Ocala Comedy Club Has Ghostly Resident

You would expect a ghost to hang out in a club dedicated to scaring customers, not to making them laugh. But that's what Jokeboy's Comedy Club in downtown Ocala has on its hands, according to a paranormal specialist.

"I immediately felt an energy, a presence, when I walked into the building," said Rick Hayes, a University of Florida graduate who serves as a paranormal communicator for Life's Gift Inc. "He is connected with the building and very protective of it."

Those protective measures caught club owners Myra Popp and Brian Walters off guard. Popp said she would turn out the lights as she locked up the club, but on a regular basis the lights would be on when she returned the next morning.

She said she also noticed a breath on the back of her neck when no one was around, and a feeling she was always being watched.

"It was really spooky, but not scary spooky," Popp said. "You'd hear someone walking upstairs, or someone walk past you, but there wouldn't be anyone there."


The black-painted building at 18 S.W. Broadway St. is two doors down from the new Starbucks and next door to Mango's. The shell of the structure preserves the masonry vernacular style it had when built in 1906. Popp left the east wall inside as unfinished brick, but painted the rest of the building in shades of brown and purple. Black curtains cover windows, keeping out daylight.

The attic, which used to be a complete second story, is filled with dust, cobwebs and exposed steel pipes. Piles of rubble from tenants past fill the attic, where the ghost is said to hang out. There was no hooing or howling Tuesday morning, but the lights were on.

"He likes tampering with the lights," Popp said. "He leaves them on for protection."


The ghost goes by the name of Linus, Hayes said.

Hayes, a friend of Popp's family, stopped by the club one evening after a seminar at Central Florida Community College.

"We kept having these weird things happen and we thought we should bring someone in," Popp said.

Hayes immediately made his way to the attic, where he identified the spirit.

"He's not tall - maybe 5'5" or so," Hayes said. "He has a round face and is a little stocky, definitely middle-aged. He is very respectful, though. He stays up in the attic because he doesn't want to interfere with business."

But Linus has some suggestions for the club owners, Hayes said.

"He's a little upset because there aren't children around anymore," Hayes said about Linus, who he envisioned wearing a white apron. "He is really concerned about the building, like he had good business memories there, and he doesn't want it to be torn down."


Hayes said Linus may come from the 1920s era. After being built as a tennis racket store by J.W. Alexander, the property became Ocala Market and Meats in 1921. According to the Historic Ocala Preservation Society, there was a soda fountain in the building until it became the Marion Liquor Store in 1940.

If there is a ghost that looks over the building, this is the first HOPS President Suzanne Thomas has heard about it.

"We don't really have any ghost stories downtown," she said. "The noises could be the wood floors extending when the weather changes. It could be mice. It is a great story though, and it may bring people in."

Popp and Walters say they aren't looking for extra publicity, nor are they inventing the story. They're content to live with their new roommate.

"He protects the place, so I like him hanging around," Popp said. "Plus, I think he likes me."

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