Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Occupants say former Illinois restaurant is haunted.

MOUNT PULASKI — Several current and former occupants of one Mount Pulaski building say they are convinced the property is haunted.

For years, stories have circulated about mysterious dimes frequently found on the floor and on countertops there. People have recalled seeing shadow-like figures pass through the building and several former residents claim to have heard inexplicable footsteps in the night, as well as many other seemingly unexplainable happenings.

Since 2006, the space at the heart of those stories has been the home of Saddie’s Secret Place, an antiques and collectibles shop on the downtown square.

“I never thought I’d believe as much as I do now,” shop owner Debbi Gellmen said, “and it all started when I moved here.”

Gellmen, who also lives at the location, said that she’s experienced everything from products being moved around the store to strange power outages in her light fixtures.

“That fixture right there,” Gellmen said, as she pointed at an old candelabra-style light, “the lights will go out on that, one by one in a circle, one after another.”

The owner of the property, Lana Hebenstreit, confirmed that she has also had some strange experiences there.

“Pretty much everyone who’s ever lived or worked in that building has had some kind of experience,”
Hebenstreit said.

When she and her family lived in the building, Hebenstreit’s children claimed to have heard footsteps at night that couldn’t be traced to a person.



Hebenstreit said that on one occasion, her daughter and a friend both heard a voice calling out to them that they assumed was Hebenstreit. When they asked her why she called them over, Hebenstreit had no idea what they were talking about because she hadn’t said anything.

“It’s never been scary, we’ve never been afraid,” she said. “It’s always been friendly.”

“I don’t really know what it is,” Hebenstreit said.

“There’s kind of a standing joke that it’s the Bertonis because we’d find dimes strategically placed on the counters or by the coffee machines.”

For much of the 20th century, the building was home to Bertoni’s Restaurant, a family business started by Pauline and Rinaldo Bertoni in 1912 and later taken over by their son Sam in the mid-1940s.

The restaurant was well known for their homemade ice cream, all beef hamburgers, and their family recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. The neon lights that spelled out “CAFÉ” burned in the window there for decades and the place was like a second home for the Bertoni family and many of their regular customers.

Phil Bertoni, grandson of Pauline and Rinaldo and son of Sam Bertoni, said that, while he has been told that people believe his family still has a presence there, he doesn’t necessarily believe it is in the form of a haunting.

“I’m not much into apparitions like that, I just kind of chuckle,” Bertoni said. “I might see where they’re coming from though. The Bertoni’s, my grandfather and my father, were in that building for a very long time.

My father was there from 1913, when he was born, to 1980. So there’s probably something to it, his presence was in that building basically as long as the building had been there until he passed away.”

Bertoni said that his father, Sam, took over the family business in his thirties because he felt an obligation to his parents, as he was their first-born son.

According to Bertoni, Sam had a hand in all aspects of the restaurant. From cooking and serving to repairing machinery, Bertoni’s father did whatever needed to be done to keep the business running smoothly.

“If it was electrical work, then he did the electrical work. He did everything,” Bertoni said. “It was a tough job for my father. The restaurant business is a very hard life.”

Gellmen said that she sincerely feels that Sam Bertoni and his parents are still, in some way, occupying the building that they tended for all those years.


She said that on a regular basis her dogs Saddie, Micco and Mitzi bark at an area of the shop that used to be Sam Bertoni’s office. “And it’s always at about 2-2:30 in the morning,” she said. “They just get up and start barking like crazy.”

“Also, every now and then, that little door up there will just be open when nobody opened it,” Gellmen said as she pointed up to the area that closes off the office space that is now used for storage.

Both Gellmen and Hebenstreit guessed that the significance of the mysterious dimes people have found around the building may be that a cup of coffee cost ten cents for much of the time that the restaurant was in business.

Gellmen said that some the dimes she’s found have dated back to the 1940s and 1950s.

She also said that the area of the building that was most recently Buff’s Restaurant is often scattered with dimes and teeming with the presence of unseen spirits.
José Toto, a former cook at Buff’s, said that, in his time working there he had many of the same experiences that others have reported.

“I don’t know if it was a ghost, but sometimes when I’d open in the mornings, I’d see shadows of people walking by, usually a really tell guy,” Toto said. “You could be sitting there and you would just feel like someone was watching you, watching what you were doing.”

Toto said he would find dimes and pennies all over the restaurant on those mornings and that doors in the building would move as though they had been opened when no one else was around.

Toto said that he also lived above the restaurant at the time and that he would frequently hear, what sounded like, people walking around the apartment at night.

He and Gellman both acknowledged that their experiences are difficult for people to believe, but each found some comfort in the fact that others have shared those experiences.

“You know, I don’t talk about it a lot because what reason does anyone have to believe it? But I’m not the only one who’s felt and seen things,” Gellman said. “I can assure you that I’m not alone here…these buildings have stories.”

Source: Lincoln Courier

No comments: