Weirdly enough, Long Island’s best-kept secret is its inordinate number of haunted eating establishments. For the inveterate traveler looking for something different – if not terrifying – and is in the mood of combining such an experience with some good food and drink, you can’t go past Long Island, NY.
One of the more legendary establishments is the Country House restaurant, which is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Annette Williamson, [who was murdered there when it was her family’s home.] Strange and unexplained occurrences are constantly happening there. When I was there, there were constant flashes of light, noticeable enough to make me turn round and ask: “Who’s taking the flash photographs?” Apparently, this happens all the time. And quite a few patrons have seen Ms Williamson, too. One loyal patron even painted a likeness of what she had seen, a portrait that now hangs in the restaurant. Bob Willemstyn, the owner of the restaurant, said there has been the sound of footsteps and things dropping from the ceiling. Things have gone missing. People have heard music playing. And when he first bought the restaurant, candles would inexplicably go out and then re-light themselves. But don’t think the fun ends here.
Another very haunted restaurant is in Cold Spring harbor – a place that used to be called the Old Whaler, and is now called Harbor Mist. This joint is said to be inhabited by three spirits. Evidently, it was used as a brothel back in the whaling days. There was a woman who worked there for extra money. Her husband – a whaler – was always at sea. One night, unexpectedly, he came home to find that his wife was working in the brothel. He killed her and the man she was with. People say those are two of the spirits that haunt the restaurant. Later on, in the 1960s, a woman died in the ladies’ room there.. [and this is the third spirit that haunts the place.]
Yet another is Deks American Restaurant in Rocky Point. Located in the historic Hallock House, the oldest commercial building in Rocky Point, parts of which date back to the 1700s. And as one might expect, the place is rich with story. Several have to do with poltergeist activity – table settings messed up in empty rooms, objects flying off the shelves, others disappearing, odd noises – enough to have kept several of the wait staff over the years on their toes. There was a rumor than a brother and sister lived together for a while in the house, and that the brother caught his sister in a feverish embrace with her lover. Chasing her into the attic, he chopped her to bits with a hatchet. The basement was reputed to have been a bordello as well. Perhaps the poltergeist was once a patron of the ladies in the basement, as one waitress was even goosed by an invisible hand as she bent over to pull a bottle from the cooler.
Not all of the haunted spots are restaurants either. Being an area rich in history and intrigue there are any number of places that confound rational explanation. One of the top ones is Raynham Hall [now a museum] in Oyster Bay. Some of the locals are convinced they have a vortex there. It’s something that’s formed in the universe in between this world and the next, where there’s a pocket of activity that’s stuck. Located at 20 West Main Street, the historic building’s legacy includes ghost stories and true tales of spies.
Samuel Townsend, a Quaker and a well-to-do merchant, made his living by importing items like tea, spices, wine, rum and pottery in his four ships. The vessels sailed to the Caribbean, Europe and South America. In 1738, Townsend bought the property that is now a museum. It originally had four rooms, but as Townsend’s family grew to include his eight children with his wife, Sarah, they added more rooms.
During the American Revolution, Townsend’s house became the headquarters for the British under Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe for a period of six months from 1778-1779. One of Simcoe’s frequent visitors was the British Major John Andre. Legend has it that Townsend’s daughter Sally overheard the two men discussing Benedict Arnold’s plot to surrender the fort at West Point to the British. She immediately alerted her brother, Robert, who was in a secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He passed this information over to then General George Washington and the plot was foiled. Benedict Arnold escaped, but Major John Andre was captured and hanged.