The ghosts at Great Dane Pub & Brewery

NOW: The ghosts at Great Dane Pub & Brewery

MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- It’s that time of year where ghost stories and spooky tales are most talked about as we approach Halloween, but how would you feel working at a place that’s known to be haunted year round?

During the day at the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company, it's a popular spot in the heart of downtown Madison where patrons come to enjoy a bite to eat or enjoy a cold beer.

But when employees wrap up their work for the day, that’s when strange things typically occur throughout the building, which was formally the Fess Hotel for over 130 years.

“I was sitting here, adding up my credit card receipts and finishing my shift and I heard someone ask me what time is it?,” said Molly Konkey, an employee at the Great Dane. “No one was there.”

The sound of someone's voice came from a storage room in the basement of the Great Dane that employees used to use as an office. It's a room that some employees refused to enter after business hours.

The downstairs area was originally a stable for over 60 horses, according to Heather Bailey, preservation planner for the City of Madison.

“In 1880 the hotel advertised 34 guest rooms and there was also an attached delivery room because when you travel you have to have somewhere to put your horse,” said Bailey.

Konkey has worked at the Great Dane for over three years, and she said it only took her a few weeks for her to finally ask her co-workers how many ghosts are in the building.

She has plenty of her own stories and many more from co-workers over the years. Some include seeing the same man who walks up the stairs and then quickly vanishes.

“We just cleared this area and I’m talking to another co-worker facing the stairwell when we watch a man walk up the stairs, I go to say, sir -- you know that area is closed to the public and then poof, he’s gone,” Konkey said.

Another spooky tale shared by employees includes a time when two bartenders were counting their money in the pool hall and it sounded like someone was knocking down pool cues, one by one, but no one was in that area.

There’re also random in-house phone calls, but when an employee answers, no one is on the other end, Konkey said. There’s also the ringing of a telephone late at night when employees are wrapping up their shift when workers are not using the phones.

“It’s resulted in a lot of similar experiences and sometimes when there’s too much coincidence perhaps there’s something else underlying that,” said Matt Pace, Director of Operations for the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co.

So, you might be wondering why this historic building is considered haunted, well there are some theories.

Before the Great Dane Brewpub was established in 1994, it was the Fess Hotel. It was built in the 1850’s and owned by English immigrant George Fess.

Recently a piece of history was revealed with a mural advertising the hotel, which came to light after a parking garage was torn down over the summer.

“We didn’t know there would be this big historic mural, big signage so it was super exciting,” Bailey said.

The hotel was a place that welcomed all kinds of travelers, but Bailey said one thing it didn’t offer was alcohol. A frequent guest of the hotel was Caroline Amelia Nation, often referred to Carrie Nation or Hatchet Granny, who was a member of the temperance movement and torn up bars with her hatchet.

“She would literally go into bars and hatchet up the bar to try and shut it down, she stayed at the Fess in 1901 because it was one of the few places that didn’t have a bar in it,” Bailey said.

Research also shows the Fess Family were also big supporters of the temperance movement, which opposed the consumption of alcohol before Prohibition.

One theory Bailey shares is that once the hotel closed in 1994 and later became a bar/restaurant, she believes it could be a reason behind the bizarre activity.

The building has been around for well over a century and is filled with memories. Next time you visit the Great Dane you might want to ask your server if they have any stories to share.

“There's been a lot of history and stories of people's trajectories that have come through this space and those tens of thousands of people that did may have left something behind or some of their energy,” said Pace.

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