Char Bar - Columbus Ohio Ghost

Char Bar


439 N. High St

Columbus, Ohio


If you're over twenty-one and a bar hopper, you may have heard the stories about the hooded figure who haunts the cellar of the Char Bar on North High Street. Those visiting the rustic brick pub cozily settled into the eclectic background of new and old buildings have long whispered over their drinks something strange goes on downstairs where the restrooms are found. They see shadows down there out of the corners of their eyes. And maybe they aren't so sure if it the spirits they have already imbibed upstairs playing with their minds, or perhaps ones coming back from somewhere deep in the gut of the city, waiting for just the right moment to pull someone just a little too drunk into the dark.

But if the dark entity isn't enough to keep them dancing a little jig to keep from going downstairs to use the facilities there, what most people don't know about the land around building just might. In all likelihood, the hooded figure should be the least of anyone's worries down there. There might be something more sinister lurking around.


The Dark Tunnel

In the spring of 1873, Columbus had far outgrown its first Union Train Station on the east side of North High Street. By 1875, a larger station of brick was built a little farther north along High Street to replace the old wooden building which included waiting rooms and ticket offices. 42 passenger trains would depart from the depot per day along 13 different train tracks. The congestion from the constant trains passing over the streets mixed with the foot traffic of pedestrians and wagons along the roadway were said to put nowadays Columbus rush hour traffic to shame. Carriages working their way along High Street were said to be backed up on for nearly seven hours simply to get from one side of the busy railway track to the other.

To curtail the traffic in 1875, a tunnel underpass was built beneath the mass of tracks so streetcars and horse carts could pass unhindered by the constant train traffic crossing the paths. It was a two-lane passageway 550 feet long. The tunnel featured drainage, sidewalks on both sides and was lighted by gas lamps.

However, it was only a few months into its heyday when both pedestrians and horse-drawn carriage drivers snubbed its use. It seemed it was far easier for those on foot to worry about the dangers of crossing paths with the trains above than the labor of ascending and descending the steps through the tunnels to get to the other side. Even though a mule was waiting to help horses make their way up the steep incline, it was still difficult for carriages to make their way through. It was only made worse with the lack of ventilation and the stench of manure left behind by the carriages passing through.

This very tunnel was nearly right across the street from where the Char Bar building was placed sometime around 1900. Later, a viaduct was built so pedestrian and vehicle traffic was routed above the train tracks, altering the roadway so the cellar door that once opened to the main street was now, simply, underground. It is the mysterious and residual features left behind from these changes to the roadway over a hundred years ago making many a bar patron believe the hooded figure has its beginnings and ends right there by the restrooms. The tunnel could explain the ghost--a hooded ghostly patron of the tunnel long gone, coming and going for an eternity along an old path he or she once walked. Or perhaps a nameless ghosts who was killed traversing the tracks, now wishing he or she had taken the easier route of the tunnel below.

The Old North Graveyard

That there have been sightings of only one particular ghost at the Char Bar seems almost strange considering where it sits. Then again, although many hooded pedestrians may have walked the streets of Columbus, you have to wonder if the form is not something grimmer than a residual entity or restless spirit making its appearance considering the businesses in this district have cozied up to an old graveyard where all the patrons there were not completely interred.

The Old North Graveyard had its beginnings in July of 1813, although it wasn't officially a public cemetery until 1821. It was, then, a swampy, wooded lot located in the south-east corner of Park and Spruce streets. Through the 1820s, the Old North Graveyard was the only cemetery for Columbus residents. It reached a peak in the 1840s when the Catholic Cemetery and the South Cemetery made their debuts.

It began to decline as the city grew around it and those who would care for their family members within began to die off themselves. By then, the cemetery had expanded to include land all the way to High Street to the east and south what is now Convention Center Drive. In the mid 1870s, Columbus, Springfield and Cincinnati Railroad, owners of the Union Railroad Depot, sued for the right to use the land. They won. The cemetery was condemned and the bodies that had not already been removed to Greenlawn Cemetery farther out from the city, were removed.



Well, some of them. In fact, most of the bodies were thought to be interred by the 1890s.  However, once in a while during an excavation, a few bones and pieces of old clothing show up in a shovel. It isn't unheard of at any cemetery. Most likely, there were many people buried there before records were kept. No one even knew they were there. Besides, during epidemics, mass burials were also completed at such a fast pace for the safety of the living, there were most likely names and graves left out.

So . . .perhaps, it is not just physical appearance of corpses who see the light of day once in a while again, but the spirits of who were buried making an appearance too. Or more frightening yet, the black hooded reaper seen at the Char Bar has more sinister ideas in mind. He is looking for replacements--fresh, warm bodies to fill the empty spaces where others once rested and are now long gone.



The cellar of the Char Bar used to be level with the street. But when the Union Station traffic became so great, a viaduct was built along the street in front of it leaving the first floor of the pub buried down a level. It has company there, though. Those buried in the now defunct North Cemetery seemed to have found a passage out in the tunnels now leading out from the cellar doors.



Basement of the Char Bar. Piano is said to play on its own.

The Playing Piano in what was once the ground floor and is now the cellar.


Doors that once went out into the street are now underground and lead into the darkness of old tunnels said to be haunted by a ghostly man in a cloak.

Doors to nowhere.