On August 6, 1975, a fire grew in Manteca, California. The El Rey theatre, nestled in the heart of downtown, was being slowly taken over by flames. Quite ironically, the last film to be shown that evening was Steve McQueen’s Towering Inferno.
Alas, the El Rey did not recover. It shut its doors to the public, and sat barren for two decades. Then, in 1999, the theatre got its second chance in the limelight.
A Litany of Failed Manteca Businesses…
The Kelley Brothers purchased the property, gave it much needed TLC, and opened the Kelley Brothers Brewing Company—a restaurant and full service bar. Manteca residents rejoiced at having a new food establishment in town, and local businessmen and developers were relieved that the old El Rey had a new purpose. All seemed right with the world.
However, Manteca, like all other towns across the United States, felt the many repercussions of the 2008 recession. Leisurely activities, such as dining out, were low on priority lists during that time. Over time, our national economy recovered, but the Kelley Brothers never did.
On the last day of January of 2012, the restaurant was officially shut down. The El Rey theatre was empty once more. While financial difficulties were undoubtedly the culprit, some more superstitious locals can’t help but wonder if the site is cursed.
A few say the building is not only cursed—but haunted. A couple of firefighters and patrons died that fateful day in 1975, and some residents claim to have seen them, lurking around in the shadows of the restaurant. Jeanne (Name changed for privacy), a first year graduate student, is one of them.
The Ghost in the Mirror
“Saying the building is ‘cursed’ seems a bit radical…but I do firmly believe that the building has some level of paranormal activity going on,” she confirmed. “Given the fact that lives were lost there in a traumatic way certainly lends to the theory, but it wasn’t until I had my own experience at Kelley Brothers that I knew for sure.
“It was a Friday night, and some friends and I were celebrating the end of another work and school week. We were on our third round of beer, and I requested that someone order an appetizer while I ran to the restroom. Despite the restaurant being pretty busy, the ladies room was empty when I went in,” Jeanne said.
“After I was done, I went to the sink to wash my hands. As I looked into the mirror I thought I saw a pale woman with distinct features standing behind me. I craned my head around but nobody was there.
“I remember laughing, thinking to myself that I was in serious need of sobering food. I checked my hair one more time and returned to my friends. We were laughing and talking when I happened to look at the television in the room.
“There, on the screen was the exact same woman I had seen behind me in the bathroom. She was staring at the camera and began screaming,” Jeanne recalled, looking distraught. “Moments later, there were flames being shown, huge orange flames all over the screen.
“’Oh man…wildfire is spreading,’ a friend said next to me, and I blinked out of a sudden trance-like state. I turned to her then looked back up at the screen. A male news anchor was discussing a wildfire that continued to spread over the state.”
Jeanne shrugged. “It may sound silly, but I knew I saw that woman, and I think she was a victim in the fire at El Rey. I’m not sure any business in Manteca will succeed in that building.”