said. “As tragic as this is to think about, Elizabeth’s spirit is a very sweet spirit, she’s a very playful spirit. And in my experience working here, I would say she has the least fear of people. We get a lot of reports about her.”
She said people hear a little girl’s voice, or the faucet will turn on and off. There’s even a stall door Elizabeth loves to open, even when people are using the restroom.
Melanie Strickland is another tour guide.
“I think that all of my experiences here have been sort of like that, they’re very friendly,” Strickland said. “They’re very much like, ‘Oh my god, you saw me! I’m so glad! And then you told people about me!’”
That’s the real mission at Shaker’s: believe in the paranormal, or don’t. But either way, they’ve got the stories.
Halloween is a big time for Shaker's, for obvious reasons. They have more tours, special events, and even seances. For more information, click here.