The Haunted Ri Ra Pub
The city of Charlotte, North Carolina has certainly lived up to its royal name. When it was founded in the 1760s it was little more than a tiny settler’s town, but has since blossomed into a major city and thriving commercial hub fit for a queen. Princess Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz would no doubt approve of the city’s fine restaurants, museums, and though she may never have admitted it, its many bars and pubs. Charlotte certainly has no shortage of the latter, and even offers a tour of the city’s best beer joints known as the Charlotte Brews Cruise.
Of all the bars, pubs, and breweries in the Queen City’s crown, the Ri Ra Irish Pub in Uptown Charlotte remains the brightest. The bar is nearly as old as the city itself and offers draft beers, pub grub, and cider served with all the traditionalism and warmth of the Old Country. But according to many regular patrons and long-term staff members, a good drink isn’t the only spirit you’re likely to encounter at the Ri Ra, as the place is rumored to be the most haunted bar in the city. If you think you’re brave enough for what the haunted Ri Ra Pub has in store, then bottoms up! (If you dare.)
History and Background
Although now a defining feature of the Queen City Bar scene, the historic Ri Ra Irish Pub didn’t start that way. As its name suggests, the pub has roots tracing all the way back to Ireland. In the 1920s, the antique Victorian-era bar now found at the pub’s center was recovered from the mess hall of the Phoenix Park barracks in Dublin. The bar was then stored inside a garage in Castleknock, Ireland where it remained for the next 70 years.
Finally, in the mid-1990s, investors looking to bring the traditional taste and grit of the infamous Irish bar scene to the states began digging up pieces of Ireland to bring back with them. Their mission uncovered the Victorian bar, as well as a shop bar and other foundational fragments from local Irish pubs, some dating back as early as the 1800s.
Each was painstakingly restored and repainted before being packed and shipped back to the US. Once in Charlotte, the pieces were reassembled into a traditional, genuine Irish pub Charlottians could enjoy without ever having to leave the states. The pub opened its doors to the public on March 14th, 1997. The Ri Ra Irish Pub has served its community with pride and potatoes for over 20 years, making it a must-see for any beer lover or paranormal enthusiast.
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Of all the ghosts rumored to lurk inside the Ri Ra past two a.m., the most notorious seems to be a pair of ghosts known as simply “the lads.” The pair have been described by patrons and bar staff as two young men dressed in old-fashioned clothing, one with red hair, the other with black. Both have facial hair indicative of a time long passed. When spoken to, the young men reportedly respond in thick Irish accents, in a dialect further suggestive of another time and place.
According to paranormal experts, the so-called “lads,” likely died in Ireland sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s. When the pub was uprooted a century later in the 1990s, these experts believe the lads were uprooted with it. It seems as though the pub could have been their final resting place; perhaps they lost a bar fight, died of alcohol poisoning, or befell some other unfortunate alcohol-induced accident. Whatever the case, the lads have made countless appearances throughout the years and are no doubt here to stay.
One patron by the name of Steve reports a particularly hair-raising encounter with the pair from the late 1990s after the pub first opened. According to his story, Steve wandered into the newly minted Ri Ra Irish Pub for a much-needed drink following a long, tiring day at work. When he entered the barroom he found it empty of all other patrons, except for a pair of young men seated at the end of the bar drinking tall, amber-colored beers topped off with hefty layers of foam. At first, Steve says he took no notice of the pair; other than their odd clothing, they appeared normal enough.
However, this wasn’t the case for long. As Steve sipped his own beer, the pair at the end of the bar gradually grew louder and more unruly, laughing loudly and shoving one another playfully. Suddenly, the taller one inadvertently shoved his redheaded companion a little too hard, causing him to fall and spill his beer all over Steve. This was enough to push Steve over the edge. He stood up and began yelling angrily at the men, loudly accosting them for acting so careless and inconsiderate.
The red-haired man responded apologetically that they hadn’t meant anything by it, they were only just goofing around. As he said this, he bent down to retrieve his fallen hat. When he did so, Steve suddenly noticed a gaping, bloody wound on the back of the man’s head where his hat had been. He gasped, just as the man scooped up his hat and placed it carefully over the injury.
The red-haired man turned back to face Steve, smiling sheepishly. Steve started to say something, but the man’s companion came over and asked if there was a problem. No, Steve started to say, when he noticed what looked oddly like the hilt of what most have been a very long knife sticking out of the man’s abdomen, obscured by his many layers of odd, old-fashioned clothing.
Confused and terrified, Steve could only back away from the two men, assuring them there was no bad blood between them. The two nodded at him and grinned mischievously. As Steve continued for the door, the red-haired man raised his mysteriously ever-full beer as if to toast him.
Steve reached for the door, intending to make a break for his car and get the hell out of there. But just before he did, he threw one last glance at the barroom over his shoulder. What he saw made his heart sink with dread. The mysterious pair had vanished, leaving nothing but a scattering of gold coins on the bar behind them.
Over the years, the two have been spotted a number of times at the Ri Ra. Most patrons who encounter them describe them as overall friendly, if a bit loud. The bar staff usually remembers to leave a pint or two out for the lads, as they tend to leave a pretty substantial tip.
The lads are far from the only ghosts to make a cameo at the Ri Ra. The longtime staff of the bar describes the ghost of a Victorian girl in a frilly white dress as their frequent companion. If you listen closely, you can sometimes hear her practicing her ABCs, and her progress can be found on a chalkboard above the host stand.
Some say the young ghost is responsible for other odd happenings around the bar, including beer taps turning on by themselves, light switches in the bathroom flickering on and off, and unexplained cold patches in certain corners of the bar.
One bar manager reports hearing the sound of a child laughing in the pub one night after closing. Flabbergasted that someone would bring their child into a bar, and after closing no less, the manager rushed from his office to investigate. When he reached the bar, he saw the apparition of a young girl in a white, Victorian-style dress, standing on top of the bar. She looked almost as though she were reaching for something. When the manager shouted at the girl to get down, she vanished. The next day, a Victorian doll with porcelain skin was found hiding behind a bottle of gin.
The Ri Ra Irish Pub in Uptown Charlotte offers a unique experience unlike any other in the city, including specialty draft beers, traditional eats, and antique bars shipped all the way from Ireland. The pub is truly a hidden gem and an absolute must-see for beer lovers and ghost hunters alike.
Next: The ghosts of Duke Mansion