We’ve all outstayed our welcomes at bars and restaurants from time to time, but some places have pesky customers who have been there for ages. Literally. At these 17 creepy joints, the spirits extend well beyond a nice whiskey list. They include murdered cowboys, slain prostitutes, victims of serial killers, and even the dude who shot Alexander Hamilton. Here are the rap sheets for some of America’s greatest places to drink with the dead.
Like any haunted house worth its salt, Casey Moore’s has several different stories on the poltergeists that spook the grounds. One account goes that a coed named Sarah, who was strangled by her crazy boyfriend on-site, sulks around the dining room tables. Another says the spirit of a little boy, whose photograph was unearthed years ago amid renovations — prowls the halls. Either way — you might actually have to believe your buddy when he insists half your shrimp cocktail “just disappeared” when you went to the bathroom.
The legendary Earnestine & Hazel’s is the best dive bar in Tennessee and home of America’s best burger, but it’s also a building with a rich, troubled past: the two-floor, labyrinthine bar began life as a pharmacy but also did time as a brothel, concert hall, and cafe. Those are the kinds of businesses that tend to cultivate very loyal customers. Rumor has it, 13 different folks met their maker in the walls of Earnestine & Hazel’s, and none of them really left. The sound of phantom piano music emits from upstairs during off hours. Footsteps thump night and day. The jukebox turns on periodically, with a needle drop eerily relevant to what’s happening at the moment: one employee told Munchies a tale of a conversation about James Brown being suddenly interrupted by “I Feel Good” on the dead juke. Apparitions are part of the crowd. Customers and employees alike report being touched by phantom hands. This is a place full of tragedy, deprivation, and, yes, joy. Those burgers, it seems, really do keep people coming back.
The permanent guests at this 162-year-old mid-Michigan spot are more Casper than Delbert Grady… if Casper was a barfly who loved Jack and died before sexual harassment was a thing. The hotel section — which wasn’t renovated along with the basement — is still home to Emery, the place’s old custodian, who can still be heard clomping around above the dining room. Then there’s the gentleman at table 32, who constantly tries to piggyback on customers’ orders when unordered Jack & Cokes show up on a regular basis. Servers have reported getting goosed after hours. Glasses have shattered when nobody is around, and some people have reported seeing full specters in the place. Luckily, they’re thirsty for booze, not souls. For now.
Tarrytown, New York
Up the hill from the former home of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, looms another haunted manse: King Mansion, now the home of restaurant Goosefeather. Located on the grounds of the Tarrytown House Estate, the house is named after railroad executive Thomas M. King. But it’s his daughter-in-law, Sybil, who is rumored to roam its halls. Venture up the Hudson Valley for Dale Talde’s modern, seasonal Chinese cuisine and you just might catch a flash of Sybil’s white gown in a second-story window.
Maryland’s most iconic bar has been around since 1775, so it stands to reason that some of the regulars stuck around a little beyond their own last call. “It’s definitely haunted. People have seen things,” a bartender told us a while back. The most notorious ghost reportedly haunting the old-school tavern has been nicknamed Edgar, who has a habit of breaking glasses, swinging the chandelier, opening drawers, and generally kind of being a dick. Why the name? Well, one of the old-school regulars was Edgar Allan Poe, who was rumored to have been drinking at the Horse on the night he was found delirious in the streets before dying a few days later. The Horse was his local. And if rumors are to be believed, it still is. No word on whether they keep the good Amontillado in the cellar.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans might be the haunted bar capital of the world, and Jean Lafitte might just be the mayor. Lafitte’s origins remain unclear, but he was, by all accounts… multifaceted. Among his titles were entrepreneur, sailor, spy, “hero of the Battle of New Orleans,” spy, scoundrel, and smuggler. Hey, you can be more than one thing! But at the candlelit, ancient bar that bears his name, he’s also added “creepy spectral form hanging out by the fireplace or chilling around the ladies’ room” to his impressive resume. The place is allegedly haunted by other spirits — look out for the extremely lady dressed in 1700s clothes — but the building’s namesake is its most prevalent… when he’s there. See, Lafitte is rumored to show up at other bars in the area as well. As in life, in death he’s a very busy man.
New Orleans, Louisiana
In a city like NOLA, haunted buildings are a dime-a-dozen. And while Muriel’s doesn’t boast the most horrific backstory, it’s seen some dark deeds. In the late 1700s, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan bought the burned-out mansion and restored it to its old charms. Then, in a classic future-ghost move, he bet the entire house in a poker game, which he lost. Because he couldn’t bear to leave the place, he killed himself on the second floor, right around where the Seance Lounges stand today. Jourdan spends most of his time there — he pops up as a shimmery light rather than a complete ghostly form, but he still knocks on the brick wall with the gusto of a full-fledged apparition. And he’s got company. Paranormal investigators picked up the voice of a woman in the Seance Lounges, and there’s definitely another poltergeist in the Courtyard Bar who’s big on smashing glasses. Once they all complete their nightly shenanigans, they presumably enjoy a nice dinner at Jourdan’s reserved table, which the staff sets with bread and wine each night.
Owner Adam Milne is ostensibly the man in charge of this pizza joint, but it’s Nina who really runs the show. The ghost has been hanging around the place for a century, and it is not for sentimental reasons. Nina was a sex slave who entertained clients at the Merchant Hotel, where Old Town Pizza now stands atop the city’s infamous Shanghai Tunnels. Missionaries came to town and promised to rescue her if she gave up the pimps, which she readily did. Only those guys weren’t too pleased about it, and decided to throw her down the elevator shaft as punishment. She supposedly scratched her name into a brick on that elevator shaft, which is now part of a booth, and today frequently appears to watch the patrons eat. If you smell any faint perfume or spot a ghostly chick in a black dress, you’ve just met Nina. Oh, and Old Town also sits above the abandoned Shanghai Tunnels, a network of passageways, cells, and opium dens that were once used to kidnap people and send them out to sea. So… yeah, there’s some shit going on here.
New York, New York
Many places brag about having ghostly hookers or conmen, but only this NYC spot boasts the spirit of noted Alexander Hamilton-murderer Aaron Burr. The restaurant actually used to be his carriage house back in the day, and everyone thinks he’s stuck around with his daughter, Theodosia, to haunt the living. They routinely knock things over, creep down the stairs, and generally pester the patrons — though they may have additional partners in crime. A parapsychologist who’s visited the place claims there are really 20 ghosts there, all from different time periods, including a Ziegfeld Follies girl who might just high-kick you in the back.
Charleston, South Carolina
Although it would be adorable, Poogan’s Porch isn’t actually haunted by a canine poltergeist. The restaurant’s namesake pup went to the light long ago, but the same cannot be said for Zoe St. Amand, a spinster schoolteacher who died in the building in the 1950s. Zoe is apparently a fan of rotating place settings around the tables and forging food orders, as well as hurling bar stools at the staff and busting open doors when she’s pissed off. If only Poogan were there to calm her down.
St. Augustine, Florida
Deceptively, this place isn’t full of Southern belles who need to get over Ashley Wilkes already, but it does involve an 1800s love triangle. The legend goes that George Colee constructed the original building for his fiancee… who ran off with a soldier before he could even finish the place. A few weeks later, Colee was found drowned in the bathtub upstairs. That floor now hosts the “Ghost Bar,” where Colee supposedly kicks it. He routinely messes with dudes in the bathroom, and still splashes around at night even though the bathtub is gone. But the staff thinks there’s at least one more ghost: he’s caused enough problems for the downstairs bar that they wound ropes in front of the liquor shelf, just so bottles would stop crashing for no reason.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Technically, this tale concerns a hotel, but seeing as specters roam both the Bullock Hotel’s bar and restaurant — and we’re talking about ghost cowboys here — we’re definitely counting it. The Bullock Hotel is famously haunted by Seth Bullock, best known as Deadwood’s first sheriff, Teddy Roosevelt’s BFF, and that guy Timothy Olyphant played on HBO. He’s supposedly most agitated when he sees the staff slacking on the job, and is liable to turn on blenders or shout people’s names to scare them into shape. If a hard-ass cowboy doesn’t freak you out, don’t worry — there’re also three horrifying “ghost children” to ensure your stay is traumatizing.
At Shaker’s, the most famous ghosts are two girls from very different backgrounds. Elizabeth is an 8-year-old who fell from an apple tree on the grounds in the 1800s, and now spends her days giggling in the ladies bathroom or poking her tiny feet out from under the stalls. Meanwhile, Molly Brennan was a teenage hooker in the 1920s who got murdered in the third-floor penthouse for knowing a little too much. People who’ve stayed in her room hallucinate burning walls and water gushing from the ceiling — which is significantly scarier than the stuff you normally hallucinate after a few cocktails. But really, you should stay out of the cellar. That’s where the “Shadow People” roam, and we’re guessing you’d rather not collide with a creepy, fully-formed black body.
Estes Park, Colorado
Room 217 of the beautiful Stanley Hotel might be the most famous haunted hotel room in America. It was there where a young writer named Stephen King first observed the ghost of a chambermaid roaming, only to discover she had been badly injured by a gas explosion in that very room (she subsequently worked at the hotel until she died). King was inspired by the hotel to write The Shining (in the film, the room became room 237). The hotel itself is haunted by a whole cast of spirits, from a lanky Irishman who creeps on women on the 4th floor to one that “tucks” guest in as they’re sleeping. You’re bound to have something chilly happen most everywhere, including the upscale Whiskey Bar, where ordering a Redrum — the hotel owns this spooky reputation, right down to drink names and ghost tours — could come with the foul odor that accompanies a ghost named Eddie, who is apparently the resident prankster ghost and a new addition to the legion of spirits who can’t seem to figure out how to check out of the hotel. What, you didn’t realize The Shining is a documentary?
Stone’s Public House takes its name from original owner John Stone, who was a very bad man according to one paranormal expert. After speaking with the six to seven spirits who allegedly live at the bar, ghost whisperer Ralph Bibbo claimed they told him Stone killed a boarder who won big in a card game in 1845. He then forced the few witnesses to help him bury the guy in the basement, and made them all promise to take the secret to their graves. But they must have felt guilty, because they never went to their graves. Instead, they float around the bar, making occasional ruckuses and silently judging your drink order.
Plenty of patrons could tell you about the weird mists that show up in selfies they snapped, or the ghostly gangster they swear they saw at the bar, but nothing will scare you more than the Tonic Room’s actual history. Members of the Irish North Side Gang frequented the bar in the 1920s before clearing out to make way for the American chapter of Golden Dawn. For those unaware, Golden Dawn is not a forgotten easy-listening jam: it’s a secret society that’s big on ancient Egyptian symbols and also human sacrifice. In fact, a girl who went with her father to one of these Golden Dawn meetings in the ’30s swears she witnessed a ritual killing in the Tonic Room basement. After the murder cult left, a dude named Frederic De’Arechaga turned the space into an occult store in the ’60s. He claimed to be a male witch, because of course he did.
Newport, Rhode Island
Let us begin this tale like basically every ghost story you told at sleepaway camp: with a pair of drifters. Two men showed up at the tavern in the 1720s looking for a room for the night. The next day, the owners found one dead by the fireplace and the other completely vanished. A specter now chills by the fireplace, daring people to solve his freak death. There have also been encounters with a colonial-looking dude in the upstairs bathroom, and mysterious footsteps all over the place. Coincidentally, there’s another White Horse Tavern in New York City with high ghost-hunter interest. It’s where poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, and he still hasn’t learned his lesson, as he occasionally pops up at his regular table.
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Kristin Hunt has never seen a ghost, but she’s pretty sure her Irish grandfather’s spirit shoves her every time she improperly prepares tea. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.