The history of the Broad Axe Tavern is fairly well known, but the first-hand incidents that we have included, are sure to spook you and also timely to add to our collection of Ambler Ghost Stories…
The Broad Axe Tavern – 901 West Butler Pike Ambler, PA
Dating back to 1681, the Broad Axe Tavern holds many haunted stories. The Broad Axe’s most well-known ghost, Rachel, still haunts the building, and history claims that she was the daughter of the tavern’s owner. The story goes, that she was chased into the tavern to the area that is now the first floor bathroom, by drunken hoodlums and never seen again. To this day, employees say they have been pushed from behind and have had drinks topple over for no reason while serving. Some people driving by or stopped at the light at the corner of Skippack and Butler Avenue, have seen Rachel’s ghost standing in the third floor window.
During the American Revolution, British and American soldiers fought along Skippack Road between the Broad Axe Tavern and The Blue Bell Inn, where many were killed. The soldiers who died on the roadside in front of the Tavern were buried in unmarked graves and still remain there today. Because of this, the intersection in front of the Broad Axe has an ongoing reputation for supernatural sightings.
It is also said that one of the original owners, George Bisbring, took 50 flat tombstones from a nearby cemetery to make a hearth in his house, and there are many stories about the 50 ghosts who would gather at his fireside, and wander and haunt the premises.
The following incidents are all first-hand stories from one of the current owners, and are the most recent recollections to date:
A busboy in the 1970’s told of a night where he and the previous owner were the only two people in the Tavern after it had closed. He was sweeping the floor in the room that was the original restaurant. It is the center room with the bar on the first floor. The owner was counting money at a table while he was sweeping at about 2:30 am. Suddenly, from behind the bar, a bottle went flying across the room and smashed against the stone wall. Even though he was startled, the busboy asked if he should clean up the glass. The owner said “she wants us to leave”. He gathered the pile of money and shoved it into an envelope and the two of them promptly left the tavern without further incident.
Jerry Scheliga, one of the partners of the Broad Axe Tavern, also shared his personal haunted experiences with AroundAmbler.com :
When the building was being restored in 2007-2008, a shaft was constructed to install an elevator. One of the stone masons was in the building by himself. The other workers from his company were outside working on the stone pointing. I arrived late that afternoon to check on the construction progress. When I started to walk into the building, the supervisor ran over to tell me to stay away from the elevator area. He said his (former) employee ran out of the building about an hour earlier claiming he was chased out by a ghost. He said the employee quit and told him he was never coming back.
Other former servers have told me stories that the ghost seems to exhibit actions upon those who do not serve the establishment properly. One story was about a grumpy waitress. In addition to not treating the guests very well, she constantly complained to management that other staff members kept shoving her. However, no one was ever near her when she would turn and yell to stop and leave her alone. She ultimately got so upset about the situation that she quit.
Another night, at about 3 am, I was leaving the restaurant with the general manager. We had just finished walking through the building to confirm that things were shut off, all of the windows were closed, and everything else was in order. We were talking in the parking area between the bank and Skippack Pike. I was facing the side of the Broad Axe. After about 5 minutes, the light in the 3rd floor ladies room turned on. We know no one was in the building. We both stared at the window while we wrapped up our discussion. Then, after we got into our cars and were leaving, we saw that the lights had been turned off.
The most recent incident came from a doctor who was a guest at the Broad Axe. He was attending an event and decided to take a walk around. He opened a door to walk up steps to the upper floor. The stairway was dark except for the woman glowing in a blue gown at the top of the steps. He said the apparition did not approach him. It just stayed at the top of the stairs. He said he just closed the door and went back to his gathering.
If you accept that the ghost does not approve of bad people at the Broad Axe, and conversely likes nice things happening at the Broad Axe, I have a story that would seem to support that theory. It was the day after New Year’s Eve 2012. We had a large crowd and a private party with a 60’s theme for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Everyone seemed to have had a great time. Unfortunately, that means many of us had to stay late to clean up afterwards. I got a few hours of sleep and was back in around noon. I was doing paperwork when the bartender rushed into the office. She was, white as a ghost and shaking (no pun intended). She claimed that she had just seen something and didn’t know what to do. I asked her what had happened. She said that a brandy snifter had just moved by itself from the back to the front of the back bar, snapped off a smile shaped piece and then jumped off the bar. I am an engineer by background and generally cynical. With disbelief, I asked her a series of questions. Had she just spilled something? Did she just pull the glass out of a hot dishwasher? Did she knock anything down that could have caused this? She kept getting more angry and emphatically said NO to everything I asked. So, I stopped what I was doing and went with her to the DVR computer and we viewed the camera that looks right at the bar. There she was, about 2 feet to the left of the glass location and not doing anything to the back bar. Then, an untouched glass moved forward, snapped off a happy face piece at the rim and jumped off the bar. My hair was standing up on the back of my neck. I replayed the incident several times looking for the external force that did this. Nothing. I went back in time with that camera angle to before the tavern even opened. I watched that glass over the period from the time the lights were turned on (about 3 hours earlier) and watched that glass to see if anything would have caused what I saw. Nothing. I then asked the bartender where the glass was. She said it was still on the floor and she refused to touch it. I went with her back behind the bar. There it was. A brandy snifter, and a smile shaped piece of glass near it, on the floor just as she told me. At that time, there were 2 people sitting at the bar watching a football game. I asked them if they had seen anything. They said they saw a glass jump off the back bar by itself. I asked them they found this strange or if it bothered them. Their response was priceless. They said that they had heard there were ghosts at the Broad Axe and the glass thing did not bother them. However, they then said were trying to watch the game and I was bothering them. So, I picked up the snifter and piece of glass, and immediately went back into the office to save the video of the incident.
Please feel free to email us at: Deana@Burbmedia.com if you have an Ambler Ghost Story of your own. Stay tuned for our next Ambler Ghost Story.