The Banta Inn in Tracy is famous for the spirits it serves to its bar guests, and infamous for the spirit that is supposed to haunt this popular watering hole.
Whether all those rumors are the effects of the spirits in liquid form imbibed by the rumormongers, or the assertions of diehard paranormal believers is highly debatable.
What is hard to ignore are the stories that are told by those who claim to have actually seen and experienced some of those rumored inexplicable supernatural occurrences. Take Helen Marsh, for one. She has been a bartender and server at this restaurant in the rural area on the east end of incorporated city of Tracy for four years.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen it,” she said of the reported ghostly presence that makes its appearance at the bar counter as though he is just one of the regulars.
“A few people that work here have said to me, ‘There’s a man who sits in the dining room with a hat.’ You don’t see his face; he has a hat on, and he always sits with his back to you,” said Marsh as though she is simply narrating a normal, everyday occurrence at this historic establishment.
“Other times, the juke box will play Patsy Cline and Hand Williams songs, the same two songs. ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline, and ‘Hey, Good Looking,’ by Hank Williams,” she said with a laugh.
During the times that happened, she was the only one there along with the cook. One time it happened, “I told the cook, Patsy Cline is on the juke box. And right after that song, Hank Williams came on. There was just me and the cook. There was nobody else there. I know I didn’t play those songs, and the cook didn’t play them. It has happened quite a few times since I’ve been here; about three or four times,” said Marsh who added that the events happened not in the evenings but “actually in the afternoon.”
One frequent unusual occurrence that she and other employees have actually witnessed involves the coins at the cash register. “A lot of times, the coins would be stacked in neat little piles. That happens all the time. And no, we don’t do it,” Marsh said.
Other than feeling “the hair standing at the back of your neck,” Marsh admits that these paranormal phenomena are “not really scary” as far as she is concerned.
“Not afraid enough to quit,” she qualified.
As to speculations about the ghostly presence at the bar, Marsh said, “There was, in the 1970s, a bartender who had a heart attack behind the bar. They laid him on top of the counter to resuscitate him and he died on the bar counter. They suspect he is the ghost.”
Only surviving saloon started
as stagecoach stop in 1879
Ghost or no ghost, the old watering hole has continued to be a popular destination for those who want to enjoy a little bit of heart-warming spirits along with a hearty meal and listening to old-fashioned juke box songs. It’s also an opportunity to step into one of the historical buildings in the City of Tracy. The building, according to historical footnotes, was originally a two-story brothel. That burned down, and the new structure that was built at this site is the one-story that is the Banta Inn we see today on Seventh Street in Tracy.
If you come in via the main entrance, you walk straight into the bar area. While you’re there, don’t forget to look up. The wild décor extends to the ceiling where two things immediately catch your eye: a railroad crossing sign suspended from the wooden ceiling, and the hundreds of paper currencies that cover the ceiling like a carpet. Immediately to your right is a walkway that leads to the restaurant side of the building. It’s a spacious and airy room decorated with nostalgic items such as old license plates, framed black-and-white historical photographs, and antique and vintage posters. French doors lead to a conference or meeting room or for private and more intimate gatherings. A larger gathering area is to the back of the building which is also accessible via a door from the dining room. You can directly enter the dining room via a side door of the building.
A blurb on the cover of the menu gives a historical glimpse of Banta Inn. According to this promotional piece, the bar and restaurant establishment started as a stagecoach stop in 1879 and was one of several saloons lining up the street. The building was nearly lost in a fire in 1937, after which the original two-story structure became just a single-story business that continues to serve ranches and travelers today. “There’s never a stranger walking in the door; only a friend we have not met,” concludes the blurb.
Banta Inn is located at 22563 S. 7th Street on the corner W. G Street next to the railroad tracks.
Driving directions to Banta Inn
The restaurant/bar is about a 12-minute drive from Manteca, approximately 10.5 miles away. Head west on East Yosemite Avenue toward North Main Street, take the first left on South Main St, turn right and merge onto westbound Highway 120 Bypass, keep left at the fork and follow signs for I-5/San Francisco/Los Angeles and merge onto I-5 South. Take the exit toward Tracy and merge onto I-205 business district, at the traffic circle, take the first exit onto W. Grant Line Road, turn left onto West G Street. Banta Inn is at 5398 W. G Street.