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109-year-old Finleys Bar & Grill lures plenty of ghost hunters
Deborah Finley shows pictures that depict paranormal activity in her Airport Way establishment. The Bar and Grill has been a popular destination with local ghost hunting groups and was featured on A&Es My Ghost Stories. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL




WHERE: 22563 7th Street, Banta CA

WHAT: Bar and Grill originally built as a two-story saloon and inn in 1892.

HAUNTS: Former bartender Tony Gukan, who died of a heart attack inside of the bar, supposedly stacks glasses and coins. Bartenders have reported seeing disheveled coins suddenly become neat and glasses suddenly appear organized.

FAME: Matador Travel magazine lists the Banta Inn as one of the five places in the United States that you can investigate the paranormal in first hand. It joins the Long Beach-based Queen Mary and the Louisiana-based Myrtles Plantation.


WHERE: 1120 N. Main Street, Manteca

WHAT: Local Pizza Parlor that has long been a favorite hangout for sports teams and families and people wanting to enjoy a pie and their favorite sports games on one of a dozen televisions.

HAUNTS: Owner Jeff Liotard reported seeing a full-body apparition one night when he walked into his office. Thinking that it might have been the ghost of previous owner Garth Adams, he called in the Manteca-based California Ghost Chasers. Through EVP – electronic voice phenomena – they were able to pick up a voice that identified itself as “David.”


WHERE: 999 Palm Drive, Ione CA

WHAT: A former reform school for boys which opened in 1894 that at one time housed Merle Haggard and Neal Cassady – a popular figure in the Bay Area-based “beat” movement and the basis for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road.” Known as Preston Castle for it’s dominating façade and position on a hill within the small community.

HAUNTS: Housekeeper Anna Corbin was supposedly bludgeoned to death inside of the facility in the 1950’s and her body was believed to have been found in the basement. When the California Ghost Chasers performed their second investigation at the facility, a voice – through EVP – appears to say “get back” while a member of the team tries to sit down in the area.

FAME: Many popular television ghost-chasing shows have visited the facility and presented their findings on the networks that sponsor them – like the Travel Channel.

EVENTS: Friends of Preston Castle is a non-profit group raising money to retrofit the aging building and is offering Halloween tours this weekend. Prices range from $10 to $20 and tours run from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. 

The first time that Stacie Collin let a ghost investigator take her picture with a special night vision-style camera she saw a startling image.

A full-body apparition standing right beside her.

The chef at Finley’s Bar and Grill on Airport Way had long believed that there were paranormal forces at work inside of the 109-year-old building – seeing pots fall off of secured hooks without explanation and shadows appearing out of nowhere.

Getting locked out of the kitchen or inside of the bathroom when she was all by herself in the rural establishment didn’t help offer any peace of mind.

So it was only a matter of time before Finley’s became a popular spot for local ghost hunters that wanted to spend their nights searching for evidence of things typically unseen – communicating with the unknown and finding out who and what are hanging around.

And it wasn’t just the local outfits that wanted to get in on the action.

“When A&E called and said that ‘My Ghost Hunters’ wanted to come out and do an expose on the business I thought that it was a joke. I told them to leave their number and I’d have my people call their people,” said Deborah Finley – who bought the business in 1994. “When I checked with information I saw that it really was A&E. I called them back and they set everything up.”

That show gave Finley’s celebrity status among local paranormal enthusiasts that started stopping in and inquiring about new happenings and wanting to come in and do investigations of their own.

It got to a point, Finley said, where they actually had to cutoff the late night investigations because she didn’t want the restaurant and bar she built up over nearly two decades to become a spot pigeonholed by its unique characteristics.

“It drew an awful lot of attention and it got to a point where we had to say no more,” Finley said. “If people come in during the day and want to look around and they don’t bother customers we don’t mind that. But we found that at night the more people that we had doing investigations the more active that things became around here.

“We didn’t want to become the business known specifically for catering to that.”

But it were those investigations that might have helped Finley discover the identity of at least one of the spirits that she believes still may be hanging around the business.

Through EVP recordings and questions asked by groups that have spent time inside at night, three names kept popping up when investigators asked who the spirits were and what their names were.

They already knew of a little boy named Seth, so the other names – John, Frank and Jack – sounded like those of three other individuals that they believed were crowding the rural eatery.

It wasn’t until Finley took a trip to the Manteca Historical Society that she discovered something that shocked her – that the original property owner was named John Franklin Jack.

“We don’t know if that’s the same person for sure, but it seems to make sense,” said Finley – who has the history of Jack printed on the back of a menu that explains the impressive history of Jack, which includes him attending the fight where Jack Dempsey lost the heavyweight title to Gene Tunney. “There are other names that we have, but some of those families are still around so I’m kind of hesitant to say.

“It answers questions when you finally do learn names like that.”

Finley’s will be celebrating Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 27 starting at 6 p.m. A classical guitarist will be on hand to provide music while finger food will be available as a snack. A costume contest will begin at 9:30 p.m., and a card reader – Madam Sonia – will be providing fortunes. There will be a $5 cover charge.

Finley’s is located at 10477 S. Airport Way, and is open for lunch from Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The business is closed on Sunday. For more information call (209) 983-9493.


209 staff rporter