Arts & CultureCharlotte History

Jason Tapp of Spooky CLT Talks Latta Arcade, Headstones and Haunted Hotels

Jason Tapp stands posing for a photo in front of two elevated chairs and black-and-white photos depicting the founder and designer of the Latta Arcade
Jason Tapp at the shoeshine station in the Latta Arcade. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

It’s been about five years since Jason Tapp launched Spooky CLT, a website and social media platform that focuses on a mix of lighthearted tales of local hauntings and bona-fide Charlotte history. 

In that time, he’s worked to share stories, hosting events at breweries and bars around town to discuss topics like The Dunhill Hotel hauntings and how demons are thought of throughout human history, but he’s been involved in the preservation of spooky Charlotte history, including his efforts to restore an abandoned family cemetery along a bustling section of Remount Road in 2020

His latest project aims to preserve the headstone for Charlie Houck, an animal trainer killed by a lion in Uptown Charlotte in 1930 and buried in Elmwood Cemetery. To raise funds, he’s hosting a ghost-hunting tour of the Latta Arcade — the first event of its kind at the 109-year-old property — scheduled for Oct. 13 (yes, a Friday). 

We met with Tapp to talk about Charlie Houck, paranormal activity at Latta Arcade and the recent answers that have emerged in the case of The Dunhill. 

Queen City Nerve: I’ve always respected the fact that you don’t just sensationalize Charlotte history for the sake of spookiness, but come at it from a respectful angle. Has human history always been a passion of yours in the same way that the paranormal is a passion? 

Jason Tapp: I was never a good student or anything. I think this is the first time I found a passion project that has really inspired me to read. I’ve always been a fan of horror movies and things like that, so that’s where I was coming from. But it’s a fine line with sharing these ghost stories and the human history part. 

An old picture of Oliver Doc Mundy, whose remains were found in an elevator shaft during the construction of the Dunhill Hotel, wearing an Army uniform in his young age.
Oliver Doc Mundy’s remains were found in an elevator shaft during the construction of the Dunhill Hotel in the 1980s. (Photo courtesy of CMPD)

I’m still trying to figure out the right way to keep talking about Odell [Mundy], who died in The Dunhill. You want to be talking about, “Oh, is this the Dunhill ghost?” but you’re like, “Man, this guy’s family is in Mooresville right now, living and breathing and talking. How would they feel if a family member of theirs was an urban legend?” So there’s a fine line; a lot of times I just give the facts and that’s all you can do. But if you’re watching a video about a Revolutionary War battle from a guy named Spooky CLT, like, you kind of make the connection yourself. 

Learn more: Dunhill Hotel Mystery Solved After 35 Years

I reached out to you back in June when the CMPD announced they had identified Mundy, whose skeleton was found at The Dunhill 35 years ago, because you wrote a piece for us that touched on that back in 2021. What was it like to have such a breakthrough in a case you’ve discussed at such lengths? I certainly never thought we’d see it solved in our lifetimes. 

Insane, because I talk about The Dunhill all the time. It’s like the one thing I want everyone to take away, or at least that’s the one thing that gets out of Charlotte that I do. People know that there’s a haunted hotel in Uptown, which is awesome by itself, but yeah, for someone to be found in the ’80s in the bottom of an elevator shaft with all that’s remaining is their bones, and then I make this Instagram account, and within five years it gets solved. That’s crazy. 

The only thing that would make it better is if it turns out that Kathy Reichs did it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she writes a book about it — or loosely based on it.  

You’re partnering with the Charlotte Area Paranormal Society (CAPS) for the Latta Arcade tour. How did you choose that location? Is this something you’ve been wanting to do for a while? 

So what it came down to is I needed a fundraiser event because I’m raising $3,500 to restore the headstone of Charlie Houck, who was killed by a lion. I was talking to CAPS about possible things that we could do together. They do fundraisers for places like the Hugh Torance House and Rosedale where they lead the ghost-hunting portion and then someone else does the history tour themselves. 

Learn More: The Charlotte Area Paranormal Society Goes Ghost Hunting

So I was like, “Well, I’ll do that for Latta Arcade,” because since the beginning of 2023 I’ve been affiliated with the property management team, so I’ve learned a lot about the history of the building and have gotten to know a lot of the tenants. And then me being the spooky guy, it just naturally came up where I was finding every single person I talked to had a different ghost story for the building. 

So with that and renovations coming up soon for the building, I was like, “The history of this place needs to be on paper soon.” So taking the opportunity to, one, share the history; two, share the ghost stories; and three, raise money for this thing I’m trying to raise money for. It all kind of just fell together. 

Do you have any teasers of what you’ve come across? 

The building has been operating since 1914 and it’s been continuously operating, so a lot of history is in its bones. One of the tenants is Arcade Men’s Room, and they’ve been open the entire time. They’ve been open for 108 years nonstop; World War I, World War II, all the other ones, COVID has not killed them. So I think that’s a pretty big deal. 

But talking with all the tenants, the main thing people are saying is that they will always hear footsteps when they know they’re alone. I don’t think it’s a bad vibe necessarily. I was looking for people who died in there and I haven’t found any. So the stories are just affiliated with this long history of people being there. And with my personal beliefs about what ghosts are, they’ve imprinted their own energy on it. You’ll still find tenants there today who have been working there for 30 years, 40 years, decades of their entire lives have been at this place. There’s been kids of shop owners who have grown up in here and now work here. 

Looking down on the hallway at Latta Arcade, the ceiling is glass.
The second floor at the Latta Arcade, which first opened in 1914. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Has Latta Arcade been investigated? Is this something CAPS has ever done? 

No, no one has ever investigated it, paranormal-wise. So we are going to be the first group of people that are intentionally looking for ghosts in this place. And it sounds like it’s going to be pretty easy. (laughs)

As far as the project that inspired this tour, why Charlie Houck? What got you so into this story? 

He was killed by a lion in Charlotte, which is by itself a story. The story is he was a circus trainer, so you can put one and one together how he died, but there’s this headstone in Elmwood Cemetery that says “Charlie Houck, Killed by a Lion,” and it’s already broken; it’s broken into pieces leaning up against a chain-link fence right now. So if it gets worse, if someone walks away with it, then it’s just gone, and if the headstone is not there, then the story kind of just stops. 

So now that I know about it and I saw it when it was upright and now that I’m seeing it on the ground, I’m like, “Shoot, I may have the ability to get this fixed,” so now I have to do it. 

Newspaper clippings following the attack of Charlie Houck by a lion. (Courtesy of Spooky CLT)

But the story itself is great and it’s been really fun getting involved with it. There’s the Voices from the Past event that [the Mecklenburg Historical Association] puts together in Elmwood where they have people acting out the person who has died at their headstone and they’re talking to crowds, saying like, “My name is Charlie Houck. I was killed by a lion,” then explaining the history and stuff. People get to see the headstone, hear the story and know that piece of Charlotte history. So I myself was Charlie this year, which was just a cool thing to be a part of. I’ve never done anything like that. 

Wasn’t the story that he got bit and then it took awhile for him to die? 

So I found multiple stories in the newspaper. I think the common one that you’re referring to is that he got pulled in, his arm got all mangled and then he was brought to St. Peter’s Hospital and they amputated his arm and he died of shock or infection or whatever within a few days. But I’ve also seen that he died where the circus was, in the cage pretty much.

So I like telling people the amputation story because it connects it to the St. Peter’s Hospital, which is still a building that’s standing, it’s next to the Harris Teeter in uptown. So there’s people who live in condominiums where this guy may or may not have died from lion wounds, which is crazy in itself, but just another excuse to tell people a little bit more about our historic buildings. 

I’ve seen you refer to potentially leading your own tours of Elmwood and Pinewood cemeteries. Is that something you’ve locked in? 

I’m trying to do that as another fundraiser, because even with the money I’m getting from this [tour of Latta], it’s not going to completely cover it because I didn’t want to overextend myself or price gouge. So I do want to plan another event at Elmwood where I’m talking about different cool headstones of people who you would consider spooky.

I’m trying to do that for Charlotte because Savannah has it, Asheville has it, all those other spooky places have them. And I have the list of names, now I just need to get the tour. 

How spooky are we as compared to other cities? 

Spooky is as spooky does. I do think that we have a bad PR team citywide, where Charlotte does not have a great narrative outside of its walls. And I think that our haunted history is part of that. But I myself could figure this was my solution, this is the thing that I was going to do to add to it to make it easier for other people to share ghost stories. That’s my mission. 

Learn more: 10 Haunted Spots in Charlotte Where Paranormal Activity Is Rumored

Charlotte does have this reputation for knocking down its history. Do you find that, in terms of paranormal activity, knocking down an old building perturbs the spirits all the more or exorcises the demons, if you will?

That’s tough because there are a few stories that could either prove or disprove that in Charlotte. One is the Bootlegger House. It was one of the stories in my story for you. The Bootlegger House is in Fourth Ward. It was believed that there was a bootlegging operation, and now the house is still very haunted. You’ll see water footprints, different poltergeist activity. But that house was originally in Second Ward and it was moved. So if I can find someone that can confirm that these hauntings were happening before it was moved, that would mean [the spirits followed the building]. 

Bootleggar House
The Bootlegger House, now located in Fourth Ward. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

And then Carolina Theatre was always haunted. And now we’re about to have this huge construction, and I saw that construction, they got rid of the old bricks. But if the same types of hauntings happen there after it opens up and has all these new bones, then that would prove that [they stayed onsite]. So the verdict’s out. With the supernatural, no one can be an actual expert. It’s kind of like at any time, everything can change. 

So going back to the conflicting stories about Charlie Houck’s death, does an instant death or a long-suffering death lend itself to hauntings more often in your experience?

Both. I’ve spent the last few years really trying to think about what I believe about ghosts, because you can say it’s just someone who’s died, and perfect, easy solution, but how does that happen? Why are there not a million ghosts everywhere all the time? And while some people believe there is, I think that there is a certain energy that we all have. Christians would call it your soul. Scientists would call it that mysterious eight pounds you lose when you die. But there’s something inside all of us that affects the outside world or can be unleashed. 

There are four different types of hauntings. What you just asked covers two different types. The short, quick death where the person doesn’t know how they die, there’s unfinished, unresolved business and their mind is still out there trying to make sense of what happened. They may return to a place that they lived or the place that they worked, because that’s familiar to them. 

Then the long, drawn-out one is like, if you’ve ever recovered from a terrible surgery in your body, your brain is stimulated more than it ever has been before. So if it’s producing its own energy, that also can imprint on a room or inside the walls or something. It’s called Stone Tape Theory. 

So now I have to know what the other two types of hauntings are. 

So residual and intelligent are what I just described with the repetition in places at work, at your home. The intelligent one is that you’re aware of the world around you. You can’t interact because you’re a ghost, but those are the ones when people have a spirit box and they’re having a conversation or you say, “Flicker the light,” and someone flickers the light, that’s going to be more intelligent. The other two are going to be poltergeist and inhuman. 

Poltergeist is the term that people use when there’s no narrative. You don’t know what’s happening, but a certain place or a certain person has an energy attached to it, where you move into a new home and all the drawers open, things get tossed around. This is why I think a lot of restaurants are haunted, because nine times out of 10 for me, if I ask someone who works at a restaurant if it’s haunted, they’ll say, “Yeah, weird shit happens all the time,” and I just think it’s because you have all these people working nonstop, repetitively. They have a lot of energy. It just gets stuck in a place, and that continues even when they’re not there. 

Learn more: Nooze Hounds: Charlotte Ghost Stories and Other Spooky Tales

And then the fourth one would be inhuman, which is anything that wasn’t a person. So that’s what people say demons are, guardian angels, there’s earth and water spirits that you’ll hear throughout folklore. It’s something that’s not part of or was never a human being. It’s complicated talking about demons, because if you’re looking at the Bible, those are cosmic beings. These are fallen angels, and angels are like biblical aliens pretty much, when you get down to it. So a lot of people, what they talk about demons is just something supernatural with malicious intent. 

Coming out of the paranormal weeds now to wrap up, you mentioned that the Latta tour won’t cover the expense of the Charlie Houck project. Is there a way for folks to support? 

Elmwood Cemetery has created their own angel donor program where any headstone that’s broken you can donate specifically to have it fixed. So I don’t need a GoFundMe or anything. I’m directing people directly to Elmwood to make their donations for it. It’s at my website. If you’ve ever complained about Charlotte not having history this is a very small thing you can do. 

SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *