Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Haunted Alpena Series: Agnes Lau of the John A Lau Saloon

Probably the most notoriously haunted place in Alpena is the John A Lau Saloon.  It is reportedly haunted by John's wife, Agnes, who is said to move glasses and tip over servers' trays, among other pranks. Her tragic life is certainly befitting of a restless spirit as I came to find in my research.

Agnes (Paddock) Lau was born to Franz Patock (Americanized to Frank Paddock) and Veronika Hildebrand in Neustadt, Germany on January 21, 1873.  She traveled to the US before her parents and siblings in about 1892 at the age of 19.  Her mother and father and siblings joined her 5 years later, arriving in New York on July 11, 1897.

In 1900, Agnes is shown living with her parents Frank and Veronika and siblings Johanna, Martha, Paul, Charles, Mary, and Anton (Anthony) on 729 Riopelle St in Detroit.   Her father worked as a day laborer, and she and her siblings also took on jobs as a dressmaker, cook, servant, butcher, factory laborer, and tailorhand to help the family get by.

Meanwhile, John A Lau, who had arrived in the US from Germany in about 1885, was living in Alpena with his parents, John (Andrew) and Anne (Grozinski) Lau, and brothers Charles, August, John C, and Bernard on 732 Long Lake Ave.

By 1893 or earlier, John had opened his saloon at 414 Dock St (now 2nd Ave) at it's present location.  His brother August, a musician, worked as a bartender at the saloon. In 1897, August and his wife Mary experienced a tragedy of their own when their daughter Martha, 5, and son August, 8, both died of diptheria on September 23rd and 24th of that year.

On June 22, 1900 Agnes married John at Sacred Heart in Detroit, and they made their home in Alpena above the saloon.  They wasted no time starting a family, and their first child John A Jr was born in April of 1901.

On November 17, 1903, John's brother Bernard "Barney" was struck by a railroad train and killed at the age of 30.

The Laus continued expanding their family - Alfred came in about 1904 and Magdaline in 1907.  In February 1909, another girl arrived and was named Agnes, after her mother.  Sadly, this baby perished of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract usually caused by the stomach flu) less than 5 months later on July 11, 1909.  The 1910 census states that Agnes had lost another child at some point, though I have not yet found information on him or her. That's two children lost in 10 years, all the while with a hootin' hollerin' party going on nonstop beneath her home in the saloon below.  Could this be contributing to Agnes' restlessness?

Agnes herself became sick with tuberculosis and eventually went to live with her family in Detroit.  Sadly, she lost her battle on June 24, 1913 at the age of 40 and was laid to rest in Mt. Elliott Cemetery in Detroit.   Though local lore says the children were sent away to a convent upon her death, they are shown living with their father, grandfather, and Agnes' sister Mary Paddock above the saloon 7 years later on the 1920 census.  Could Mary be the second female ghost rumored to walk about the saloon conversing with Agnes?

John A Lau died in 1922 at the relatively young age of 52.  John Jr. married and removed to Detroit, where younger sister Magdalene was living with him and his wife and young daughter Joann in 1930.  John Lau Jr died in 1986, and Alfred passed away at Hubbard Lake in 1952.  I have yet to find who Magdalene married and what became of her life.

If you are interested in learning more about the haunting at the John A Lau, be sure to visit October 9 for a dinner presentation by Kat and Bev, authors of Haunted Travels of Michigan, put on by Mid Michigan Paranormal.  There are two seatings of 40 people each, one at 5:00 PM and one at 8:00 PM.  The price of $55 per person includes dinner, a ghost tour, and presentation.

For more information:          Michigan's Other Side
 Also see:                                 John A Lau Saloon
For more spooky Fall Fun:  Fall in Alpena   

John A Lau (on the left)
image from official saloon website