Spirits of the Dead

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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.

Constructed in 1953, the TT was originally a ranch house surrounded by fertile farmland and orchards rich with citrus. A son of the original owner once shot a coyote in the living room. After suburbia had marched in and conquered the land, the ranch house was purchased by Ralph Moreth who turned the home into a neighborhood bar back in 1963. He called it, fittingly, Ralph's. It later became Lolita's, then the Caddyshack. Brad Henrich took it over, christened it the TT Roadhouse, and last month the pub celebrated its sixth anniversary.

Henrich obtained the Caddyshack with bank loans and a small nest egg from time spent hawking real estate in Hollywood. Anybody who's been around the Phoenix underground long enough would remember Henrich from his days in the early '80s when he managed Roads to Moscow on Mill Avenue.

Henrich reckons that his bar is punk rock in spirit and attitude, that it is more a reaction against the Scottsdale nightlife milieu than part of it. For one thing, it rests in a quiet section of town. Very quiet. Next door is a mortuary.

According to legend, TT's pesky psychic matter is a onetime Caddyshack boozehound struck down by a car on 68th Street, directly in front of the bar. The drunk attempted to cross the street to collect something from his car and left a half-empty glass of beer on the bar. For years, the Caddyshack drinkslingers kept the half-empty glass on a shelf behind the bar as a kind of tribute to the deceased regular. Once Henrich purchased the bar, he spent a month cleaning and remodeling the place, during which time he inadvertently threw out the moldy beverage. He had no idea it was some kind of homage to the dead.

"One day the previous owners called wondering what I'd done with this glass," says Henrich. "They told me the whole story."

"I know the place is haunted," he continues. "Lights flick on for no reason. The volume on the juke just goes up sometimes. I was here alone back in my office one night and I heard what sounded like some kind of spoken-word thing. A kind of a chant. It was fuckin' weird. I was on the phone and it came out of the juke box. And you know what? I have no spoken-word CDs on the jukebox."

"There's just weird stuff in there," Lucy Paris says. "One time Bruce and I were in there and an empty pitcher just flew off the bar and hit the refrigerator. I mean there could have been water on the bar, I don't know. But it would have had to have flown like two and a half, three feet by itself."

Others talk of weird things going on in the bar. Local musicians claim to have seen and heard things. Some customers claim that their beers have toppled over for no reason and things sometimes move at will. The ghost is becoming folklore.

Bartender Bruce Hiembuck, who's worked the TT since it opened, nods his head casually when the subject of the ghost comes up.

"Yeah, he tossed a barstool at me once. It slid off the bar. He turns up the jukebox, too."

Ghosts in literature are a kind of poetic expression of mortal will, a representation of a desire for another world, a world with no moral consequences. Guys like Edgar Allan Poe used ghosts as a way of dealing with the fear of dying, a way to compartmentalize things lost forever.

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Brian Smith
Contact: Brian Smith