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Welcome To Texas: Catfish Plantation

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WAXAHACHIE (CBS 11 NEWS) - Anyone who's ever tried to run a restaurant will tell you it's not an easy job -- but imagine trying to operate one that's haunted!

The Landis family, who own the Catfish Plantation Restaurant in Waxahachie, knows a thing or two about that. With four ghosts in residence, Catfish Plantation is known as "the most haunted restaurant in Texas."

Shawn Sparks, co-owner and executive chef at the restaurant, says the 1895 Victorian house has long been known as a magnet for the paranormal. "They say there are at least four different ghosts. They are Elizabeth, Will, Ms. Caroline Mooney, and one named Lola Roller."

Each of the ghosts, at one time in their lives, resided at the house -- with the exception of Lola Roller, who was murdered nearby, in a fit of jealous rage by a veterinarian in 1929.  "So I don't know if it's the location, if it's the house itself, if it's Waxahachie. I have no idea because we're not the only place in town that experiences activity," Sparks explained.

But the Plantation is the only place dealing with spirits while trying to dole out food. Sparks says while ghostly activity is fairly constant, it's particularly noticeable when the restaurant is busy. "It's hard to explain to them that the ghosts are acting up, and 'I'm sorry, but it's going to take a little longer on your food because they keep knocking the plates out of the servers' hands'".

In other situations, she says, they're a little less overt. "It's just very frustrating. They turn off the ovens while we're trying to be on a timeline to cook something. They'll turn it off, and we'll go back and the oven is off and things aren't done."

But as annoying as the ghosts can be, Sparks says she's never been frightened of them. "When it first happens to you, the first thing you do is look at the person next to you because you think you're having some sort of neurological issue. When something raises up into the air in front of your face, it doesn't register in your mind. You think, 'Wait, no, that's not supposed to happen,'" says Sparks. "And then you look at the person next to you and they're like, 'Yes. We saw it, too'. And you're like, 'Thank God! I don't need a CAT Scan!'"

The Dallas Area Paranormal Society has investigated Catfish Plantation in recent years. In video it took of one of the dining rooms, the edge of the curtain is clearly seen flipping upward -- even though the room is empty and the window behind it is screwed shut. It was something the DAPS investigators couldn't explain.

Sparks said, "The first thing they try to do is debunk things, and they could not debunk that piece of evidence."

But she does want her diners to understand that while ghost sightings at the restaurant are common, they're not guaranteed. "These were actual people," says Sparks. "You know, people get upset, 'We didn't experience anything. We didn't see anything.' They're not trained monkeys. They were people, they had wills of their own, and they do what they want to."

And Sparks sees it as her job to take care of them. "That's how I view our family. We don't own Catfish Plantation. We take care of Catfish Plantation. It's something... an entity all to itself."

And she hopes folks remember, she really is a very good chef! "Even though we are haunted, and hopefully that brings people down, I believe they come back because the food is some of the best food in Texas."

So, if you're looking for a little ghostly excitement, head to Waxahachie. Catfish Plantation is open for dinner, 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, on Saturday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sundays you can dine from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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