Just don’t go into the basement

Gangster’s ghost appears at local haunt

By Jim Bucher

Just when I thought I knew everything about the Dayton area (well, it’s true), you do learn something new every day.

Case in point. I’m sure if you’re a local history buff, you are well aware of Dayton and its gangster connection.

For instance, noted crime dude, John Dillinger, and his reign of terror included a few stops right here. Matter of fact, the infamous bank robber would frequent our town visiting his girlfriend. Eventually, Dayton Police arrested and jailed him in 1933.

But there were other notorious crime figures who did a few “stop n’ robs” in the Miami Valley.

My buddy, Dave Miller with the City of Moraine, informs me that none other than reputed Chicago mobster George ‘Bugs’ Moran held up a local tavern and kidnapped the owner. He was subsequently tried, convicted, and sentenced to a long prison term.

Of course, Moran is forever linked to Chicago’s infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Mob Boss, Al Capone, was the leader of Chicago’s south side gang. Bugs Moran was the leader of the north side gang. On February 14, 1929, Capone’s gang (several dressed as police officers) machine-gunned Moran’s top seven gangsters in a north side garage. Moran was late arriving or he would have also been killed, too. After the massacre, Capone took control of organized crime and bootlegging in Chicago.

Fast forward to 1946. Moran was not the big-time crime boss that he once was in Chicago. He needed money and a new city to flex his muscle. Dayton was a promising, booming, industrial city. So, along with local bootlegger Al Fouts and Moran’s partner, Virgil Summers, the trio of killers had been casing a branch of Winters Bank on West Third Street and Broadway watching the routine of a local tavern keeper.

Now, this story has been circulating for quite a while and the tavern in question was called Silas Tavern.

What isn’t well known is what Dave unearthed.

“What’s fascinating is that after historical research, I found out that Silas Tavern is today’s Upper Deck Tavern in Moraine, making Bugs Moran’s final crime in our fair city,” Miller says.

And, of course, there’s more to the story and just in time for Halloween.

“In researching the story and talking to current bar manager Tammy Brackney, the establishment has had reports of paranormal activity recently as last Tuesday evening,” he says.

Could it be the ghost of Bugs?

“Prior reports were that a couple of female employees were touched or had their hair pulled; after closing time. Hearing bar stools pushed across the floor; the female bar manager opened a storage closet and saw a shadow figure of a man. In the basement, an employee saw an apparition of a man in a gangster suit and top hat standing in front of the meat slicer with the slicer clearly seen looking through him,” Dave says.

Just like an infomercial — wait, there’s more.

“Just two weeks ago, two bar patrons were playing pool and one person saw something walk across the room. The other man turned around and briefly saw him,” says Miller. “The female employee immediately came into the pool room and where she stood, the temperature dropped and became freezing for half a minute.”

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

“What I find interesting is this: Tammy, and none of the employees, knew about the Bugs Moran story (I had interviewed them and learned of the “apparition” in the basement, before I told them about Bugs Moran). The staff are aware of a homicide that took place in the bar in the mid 1960’s when a bar patron named Roy Rogers was shot, but knew nothing about the 1946 gangster robbery,” he says. “Seeing that Bugs Moran’s last caper involved this bar is that his ghost is in the basement at the location of his last crime? Whether you believe in the paranormal or not that is an interesting scenario.”

Now, truth in disclosure, many of my co-workers at Ch. 2 and I frequented this place after work. At that time, it was called John Bulls.

Funny, because I remember hearing stories of the shenanigans going on there but never thought much of it.

Maybe it was the alcohol.

“If you want to go ghost hunting with me and my paranormal partner, Jim Hall, sometime, Buch, for an hour or so, let me know as we would like to re-investigate the Upper Deck since they are having paranormal activity,” says Miller.

You know what, let’s do it and I’ll report back in a few weeks. If, for some reason, you don’t see me here, you’ll know why.

Cheers and wish us luck.


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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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