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The haunted history behind Dean’s Downtown, the spooky Houston bar with plenty of boos

Located near the corner of Preston and Main St., Dean’s Downtown boasts a rich history dating back more than 120 years. Today, the former department store turned bar is still a hot spot for activity, and we don’t just mean for happy hour.

HOUSTON – They say the more spirits you drink, the more spirits you see, and you’ll definitely want some liquid courage to brave this historic haunt in the heart of Houston. Located near the corner of Preston and Main St., Dean’s Downtown boasts a rich history dating back more than 120 years. Today, the former department store turned bar is still a hot spot for activity, and we don’t just mean for happy hour. Katie Harrison, Operations Manager of Nightly Spirits, shared her expertise on the historic building.

Katie Harrison, Nightly Spirits Operations Manager, shares the spooky history behind Dean's Downtown. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“This building was one of the first to have electric lighting. The neon sign has been around since it was Dean’s Credit Clothing Store,” said Harrison. “A really fun fact about it is Dean was one of the first people to actually let women purchase on credit without permission from their husband or their father.”

Originally known as the Kiam Building, the establishment dates back to 1893 when it first opened as a haberdashery. Today, patrons can still find ledgers and clothing on the back shelves from the original department store.

“These shoes on the shelf actually were for sale. These are some of the examples of some of the beautiful footwear you could purchase here,” said Harrison. “Guests will come and take a look at this ledger and be like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s my grandmother!’”

Katie Harrison, Nightly Spirits Operations Manager, shares the spooky history behind Dean's Downtown. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

But probably the biggest draw in Dean’s Downtown for history buffs and ghost hunters alike is the elevator.

“The elevator that is in the back of the bar is the oldest electric elevator in the state of Texas and the third oldest in the United States,” said Harrison. “There are rumors that during prohibition there was an illegal speakeasy going on upstairs.”

According to rumors, patrons would gain access to the speakeasy through the elevator by giving a password. However, if they gave the wrong password things got dicey.

Katie Harrison, Nightly Spirits Operations Manager, shares the spooky history behind Dean's Downtown. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“People take selfies in that elevator, and in the back there’s a mirror and in the reflection there is a figure. He’s got long dark hair. He’s very thin, very pale,” said Harrison.

Harrison believes the figure is the former elevator operator, deeming whether or not guests are worthy of going upstairs. In addition to capturing images of the figure in photos, Harrison has also witnessed tour guests being shoved and even scratched while inside the elevator.

“He has been captured on multiple occasions throughout our four years of touring in Houston, but it’s the same figure every time,” said Harrison. “You know you come in, you give him the password, you make him happy. If you don’t, he’s going to haunt you for the rest of the evening.”

A ghostly figure captured inside the elevator of Dean's Downtown. (Nightly Spirits)

Particularly around this time of year, Harrison suggests that when dealing with spirits it’s best to proceed with caution.

“I think the veil definitely thins around spooky season simply because we are all more open to it,” said Harrison. “You never know what might happen, especially after a drink or two.”

If you’re in need of some liquid courage before seeking out ghostly encounters this Halloween, Dean’s Downtown Bar Manager Brittanie Covello has just the ticket. See her recipe for the Berry Scary cocktail below.

BERRY SCARY COCKTAIL

Dean's Downtown Bar Manager Brittanie Covello shakes up a frighteningly good cocktail: The Berry Scary. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Blackberry Moonshine
  • .5 oz Lime juice
  • .5 oz Orange juice
  • .25 Simple syrup
  • .25 Mure liqueur
  • Ginger Beer
  • Lime wheel to garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except for ginger beer with ice in a cocktail shaker
  2. Shake well and strain into Collins glass with ice
  3. Top with ginger beer and garnish

To learn more about Nightly Spirits Ghost Tours, click here. To connect with Dean’s Downtown, click here.


About the Author:

Olivia Kolanek is the Features Producer of KPRC 2's Houston Life. She joined the KPRC family in the summer of 2019 after working in non-profit communications for three years. She is passionate about creating content that features good people, good food or a good story. Olivia is a University of Houston alumna, Audible junkie and scuba novice.