This article is adapted from Paranormal Experts Investigate the Haunting of Cigars and Stripes, written by Debra L. Solomon, and courtesy of the Berwyn/Cicero Gazette in Berwyn, Illinois. Forwarded to us by Ronn Vrhel, owner of Cigars & Stripes.
Cigars and Stripes, the hip lounge and comedy club on old Route 66 in Berwyn has plenty of atmosphere – most of which cannot be easily explained. Customers and paranormal researchers are saying it is a “hot spot” in more ways than one.
“It was more than weird. It was very weird,” said Simone Tervydis of Cicero as she and her friend, Bernice Jan tried to describe their astonishment when they saw the top of a martini shaker flip upside down and then roll across the bar at Cigars and Stripes. “The top just lifted up on its own. We were shocked and jolted. We all looked at one another. It was very weird.”
Chicago-based, Supernatural Occurrence Studies (SOS), Inc. investigators have been recording the testimonials and first-hand accounts of unexplainable occurrences and sightings that patrons of the hip eclectic lounge and comedy club have been experiencing. SOS Inc. Theorist Dave Black said he “sensed things” as he took a walk around the basement and first floor of the lounge. “There’s definitely something going on in this building,” he said. “From what I hear of the all the testimonials, it has been manifesting itself in various ways. People have been hearing things, seeing things and things have been moving.”
Black said there are multiple testimonials of glasses falling off shelves, the phone lifting up by itself, bottles falling and martini shakers just flipping in the air. “All the people are watching this happen,” said Black.
Though he’s somewhat skeptical about the paranormal “happenings”, Cigars and Stripes owner, Ronn Vrhel explained that when they were first renovating the 80 year old building five years ago, his wife heard sounds like there were parties going on downstairs. When he would go downstairs to check, there was nothing there.
Vrhel said that not long ago, he lost his large bundle of keys and searched high and low for them. A short time later, he heard a loud sound and “the keys dropped out of nowhere” in plain view of all the customers who were seated at the bar.
“The keys slammed off one of the corners and just flew down the bar. I grabbed them and people were saying, “What was that all about? Where did those keys come from?”
Black said that while doing some of the research, he witnessed some unique experiences as well as “very intense” sensations in the basement. His own accounts include hearing someone walking down the stairs – when no one was there, and hearing noises and activity in the empty basement.
SOS Inc. has been researching the paranormal since 1998. They’ve explored some well-known haunts such as Bachelor’s Grove, The House of Blues and the sites of some well-known murders.
“The ultimate goal is to collectively put together a story of what’s taking place. We also want to make sure that every piece of information is backed by fact.
“There are a lot of testimonials from bartenders and customers. At least 2 out of every 15 regulars have experienced something,” said Vrhel who is also researching the building’s history.
At least five customers have seen a shadowy figure walking down the hallway at the rear of the bar. One customer described seeing the shadowy figure “scoot down the hall and around the corner”.
Vrhel invited Spiritual Advisor Lee Murphy to walk through the building to see if her insight validated the ongoing investigations of supernatural activity. After touring the main floor and the basement of Cigars and Stripes, Murphy confirmed the findings of the SOS Inc. group – several spots were charged with energy. Her insight brought to life many stories of the past as well as many possible explanations of the haunting activity.
Murphy’s insight points to several sources of supernatural activity, including a former customer who fell dead in the business entryway nearly 30 years ago, and who may still be walking in to enjoy the social atmosphere.
A presence at the rear of the building is sensed to be an elderly woman who prayed and worried considerably about the well-being of family and friends.
The large hand-crafted bar, which was brought over from the former Stardust Lounge several blocks down from Cigars and Stripes, may be the source of a true love story playing out in some of the current “playful” events.
Murphy said that the energies of the bar are especially intense in one location, which Vrhel shared was the place where Rose, the late former owner of the bar, was best remembered to sit. Rose and her husband Joe owned the Stardust Lounge, and he built and hand-crafted the bar especially for her. Murphy said that Rose’s presence is an exceptionally loving one.
As investigative results are gathered and more and more testimonials of unexplainable occurrences and sightings are being documented, the Supernatural Occurrence Studies, Inc. group has agreed that the place is definitely haunted.
“I do believe that this location is haunted,” said SOS Vice-President William Wolfe who, along with his group, made an overnight visit to the location.
The SOS group, which was founded in 1998, set up their equipment in various locations of the first floor and basement, especially in the areas that have been noted to have the most paranormal activity. After leaving the location for several hours, the group returned to study the results of the camcorders, infrared cameras and tapes.
When the group played back the tape recording, definite sounds and voices could be heard. “We heard knocking sounds, voices, whispering and conversations. One voice sounded like it was saying ‘No, no, you can’t!’ in a man’s voice. There were some howling or screaming sounds in the background, too. We will definitely do some more audio recording here,” said SOS Theorist/Field Guide Dave Black who added that extensive analysis will be performed on the EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) tapes.