Saturday, March 21, 2009

Frenchie the Friendly Ghost

Club Charles website

The Club Charles (Club Chuck to its regulars) has been a North Charles Street magnet for the Baltimore night crowd since 1941. It features bordello–red lighting, art deco wall murals of hell (supposedly painted by WPA artists during the depression), a Rock-Ola juke box, waitresses flying overhead on trapezes...and a house spook named Frenchie.

Edouard André "Frenchie" Neyt was born near Paris in 1925. It's reputed that during the Nazi occupation of his homeland, he served as a spy, ratting out the Nazis to the resistance. After the war, he crossed the pond to Baltimore and began a life-long career as a waiter.

For years, he roomed in an apartment above the current Club Charles, known as the Wigwam (advertising "Grub and Fire Water") when Neyt lived there. When he wasn't charming women, he was playing jokes on people.

Frenchie died in his room in 1979, reportedly from acute alcoholism. Though gone and buried, many believe the spirit of the fun-loving, diminutive (5'3") Frenchman lives on at the Club Charles.

Club owner Joy Martin says she sees Frenchie so often, always dressed in his black-and-white waiter's outfit, that she's ready to put him on the payroll.

He rearranges bottles at the bar. Frenchie likes to juggle glasses, too, right in front of the customers, who watch them float through air and eventually settle on the floor, unbroken. He'll pour himself a drink from the bar's beer taps. Frenchie has even called the staff on a pay phone that doesn't take incoming calls.

A tale related by the Baltimore City Paper: For years, a group of cops and cab drivers met to deal some cards. When Frenchie came back from work, he'd head straight for the table and playfully harass the poker posse, rubbing their hair or trying to sit in their laps.

The games continued after Frenchie died, but he enjoyed them too much to miss because of a little inconvenience like death. Now, late at night, about the time when Frenchie would usually returned to the club, some of the players reported feeling their hair being ruffled. One cop, trying to concentrate on the cards instead of Frenchie's little games, pulled out his pistol and fired a shot in the air.

"Damn it, Frenchie!" he yelled. "Leave us alone!"

The little guy doesn't just put on incorporate shows; he's been spotted by the staff, too. Bartenders report seeing a small, older gentleman in black trousers and white shirt, Frenchie to a tee, standing at the top of the stairs leading to the upper bar. He disappears after a while, probably on his way to make more mischief.

If you want to catch up a little more on Frenchie's antics, they're related in Ed Okonowicz's book, Baltimore Ghosts.

No comments: