JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It was the Boltons’ dream to turn the former grocery store building on King Street into a sports arena.
They opened Quantum Leap in 2016. First came the trampoline park and arcade. Then, they added laser tag. An ax-throwing station will be opening within a few weeks.
But staff say there’s always been a bit more going on in the building than the regular entertainment.
Sounds, smells and a flying door
The Boltons say the first strange thing they noticed was a “horrible” smell. Leah Bolton described the stench as rotten meat.
What was odd, Dan Bolton noted, was that the smell would vanish as quickly as they noticed it.
“You would walk a few steps and it would be gone, and then you’d go back to where you were, and it was not there anymore,” Dan said, noting that a sewage problem would be more widespread and persistent.
Other employees and managers would hear metal piping crashing in the back room near the laser tag arena. Investigation yielded an orderly stock room with nothing to hint that any metal had fallen to the floor.
Dan said his wake-up call came in the form of a motor that hadn’t run in 20 years.
He said an old, motorized door kicked on one night when no one else was around. He went to turn the door off, but none of the switches in the room seemed to work.
“I had to physically go turn the power off to the motor to turn it off,” Dan recalled.
Leah’s turning point encounter happened one night before they opened the business. She said it’d been a long day cleaning up the building, and she and Dan were the only two left in the building.
She went to a back room to turn off the lights when the hairs on her arms stood up. She returned to the front of the building to ask him if he’d ever been unnerved in the building.
“He said, ‘Yeah, there have been a couple of times that I felt that same thing, but we have nothing to worry about, we have the blood of Christ on us,’ and when he said ‘we have the blood of Christ on us,’ the front dock door shot up,” Leah recalled.
Surveillance video from that night shows a dock door about two feet off the ground begin to rise with no one around to pull it up. In the video, Leah immediately goes to investigate.
“There was nobody in the parking lot, it’s a big parking lot it would have taken a couple of minutes for somebody to get out of it and nobody was there,” she said.
“That’s when it hit home to for me. It flew up, and it’s a heavy door there’s no way that it would have flown up by itself.”
A man, a woman and a little boy
Between the Boltons and the staff, there seem to be stories of multiple spirits haunting the building.
Lily Franklin, an employee, said it’s more common for her to experience the paranormal in the morning.
“One morning I walked out to go turn on the computers and I saw a woman (…) and she was just walking in between those tables, and I did a double-take and she just wasn’t there.”
Cassidy Bolton, Leah and Dan’s daughter, said she’ll sometimes catch movement out of the corner of her eye when she’s alone in the building.
“Once or twice I’ve seen somebody walking back where the foam pits are and I do a double-take and they’re gone,” she said.
Once, a supervisor heard people having a conversation in the arcade area after the park had closed. Leah, Cassidy, Lily and Dan all said the supervisor checked the area multiple times, but never saw anyone else in the building that night.
Another supervisor refuses to go near the party area alone because of an encounter.
“He saw something, a little boy, and he thought somebody was still here and lost,” Lily recalls. “(The boy) was standing in that doorway, and (the manager) saw him, he took a double-take (. . .) and he was gone.”
Staff say that no guests have come to them with any stories of their own. Cassidy said with the hubbub of the arena, it’s hard to notice the small-but-odd things that happen in the building from time to time.
“When the lights are off in here it gets so dark and you try to walk through and you just get this feeling . . . you’re not alone,” Cassidy said.
Who could be haunting Quantum Leap?
The Boltons contacted Paranormal Technology Investigations to shine some light on who – or what – could be haunting them.
While they wait for the investigation, they compare notes and dig up history on the building.
Dan said he found out the oldest part of the building dates back to 1928, and was a grocery store for the majority of its life. Before that, a private house sat on the property.
At one point, H.T. Hackney owned the building, but Dan said they didn’t have any records on the property when he contacted them about it.
Lily and Cassidy said another employee noticed on a Snapchat map that the adjacent property was labeled as “Hoss Cemetery.” Google Maps also shows a picture of the lot next to Quantum Leap for “Hoss Cemetery.”
A late historian is quoted in estimating the cemetery’s location in the 1400 block of Fairview Avenue, which is about a mile from Quantum Leap.
The cemetery once held the grave of Henry Johnson, the founder of Johnson City, and his wife, Mary Ann Hoss Johnson. Her parents, John Hoss and Sarah Williams, were also buried there, according to the archive.
The archive said that Henry Johnson and his wife were moved to Oak Hill Cemetery in 1910, but the rest of the cemetery was “lost.”
Some believe the lost cemetery could be causing the hauntings at Quantum Leap.
“I want to know who all is here, there are people who see a lady, there are people who see a man, kids, a little boy,” Cassidy said.
While the staff at Quantum Leap have had their fair share of ‘creepy’ encounters, they say they’ve never felt unsafe.
But now, some of them believe in the paranormal just a little more.
“I used to not believe,” Cassidy said. “I’ll try to come up with explanations for the sounds or whatever, but that garage door, that’s what got me. Nothing could have done that.”