BACKSTORY: Haunted History of The Wonder Bar (Story and Photos)

C85 At The Wonder Bar, photographed Oct. 4, 2017. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Wonder Bar is Casper’s most legendary boozy downtown institution. It’s also perhaps the most haunted…if you’re into that kind of thing.

Two current employees at the newly remodeled C85 Wonder Bar aren’t scared of no ghosts.

Bar manager Kellan Hawley and general manager Michelle Speiser describe themselves as “nonbelievers,” but they do enjoy the tales of ghostly sightings inside the antique walls.

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While Hawley has never seen any of the spooky spirits himself, he’s heard the stories. “There was one about a ghost in a white dress I remember,” said Hawley, who worked at the old Wonder Bar before its latest and glitziest renovation. “I heard one about a little kid running up and down the halls. A friend of mine’s daughter swears she can see it and wants to play with it,” said Hawley.

“The only weird thing that happens now-but I think it’s more electrical than ghosts-is our TVs like to turn on and off sometimes,” said Speiser. “They’ll turn off for five minutes then all the sudden they pop back on.”

Hawley says some of the contractors working on the building’s recent gut renovation would hear strange noises, only to find nothing when they went looking.

Some coworkers take the stories more seriously. One manager keeps a Ouija Board in the basement.

Lisa Lauderdale of the Paranormal Research Society of Casper has documented a number of mysterious movements from workers and patrons of the bar over the years. Ghostly encounters include numerous employees feeling “pushed” by unseen forces, footsteps upstairs when the building is empty, eerie orange and yellow glowing, and glasses falling off the bar. One bar tender saw a white “misty thing” and ran.

North half of the future home of the Wonder Bar under construction, about 1914. (Detail from a larger photograph) ( Photo by Wiswall. Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

If ghosts do exist, the Wonder Bar’s long history has given it plenty of chances to become their haunt of choice. The building dates back to 1914, when Casper was booming and temporary wood buildings were rapidly being replaced by sturdy brick structures. Center Street was eventually lined with saloons and pool halls.

The Wonder Bar was originally on Second Street and moved to the S. Center location in 1937. The bar was renamed Rock Bottom by new owners in 1988, according to a Casper Star-Tribune newspaper clipping of that era. According to the article, the name change was necessary due to the numerous shootings and stabbings that tarnished the Wonder Bar brand. “Rock Bottom” seems unintentionally fitting as both the bar and Casper’s fortunes went into decline.

The “New” Wonder Bar is seen in this undated photo, likely from the late-1960s. (Western History Center, Casper College)

The Wonder Bar is seen in this cropped undated photo, likely made in the early-1980s. The facade of the building had been heavily altered by this time. (Western History Center, Casper College)

In the following years, a number of businesses under names like Tommyknockers, Cattlemen’s and Bootleggers came and went before the “World Famous” Wonder Bar was rechristened in 2003. Numerous remodels over the years left little of the bar’s original features and details. It was sold in 2016 and was given a complete gut renovation before reopening this August.

“I still don’t like being here by myself,” admits Hawley, although the creep factor is much reduced since the remodel.

“I don’t mind it,” says Speiser on being the last one out at night. “There still are a lot of noises though when I’m like ‘huh, that’s weird’.”

Dancing to music by Chad Lore inside The Wonder Bar (at the time known as Cattleman’s) in July, 2001. (Photo by Dan Cepeda)

The bar at The Wonder Bar before closing for a complete renovation on Oct. 4, 2016. (Dan Cepeda)

The old Wonder Bar on the last night before closing, Oct. 4, 2016. (Dan Cepeda)

This clip from the April 3, 1988 edition of the Casper Star-Tribune announces the opening of the “Rock Bottom”, formally and eventually The Wonder Bar. According to the article, the name change came about after “police reports to shooting and stabbings at or near The Wonder Bar” damaged the bar’s reputation. (Western History Center, Casper College)

An advert for “The New Wonder Bar” in a 1953 Casper Tribune-Herald and Star (now the Casper Star-Tribune). (Western History Center, Casper College)

“Parade day, 1943”. This iconic photo shows riders on horses parking at the bar inside the Wonder Bar. (Western History Center, Casper College)

The former bar area of the Wonder Bar during a gut renovation earlier this year. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Arches for rear windows survived a number of remodels over the years and and now frame the main kitchen area in the new C85 Wonder Bar. A rear addition was added to the Wonder Bar in 1982. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Original windows on the south side of the historic Wonder Bar were bricked up decades ago.  (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Crews work on stripping away paint and plaster from the brick walls inside the Wonder Bar on Tuesday, May 23, in downtown Casper. The ceiling of the first floor has been removed. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Remnants of the original flooring are visible as the historic Wonder Bar undergoes a complete gut renovation on May 23, in downtown Casper. The floor, along with many other pieces of the building, was found to be too damaged to salvage. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The new C85 Wonder Bar nearing completion in Aug. 2017. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The remodeled C85 Wonder Bar. The bar back is one of the few original pieces that survived multiple remodels over the years. It is now at the new bar. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Upstairs at the new C85 Wonder Bar. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

C85 Wonder Bar pictured in August, 2017. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)