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Culture / Newsy

Houston’s Haunted Diner

Beloved Historic Spot’s Owners Swear By Poltergeist Activity, Do You Dare Doubt It?

BY // 10.27.16
photography Catherine D. Anspon & Matthew Ramirez

So it began with a rumored ghost in keeping with our annual tradition seeking haunts inspired by All Hallows’ Eve. The caper launched with intrepid reporters following up on a Halloween lead at a unique Heights antiques nook adjoining what is possibly Houston’s oldest dining destination — Lovejoys Antiques and Collectables housed within the circa 1923 Yale Street Grill & Gifts.

As reported by the definitive guide to the history of the small-town community within our burg: Houston Heights from the Images of America series: the original operation was owned by pharmacists Abel and Mildred Dupuis, whose biz model featured the de rigueur soda fountain. The couple sold off the pharmacy in 1997, and an antiques co-op moved in. Soon Linda and Tom Lovejoy, looking to expand a prospering ring of citywide antique booths and shops, moved in, and the rest is history.

While dining on eggs sunny side up and waffles, the life-size Buster Brown figure and cookie jars line a partition that divides the grill from the antique shop, which offers homage to all things coveted and collectible from the previous decades into the past century. The richly textured finds at Lovejoys range from comfy kitsch — a plastic rotating 60s-era Santa head acquired during our expedition for $5 (all holiday offerings, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Yule time, are currently 50 percent off) for example — to an impressive alligator handbag scored on a previous junket (for a mere $68, that this reporter had seen elsewhere for $1,200 to $1,600).

The Lovejoys — who are the embodiment of good humor melded with antiques expertise of 35 years and a unerring work ethic — are the soul of credibility. So that’s why when this couple who are ringers for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus relayed a ghost story in plain daylight sitting at the front of their shop — well we were spellbound.

Proprietors Linda and Tom Lovejoy.
Proprietors Linda and Tom Lovejoy.

Ever since moving in close to a decade ago, many mornings, down one of their well-stocked aisles brimming with mostly Americana, there would be one item sitting in the middle of the floor. Usually a toy, its appearance was startling, especially when restaurant staffers revealed that they never entered the antiques business after hours.

While the disturbances of relocated merchandise tapered off, what really gave the proprietors pause was poltergeist activity: a glass flower levitated from its vase, raised up nearly a foot, then shattered upon the floor. Both Tom and Linda observed this.

The finale was seeing the apparition one afternoon, again down one aisle towards the back storeroom, where the apothecary once had its counter. The middle-aged man in a plain white shirt and black pants disappeared when Tom went to look at him for him again. (Children of the waitstaff at the grill also sighted a ghostly presence and ran out of the back noting there was a “mean man” close by.)

Both Lovejoys surmise their spectral visitor, whom they perceive is largely benevolent, might just be the spirit of the original pharmacist, Mr. Dupuis. “Our ghost is a friendly ghost,” Mrs. Lovejoy serenely notes, “although he did frighten the kids.”

Even on the day of our visit, well there’s an uneasy energy emanating from the back of the shop, while the rest of Lovejoys establishment appears bright, welcoming, and a beacon for antiquing.

Tomorrow: PaperCity’s Matthew Ramirez joins the graveyard shift.

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