Downtown Anoka building isn’t known just for food and drink

Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka: As all good spooky stories begin, someone noticed something out of the ordinary at the popular grill and bar in downtown Anoka. Longtime server, Randi Barbour said she’s noticed some odd things over the last 17 years ranging from the hot chocolate machine turning on or random televisions turning on and the temperature in the dinning room suddenly plunging for no apparent reason.

“And when something like that happens we blame it on that Mrs. Jackson playing around with us again,” Barbour said, realizing that doesn’t sound normal. “That’s what we all call her.”

Even the weekly TPT television show Almanac made an appearance at the building two years ago to investigate for a Halloween-season episode.

Being one of the best places to hold a luncheon, the Anoka County Historical Society held one of its lunches at the restaurant, which told Barbour about the history of the building. “They said there was a young girl who worked here as a prostitute way back in the logging days and she was murdered here,” Barbour said. “A young man from across the river fell in love with her and maybe he murdered her here.”

Last fall, Barbour said she saw an actual ghost standing at the bottom of the staircase, leading to the basement of the old Jackson Hotel. As she climbed the stairs one bright, Saturday morning in October, she noticed a light flicker in her peripheral vision. “I thought the cooks were messing with me, but as I turned around I saw this greyish orb with shoulders and a head outlined in a light-bluish light.”

The longtime server at Billy’s seen something peering out of the windows in the upper levels of the three-story building on Jackson Street on other occasions, but she rarely goes into the basement, even if the restaurant is busy.

“Even the cleaning lady sees a skirt running across a room once in a while,” Barbour said. “All these things seem to escalate around the holidays too.”

Billy’s Bar and Grill owner, Paul Justin, said all of the ideas of sightings is really unfounded. He said several of his employees have had odd, unexplained experiences ranging from the door leading from an old hotel room in the basement having cases of beer stacked up against it so that on one could get into the room from the only door to the dining room being completely set up in the morning when the first employees arrive.

“One of our bartenders has heard boxes being kicked around downstairs when no one was down there,” Justin said.

According to the historical society the story behind the spirit points to the prostitute, despite anyone with the society ever experiencing the spirit. The Anoka County Historical Society hasn’t been able to pinpoint why the spirit is around the establishment, but the old building is one stop along its very popular walking ghost tour around downtown Anoka.

As the story goes, the former Jackson Hotel (now Billy’s) has a number of stories about employees not going into certain rooms alone. Back at the turn of the 20th century, the Jackson Hotel was a very popular place. Some of the theories include the story of a well-known person in the community and civil war veteran, Michael Spelly, collapsing from a heart attack in front of the hotel on Oct. 29, 1921 after missing a train. Another points toward a lady known as Mrs. Jackson who came in the late 1920s and never left, but that story has been debunked because she died from the flu at home instead of the hotel. Another culprit for the unexplained events could be famous gangster Tommy Banks who ran his base out of Dayton. Banks and his gang frequently went to the Jackson as a place to party with friends.

*Story by Jason Olson, ABC Newspapers