By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
In 1979, The Sober Duck Disco and Rock Club in Springfield, Illinois was blessed by three priests. The priests said they blessed the establishment to dispel fears that the ghost of a bartender who killed himself there in 1968, haunted the bar.
The owner Tom Blasko claimed the prayers and holy water worked like a charm. He said the "restless soul" of bartender Albert "Rudy" Cranor haunted the place where he shot himself in the chest (or head) on June 27, 1968.
Blasko said, "You just had the feeling you were being watched. It would be 90, 95 degrees in (the club) and you'd get the coldest, weirdest chills you ever felt go right through you."
The owner said Rudy would play a piano stored in the back of the club, or blow on an invisible trumpet. He would also throw glasses across rooms, and give off "bone-chilling cold" in other areas. He once appeared to a waitress and told her someone would die soon.
In 1977, waitress Barbara Lard she said she saw Rudy's transparent head floating one night in an unused part of the club. She heard an inhuman voice that said, "an owner is going to die."
Several weeks later, Blasko sighed with relief when an owner of the building who leased the space to him, died at age 69.
Probably worried that Rudy would foretell about other deaths, the help of the priests was sought out. Thinking that since Rudy was Catholic, he needed to be absolved of this "worst sin."
But everyplace and everyone has a past, and these are Rudy's and the place he used to haunt.
The Sober Duck was once known as the Lake Club, the "belle of Midwestern nightclubs and one of the hottest spots between St. Louis and Chicago." It was known for serving the best liquors, good food and top performers entertained the customers. There was a secret back room where patrons could engage in the illegal thrill of high-stakes gambling.
The Lake Club opened in 1940, in a building that had already gone by several names. The founders were Harold Henderson, Hugo Giovagnoli and a third unnamed man who each provided $3,000 seed money to set it up.
It changed names in 1968, and new managers and employees started to notice strange feelings, like the chill Blasko described, and the lonely footsteps when the place was empty.
It turned out that the one the ghost foretold would die was the owner, Harold Henderson.
As to Rudy Cranor, he married Evelyn Burkhart in 1940, and in 1941 he operated the El Rancho Restaurant in Waukegan.
By 1948, he owned the Red Pepper Restaurant on Green Bay Road and Washington Street on the outskirts of Waukegan. That year he made the newspapers for an Al Caponish type of stunt when he was indicted by a grand jury for evading payment of his income tax. It seemed he hadn't paid taxes on slot machine profits, and about $4,000 from poker games with customers. In those years, Lake County was a gambler's paradise in the Chicago area. But gambling was a violation of state law.
The judge on the case was surprised when the Lake County's state attorney, the sheriff, the mayor of Waukegan and the Lake Forest chief of police wrote letters speaking of Cranor's "high character, integrity and good citizenship."
The only thing the judge asked was if these officials knew he had slot machines at his restaurant when they wrote the letters. They all dodged the question.
Rudy got three years probation and he had to pay a fine, however in 1949 he hadn't paid and he was arrested at his restaurant where he continued to operate slot machines. He got saved because he had passed ownership of the restaurant to his wife Evelyn Cranor, who said that he wasn't violating his probation because she owned the premises. Rudy kept fighting the courts, and asked for a reduction of his fines in 1950.
What happened to Rudy between then and 1968, when he was a popular bartender who took is life is unknown. No obit appeared in the newspaper about his death, or much less what could have driven him to take that drastic step, but it makes you wonder why he decided to do the deed there of all places.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Author, Narrator and Producer