The Haunted Arby’s: A Side of Spooky

    Exploring Colorado Springs’ strange fast-food haunting.

    Haunted Arby's in Colorado Springs
    Illustration by Kevin Reed

    Barely a day goes by when Colorado Springs does not make its appearance atop some listicle: Best Places to Live, Best Mountain Bike Trails, Worst Places to Lose Your Sunglasses.

    Weirdest list of them all: The Five Strangest Haunted Locales in America.

    By strange, the makers of the list don’t mean “scary-looking” or “plausibly inhabited by some supernatural entity”—but something like “not the type of place you’d think would be haunted.” While there are places in the Springs that look like they should be haunted, this list is about the opposite. It’s about places you’d never think were haunted.

    In Colorado Springs, it’s an Arby’s. A haunted Arby’s.

    Along with a haunted rest stop in North Carolina (where a ghost knocks on the doors of incoming cars), and a Walmart in California (where a restless spirit sprints through the aisles), there is a haunted Arby’s here in town where supernatural stuff has been supposedly happening for more than two decades.

    “I think we have to go check it out,” I said to my son Jimmy.

    “Can’t we just go to a normal Arby’s?” he said. He’s the sort of 14-year-old who thinks there’s a logical explanation for everything. “What are we having for dinner anyway?”

    “It’s OK to be scared,” I told him.

    “I’m not scared,” said Jimmy. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

    “That’s the sort of thing the guy who’s eaten by a ghost says at the beginning of the movie.”

    “Ghosts don’t eat people,” he said. “And this is not a movie.”

    Before I could reply, my phone did. Siri said, “Let me check on that.”

    “Now that,” said Jimmy. “That was a little weird.”

    I filled Jimmy in on the details as we drove out to the restaurant. Information remains sketchy regarding what initiated the haunting of the Arby’s, as is the nature of the supernatural events that supposedly occur there.

    The story is that a manager of an Arby’s near Academy and Austin Bluffs was shot, allegedly by one of her own employees, shortly after leaving work in the mid-’90s. Since then the murdered manager has haunted the place, doing the sort of annoying things that one might expect of a spectral managerial presence. Stools placed on tables return mysteriously to the floor. Employees report having been poked by some invisible presence while standing around, as if being told to get back to work. Still others hear their names being called, mysteriously, by an unseen presence.

    Pulling into the parking lot was a surprise. I expected a crumbling, cobwebbed edifice, a sign missing the A or the Y—or both. The door would creak open, barely admitting us inside.

    It was nothing like that. This was the cleanest, newest-looking Arby’s I’ve ever seen. The cashier was a cheerful woman with a “We Have The Meats” button pinned onto her shirt. She took my order and seemed unfazed when I asked if she had witnessed any supernatural activity.

    “This place is haunted?” she said. “I’ve never heard that.”

    “Heard what?” said the guy working the pickup window.

    He was a little older than her, with tiny round glasses. I told him, and he seemed to think about it for a moment, then not exactly write it off as impossible. He stuck his head out the window and handed off an order.

    Just then a voice came from the back of the kitchen. “I’ve heard that,” said the voice. “People come in from time to time and mention it. I don’t lend it much credence.”

    “Who’s there?” I called out. “I can’t see you.”

    After a pause, there stepped out of the shadows a man with blue eyes and pale skin. He had in his hand some kind of knife, and there was a bandanna wrapped around his head. “I saw it on the internet, and I’ve heard it said,” he told me. “But I don’t lend it much credence.”

    The way he kept saying the word credence freaked me out. All at once my voice was raspy and came out as barely a croak. “They say that these stools sometimes move of their own accord.”

    Instead of replying, the kid—I call him a kid, but it was impossible to know his exact age; he might have been 16, but he might have been 60—just stood there and looked past me at the stools, the ones that were supposed to move. I turned around, and then so did Jimmy, and the three of us looked at those same stools, waiting for something to happen. It seemed to me that this would be the time for the spectral presence to make itself felt.

    But nothing happened. More customers came in, and then more after that, and Jimmy and I went back to our table.

    “Are you disappointed?” Jimmy asked. “Did you think you were going to see the ghost?”

    I didn’t know what to tell him, but then I heard it. Faintly at first, and then a second time, and then a third time, each time more loudly. At first I thought it was Siri, but that was impossible. Someone—some thing—was calling my name. “Jimmy,” I said, “do you hear that?”

    He nodded. And now a fourth time, this time unmistakable, this time clearly. The voice. “Steve,” it said, “your order’s ready.” 

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