Among bestselling author V.C. Andrews’ spookiest prose, she writes: ‘There are shadows in the corners and whispers on the stairs.’ Reading those words, it’s easy to imagine apparitions floating in passageways and showing themselves in orbs unseen to the naked eye, but visible only to the camera lens. While some restaurant owners and managers prefer to hide tainted history, others wear spooky like a badge of honor and diners can’t get enough of it. Reservations may spike during late October, but the truly spooky stay busy. Here are 10 of our favorite spooky restaurants in America to get the creeps around Halloween or any time of year. Looking for something without a side of the scares? Check out OpenTable.com to find the right restaurant for you.
The Brentwood Restaurant, Little River, South Carolina
Arguably one of the loveliest restaurants in America also holds the title of being one of the spookiest. In fact, The Brentwood Restaurant is so spooky, this Little River, South Carolina structure and its ghosts were featured on A&E Biography Channel’s Strange Happenings episode in 2011. The restaurant and wine bistro flawlessly integrates French and Lowcountry cuisine in mouthwatering dishes like she-crab soup with dry Sherry and beef Wellington, artfully prepared by French chef Eric Masson. Aside from the culinary success, Brentwood is famed for the unseen people who inhabit it. Originally the dream home of Clarence and Essie Bessent-McCorsley, Essie loved the house and in the wake of her husband’s death, she stayed, taking in boarders to make ends meet, the house a lovely setting for a hot breakfast and good night’s sleep among its double-sided fireplaces. No one seems to know who haunts Brentwood, but the essence of these permanent residents have been caught on actual surveillance video and aired in an WMBF news segment. Masson and others report sightings of a dark, fast shadow passing by the upstairs bathroom going into the front room and through the fireplace, a face in the upstairs window when no one was there, orbs clearly visible in pictures, and a small child appearing in a surveillance camera. People have heard sighing voices and gotten locked in the infamous bathroom and reported equipment starting by itself. Diners often schedule Brentwood ghost tours and, naturally, on Halloween, the restaurant has several tours following dinner. Make a reservation at The Brentwood Restaurant.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib and SideDoor, Chicago, Ilinois
“Constance really is an unsettling presence, which is fun around Halloween,” says one fan of Chicago’s Lawry’s The Prime Rib and adjacent sister restaurant SideDoor and their ghost, Constance Plummer McCormick. Constance has been a regular in the building since the early 1900s when she was the belle of the Chicago social scene, hosting lavish balls in what was then the McCormick Mansion. It became Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Chicago’s famed steakhouse in 1974, but no one seems to have told Constance that. She still hangs around the architectural masterpiece at Ontario and Rush Streets, where she hosted guests including Kings Edward amd George and the Duke of Kent. Those who know her also refer to Constance as the “Matriarch of the Mansion” or the “Lady in Blue.” Nighttime cleaning crews have reported seeing Constance rocking back and forth in the Regents dining room, while servers have felt her presence and heard footsteps in spaces absent of living human feet. When crews discovered a fireplace behind the wall during construction of the adjoining Sidedoor, which was the mansion’s family dining room and covered it with drywall, Constance revealed her displeasure at the rearranging of the dining room – the next day in a painting of herself appeared a shard of metal under her right shoulder. Constance is no shrinking violet. In another mischievous mishap, crews also found a 400 pound, 55-gallon drum knocked over that no living person could have moved, its contents spilled onto the floor with no one there to blame. Except Constance. Make a reservation at Lawry’s The Prime Rib.
Barbadoes Room in The Mills House, Charleston, South Carolina
You can’t cross the street in Charleston without hitting a ghost; spirits from ages past cling to the carriages and architecture, like the generations of Spanish moss hangs from the trees. Perhaps nowhere else in this old Southern city is as famed for its spiritual side than the Mills House. It dates back to 1853 and is now the Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel. The hotel’s glorious architecture notwithstanding, this Charleston’s icon in the city’s Historic District is steps from King Street and solemn graveyards, chock full of ghostly tales, and among the most popular stops on Charleston’s many ghost tours. The accounts of haunted encounters by guests are vast and credible, including those experienced firsthand by the author of this story and her traveling companion. They include items moving from one side of the room to the other while its occupants slept, waking up to see a man in Confederate uniform and woman in Civil War dress sitting at the end of the bed, and witnessing the elevator going to and from certain floors — not commanded by human passengers. Other sightings have included a woman from the 1800s in a purple dress between the hours of 11PM and 1AM in the rear lobby, perhaps a specter from the days when the hotel was a healing place for burn victims in the wake of the destructive Great Charleston Fire of 1861, during which Robert E. Lee was a guest at the Mills House before reportedly being moved to a safer location on the Battery. Don’t miss a cocktail in the ornate Best Friend Lounge before or after dinner where serious imbibers revel in rare liquors and luscious cocktails. Make a reservation at Barbadoes Room in The Mills House.
Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York, New York
Meet the Vandevroot sisters. Their spirits enjoy roaming the streets of New York City looking for husbands, claiming Delmonico’s Restaurant as their landmark haunt. Delmonico’s Restaurant embraces these sibling residents with their very own “suitor séance” martini, Delmonico’s head bartender Marina Zivic’s take on a pumpkin spice martini with made with vanilla vodka, pumpkin liquor, Cointreau, and star anise. These sassy sisters were the offspring of a wealthy father who controlled their every move and wouldn’t permit them to trek the streets of Manhattan without a chaperone. Delmonico’s, the only restaurant at the time which permitted women without a male chaperone and the Central Park Skating Pond were the limited places the Ms. Vandevroots could go unattended. Though they died unmarried, their ghosts have plenty of admirers who come to Delmonico’s for a glimpse of the ladies in 19th-century dress, in search of suitors around their beloved Wall St. steakhouse. Make a reservation at Delmonico’s.
Vessel, New Orleans, Louisiana
As Alec Wilder of Vessel in New Orleans says, if you’re looking for a spooky setting, “You have certainly come to the right place – we are haunted – both previous owners experienced this and we do all the time.” Located in a former 1914 church in mid-city New Orleans, Vessel owners through the years have reported pots and pans clanging in the kitchen when no one is there and the scent of incense only in certain areas of the bar, along with shadows and outlines of monk-like forms throughout the building. Wilder says also things disappear from their regular places and there are strange noises in the main room while the upstairs office is occupied, though no other people are in the building – most of the occurrences happen when there are but one or two people present in Vessel, including seeing the shadow of a small boy walking in front of the outdoor fountain on several occasions. Most unsettling was the time the chef set the alarm and walked out the door, after which the door began to violently shake as if someone were desperate to escape the building. During a peek through the window, the chef saw the room completely empty. And the door shook no more. Make a reservation at Vessel.
The Red Coach Inn, Niagara Falls, New York
Stalking the upper rapids of Niagara Falls, the circa 1920s Red Coach Inn was built in the architectural style of the old English Tudor period. Here diners can watch the water crashing in all its mighty glory in the Rapids Room and spend the night in the inn. They can also watch things fly about for no reason, propelled by no one or listen to music no human is playing and the sounds of footsteps above them, though there are no floors overhead. Could they be ascribed to the bride and groom who took their lives on their wedding day? Perhaps, especially if you ask the little boy who reported seeing a woman in a white dress floating in the rapids, though there was nobody. The Red Coach Inn was featured as the haunting of Bernie Kopell on Celebrity Ghost Stories and is part of the Haunted History Trail of New York State. Make a reservation at The Red Coach Inn.
Scampo at The Liberty Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston’s zip code may as well spell out the word haunted – tales of the past spring up in architecture across the city. One of the best examples is the Charles Street Jail, now The Liberty Hotel’s Scampo. The temporary detention facility for the infamous, including Whitey Bulger, the Boston Strangler, and Mayor James Michael Curley, eventually shuttered after a court handed down a ruling that the jail was unfit to house anyone. Is it really haunted? Just ask the Scampo’s kitchen staff. They claim to have heard pots and pans rattling and footsteps in an empty space. Among the finest Italian eateries in town, Scampo is helmed by James Beard Award-Winning chef Lydia Shire. The hotel promises the lap of luxury, but guests still love to see the elements that remain of the Charles Street Jail, like the cellblock rooms and original catwalks along the main atrium. Diners can request their very own spooky tour by visiting the concierge desk. Make a reservation at Scampo at The Liberty Hotel.
The Rabbit Hole, Colorado Springs, Colorado
The Pikes Peak region of Colorado is a playground for haunted restaurant enthusiasts. The Rabbit Hole is one of them and in the 1800s, served as the morgue for Colorado Springs. The theme of this underground eatery is based on a creepier, more upscale version of Alice in Wonderland, the entrance inconspicuously located beneath a downtown sidewalk. The owner can attest to some strange happenings, including being shoved from behind as he gave his wife a celebratory opening day kiss, for the couple only to turn and find themselves alone in the room. Today this bustling gathering spot is one of the best places to grab a bite and a piece of Colorado’s haunted history. Make a reservation at The Rabbit Hole.
Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri
This Lemp Mansion’s tagline is “famous ghost to ghost” for its predilection of occurrences. William Lemp, grieving the death of his beloved son Frederick, ended his own life in the mansion. His other son succumbed to a heart attack and his sister Elsa also committed suicide. William’s brother Charles also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Only Edwin who lived to the ripe old age of 90 remained, taking the Lemp lineage with him to his grave. While the Lemps couldn’t seem to tear themselves away from their troublesome familial abode, the Lemp Mansion’s homebodies seem to voice their displeasure at newer inhabitants in the form of swinging doors and telekinetically shattering drinking glasses, much to the delight of guests who flock to Sunday chicken lunch, dinner theater, paranormal investigator-led tours, and sold-out annual events. Today this Victorian masterpiece still includes the decorative iron gates in the basement, remnants of the Lemp’s elevator, and vaults used to store the Lemps’ art fortunes. Though sealed off, the Lemps once constructed an auditorium, ballroom, and swimming pool in a natural underground cavern reachable by basement tunnels that also once stretched from the house to the Lemp’s brewery. Make a reservation at The Lemp Mansion.
El Moro Spirits & Tavern, Durango, Colorado
The year was 1906 and the scene was downtown Durango, where the shooting death of Sheriff William Thompson took place at the hands of City Marshal Jesse Stansel, later acquitted of the crime, despite conflicting accounts. This is just one of many gunfights in a region that is on the National Register of Historic Districts and founded in 1881 by the incorporated Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, back in the day when there were few rules in the American Old West. A long history of feuds between gangs of saloon and business owners fueled a gambling racket that defied the laws of the land, with the best-known battle occurring between the sheriff and marshal after a raid on them El Moro Saloon. The shooting, which took place on the sidewalk directly outside, is to blame for numerous paranormal reports since El Moro employees first walked through the El Moro Spirits & Tavern doors on opening day in 2013. Believed to be the ghost of Sheriff Thompson, restless after failing to receive justice, he now has his place in contemporary El Moro history: the shrine created for him on the bar includes a bottle of whiskey and shot, which staff members repeatedly have to refill even when no one can account for the disappearing liquor. Make a reservation at El Moro Spirits and Tavern.
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Photo credits: M. Sears (The Brentwood); Tim Keller (Lemp).