The first time I walked into the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, Texas, I knew I had found my local haunt. And I mean that quite literally. The Black Sparrow has the warm and welcoming vibe you want in a hangout. Cold beer, a variety of wines, and a staff that only speaks Texas Friendly, not to mention a delicious menu with their in-house restaurant, Greenhouse Craft Food. But all of that is just the icing on the cake; it’s the history and hauntings inside the Black Sparrow that had me at a disembodied “hello.”
Black Sparrow’s Hauntings
My personal paranormal experiences inside Black Sparrow Music Parlor came as no surprise once I spoke with folks who work there. As bold as the activity was, it still seemed almost expected. But we’ll come back around to my “Whoa!” later.
An Insider’s Paranormal Perspective
I recently shared some bar space with Ryan Davenport. Ryan was around from the beginning at Black Sparrow and worked in the kitchen for a stretch. Now he is opening his own restaurant just down the street, Mixtape on 106 East 2nd. Ryan recalls that it was back in 2017-2018 when he first had experiences inside the building. The most common occurrence was the sound of disembodied footsteps. But they weren’t just steps, “I heard running up and down the hallway, but there was nobody there.” Late one night, close to 3:00 AM, he witnessed the door to the men’s restroom open on its own. He walked over to inspect what was going on; confused by no explanation, Ryan shut the door. Moments later, he looked over towards the men’s room, and the door opened again. As the door found a good place to stop, it stayed there, in the open position. Ryan still has no explanation for how or why this happened. Rob Snow, chef and proprietor of Greenhouse Craft Foods, had similar experiences in Black Sparrow Music Parlor. Chef Rob remembers hearing disembodied footsteps in the same hallway Ryan heard the running. But Chef Rob has also listened to the same ghostly footsteps upstairs, in a space used only for storage. Ryan’s and Chef Rob’s experiences are not only shared and similar but also appear to be the groundwork for bolder and more brazen activities to come. Whoever haunts the Black Sparrow Music Parlor’s space seems to gain momentum the longer the Sparrow occupies the building.
Is it a Poltergeist?
The first Black Sparrow employee I met when I popped in was General Manager Cort Geis, in the fall of 2021. Cort has been in Taylor for quite some time and is a bit of a local historian. He worked for Taylor’s Texas Beer Company downtown location for years and is definitely “in the know” with Taylor’s culture, heritage, and now the town’s hauntings. After Cort and I shared a paranormal experience at the bar of Black Sparrow, more on that later, we decided to chat about some of the things he has seen since working there. Spell Caster Ghost Tours (SPGT): Hey Cort, how long have you been with Black Sparrow? Cort: I started in July 2021. SPGT: Oh, you started as things were starting to come back to life after the Covid shuttering? Cort: Yep. Black Sparrow shut its doors for a while during the lockdown. SPGT: So, how long had you been here before your first paranormal experience? Cort: Not long. When I first started, I remember I was behind the bar and there was a photograph that was pinned to the wall behind the bar. The photo flew off the wall and landed in front of me on the bar. I put it back, but it did it again. SPGT: Do you know who the person was in the photograph? Cort: Yep, it was an old friend of the Black Sparrow’s who had recently passed. SPGT: Did anything else happen when you were new? Cort: Yes, not long after that behind the bar again. I had placed a box of paper silverware sleeves under a shelf on the floor. I heard something, turned around, and there was a pile of silverware sleeves on the floor behind me and the box had been moved away from the wall, with the top opened. I sealed it back and pushed against the wall again, went back to doing what I was doing, heard something again, turned around and there were sleeves all over the floor like they had been thrown out of the box. SPGT: Dang. Was this during business hours? Cort: Yep, we were open. SPGT: What do you make of it? Cort: I have my theories… After hearing this, the experience we both had almost made sense, or at least as much sense that can be made out of unexplainable activity.
Personal Paranormal Experiences at Black Sparrow
I found Black Sparrow Music Parlor shortly after moving back to Texas from New Orleans – pre-conception of Spell Caster Ghost Tours. I lived in Austin for twenty years, and my parents lived in Georgetown, but I wasn’t familiar with the area, and I had been gone for seven years. The first time I walked in to order some supper, I found myself sitting at the bar for almost an hour as my takeaway got cold in the bag next to me. Everyone was so friendly, and the place felt like somewhere I had been before. I found myself there again a few weeks later, but it was a much busier evening. Before I left with my food, I ran to the ladies’ restroom. It was inside the loo that I had my first experience at Black Sparrow. There are two stalls in the women’s restroom at Black Sparrow; I entered the one on the left. That’s about as much detail as you’re going to get on the goings-on in stall left. But stall right… As I was about to exit stall left, I heard the restroom door open and then the other stall door close. Then, I felt the partition move a bit and heard the latch on the stall door turn. I walked out of my stall and approached the sink to wash my hands. As I looked up into the mirror, I became confused and felt a tickle in my belly. In the reflection, I could see BOTH stall doors were open. Not trusting the mirror, I swiftly turned around and found that it hadn’t lied. There was no one else in the restroom with me. I dried my hands, walked out, grabbed my food, said my sincere goodbyes, and made my way home. I thought about that experience quite a bit over the next few days. This wasn’t my first or my fifty-first paranormal experience. I have been in this world for as long as I can remember. What was interesting were the feelings I had as soon as I stepped out of my stall. I didn’t just hear someone come in, I FELT someone in the restroom with me. I was certain somebody was there. The best way I can describe it is it was like the space had gotten smaller. Imagine sitting in a dark room or lying in bed with all the lights out, and someone walks into the room. You can’t see them, but you know someone is there. You can “feel” them in your space. That is exactly what I felt in the restroom. And honestly, I wanted more.
Round Two at the Bar
When I returned to Black Sparrow a few weeks later, I refrained from sharing my experience. I don’t often talk about this stuff unless another prompts the conversation. And even then, I tend to take the temperature of the chat before sharing too much. Not because I worry about opinions, but because I like to know my audience. I am a skeptic around believers and a believer around skeptics. It was a busy night, but I found a spot at the bar to order my takeaway supper and have a beer while I waited. Cort was behind the bar helping the bartender as the drink and food orders kept coming in. I was about finished with my pint when the brown paper bag with my supper was placed on the bar in front of me. I said, “Thank You!” to the gentleman who delivered it and looked up at Cort to ask for my check when we both froze with surprise and confusion. The brown bag began to shake and shimmy as if there was something alive in the bag. Then, it moved about 2-3 inches across the bar towards me. There were people on both sides of me and standing behind me – were we the only ones who saw it? In unison Cort and I both said, “Did you see that?!” He began to unpack my dinner. There had to be something in the bag. (I was praying to the gods for a kitten, not a rodent.) Nope, just my biodegradable disposable to-go containers. Cort turned around and asked his bartender, “Hey, did you see what just happened?” He didn’t, and it was useless trying to explain it, they were too busy. I looked to my left and my right; neither of the patrons next to me had an expression on their faces that would elude to a WTF. EVPs, disembodied footsteps, orbs, apparitions, knocking, and intelligent responses, are all fun to experience. But the actual moving of objects is the best! Something happened that night with the mysterious shake and shimmy bag of supper. I left the world of Ghost Tours back in New Orleans when I came home to Texas. But it was just a few days after that experience I decided to start Spell Caster Ghost Tours. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed my six years of running a ghost tour company until that delicious Greenhouse Craft Food supper bag hopped around on the bar of Black Sparrow Music Parlor. So who are the ghosts? Why are they there? And why do they so badly want to be noticed?
About Black Sparrow Music Parlor
Back in 1918, 113 West Second Street was K J Peterson Hardware and Hatchery. A place where one could purchase a hammer, a saw, and a chicken. Mr. Peterson sold chickens and the tools to murder them with. Things were going well for Peterson. Taylor was booming with the Railroad and commerce, and the future looked bright. Then, post WWI and just before the Great Depression, Taylor was getting hit with a string of burglaries. Bandits would ride in on the train, hit retail shops and downtown saloons, then hop the next train car out of town. The thieves would break in overnight, blow up safes, bust into cash registers, and head out with as much loot as they could carry. K J Peterson Hardware and Hatchery got hit for $350.00. It was hard to recover from. Eventually, after Peterson shuttered, the location became the Diamond Inn. A favorite diner spot that was around for decades. The Diamond Inn was known to have the “best burgers in Taylor.” But that’s not all they were serving up. There is a story that has circulated for a while about a shootout that happened inside the Diamond Inn in the 1940s. Two men got into a brawl and pulled guns on one another. Shots were fired. Both men ran out the back door towards the alley. Shots were fired again, and one was killed. Who these men were and why they were dueling is a mystery. But after some things the owner of Black Sparrow discovered during her remodel, one can only imagine.
Keep Secrets and Speak Easy
When you meet the owner of Black Sparrow Music Parlor, Shannon, it is obvious how connected she is to her building and business. It’s become a part of her. For a while, she lived inside the building in what was a living space of the former owner until Covid finally let it up. That living area was in the back of the building and is now a retail vintage shop and vinyl store, Frock on Vintage. Shannon swears she would hear things out of the ordinary as she worked around the building. Then one day her experiences were no longer just voices, steps, and knocking. She was taking pictures of some of the remodeling when she saw something in one of the pictures. Or rather some people. There were two men in period clothing standing side by side in the photo – pale and ghostly but clear enough to make out. Were these the two men who fired shots at one another more than fifty years ago? As the build-out was happening, there was a wall that needed to be taken down to make room for the stage. While demolishing the wall, they discovered a small opening, large enough for a child or small adult to pass through. Was this a secret passageway? Was there something nefarious going on beyond the wall? Were the men in the photograph connected to the secret passageway? Those questions will probably never be answered. But there are a couple of more recent things that are worth taking note of.
After the Diamond Inn and before Black Sparrow Music Parlor, the building was owned by Mr. Wolbrueck. Mr. Wollbrueck loved old stuff, and he had a lot of it. A Moment in Time was an eclectic shop for collectors and vintage hodge-podge enthusiasts. Mr. Wolbrueck sold items like well-used books, old photographs, and midcentury oil cans, things he had collected over decades. The building and store seemed to be a refuge for Mr. Wolbrueck. He loved the space and collecting had become a huge part of his life. He spent days, nights, and sometimes even sleeping inside A Moment in Time on W. 2nd Street. Everything inside the building had its own past, its own stories, including Mr. Wolbrueck. Many paranormal investigators take into consideration attachments when dealing with hauntings that don’t seem to have a direct or known connection to a specific traumatic or tragic event. Just like a ghost can haunt a building, energies can attach to objects, and yes, to people, too. A musty old cigar box being blamed for a haunting is definitely not as sexy as a string of tragic events taking place inside a Victorian mansion or abandoned hospital, but no less probable, either. Just look up Robert the Doll. Shortly after selling his building to Shannon, Mr. Wolbrueck passed away in April 2019. He was 70 years old and was raised on a farm outside of Taylor. Taylor, Texas was his stomping ground throughout his life. Perhaps the Black Sparrow Music Parlor is where he has chosen to reside in his after-life.
Taylor locals, now residing in Austin, Truly Haunted, hosted a public investigation of Black Sparrow back in 2020. It was considered a Town Hall event and many locals came out to be a part of the ghost hunt. Most of what was captured were EVPs. There were a lot of people and it can be difficult to acquire a variety of evidence with so many people over a short time in a limited amount of time. However, some of the EVPs were extremely clear and worth acknowledging. The voice recorder was set up near the spiral staircase in the backroom. The first EVP is a man’s voice saying, “Here they come,” just before the first group enters the back room. The same voice then says, “Watch it!” An investigator placed a voice recorder upstairs in the storage space and recorded what sounds like the same voice saying, “Don’t touch it!” The next recording is another voice that very clearly states, “I’m going next.” As the investigation progressed and more groups filtered through, there were a few more recordings picked up. They placed a REM Pod on a chair and watched its lights begin to flicker, an investigator asked, “Who is sitting in the chair?” A voice responded, “William.” Much like most paranormal investigations, specific questions were not answered. We don’t know who or what the apparent hauntings are or why they are happening. All we do know is that there are some unexplainable occurrences that happen on a somewhat regular basis inside Black Sparrow Music Parlor.
Visiting Black Sparrow Music Parlor
If you’re in Taylor and looking for a cool spot for a bite to eat, a cool sip, and some good sounds, we highly recommend visiting Black Sparrow Music Parlor. Greenhouse Craft Foods has a fantastic menu that even the pickiest eaters will love. They even have tasty vegan options. And check out their live music calendar for a list of upcoming shows. And if you’re interested in hearing more about Black Sparrow and the town of Taylor, Spell Caster Ghost Tours offers Taylor’s Spirits After Dark: An Adults Only Ghost Tour with a True Crime spin. The tour meets at, you guessed it, Black Sparrow Music Parlor so you can grab a cold beverage to go!