BILLINGS, Mo. — A former bank now turned into a bar has seen some strange occurrences involving phantom people in mirrors and poltergeist-type activity. Here’s the haunted history of The Bank Tavern.
According to owner Jumper Yates, the construction of the bank on 128 NW Washington Ave., began in 1902.
The white stone found lining the exterior is made of Carthage stone, seasoned oak, and steel from Neosho.
The history of the building as a bank ended when it was purchased by the Watkins family. The Watkins purchased a massive bar and bar back from the Yockum family and moved it to Billings, despite the challenges.
Due to its size, the bar had only been transported by rail in the past. They cut it in half and used five wagons pulled by draft horses to move it. They had to saw out a bank wall to fit the 13-foot-tall piece into their building. After that, it took 40 men to put the pieces in place, where they’ve remained since 1933.
The Watkins called their bar The Bank Tavern, as it was still a bank, but without the money.
In 1954, Cecil and Bernice Land bought the Tavern and its adjoining building. In 1988, Land sold the tavern to Shirley Lawrence. She operated the Tavern until 2019, being forced to close by COVID.
In March of 2020, Yates purchased The Bank Tavern.
Here’s a tour of the Bank Tavern and even more history:
Is the Bank Tavern haunted?
“Yes. And it’s not necessarily anything that’s happened to me … we can tell you how solid our clients are … These are not people that make stuff up… They don’t mess around,” said Yates. “They’ve convinced me.”
According to stories Yates has heard about the building, in 1934, a man found his wife potentially flirting with another man, he supposedly beat the man in the bar, killed him, and tied rope around his feet and dragged his body along the street by his horse.
Yates also said he heard about a man named Chester who was stabbed to death about 80 years ago.
Yates has admitted most of the ghost stories have come from his clients. He hasn’t experienced much paranormal activity himself until recently.
“Ironically, last week I did see something fall over on its own,” said Yates. He said later that night when the bar was closed, he finished cleaning dishes, mopping the floors and taking out the trash, he left to put a padlock on one of the outside doors. When he returned there was a coffee mug sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. There was no one in the bar and the security camera—which is motion-activated—did not go off.
Yates said a similar thing happened when he first bought the place. A bar stool was found in the middle of the bar causing Yates to trip over it. His security camera just showed in one frame the stool was where it was supposed to be and in another frame, it was in the middle of the floor.
Customers have told Yates that they have seen people in the bar back mirror who weren’t there and have also seen glasses falling off the bar for no reason.
The ghostly activity could be the result of an apparently cursed painting in the bar. After purchasing the bar, there were some extra stipulations added. One was that Yates was not allowed to remove two pictures from the room until the previous owner died.
The painting is a depiction of Puck from William Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, however, upon closer observation, the entire image is made up of several naked women. The previous owner told Yates that they believed the painting was possessed by a devil. To counteract the devil, there is a famous image of a fire in Nixa where the flames look like a man riding a horse. The owner believed that the image was an angel and was keeping the demon in check.
“They’re afraid that should this be taken outside or the other room, [the demon] will be free and come get them,” said Yates. “That was serious enough that I had to sign with the notary to close [the deal].”
OzarksFirst conducted an investigation with the SouthWest Ghost Finders. Check out the video above to see the results including a potential ghost greeting us and sharing a booth with one of the investigators and in a previous investigation a phantom woman who appeared on the livestream and looked exactly like the head investigator.
While editing the footage, I overheard a disembodied voice say my name as well.