Come on in, have a drink, enjoy the music….just don’t stay ‘til closing. After the last of the good-timers have piled in to taxis and the bartender is left alone to close up for the night, frightening things start to happen. In the eerie darkened bar, deep in the belly of the night, ashtrays slide down the bar, sent reeling by an unseen hand; glasses fall from shelves, shattering to pieces; and pool balls release from the carriage, jarring the silence and all sense of reality. It’s the witching hour: the spirits rise to raise some Hell.
There have been many an employee –hot with fear and electrified skin– that have picked their heart up off the floor and sprinted down the street, too scared to ever return again. Ghost hunters have measured strong paranormal activity, an attestation to what eye witnesses already know: the building is haunted. While many buildings in Big Bear Village are home to their own phantoms, three continue to be faithful patrons of 40740 Village Drive: Blanche Chadbourne, the original owner (along with her husband Fred) of the Bristol Café which became Chad’s Café and Camp in 1918; Scotty, a bartender and logger; and Whiskey Dave, a workman who spent the prime of his life at the Chad’s Café and Camp.
Whiskey Dave, in his plaid shirt, was a fixture at the Chad’s Café and camp, like a bar stool or band stand. But that’s not to say he had a personality of a pool stick. Quite the opposite, actually. He fired off quips and bantered with the locals from behind the chow line; he belted out old mining songs as he made repairs on the building; and he was known to throw back a few shots and share some laughs with customers as he cleared tables or swept the floor. Whiskey Dave treated the place like his own.
The 1920s Prohibition Act didn’t stop the flow of liquor at Chad’s Café and Camp. It was during this time that “Whiskey Dave” got his name. He kept business booming with his bootlegged whiskey. When he caught wind of a bust (he was usually tipped off by the local sheriffs that enjoyed the entertainment just as much as everyone else did), he’d move his whiskey through a secret underground tunnel that ran from the restaurant to another building across the street.
Whiskey Dave liked women almost as much as he liked his whiskey—that is, until he met Lulu. Within weeks the gregarious Hell raiser married the sweet local girl, and not long after that found out he was going to be a father. What he didn’t know was that Sheriff “Lefty” Dalton (named so because his left leg was shorter than his right leg), had plans to lay claim on the buxom brunette. The way unfiltered whiskey burns going down, Lefty’s ego burned with hate for Whiskey Dave. He was so ablaze with the blue flame of wickedness that he didn’t tip off Whiskey Dave before a raid. In March of ’31, just four months after meeting the love of his life, Whiskey Dave was sent to prison for bootlegging. When word got out he set Dave up, Lefty hitched a ride to Alaska to work on the railroad.
On Sept 20th, 1931, Lulu gave birth to baby girl they named Rose. Although Lulu wrote countless letters to her man detailing little Rose’s life, he didn’t lay eyes on his sweet girl for the first time until he was released in December 1933 due to repeal of the Volstead Act. He was so in love with his wife and daughter that he managed to stifle his raging hate for Lefty to a mere smolder. But the smolder was about to flare up. In February of ’34 Lulu was taken by the cold hands of death as she lay suffering from pneumonia. Whiskey Dave coddled his young daughter but locked his iron clad heart and stoked the flames of retribution. Some day he would take the man’s life that stole part of his.
In the fall of ‘44, Whiskey Dave was sitting at the dimly lit bar. He heard the squeak of the door as a customer entered the building. He didn’t even have to turn around to know that the uneven footsteps behind him belonged to Lefty Dalton. As legend has it, Whiskey Dave belted his shot, slowly stood up, turned to Lefty and said, “Lefty, take a good look at the man that’s gonna kill you.” The bartender said Lefty’s eyes widened when he realized it was Whiskey Dave, but it was too late.
Whiskey Dave fatally stabbed Lefty in the gut and sent him doubling over with a bloody gurgle. But before Lefty hit the ground, he grabbed the pistol in his boot and shot Whiskey Dave through the heart. Even though Whiskey Dave’s body was placed in a whiskey casket and buried under this bar, his spirit wasn’t extinguished. His soul lives on in the place he called home.
So, sit back, relax, and raise your glass in a toast to the man whose hell raising spirit lives on.