When Karl Stadtler lost his sheet metal business in 2005, he and his wife, Vicky, had to make the toughest decision of their lives: What should they do for a living?
Vicky had been in Ashbary Coffee house several times with her girlfriends and always thought it had a certain charm to it. When the couple saw that the shop was for sale, they jumped on it, not really sure what they were getting themselves into. “We didn’t know anything about the restaurant business,” Vicky says. “I didn’t even know how to make an espresso.”
Along with the coffeeshop, Vicky and Karl’s purchase came with some lore to keep a person up later than a double espresso. Since Ashbary was built, people have reported mysterious, ghostly figures appearing throughout the establishment. Before it was erected in 1974, the lot was home to the Dinty Moore’s brothel, and before that it was Mr. Abbit’s general store and post office.
Legend has it that a young woman and her daughter living above the store were burned alive when the general store was set ablaze in 1883.
Even after hearing stories about incidents that had happened from the previous owners, Vicky and Karl made the leap of faith into owning the shop. Shortly after, they started experiencing the same types of encounters. Customers have reported a little girl tugging on their jackets, while employees have seen a dark figure with long black hair and a woman standing in the windows. Vicky admits she has seen all of these images, and has even experienced things flying off of shelves.
“I don’t like going in there at night alone,” Vicky says. Yet the ghosts at Ashbury don’t seem to have any bad intentions, she says, “They’re playful.”
It’s possible the ghosts scare some away, but the supernatural activity draws many intrigued customers and ghost hunters to the shop. Ashbary has been featured on various ghost tours and videos, including the Haunted Archer Exhibit, and the C.A.S.P.E.R. ghost-hunting exhibit.
Ashbary Coffee House is located in Willow Springs, a suburb south of Chicago Illinois. It is located on Archer Avenue which is almost a legendary stretch of road for the paranormal enthusiast due to its ghostly history. The avenue is anchored on both ends by supposedly haunted cemeteries – Resurrection Cemetery on one side and St. James-Sag Cemetery on the other. Along the length of the road (which was once a well-worn Native American pathway) is a haunted restaurant once owned by the illustrious Al Capone as well as a dance hall that was once visited by the Devil himself. With such a colorful backdrop, it’s no wonder that the paranormal occurrences in the Ashbary Coffee House are said to happen with some degree of frequency.
The second floor of the building is said to be famous for the appearance of anomalous cold spots, and the bottom floor is known for poltergeist activity, disembodied voices, and other such ghostly occurrences. Due partly to the fact that business’s on Archer Avenue have to be comfortable with the idea of paranormal experiences, there are some stunning personal accounts that come out of the coffee house.
One employee recounted that when she was playing around with a Ouija board, asking innocent questions, when the planchette was taken from her hand by an invisible force, and immediately started spinning in circles in the center of the table. Similarly, when the coffee house was hosting a psychic fair, a tarot card was bent in half while someone was holding it in his hand. At another time a barista began mocking the spirits, proclaiming loudly that all of this haunting nonsense was a product of everyone’s overactive imagination. At that moment a coffee cup levitated off a nearby table and struck the naysayer, shutting him up.
A lot of the folklore surrounding Ashbary Coffee comes from the report of a visiting psychic named Amy Cooper. She thought that the spirits that inhabited the building were a family of four: father, mother, son of about 10 years and a daughter of about 5 years. Though the father came across as an extremely dominant figure, there have been no reported incidents of these spirits causing anyone harm. They are most likely the remnants of a family that owned the house long before it became a coffee joint.
The Ashbary Coffee House, along with the rest of Willow Springs, seems to take its paranormal history in stride. It often serves as the starting point for ghost tours of Archer Avenue, and hosts psychic fairs and ghost-hunting groups on a regular basis.