Haunted houses, haunted roads, haunted coastlines and backwoods or bush locales where one hears voices at night and heavy breathing from persons or creatures unseen and unknown that sound like they’re right next to you, have always delighted me in a rather perverse way.
I’ve had plenty of haunted and haunting experiences, beginning I guess at summer camp in 1956 – at the Valley Mills YMCA camp – where the counsellors revelled in telling us 9- and 10-year-old boys creepy stories about the legendary Green Ghost of the Bosque.
Whilst the places listed here may not constitute the ONLY haunted restaurants in the world, they are among the best, and the ones that the customers and owners are happy to admit to. There are probably others that contain darker and more private secrets. If you know of any, let me know. These are some I remember from my childhood and more recent travels in America.
IN NEW ORLEANS
Located at 417 Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter, Brennan’s Restaurant has been a culinary phenomenon in New Orleans since it opened its doors in 1946. The Brennan’s menu is known and highly regarded throughout the world and most visitors do not want to miss an opportunity to have a meal at this famous location while visiting the Crescent City.
The Royal Street location that Brennan’s now occupies was maintained as a private residence throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, until Edward Brennan founded his famous restaurant. Most of the paranormal activity that has been identified at Brennan’s is attributed to the families who owned and occupied this former New Orleans town house in the early years of the 19th century. The location passed through several owners and so the identity of the ghostly spectres cannot be verifiably traced, however, their presence is undeniable.
Members of the Brennan family who currently own and operate the restaurant readily admit that there are ghosts at the location. Once famous haunting there involves the infamous spectre of the second-storey Red Room. Said to be the spirit of a former owner who lost everything in financial ruin and who committed suicide after murdering his family, the ghostly atmosphere of the Red Room is usually all anyone needs to convince them that the place is haunted. Staff and employees, however, often have to go to the room for linens or tables and additional chairs, and there have been reports of a mysterious misty figure who literally haunts their steps the entire time they are working upstairs. Patrons who have rented the room for special events have reported the ghostly image of a man dressed in 18th century clothing seen peering in disapprovingly at the festivities. Some have encountered simply a feeling of his presence, an anger and foreboding, just outside the main door to the Red Room.
Another active spectre is said to the be ghost of the late Chel Paul Blange who created many of Brennan’s signature dishes and helped build the reputation of the esteemed eatery.
European Chef Paul Blange, who worked for decades at the famous eatery and was so devoted to the restaurant that when he died the restaurant’s menu, a knife and fork were placed across his chest of his dead body as he lay in the coffin. “No one ever thought Chef Blange would leave Brennan’s, and apparently, he never did,” says Jimmy Brennan, an owner of the establishment.
The Chef is said to lurk in the kitchen, his natural location in life, and many of the chef staff have reported the feeling of being watched, and even of something touching them while they are preparing meals. Late at night, when the guests have gone and staff are locking up, Chef Paul will bang doors and pots in the empty kitchen. And this is where the ghost is most often sighted.
Another former employee is said to haunt and be sighted in the wine cellar that he made famous. Herman Funk, a wine master whom Brennan’s employed to build their fabulous cache of famous and renowned wines and spirits, is said to be still attached to his job even in the afterlife. Most employees don’t like going to the wine racks alone, although they brave their way through it. For every clink of a bottle the employee makes, it is said, there is a mimicking “clink” of another bottle just out of reach. This, they say, is Herman Funk making his suggestion for a wine selection. Employees who have been there awhile admit that they will usually go with Funk’s selection, in addition to what the guest might request, bringing patrons a choice “just to keep Herman happy.”
For a haunting in the most sumptuous surroundings, Brennan’s, the famous French Quarter restaurant, offers it’s red dining room. Tucked away upstairs and lit by gas chandeliers, the room was the scene of a murder-suicide during the Civil War when the owner of the house killed his wife and son then hanged himself from the elaborate brass chandelier.
“I’ve seen the ghost there myself,” says a waiter at Brennan’s for10 years. “The cleaning crew won’t go in there at night, but a lot of people request that room for dinner. They hope to see the ghost.
Cafe Du Monde
1039 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116 .The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans. Many say ghost vampires and zombies have been seen from this vantage point looking towards the Mississippi River and Jackson Square.
Many of the locals swear of a ghost waiter that takes your order and disappears. When the actual waiter shows up they usual say oh that our ghost waiter or Blue as some call him.
The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French -style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. In 1988 Iced Coffee was introduced to the cafe. Soft drinks also made their debut that year. I first came here when I was about 10 and Beignets made a lasting impression.
IN NEW YORK
279 Water Street. Ghost sightings: Just under the Brooklyn Bridge, ghosts of the pirates who frequented the bar years ago appear.
86 Bedford Street. Ghost sightings: Former bar owner, Henrietta Chumley, comes to drink a Manhattan from time to time. She also makes her presence known by messing with the restaurant’s jukebox.
626 11th Ave – 46th Street. Ghost sightings: The restaurant is haunted by an Irish girl and a Confederate soldier according to the staff.
129 Spring Street. Ghost sightings: A young woman named Elma Sands haunts the restaurant’s basement, which was a well in 1799 that she was murdered in. Sands has been known to knock ashtrays off of tables, break plates, and throw bottles off of shelves.
White Horse Tavern
567 Hudson Street at W 11th Street. Ghost sightings: The tavern is the site where Dylan Thomas died after drinking 18 shots of whiskey in 1953. The ghost turns his favorite corner table at the bar.
Landmark No. 78
Landmark No. 78 in Ventura, CA is supposedly haunted. There is a ghostly legend attached to the building that is now the Landmark 78
Restaurant. The story goes, that a girl named Rosa, who was the daughter of one of the many Italian families that immigrated to the Ventura area during the late 1800’s, died in or around this house. Supposedly, Rosa, as was the custom for many of the girls of her day, was being forced to marry a man that she did not love, and who happened to be much older than Rosa herself. The tale that has been passed down is that Rosa was actually in love with a young Italian man, who she entered into a steamy affair with. The affair led to a pregnancy, and out of despair and desperation, Rosa decided there was no other option for her but to escape her situation by ending her life. The legend tells that Rosa hung herself, and although it is not known exactly where this event occurred, many believe that her spirit wanders the Landmark 78 Restaurant.
Whether you cross paths with Rosa or not, you’re sure to enjoy the ambience and food.
The Landmark 78 Restaurant, is located at 211 E. Santa Clara Street in Downtown Ventura, California, and apart from its ghosts is best known for it’s steak, seafood, and wines.
Brookdale Inn & Spa
Nestled deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains lies the historic Brookdale lodge. Surrounded by giant redwoods, Brookdale Lodge was originally opened in 1870 as the headquarters of the Grover Lumber Mill. The mill was purchased by H.J. Logan of Loganberry fame in 1900 and was converted into campgrounds and a hotel. Since then the lodge has passed through numerous hands.
Between 1922 and 1945 the lodge was operated by Dr. F. K. Camp, a Seventh-day Adventist physician and a strict prohibitionist. It was Camp that built the magnificent Brookroom, a dining room that encloses a natural stream flowing down its center. This was the lodge’s heyday. The Brookdale was the second most popular resort in California and played host to Hollywood stars, prominent families, foreign diplomats, and even a U.S. President. Famous persons passing through Brookdale Lodge included: Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Tyrone Power, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr, and President Herbert Hoover. The lodge was also famous for its first rate entertainment, attracting the best big band and swing groups of the era. There are at least three swing era songs written about the Brookdale including, My Brookdale Hideaway, A Place known as Brookdale, and Beautiful Brookdale Lodge.
Shortly before his death, Dr. Camp sold the property in 1945 to A. T. Cook and W. G. Smith. In 1951 it was again sold to a consortium of San Francisco businessmen and then to Barney Marrow, who also owned the Brookdale Inn across the highway.
It was in the ’40’s and ’50’s that the lodge entered its most intriguing period, becoming a home for gangsters and other shady characters. Secret passageways and hidden rooms were installed throughout the lodge and rumors of buried bodies under the floor began to circulate. Also during this time, six year old Sarah Logan, the niece of the lodge owner, drowned in the dining room creek. It’s her ghost that is most often seen at the Brookdale. But Sarah wasn’t the only watery death at the lodge. In 1972, a 13 year old girl drowned in the kidney shaped pool above the mermaid room forcing its closure.
Brookdale Inn & Spa, 11570 Highway 9, (P.O. Box 903), Brookdale, California 95007 831-338-1300
The Willow Steakhouse & Salloon
Some know The Willow Steakhouse and Saloon for their fabulous food…from their famous cheese fondue to their certified Angus Beef and daily fresh seafood. To others, The Willow Steakhouse and Saloon, open every day…and as early as 8am on Saturday and Sunday for breakfast and spirits, is the place to meet friends and relax for the day. After all, it’s 12:00 somewhere! And, there is yet another group that knows The Willow Steakhouse for the ghost stories that date back to the 1800s.
For the Mooney Family, The Willow Steakhouse has been an adventure for over 39 years. In 1972, Sean Mooney bought The Willow and it has been family run ever since. Kevin Mooney has been running the saloon for over 30 years. The dining room has been under the direction of Siobhan Mooney Stevens for 20 years and her husband Roger Stevens has been head chef for the last 17 years.
In addition to their ghosts, The Willow is also known for some of their antiques; two of whom are Bruce Mc Donald, the daytime Saloon manager for the last 26 years and their delightful waitress for the last 25 years, Olivia. In the kitchen, you’ll find Roger Stevens, Josh Wilson and Mike Mc Bride, who the Willow is happy and proud to have aboard helping them serve up delicious entrees for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The following is more background information about The Willow from Historian Sally Hamilton.
In 1848, John Periera came from Portugal and engaged in new ventures establishing The Willow in 1862. The Willow soon became one of the leading hotels in Tuolumne County; housing many dignitaries and wealthy businessmen who were instrumental in establishing Jamestown as a thriving township. Many businesses were housed here; the first telegraph, medical offices and stage stop. The Willow was truly the heart of a thriving progressive area. It supported the first railway station with transportation and housing for travelers; including President McKinley, Bat Masterson, and Mrs. Robert E. Lee.
The Willow stands today as a tribute to the pioneer effort and continues to serve the area as a mysterious and romantic dining establishment. The Willow’s history of unexplained fires and documented ghostly occurrences intrigue and fascinate today’s patrons. It is The Willow’s numerous past occupants which set the scene for the mysterious and ghostly activities that continue to haunt and inspire strange sightings. These occurrences have been documented worldwide. The Willow’s historical fires and sightings stem from the many tragedies which befell unsuspecting miners and patrons of the past. Today you can enjoy the same fine dining in the romantic and mystical history which spans well over a century.
18723 Main Street and Willow, Jamestown, CA 95327, phone: (209) 984-3998