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Waxahachie restaurant haunted

April 23, 1997

Wilson Aurbach / Lariat Reporter

Catfish Plantation, in Waxahachie, attracts visitors with tasty food and haunting events. Owners Tom and Melissa Baker keep a log of mysterious occurrences at the restaurant located 67 miles north of Waco.

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By Wilson Aurbach

Lariat Reporter

'If you have a ghostly experience, please tell us.'

This foreboding and unusual solicitation graces the wall of Waxahachie's historic Catfish Plantation.

Newcomers quickly learn of the restaurant's secondary reputation as a gallery of supernatural activity from one of the several two-inch-thick binders that rest on an antique dresser just inside the front entrance.

These volumes are overflowing with first-hand accounts from employees and customers chronicling their ghostly encounters at the restaurant.

The number of these unlearned visitors is dropping rapidly. Owners Tom and Melissa Baker have been interviewed on as many as 2,000 radio talk shows and have also had their business featured on A Current Affair.

The essence of the Baker's restaurant is captured in Arthur Myers' A Ghosthunter's Guide. In an interview with Myers, Melissa Baker recants a particularly chilling story involving a young couple with a baby.

'They were the only ones in the restaurant,' she told Myers. 'It was a cold day and kind of moist outside, and there was a mist on the window. I had just been by their table and I commented on how pretty the baby was. I asked what its name was, and they said, 'Alicia.' And I went on.

'About five minutes later, the waitress came to me and said, 'The people with the baby are frightened. They think they've had a ghost experience. The mother said she was eating and something on the window caught her eye. She looked at it and 'Alicia' had been written on the window. They left without finishing their meal. They told me they thought this was a very lovely place and they enjoyed their meal but they would never be back again.'

Tom Baker said years ago the restaurant was visited by a scientific team in search of more information about the ghosts.

'They really were ghost-busters. It was just like the movies. They had all kinds of scientific equipment,' he said. Infrared cameras, lasers and highly sensitive sound equipment were used to gather their ghoulish data.

Baker is quick to point out that the ghosts that call his restaurant home are not simply devices to get people in the door.

Baker said some people might check them out because of the ghost stories, but that one-time patrons are not enough to support a business.

'They come back because of the food, ' he said.

Baker also contends the haunting of his restaurant is far from a gimmick.

Aside from the expected tales of rattling dishes and images that some people 'think' they see, Baker cites instances that seem to stray from the usual eerie stories.

An antique grandfather clock resides in one of the restaurant's main dining rooms.

Occasionally, Baker said he can hear its chimes echo throughout the frames of the old house. However, most of its parts are missing, making it impossible for it to even keep time, much less audibly announce each hour.

Many customers and employees speak of the soothing piano music that can sometimes be heard in the restaurant's waiting area. This would not be unusual, except there is no piano.

Baker has also had problems with the light in an old refrigerator -- the light keeps turning on. The problem is that the appliance is broken and has not been plugged-in for years.

Many of what Baker termed the nation's most renowned psychics have made special trips to Waxahachie just to visit Catfish Plantation.

Approximately 10 years ago, a seance was held to determine the cause of the haunting. The psychics narrowed the paranormal experiences to three individual ghosts named Will, Elizabeth and Caroline.

Years later, a reporter from D Magazine put forth an effort to debunk the ghostly issues surrounding Catfish Plantation.

Unaware of the psychic's findings, the reporter's research on the house's history uncovered the primary people who lived and died in this house were, in fact, named Will, Elizabeth and Caroline.

Will is an overalls-wearing farmer who lived in the house during the Great Depression. Most of his spooking is confined to the front porch.

Elizabeth is the kindest of the ghosts, Baker said. Her pleasant demeanor is odd considering it is said she was strangled to death on her wedding night.

Caroline, while alive, was the organ player at the First Baptist Church in Waxahachie. Her religious affiliations influenced a distinct disinclination towards alcohol. Catfish Plantation does not serve liquor but patrons are allowed to bring their own spirits, so to speak.

On one particular occasion, a group was using the restaurant for a private party, and wine glasses ready for the evening's festivities were scattered--broken into shards all over the kitchen floor.

Baker said he does not feel threatened by these paranormal personalities.

Instead, he sees it as adding character to the house.

'It's not like a poltergeist or evil--it seems like they just want to let you know they're there,' Baker said. 'It's a very warm, caring--I'd even say loving --environment. . .'

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