Ghost stories abound around Halloween time—and wineries, bars and restaurants have their fair share. Are these spine-tingling tales of on-premise paranormal activity merely clever marketing ploys or real accounts of ghostly encounters? You be the judge.
“Our tasting room is a Greek Revival home that was built in 1802. We have several ghosts here,” says Susan Hayes, co-owner of Miles Wine Cellars in Himrod, New York. Located nearby Seneca Lake, this serene Finger Lakes winery is a prime site for weddings—and hauntings.
“My husband and I have had many experiences with them,” says Hayes. “Several of my staff have had ‘visits’ as well. We have witnessed full apparitions and heard our ghosts lots of times.” According to legend, a couple died tragically on the premises in the 19th century, and still can be seen and heard on the property to this day. Reports include strange mists rising from the ground, doors that slam shut for no reason and a man in black and a woman in white who appear, then quickly disappear. The presence of these spirits prompted the release of their Ghost wine in 2003, a 50% Chardonnay and 50% Cayuga blend with the slogan “experience the spirits within” inscribed on the label.
At this Loudoun County, Virginia, winery, the tasting room is located in a 1830s-era farmhouse that co-owner Bonnie Archer calls “pleasantly” haunted. “Some guests enter the tasting room and immediately sense our spirits,” says Archer. “We feel they are just protecting the house. We have heard their conversations and their footsteps across the room. This has never been frightening, just interesting. They have even left curious objects for us on Halloween.”
On November 2, the vineyard plans to celebrate Halloween by hosting a paranormal investigation with psychic Laine Crosby and local historian Mark Nesbitt. The three-hour evening event will include ghost stories about the farm, wine tastings of the vineyard’s award-winning wines and an investigation complete with electronic voice phenomena recordings for $85. “The quality of our handcrafted wine is far more important to us than our haunted house,” says Archer, “but it is a curious aspect.”
Bars & Restaurants
At this James Beard-nominated hot spot in Monterey, California, two ghosts are rumored to haunt the old abode that was established by James Stokes in 1833. The most famous spirit is said to be socialite Harriet “Hattie” Gragg, who died in 1948.
Known for playing tricks on customers seated in the upstairs dining room—her former bedroom—Hattie’s ghost is said to add salt to wine glasses or knock them over. “People say that Hattie used to put salt in your drink when you dined here, I don’t know about that, but we have decked the place out with salt candle blocks,” says Beverage Director Ted Glennon, “the same people say we are asking for it now.”
The second ghost said to roam the halls is rumored to be that of Stokes, a British sailor who went A.W.O.L. in Monterey, then posed as a doctor before ultimately serving as the city’s mayor (according to legend, he was appointed mayor after the governor of Monterey mysteriously died under his care). For several years, the building served as the mayor’s mansion; guests have seen Stokes’s ghost wandering through the halls in his white doctor’s coat.
Built in 1903 as a military barracks, Presidio Social Club in San Francisco is now known for its Northern California cuisine, craft cocktails and resident ghost. The space is so inviting it seems some spirited customers don’t ever want to leave. “The staff calls him ‘Phantasma,’ ” says owner and founding chef Ray Tang of the club’s ghostly visitor, “but we have called him Lieutenant Dan.” When the restaurant first opened, staff reported slamming doors, strange shadows and chilly spots, but it seems the ghost has transformed into a juvenile prankster.
“He’s ornery but he definitely used to be worse,” says Tang. “We always leave him an offering at the bar so he will stop flirting with the pretty ladies in dresses.” The spirit has been cited as the reason many female customers seem to stumble inexplicably in the same spot in the restaurant. “Now we’ve learned how to get along with him, and he always lets us know when he gets thirsty,” says Tang.
New Orleans is known for its cemeteries, vampires and voodoo, so perhaps it’s no surprise some of its most famous restaurants have an otherworldly vibe. Muriel’s is located in a historic building and is known to be haunted by several spirits, the most famous being Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, who built his dream home on the site, but gambled it away in a poker match in 1814. Devastated, Jourdan committed suicide on the second floor in the slave quarters—the area known today as the Séance Lounge.
Jourdan’s ghost has appeared to diners and staff alike, manifesting as a sparkling light or by moving objects about the restaurant. “There have been times when, for no reason at all, glasses have flown off the back of the bar, with nobody around to have caused it,” says Denise Gratia, marketing director. “There is a general feeling of hauntedness that many of our guests experience when they visit our Séance Lounge for the first time. I’m often chastised for not properly marketing it.”
Customers have reported strange appearances in photos taken inside the restaurant as well. “Guests have mailed photos to me that depict a shadowy figure and, oddly, the photo subjects usually look quite similar,” says Gratia.
Located under Broadway and Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, this historic spot was once a beer cellar owned by Charles Pfaff in the 1850s, and was extremely popular with the literati of the time, including Walt Whitman.
Late at night, when all the guests have departed, the cleaning crew has spotted ghost bartenders at the register behind the bar. A cocktail—Melkor’s Ghost—was made to honor these bygone mixologists. “Pfaff’s has many ghosts, and we are inclined to think that most of them are friendly,” says Bar Manager Frank Caiafa. “None more so than that of Mr. Melkor, whose playful demeanor and gift for mischief was not so much appreciated as we were opening. Official documents that were there the night before would be gone in the morning only to reappear the next day. Hence the cocktail, in hopes that it would calm his spirit.”
Built in 1873, this former Second Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia, is now a casual bar and restaurant that has retained many original architectural details, including stained glass windows and exposed wood beams. But that’s not all the tavern has carried with it over the years—numerous accounts of items moving about, cupboards opening on their own and doors that won’t stay closed have circulated by staff and customers alike, particularly in the kitchen and bar area. Several employees claim to have seen a dark wandering figure and heard the sound of a woman weeping. “Many people claim Freemason Abbey is haunted,” says Kat Schulze, office manager. “I’ve definitely seen the ghost.”
To this day, employees of Freemason Abbey end the evening by saying, “Goodnight Mr. B,” a nod to the deceased former owner of the restaurant who, legend has it, still takes smoking breaks in the dry goods storeroom.