The Ghost and Paul Gallagher
Paul Gallagher is used to being the last man standing at the Irish Center on Friday nights. After the final patron leaves, the longtime bartender closes up the center, latching windows, flicking off lights, locking doors. His last job is to clean up after the weekly Friday night Texas hold ‘em game in the front dining room.
But, on one Friday night just a few weeks ago, as he was just about to scoop up the poker chips, he discovered that his solitary work wasn’t so solitary. He was not alone. Someone was supervising the job.
“The doors were locked and I’d just closed the window and I don’t know who it was, but I felt something cold pass through me, like a breeze, right through my chest right here,” says Gallagher, patting the center of his chest. “And then I heard someone say, ‘What are you going to do now, Paul?’”
Later, he says, he took it as a philosophical question. But at the time, the answer was simple and practical. “I left the chips there, turned out the light, locked up and got out of there,” says the South Philly native, who says he’s not easily shaken. “I was scared to death.”
On his way home, he decided to stop at his neighborhood after-hours club for a stiff one. “I walked in and the bartender there who’s a friend of mine says, ‘Jesus Christ, Paul, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’ I said, ‘I didn’t see one but I felt and heard one.’”
Gallagher has no explanation for the phenomenon. He’d just learned that morning that a friend and longtime patron had died, but he didn’t recognize the voice he heard. “I’ve heard stories about this place and other people have said they thought it was haunted.” In fact, confirms Irish Center manager John Nolan, one of his predecessors died in the office that Nolan uses now in the more than century old building that has been, variously, a car club, a Jewish center, and a caterer’s hall before it was purchased in 1958 by the Commodore Barry Society.
Gallagher had a previous close encounter with the ghost of Emlen Street, but only by proxy. “My girlfriend said that when she was sitting at the bar she felt a cold breeze brush by her legs. But this is the first time something has happened to me.”
His ghostly encounter hasn’t stopped Gallagher from being at his post on Friday nights, and he should be there this Friday, October 30, for the Samhain Rambling House event—an evening of jokes, songs, dancing, and stories to celebrate the Irish version of Halloween.
Maybe, if you ask him, he’ll tell you a real ghost story.
The Samhain Rambling House costs $5 and will feature music by Vince Gallagher, Kevin Brennan and Patsy Ward; quizzes with prizes; special awards for the best costume, scariest story, and best performance; and free refreshments and drink specials. Bring your best party piece, or just enjoy everyone else’s talent.
If none of that gets your broomstick off the ground, the center recently installed three new 42-inch plasma screen TVs where you can watch “Ghost Whisperer.” Or your favorite sport.
Or you can sit in on the Texas Hold ‘Em game. If you dare.