Spirits of the Dead

At the TT Roadhouse, an ectoplasmic liquor pig refuses to give up the ghost

Some claim that the ghost of screen star Clifton Webb communicated that he couldn't bear to abandon his beloved Beverly Hills digs, so he opted to hang around years after he died like the last drunken partygoer. It is said that the spook of workaholic Howard Hughes still goes to his office every day. Ichabod Crane's tryst with the Headless Horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a veiled autobiographical tale of its author, Washington Irving. And people I have talked to swear that the seditious and inexplicable phenomena that have befallen a punk rock pub in Scottsdale are the pranks of an inhospitable ectoplasmic drunk from the other side.

Employees of the bar, in fact, say they wouldn't be caught dead in the joint after closing. "I don't want to sound like some weirdo," says Lucy Paris, manager of TT Roadhouse, "but I believe the bar is haunted."

This may sound like some B-movie plot precursor involving a group of doe-eyed teens gathered around a Oija board, but they all swear it's true:

"I know I'm going to look like an idiot telling this story." Brad Henrich inside his TT.
Paolo Vescia
"I know I'm going to look like an idiot telling this story." Brad Henrich inside his TT.

Early one afternoon three years ago, Paris had just opened the pub and was tending bar. The day began like most at TT's; a few customers sat on stools at one end of the bar, shooting the shit and nodding over the day's first pint. A tape of Mad Max ran silently on the in-house TVs. The jukebox pumped out British punk clang.

Suddenly, everything changed. The whole scene in the bar became irrational, all out of sorts, and frighteningly new.

The juke's volume dropped as if it had been unplugged. From the television's tiny speakers, a sickly voice boomed forth, thick with rasp, like some malevolent god. It came from nothing, out of nowhere. The language was hardly one of a god, though, more the prose of a soused sailor in a whorehouse bar.

"I don't know what you can print out of this because the ghost was yelling at us using foul language," recalls Paris. "When the TV started screaming, it was really, really screwed up. It said, 'Hey, you fucking cocksuckers.'"

The voice crowed, secure in the knowledge that, at that point, it owned the joint. The same expletives shot from the television speaker again. Then again. The invection was delivered five straight times: "Hey, you fucking cocksuckers."

Then it said, "Don't you know? Don't yooooou knoooow?"

The group sat, petrified, blinking. Then the voice went down, down to nothing. It went away. The juke returned to its earlier volume level. The group bolted out through the bar's front door and stood in the parking lot, gasping.

"It was extraordinary," says John Marinick, one of the five, who was a customer in the pub that day. "What is weird was the voice was really, really angry."

This had absolutely no purpose, they figured. Nothing to do with Mad Max, certainly; that was a movie they'd all seen half a dozen times. It was one of those tricks of reasoning that can only be seen or understood on an abstract level, one dealt with over beer and that anybody not there would not understand, not even attempt to understand.

"When we all split out the door," says Marinick, "I was thinking maybe there could have been someone outside that was doing something. But it wasn't so."

The baffled and emotionally bedraggled bunch huddled in the bar's small parking lot. The sun was still well up in the sky, hardly a time one would think a ghost might lurk about. After a handful of minutes had passed, the group moved hesitantly back into the bar. The surroundings seemed normal again.

"The first thing that went through my mind," continues Marinick, "was that somebody had planted a microphone somewhere in the building and was just messing with us. We took down the TVs, unplugged them and looked at them. We looked at the jukebox and the VCR. There's only one way to control the jukebox and that's with a remote control, which was behind the bar. No one was near it."

They rewound and watched the portion of the Mad Max tape than had been running when the voice boomed out. The tape and the movie's dialogue played fine. Nothing at all was tampered with.

"It was frightening, yeah," he continues with a nervous laugh. "Then we all drank very heavily."

The TT Roadhouse is an anomaly in the otherwise well-kept neighborhood near 68th Street and Thomas. The bar's cockeyed quaintness underscores the prim, homogenous perspective of Scottsdale. There is no streaming sports cackle and no bogus-loft-living cigar smokers wearing sweaters who pitch bleached smiles at saline-fortified blondes. Instead, regulars include punks and poseurs and strippers with the occasional slumming Scottsdalite coming down for a pint of lager.

Inside TT's woodgrain interior, skulls are everywhere. Nearly 60 vacant craniums in varying shapes leer out from all points of the bar -- from Dia de Los Muertos monistics to shrunken Caribbean heads with baneful expressions. The walls are bric-a-brac with loads of motorcycle road racing imagery, decades of heroes from the bar's namesake, the TT Road Race on the Isle of Man; heroes of speed who met with early graves like Joey Dunlap. There are Manx crosses and bits of Celtic folk art. A scruffy collection of multinational flags, all gifts from devout drinkers hailing from various parts of the world, hang above the bar. Damaged motorcycle helmets donated by the unlucky suckers who had put them to good use fit comfortably on a few of the skulls. There is an antiquated wood-burning stove and tables shaped like baby coffins and artist renderings of fetal bird skeletons. The men's pisser still sports a shower stall from days of yore and a bathtub sits behind the woman's john. A vague smell of moist fungus and moldy wood, as in any dank U.K. pub, floats throughout. The TT Roadhouse is loud and warm.

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