When Tim Smith opened a restaurant downtown, he didn’t count on the spot coming with a side of paranormal.
But the owner of PH Bistro on South Main Street reluctantly admits he and his staff are being haunted by unexplainable pranks and uneasy feelings.
“A lot of us have felt a presence,” Smith said. “There’s something.”
A Middletown-based paranormal group says they’ve caught proof that the 19th century building has a spook, and he’s a joker.
In two nighttime visits, the Miami Valley Paranormal Society caught on film what they say is a clown-faced ghost in the basement and attic.
The group’s founders Shawna Newcomb and Bryan Farmer say they think the specter is the ghost of the owner of the former Kinney’s restaurant, which enjoyed years of popularity until closing in 1996.
“He was a prankster,” said Farmer, who worked at Kinney’s for a short stint as a teen.
Bill Kinney Sr. was known for antics, such as the fake spider that still hangs above a back door. Other decorations still hang on the walls, alongside original murals and stained-glass windows.
Newcomb said they also recorded audio tape of a ghost of a woman in the restroom that is known to sneeze from the other stall.
“This is by far the most activity we’ve been in,” Newcomb said.
“You can feel it as soon as you walk in the door,” said head waitress Terri Lawson.
Lawson said she hears the sneezing in the bathroom, feels an uneasiness in the basement and often finds coins she says Bill Kinney leaves in spots that need a good cleaning.
“We’re finding change all the time,” said Smith, trailing off with the thought. “I know people drop it. But it … it just seems a little odd to me.”
“I feel like there’s always someone behind me,” said Smith, seated near the large fireplace where the paranormal group says they caught evidence of an apparition.
“Several times I’ve heard footsteps,” he said, adding the sounds often wake him. “This building’s very old, so it could be settling still.”
The ghostly guests might just make PH Bistro the most haunted spot in Franklin, the group says. And they’re even drawing attention from paranormal groups across the country, including one in Los Angeles.
“I think it’s wonderful, as long as it’s not trouble,” Smith said.
And with the success he’s seen so far, Smith figures his phantom is a lucky charm for the restaurant.
“It’s done really well,” he said. “So if the ghost is here, I think he’s on my side.”