Just on the edge of the village center, on Oak Street, is a long closed barber shop that's mysteriously frozen in time.
The Legion Barber Shop is on Oak St, beside the Taam China II, our neighborhood kosher Chinese restaurant. The sign above is nearly faded away but a peek in the window reveals a barber shop ready to go. There's hair products on the counters and towels on the chairs. It looks like the barber slipped out to run an errand and never came back.
From what I can gather, the barber (Tony Panecca?) died suddenly about fifteen years ago and his wife soon after. Whoever it was passed on to has left it just as it was for the past fifteen years. It's a small brick building with an apartment or two upstairs. The apartments are rented but the ground floor barber shop is just as it was 15 years ago.
Mike Boucher, who owns Mike's Classic Barber Shop around the corner on Chestnut Street, says he crosses the street whenever he walks that way. The abandoned shop gives him the creeps.
Tony the barber was long gone and his shop was shuttered long before I arrived in the neighborhood. Since I've been here, I've heard little bits and pieces from various people. Apparently Tony was a gambling man and loved to bet on just about anything, but particularly the horses. He's got a display of horse related knick knacks in the store window. I also heard that he was a bookie back in the day, though others tell me that in years gone by you'd be hard pressed to find a local barber that wasn't a bookie.
Today the ghost barber shop is a local mystery. People's memories are vague and often contradict each other. Nobody I've talked to has a clear picture of why the shop has remained frozen for the last 15 years.
If you're in Upper Falls any time soon, stop by the Empire Barber Shop on Oak St and take a peek in the window. If you're like me, it will send a little shiver up your spine.