Top 10 Most Haunted Bars In America
Could your favorite “haunt” literally be haunted? “Eat, drink, and be merry” is a mantra that many Americans live by, with residents across the nation scurrying after work and on weekends to gain reprieve in their favorite watering holes. While new bars pop up all the time, several of America’s most iconic are those that were established over a century ago. The antiquity of such treasured taverns in cities like New York and New Orleans add to their charm, but what could be hiding behind those aged walls? You may be surprised to find that paranormal entities are rife in bars with a long legacy. Several establishments once operated as brothels or places for pirates and other criminals to hide out, which led to many of our most beloved bars once being the sight for murders, suicides, and more.
Despite the carnage that once took place in several of the bars listed below, many of the businesses’ former patrons seem to have such an affinity toward the establishments they once frequented, that they have taken up permanent residence after passing on. Some patrons have witnessed such jolting activity, it has caused them to flee the following taverns before even finishing a drink, while some feel drawn to the paradoxical occurrences. Ghostly happenings have become so commonplace for some of the bars’ staff and owners, they are barely phased by it, and can regularly anticipate the appearance of things like the entities of an entire wedding party (more on that in a bit) traipsing down the stairs before they have finished locking up for the night. Enjoy this sobering list of the top 10 most haunted bars in America.
Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore, Maryland
Historic Fells Point in Baltimore, Maryland is a favorite bar-hopping spot for natives and tourists alike. It is also vacated by a plethora of upscale restaurants, quaint boutiques, and other idyllic fixtures. Because we’re talking about bars in this list, we’ll save talk on the more innocuous businesses for another time and stick to the nightlife that congests Fells Point every weekend. Residents and visitors stroll from bar to bar along Fells Point’s eclectic strip, often finding a favorite to be Max’s Taphouse, which is known for its vast selection of draft, cask, and bottled beers. The bar wasn’t always a premier spot for beer connoisseurs, however. When it was first established in the 1800’s, the venue rotated between being a restaurant, boardinghouse, brothel, and chicken slaughterhouse. There is evidence that those who resided at one time during Max’s earlier days have become permanent fixtures in the bar today. There are tales of levitating bottles and spirits being seen in the bar, apparitions of a woman in white on the second floor, and even ghosts of the poultry who suffered a grisly fate during the establishment’s time as a slaughterhouse.
Max’s owner, Ron Furman, recalled a particularly jolting incident to CBS Baltimore in 2012. One of the bar’s staff scurried up from the basement at one point overwrought by what he described as the sight of decapitated chickens running rampant below. Furman had not even been aware that his operation used to be a slaughterhouse until later.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar in New Orleans, Louisiana
If there’s one city in America that knows how to throw a good party, it’s New Orleans. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is one of the oldest bars established, and apparently several guests who have passed on still refuse to pass on a good cocktail from their favorite watering hole. The bar has maintained its charming antiquity for years and continues to be a popular spot for those looking to enjoy a good brew and a wealth of history. If you end up fancying a man sitting at the bar named E.J., you may want to heed handing out your digits — he’s a ghost. Moreover, even for those that may be “into” that sort of thing (are you an avid fan of the movie Ghost or something? In real life, romantic liaisons with the paranormal are just kinda weird. No offense…), it is also said that E.J.’s ghost resides at the bar because he is waiting for his wife, as he vowed before passing.
Jean Lafitte — the deceased pirate for which the bar garnered its namesake — is also said to be seen frequently in the bar, even in the women’s restroom, as he was a big fan of the ladies. For those who visit the second floor of the building, it is said that a woman will appear in the reflection of a mirror, so brace yourself for the possibility of being spooked before checking your makeup.
The Brass Rail in Hoboken, New Jersey
If you want a good drink and a halcyon atmosphere, look no further than The Brass Rail in Hoboken, New Jersey. A word of caution: try not to become so enamored with the establishment that you book the area for a wedding or reception. Staff frequently see the ghosts of an entire wedding party strolling down the spiral staircase of the establishment. Now, you may be thinking, “Maybe that wedding was so awesome that the passed members of the wedding party just can’t let go of their favorite venue.” This is not exactly the case. As the story goes, in 1904, a bride-to-be was poised for her happily ever after at The Brass Rail. As she took to the spiral staircase, an ill-fated trip led to her death and her groom became understandably distraught. Unable to face life without his love, he remained at The Brass Rail to compose a suicide note which allegedly read, “Now that my wife was taken from me, there is no reason for me to live.” He polished off one last cocktail and was found hanging in a room by the staircase that had been the subject of his bride’s fate.
Other than the stories and sightings, the establishment has received verification from paranormal investigator, John Cifarelli, that the brass rail is quite haunted. Cifarelli conversed with the bar’s manager and has stated that many of the bar’s fixtures are “not of this world.”
Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West, Florida
This bar used to be a morgue, so hauntings seem pretty par for the course. In fact, remains are still buried beneath the establishment’s grounds. Acclaimed names like Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Shel Silverstein, Tennessee Williams, and even Jimmy Buffet have been known to stop into this popular watering hole for a drink. However, Captain Tony’s has a particularly grisly history and is known as being a hotbed for paranormal activity. Captain Tony’s was established in 1851, and other than becoming “Key West’s first morgue,” it is also home to the infamous “Hanging Tree,” which saw the prosecutions of 16 pirates and a woman who murdered her husband and two children.
It is not clear as to what the woman’s motivation was for brutally stabbing her family, chopping up the remains, and attempting to hide the product of her menace in a backyard, but she has since been coined the “Lady in Blue,” as people frequently see her appear as an apparition of blue mist in the bar.
For the ladies who dare to visit this antiquated establishment, keep your bathroom breaks swift if you get spooked by the paranormal. According to The Brandenton Times, the women’s restroom has been privy to several ghostly sightings. “People have found that doors become locked for no apparent reason. Reports of strange and eerie sensations that overcome you when entering the bathroom have deterred many from using it.”
Ear Inn in New York City, New York
Established in 1817, the Ear Inn’s visitors were most often sailors during its inception, but it has since become a favorite for New Yorkers delighting in the city’s eclectic bar scene. One guest from the bar and inn’s early days is a sailor named Mickey. As the story goes, the apparition of Mickey appears frequently, showing a particular fancy for female staff and patrons. He was a sailor, after all, and apparently had no plans of quashing any stereotypes about seamen being cheeky womanizers. Women who stay overnight at the inn have also reported that Mickey will slink into bed with them, possibly looking to get frisky. He may not have a pulse, ladies, but this ghost is proving that mortals aren’t the only ones looking to “live it up” — even though he’s not, well, alive. According to one testimonial in 2014, a waitress’ boyfriend was the privileged visitor to catch a glimpse of Mickey (she was unable to see even the slightest apparition) and it doesn’t sound like the ghost tried to make any moves. Is it possible that — despite his womanizing ways — Mickey is also a purporter of monogamy? Or at least the bro code? Aww. The waitress and her beau were sleeping in an upstairs room when she was suddenly jolted from her sleep in the middle of the night. She found herself perplexed by the sight of her boyfriend’s enthralled stare toward the other side of the room. When she questioned him about what he was looking at, he responded, “I’m just saying hello to the strange man standing in the corner.”
Along with his penchant for the ladies, Mickey continues to prove himself quite the sailor by swiping patrons’ drinks. Ear Inn’s owner, Martin Sheridan, was staunch in his belief in the apparition of Mickey. “It’s not a tale,” he stated. “It’s a fact.Although lately it’s been people who notice a little too much of their drink missing. They look around and start accusing their friends.” The moral of this story is clear: don’t instigate an argument when that pint you ordered has a large dent in it when you took nary a sip. It was probably just a thirsty ghost.
Simon’s Tavern in Chicago, Illinois
Simon’s Tavern not only has a history of paranormal sightings — the backstory for said paranormal sightings would also make for a great soap opera plot! As the story goes, the bar’s former owner and namesake — Simon Ludwig — had a son named Roy who became involved with a married woman. Despite haplessly gleaning the title of “mistress,” the woman became a fixture on Simon’s Tavern’s iconic mural, which is still one of the establishment’s focal points today. Tragically, the woman in question died in a car crash while riding with Roy. The tragedy prompted a hasty cover-up by the Ludwig family, who literally cut the woman’s image from the mural to cover up the tragedy. When Roy was fighting — and subsequently lost — a third battle with cancer that landed him in a hospice, the bar’s current owner, Scott Martin, noticed that Roy’s head was mysteriously being cut from the mural. Many believe that either the woman or another apparition continue to haunt the mural as a result of unresolved issues from the extramarital affair.
Guests of the bar also frequently report feeling a strange presence in the bar’s basement. Martin has even stated that the feelings of paranormal happenings have become so prominent, that it has caused some patrons to flee the bar.
Earnestine and Hazel’s in Memphis, Tennessee
Earnestine and Hazel’s in Memphis, Tennesse is named after the two sisters who established the business in the 1930s. What was once a pharmacy is now one of Memphis’ most sought after dive bars, featuring delectably gaudy decor and other fixtures that epitomize Memphis’ rich history of jazz and blues. Although the establishment has evolved since being established by Earnestine and Hazel, the women’s sisterly bond has echoed through the walls of the bar even after they passed on. According the The Huffington Post, many guests will hear both sisters giggling as they tour the upstairs of the historic bar. It seems that the women’s ghosts are of the friendly variety, but some paranormal incidents are decidedly more eerie.
Paranormal investigators have recorded audio of groans resonating through the bar, even when no one else was in the building. Other ghosts seem to be musically inclined, as a jukebox located downstairs will randomly play songs that are applicable to staff and guest conversations. One longtime worker recalled a particularly jolting incident involving the jukebox after legendary soul singer, James Brown, had passed away:
“One time, my coworker and I were talking about James Brown on the day that he died. All of the sudden, the jukebox blared on out of nowhere, scared my half to death, and started playing ‘I Feel Good.’” She noted that another incident had occurred when she had been conversing about exorcism and the jukebox began playing “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. “I think the only time I really got scared was when I was standing at the jukebox and it felt like somebody touch me.”
Bridge Cafe in New York City, New York
The Bridge Cafe is one of Manhattan’s oldest bars and a frequent haunt (get it?) for New Yorkers in the Financial District looking for a quality cocktail and entree. Established in the 1700’s, the bar went through a carousel of operations as a brothel, pirate bar, and more. A team of EPIC paranormal investigators were invited to check Bridge Cafe for paranormal activity after several unexplained occurrences had been witness by staff and patrons. Although the team was unable to identify anything out of the ordinary, the stories continue.
Bridge Cafe manager, Adam, described how working at the bar challenged his skepticism of the paranormal. He recalled fleeing the bar without locking up properly due to the sound of unexplained footsteps upstairs. The sound of footsteps became so commonplace that Adam would hear them without becoming phased. However, during one night when the bar had closed due to the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Adam and a worker drank a glass of wine when the footsteps were heard again and the woman was clearly jolted, prompting Adam to invite her to finish drinking outside with him. The footsteps were not heard again. However, an inexplicable scent of lavender has enveloped parts of the bar at times, and is said to have been used by the prostitutes who took up residence when the bar once functioned as a brothel. Other strange occurrences include computer systems shutting down, volume levels changing on the speakers, and the feeling of a ghostly presence upstairs.
Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
When you decide to choose a former cemetery as a place to operate a cigar bar, there’s bound to be a few disturbing tales. Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is over 300 years old and has even been coined Milwaukee’s Haunted Bar. Patrons have actually fainted due to the overwhelming feeling of paranormal activity, and others have reported seeing “shadow people,” which are apparently tiny dark images swirling around them. There is one point in the back of the basement that camera crews and paranormal investigators are advised not to go to, as equipment notoriously — albeit, mysteriously — shuts off upon entrance.
During an interview with Paranormal Generation, Shaker’s owner, Bob Weiss, stated that he believes that the entities who have become permanent fixtures at the bar are generally friendly, but that they may respond unkindly when antagonized. He encourages patrons to enter with an open mind, without fear (easier said than done) and that staunch non-believers may be in for a spook. He recounted a time that a stockbroker entered the bar adamantly denying the possibility of ghosts. When the stockbroker went to the bathroom, a scream was heard and he came dashing out with a complexion that was “as white as a napkin,” according to Weiss. The man stated that he had been at the urinal when “a head rose up” and lo and behold, he was no longer a skeptic.
One final anecdote: along with once being a cemetery, Shaker’s also operated as a brothel at one time. According to The Huffington Post, a prostitute named Molly Brennan was brutally murdered at Shaker’s by a client. While remodeling, the owner uncovered human remains beneath one of the bedrooms that are believed to be Brennan’s. Are you thoroughly creeped out yet?
White Horse Tavern in New York City, New York
It’s not uncommon to hear of a writer who also likes to drink to excess. Hemingway was a notorious proponent of drinking fifteen alcoholic beverages or more after (or possibly during) a long day of writing. Poet Dylan Thomas was another writer who enjoyed frequent time with the bottle, so much so that it led to his death in 1952, when he visited the White Horse Tavern and “trumped his existing [drinking] record, taking 18 whiskey shots before making his exit.” A sloshed Thomas was taken to a hotel later to recuperate, but the damage had been done, and after falling into an alcohol-induced coma, he was pronounced dead at St. Vincent’s hospital. There is a haunting (pun very much intended) portrait of Thomas that still hangs in the White Horse Tavern, which shows him enjoying his very last drink. Staff and patrons have frequently reported seeing the ghost of Thomas drinking at his usual spot and even making glassware manifest before their eyes.
National Paranormal Association also stated that when Thomas would come in to the bar to write, he would pull the table he wrote at slight askew in order to optimally access his paper. “And according to the staff, they find this one corner table slightly twisted every morning, even if they make sure to line it up before closing.” It is said that many fledgling poets come to the White Horse Tavern both to pay tribute to an icon and to glean inspiration for their writing. Although Thomas’ is a supreme choice for poetic influence, we wouldn’t recommend any attempts to reach or exceed his whiskey record. If you visit, however, hopefully you will be lucky enough to share a drink with him.