San Luis Obispo's oldest noodle house is haunted. But don't worry, the spirit that supposedly haunts Mee Heng Low just wants some Mountain Dew.
The sun is just setting as my tour group and I huddle into the decades-old building, where a few curious customers look up from their noodle bowls to inspect the commotion. I turn up the brightness on my electric lantern—a very fun accessory provided to attendees—as tour guide and historian James Papp leads us up the stairs to the very place where it all happened: the mysterious haunting of the Mountain Dew.
- Photos By Kasey Bubnash
- AAAHHHH! LOUIS? Tour guide James Papp shows attendees a photo of Ah Louis, a Chinese-American banker and businessman who lived in San Luis Obispo during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Ah Louis Store was home to a murder and probably should be haunted, Papp said, but it isn't known to be.
This isn't just any tour of downtown San Luis Obispo's historic landmarks; it's a ghost tour, a walkabout to the spookiest spots in our town that have served as settings for various apparitions, hauntings, and inexplicable occurrences—a collection of stories Papp has been gathering from the mouths of real residents for years.
Papp gives two-hour tours (the next is coming up on Nov. 8) to anyone with an interest in the supernatural and $20—and that's me.
Mee Heng Low, it just so happens, is home to not one, but two creepy ghost stories. My group gathers around a longtime employee as she tells the terrifying tale of the haunted stapler—yes, a stapler—which inexplicably moves around the restaurant on its own accord. There's "oo-ing" and "ah-ing" as the employee holds up the possessed office device, which seems to be well behaved at the moment, but everyone knows this is just the preview for the main event.
- Photo Courtesy Of The Mee Heng Low Gin Family Cookbook
- THE HAUNTING OF MEE HENG LOW The original Mee Heng Low (pictured) may not have been haunted, but some believe the one we have today definitely is.
Soon we're off to the opposite corner of the room, where a mini fridge once held the supernatural cans of Mountain Dew in question. According to legend, Papp tells us, Mountain Dew has never been on the menu at Mee Heng Low, but an employee purchased some to cache away in the fridge for an elderly regular who constantly requested it.
But the customer died before she was ever able to drink any of her favorite nuclear-green soda, Papp says, lantern light shining eerily in his face. So there it sat, untouched.
Then one day another customer asked for a cold hard glass of Mountain Dew. The waiters, Papp says, figured they might as well use up what stock they had. When one waiter went to grab a can, it was empty. The cans were all empty. They were still sealed; there weren't any visible holes, but they were empty. Empty!
Employees kept the spirit-suckled cans of Mountain Dew around for a while to show anyone interested, but Papp informs us that they were sadly recycled just before our tour. I wonder how San Luis Garbage Company handles paranormal materials.
Mee Heng Low isn't the only seemingly random location for a haunting in downtown SLO. Soon we're on to Central Coast Surfboards, where ghouls allegedly roam the basement and the third floor of the building it's in, the old Masonic Temple.
We also stand outside of and peer into the occasional house, many of which are big and old and inherently very creepy. In one, Papp said two former residents claim to have seen the opposite kinds of ghosts—some with only heads and arms and others with only legs.
- Photos By Kasey Bubnash
- FOLLOW THE LIGHT Talking about ghosts feels even more authentic with one of these battery-powered, oil lamp lookalikes lighting your path.
We stop by a number of spots that Papp says certainly should be haunted, like the History Center of San Luis Obispo County, which was once used as the city's hanging grounds, or the intersection of Chorro and Buchon streets, a space that was used as a burial ground during the cholera epidemic. As far as anyone knows, Papp tells us, the bodies of roughly 70 Native Americans are still buried in that location.
There's also the now historic Ah Louis Store, where Eng Gon Ying Louis was shot and killed in the early 20th century by a burglar in her family's six-room apartment situated above the store. As brutal as Eng Gon Ying's murder was, Papp says there haven't been any reported hauntings in the Ah Louis Store. Bummer!
The tour is ending, and Papp asks us to share our own paranormal stories. It seems like everyone has something to tell—stories of haunted furniture, houses, and clairvoyant friends. So even though Halloween is over, watch your back. Ghosts aren't seasonal. Δ
Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash is busy conjuring (and drinking) spirits. Send thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.