Grab your ghost-busting gear: Drinks come with spook back at these long-haunted American bars. Plagued by paranormal activity, these seedy establishments host all manner of otherworldly guests, from seaworn sailors and pirates to well-known poets and prostitutes. Feel hairs standing up on the back of your neck as you sip your beer? Embrace those goosebumps and get ready to party hard with history’s spirit-loving spirits, sneaking from the West Village to the Wild West.
Pirates, hidden treasure and red-eyed apparitions: This centuries-old candlelit tavern bears all the telltale signs of a haunted establishment. Built sometime between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte’s claims to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the US. The original blacksmith shop served as a front for pirate Jean Lafitte’s smuggling operation—and a secure location for his stolen gold. It’s believed that Lafitte’s treasure is still hidden somewhere inside the bar, perhaps buried below the fireplace where patrons have encountered glowing red eyes staring back at them from the darkness. Staff members claim to have seen Lafitte’s ghost in the flesh, lurking near the back of the bar and leaving behind the scent of cigar smoke as a warning to those who might claim his booty for themselves.
(Photo courtesy Myth Busters blog)
Originally located five feet from the Hudson River shoreline, this anatomically-named tavern was a popular haunt for sailors, smugglers and longshoremen during the 19th century. Serving doubly as a brothel and speakeasy, it attracted many of the city’s unsavory characters. Its most famous patron to date is the ghost of a sailor named Mickey, a regular who was killed in front of the bar and can still be seen waiting for his ship to come in. Mickey’s known for a number of mysterious antics, including terrorizing female guests, lighting the fireplace, draining cell phone batteries and starting an unexplained blaze that broke out back in 1996. What an incorrigible spook.
(Photo courtesy Ear Inn)
Love a good jukebox? How about one that’s haunted? Named after the two sisters who ran this former pharmacy, brothel and cafe, this bar is famous for its possessed music machine. You never know when the jukebox will start playing, but when it does, the selection will perfectly sync with the conversation you’re having. The sisters’ ghosts apparently assert their presence by choosing tracks that meld with the mood of the crowd. Talking over a divorce? The jukebox might show its sense of humor by playing “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” by Tammy Wynette (true story). Climb the stairs on the bar’s ghost tour to view the remnants of the old brothel and you might even hear the friendly sister specters laughing as they amble invisibly down the hall.
(Photo courtesy Flickr)
Not all brewpubs have auspicious beginnings. Built in 1905, the White Eagle was at once an opium den, bordello and wild watering hole, a trifecta that resulted in so many ugly bar fights that the place eventually earned the nickname “Bucket of Blood.” Many of the bar’s former patrons haunt the building, making themselves known by moving broomsticks through the air or kicking open the doors of bathroom stalls. But one spirit is blamed for most of the mischief: The ghost of Sam Warrick, an early White Eagle cook and bartender who spent his last days living above the bar. A ghost with a prankster side, he’s been known to toss large containers of mustard across the kitchen with great force, startling the cook who’s taken over his old post.
(Photo courtesy Zolac Media)
You guessed it: This bar started out as a brothel. A young prostitute named Molly Brennan was murdered by a client, hacked to pieces in her bedroom and buried below the building. While remodeling, the current owner uncovered a pile of human bones in the ground and believes them to be Brennan’s remains. Shaker’s bartenders now lead weekend ghost tours, during which many visitors claim to experience mysterious cold spots, objects being moved by invisible beings and electronic malfunctions with cell phones and cameras when photos are taken in the basement. Descend the dark stairwell and see if you don’t feel a sense of dread when witnessing the basement’s “shadow people” slip in and out of the darkness.
(Photo courtesy Wisconsin Trails)
There’s a story to accompany the prominent portrait of Dylan Thomas hanging in the White Horse: This is where he drank his very last whiskey. A regular of the longshoreman bar, the poet beat his standing record of whiskey shots in 1953, when he downed a fatal 18 shots after stating that he’d seen the gates of hell. That same night, he died of “wet brain” at the Chelsea Hotel, falling into an alcohol-induced coma. A plaque above the bar pays tribute to Thomas’ last visit, but patrons claim that he can still be seen drinking at his usual table under his portrait, spooking employees as they close up for the night and causing used glassware to appear out of thin air.
(Photo courtesy Ephemeral New York)
This Wild West saloon is home to not one, but three ghosts. An elderly miner, a gambling gunshot victim and the ghost of movie star Carole Lombard have all been spotted. The miner is often seen standing near the slot machines or potbellied stove, while the murdered gambler appears by the bar’s card table, trailing cigarette smoke. Lombard’s ghost frequents the women’s restroom, as she died in a 1942 plane crash about five miles away from the bar. Sadly, her husband, Clark Gable, waited at the saloon for two days for news of her survival. Experience the chill of Pioneer’s phantom patrons yourself during one of the saloon’s “lockdowns,” staged between midnight and 4am. The bar even provides ghost-hunting equipment—unless you’re already packing your own.
(Photo courtesy travelnevada.com)
Mixing your cocktail