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SHADOWS OF ASHLEY’S TAVERN

Ashley’s is a popular eatery and pub on U. S. 1 in Rockledge that has a long haunting history. Built in the 1920s, this half-timbered, Tudor-style, structure looks more like something you’d find in the English countryside which provides a good backdrop for its ghostly reputation. Although the place has been under several names since it was built, the paranormal antics have pretty much remained standard poltergeist stuff like dishes flying off shelves, lights turning on, or off, patrons being pushed by unseen hands, that sort of thing. In one case that happened one night after closing, a team of paranormal investigators claimed to have observed a chair levitate and move across the room where it gently settled down on the floor.

What singles Ashley’s out from other haunted places is the high number of patrons and employees who have witnessed these occurrences. Floating objects, especially dinnerware in the kitchen, are frequently mentioned in accounts about Ashley’s. Although strange things have been experienced through the entire building, the main concentration seems to be in the ladies’ room where women have reported “a choking feeling.” Other claims have involved toilet paper rolls unraveling from their spools, windows opening by themselves, latches that would unlock, and faucets that turned-on by themselves. The most bizarre claims come from women who say they’ve seen an apparition in the restroom mirror of a young girl dressed in “Roaring Twenties” garb. A former waitress alleges that in two instances women have come screaming out of the restroom vowing never to return. They never stopped to explain what they had seen, so we are left to assume it was a ghost.

Over the years, the tavern has been checked out by numerous ghost-busters, with the serious ones using sophisticated instruments like Tri-Field meters, microwave and magnetic sensors, and special infrared thermograph equipment for detecting cold and hot spots. Other ghost chasers, desiring to keep things simple, have used Ouija boards in an attempt to commune with Ashley’s resident haint. While Ouija boards are a little suspect, investigators armed with scientific devices have indeed detected unexplainable cold spots, swirling smoke-like images, and unusual energy fields within the building. However, some spook-sleuths have complained they could not document anything because all their equipment either malfunctioned, or their batteries mysteriously went dead. Although filmmaker Ryan Lewis, who produced a short documentary called “Ashley’s Shadow,” told me that he experienced no problems with his equipment.

I’ve heard a number of tales about who haunts Ashley’s. One story claims the building is sitting on an Indian burial ground. Other traditions tell of a boy who was killed on the railroad that runs behind the restaurant or about a girl who was killed in a car wreck out front on the highway. There are no historical records to support any of these claims; however, there’s another story about a murdered girl that does have a little credibility. According to the story, the girl was Ethel Allen, who was nineteen years old in 1920 when she was brutally murdered in the restaurant’s storeroom and dumped in the Indian River. When Ryan Lewis was researching for his documentary, he plowed through microfilms of old newspapers and dredged-up the real facts about Ethel Allen. He discovered that Ethel had indeed been murdered, but not in the 1920s, it was 1934.

Her decomposing, nude body was found burned, mutilated, and dumped in the Indian River south of Rockledge, near Eau Gallie. The only evidence found was a nylon stocking wrapped around her neck, the initials “B.K.” tattooed on her leg, and a ruby ring on her finger. Authorities never determined where she was killed, so there’s nothing that says the scene of the crime was in the tavern. However, further research shows that in 1933, Ashley’s was known as “Jack’s Tavern,” and the proprietor was Jack Allen.

Although census records have been of little help, perhaps the murdered girl, Ethel Allen, was a relative of this owner. In his quest, Lewis located Ethel’s grave, discernable by a small, home-made, cement marker, in an old cemetery on Merritt Island, almost directly across the Indian River from the tavern.

I was invited to join an Orlando based-group, called “Spook Hunters,” in their late night investigation of Ashley’s. The management had graciously allowed the group, led by Owen Sliter, to remain after closing to check the place out. Sliter, who jokingly wore a bright-orange “Ghostbusters jumpsuit,” described himself as a “skeptic with an open mind.” While he believes that the power of suggestion is responsible for most ghost sightings, other members of his spook hunting organization truly believed that something strange was going on in the tavern. Our ghost hunt bagged no apparitions, but one member of the group did experience an unexplained tingling on her face, and a “floating orb” was captured in a photograph of the dining room. Of course the orb was offered as evidence by the believers and explained away by the skeptics as a photographic flaw. As for me, I can honestly say that Ashley’s has a great seafood platter….but the only spirits I saw were the ones being served at the bar. Yet, I find the strange tales about this place intriguing and worthy of keeping an open mind. I would like to think that Ethel’s spirit is haunting Ashley’s, perhaps trying to identify her killer. Who knows?

Experienced the Haunting
I know Ashley’s is haunted. I worked there when I was 18 in the kitchen and things were always jumping off the shelf and breaking. Like plates and cups. One time a knife flew across the kitchen like somebody threw it but nobody was there but me and the cook. The worst times are after the place closes. I used to clean up and would be there all by myself and I could hear all kinds of noises like voices or people walking. I finally quit because I didn’t like being there by myself at night. –J.S.

Haunted by the Dead Girl
You should check out Ashley’s Tavern in Rockledge on U.S.1. There’s a real haunted place where all kinds of things happen. It’s supposed to be haunted by a girl that was killed there and concealed in a storeroom. They have a big bulletin board in the place that tells the story. Even the manager believes it’s haunted and I’ve talked to many workers and the bartender and they all say the same thing. –Sharon H.

Something IS Going on There!
I read the thing about Ashley’s and can only say that I believe that something is going on there and it is probably something like poltergeist activity. I think it is some kind of psychic energy being projected by one of the people that work there. I say this because almost every thing that has been reported about the place has to do with objects moving or things floating in the air. But something weird is going on there and it ought to be looked into by scientists. –RANDY

Ethel is It, and It is Ethel
Ethel Allen was killed there in the 20s or 30s, and the activity at Ashley’s is most likely the spirit of her. It is a fact that she was murdered and they found her body in the Indian River. It is also a fact that she worked at the tavern. I have read the old newspaper article that is available to anyone at the Brevard County library. I do not think the other stories about Ashley’s hold any water, if there is a ghost then it is Ethel. –Rubyring

It’s a Damn Poltergeist!
Ashley’s sounds like a case of poltergeist activity, which may not be a ghost but energy emitting from a living person. Read some accounts about poltergeist cases and in almost every one there will be an adolescent female involved. In my opinion it’s a damn poltergeist! It is strange but true. –laxride

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