Some New Jersey restaurants are notorious sites for paranormal activity, especially those housed in old, historic buildings. Some were inns; others private homes. One was even a brothel.
Ghost hunters have flocked to these storied buildings with sensors and cameras to try to interact with the rumored ghosts.
At these restaurants, workers and guests have heard whispers, felt ghostly hands, seen specters. So, keep your guard up when visiting. You might be dining with a few unexpected guests.
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The Brass Rail, Hoboken
Paranormal investigators often mention The Brass Rail, a 1900s tavern that serves seafood and eclectic pub fare, as one of the most haunted locations in the state. Legend says a bride and groom celebrated at The Brass Rail the night of their wedding in 1904. The bride supposedly tripped at the top of the spiral staircase, causing her to fall from the second floor, break her neck and die. The horrified groom spent the night drinking, then hanged himself in a room next to the staircase. He left behind a note that said, “Now that my wife was taken from me, there is no reason for me to live.”
The couple supposedly haunts the staircase to this day. Servers claim to have seen them late at night while cleaning up. Others have reported sightings of different ghosts around the staircase, phone calls with no one on the other end and objects crashing to the ground and being moved by spirits.
Go: 135 Washington St, Hoboken; 201-659-7074, thebrassrailnj.com.
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Elaine’s, Cape May
Restaurant, bar and dinner theater Elaine’s is located in a beautiful old Victorian home built in the 1860s, with a few ghostly occupants. Elaine’s is supposedly haunted by several human ghosts and a dead cat named Streak, according to owner Shirley Phinney, who has experienced many ghost sightings in the restaurant and has even heard them call her name. The most active ghosts are the father and daughter of the Reed family, the original owners of the home. The daughter died young due to consumption. The nurse who cared for her also haunts the building.
The ghosts are friendly, Phinney assures, and Elaine’s has hosted plenty of ghost hunting weekends for guests. If that doesn’t put you in a Halloween mood, Elaine’s also goes all out for the holiday, with ghoulish decorations and spooky lighting. Elaine’s is hosting a “drunken pumpkin carving” party on Oct. 28 and a costume party on Oct. 30. Stop by for a drink at one of its spacious bars and a bite to eat (and perhaps leave with a paranormal experience of your own).
Go: 513 Lafayette St., Cape May; 609-884-1199, facebook.com/ElainesCapeMayNJ.
Emily’s, Ocean City
The Flanders Hotel has embraced its ghostly resident. So much so that its restaurant is named after her: Emily’s. Who is Emily? We’re not sure. The most enduring myth is that she’s a bride searching for her engagement ring. Flanders hosts plenty of weddings, and employees have said Emily will often show herself to the brides, and usually seems to be searching for something.
But some say she’s a mother looking for her child that died of hypothermia. Others think she was an employee at the Flanders when it opened in the ‘20s who killed herself after her aristocratic lover refused to marry her.
Regardless of who Emily is, you can look at a portrait of her — a woman in a white dress with long hair — done by Tony Troy, which hangs in the hotel.
Go: 719 E. 11th St., Ocean City; 609-399-1000, theflandershotel.com.
Gregory’s, Somers Point
One of the most haunted restaurants at the Jersey Shore is Gregory’s. And it’s no wonder. The Gregory’s building has a sordid past as a former brothel. Sightings include a man in a peacoat who orders at the bar and spirits that will brush past servers in the basement. Uncle Eddie is another — a long-dead member of the Gregory family who used to work at the restaurant. His bedroom is still upstairs in the building, with a bed, his jacket hanging in the closet, and an unnerving painting of a man hanged on a tree who casts no shadow.
But don’t let Uncle Eddie scare you away from stopping by for Taco Tuesday, a bowl of French onion soup or a plate of juicy wings. Gregory’s is a lively old bar, despite the presence of the dead.
Go: 900 Shore Road, Somers Point; 609-927-6665, gregorysrestaurantandbar.letseat.at.
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The Washington Inn, Cape May
A girl named Elizabeth has been said to haunt the Victorian mansion that houses The Washington Inn. Elizabeth is known for causing a ruckus by calling out people’s names. Perhaps you’ll hear her, in between bites of flaky salmon, succulent scallops and sips of wine.
Go: 801 Washington St., Cape May; 609-884-5697, washingtoninn.com.
The Shore House, Point Pleasant
One of the oldest taverns in New Jersey, The Shore House used to be known as Magee’s West Side Tavern, and before that, it was the West Point Hotel. The building also used to be a brothel and a temporary morgue holding the victims of the John Minturn shipwreck in Mantoloking in 1846.
Three spirits are said to haunt the attic of The Shore House. One is a little girl, who was rumored to have been strangled by her father in the owner’s office closet. Another is the captain of the John Minturn, Capt. Stark. Some have even seen a woman in Victorian clothing roaming the halls.
Several staff members have seen or heard the ghosts throughout the years, or felt like someone was watching them. Frank Gullace, owner of the Shore House, once experienced something terrible in his office.
“I always used to take people around and give them tours, and the one day I was telling the story of how the girl was strangled, I felt like I had hands on my throat choking me and it was a pretty freaky experience,” said Gullace. One day, he even heard the little girl yell “help me.”
Knowing they needed professional help, Gullace called in his aunt, Daria Justyn, a known medium and published author. With a few of her colleagues, they held a séance to calm the spirits. The group of mediums not only allegedly encountered the spirits firsthand, but everyone in the room witnessed the mediums feeling tugs on their pant legs, and hearing things.
After telling the spirits the owners had good intentions, and they no longer had to protect the tavern, the spirits were calmed and the staff has supposedly not experienced any activity since.
Recently, the tavern has undergone renovations, but Gullace ensured the history of the building was preserved, utilizing old materials from the original tavern, and even memorializing the shipwreck with a mural at the bar.
Go: 2114 Route 8, Point Pleasant; 732-892-1669, theshorehousenj.com.
The Cranbury Inn
Tom Ingegneri, who has co-owned the Cranbury Inn alongside his wife Gay for almost 30 years, has never seen a ghost at the I inn, which is known as the oldest restaurant in the state. However, he knows there is some kind of “phenomena” there, he said.
“Anyone who has the ability to go to the other side has told me things about this place,” he said. “However, I’m never afraid — there is no evil here. The phenomena here is very caring.”
Gay once got a call from a woman in Florida who told her that a ghost visited her and told her that she was upset because “her room was a mess,” Tom recalled. The ghost told the Florida woman that her room had been the one on the second floor with a fireplace.
Gay went to the room and realized that it was filled with Christmas decorations. So, out of respect for who she discovered to be Miss Mac, one of the last boarders of the Cranbury Inn before it became a restaurant, Gay cleaned it up — and then hosted an afternoon tea with a place set up for Miss Mac.
Another time, a woman told Tom that one of the Inn’s bathroom mirrors (which she said was “from across a great body of water”) “has great love for you,” Tom recalled. Turns out, the mirror was a keepsake of Tom’s mother, who was born in Dublin, Ireland.
Guests are often interested in the history of the Cranbury Inn, Tom said of the American restaurant which serves “straightforward and honest cuisine,” he described. So, if they have a few minutes — or even hours — either he or Gay will give a tour of the 27,000-square-foot Inn, introducing patrons to its clocks, dishes and even underground tunnels. Tours can be scheduled ahead of time or given on-the-spot if Tom or Gay have the time.
“When you have a building this old, you’re selling more than food,” Tom said. “With a building that dates back to 1750, there’s a lot to talk about.”
Go: 21 S Main St., Cranbury; 609-655-5595, thecranburyinn.com.
Inn of the Hawke
A kitchen utensil left in the oven every work day at the start of one particular chef’s shift. Missing hairbrushes reported by multiple Inn guests, only to show up right before their departures. Rearranged lamps and furniture. Even a board game thrown across the room when a troublesome inn guest walked by.
“I know this place is haunted,” said Doreen Masset, co-owner of the Inn of the Hawke in Lambertville. “In the 26 years we have been here, we have heard lots of stories from customers – especially in the bed and breakfast.”
The Inn of the Hawke, which has ahuge regulars’ crowd as well as selection of about 45 beers at the upscale pub venue, is housed inside a circa-1860 Lambertville building that once served as a single-family home — as well as several inns and restaurants over the years. However, not all of the guests have checked out.
Masset said that the restaurant and inn, which features a nostalgic rustic Colonial vibe, a wood burning fireplace and a flagstone patio alongside a garden, seems to be inhabited by two ghosts.
“Ghost Hunters” once visited the inn and confirmed a psychic’s conclusion that a handyman who worked in the building when it was a home, named Jake, is haunting the building along with a girl who wears a yellow floral dress and has been seen in windows, mirrors and in hallways.
No one — including the many guests who flock to the inn for its haunted reputation around Halloween — seem to be too bothered by them. Masset said the ghosts seem to want to protect her and the guests and staff, as well as have some laughs.
“Jake will play with the stereo or move tools, which is downright hysterical,” said Masset. “They’re mischievous ghosts more than anything, and it’s fun.”
Go: 74 S Union St., Lambertville; 609-397-9555, innofthehawke.com.
The Dublin House, Red Bank
The Dublin House Restaurant & Pub in downtown Red Bank is said to be one of the most haunted spots in New Jersey, with Jersey Shore Ghost Tours actually beginning their tours there.
The ghost, while friendly, is said to be the restaurant’s former owner, Mrs. Patterson. Staff and patrons have seen her get a bit playful, knocking liquor bottles off shelves, slamming doors or even whispering in visitors’ ears.
Eugene Devlin, the current owner, said that he’s not only experienced paranormal activity, but bartenders have and they even had ghost hunters come and explore the place. The hunters confirmed that Mrs. Patterson was most active on the third floor.
“One day a door slammed behind me and there was no one in the house,” said Devlin. “A few years ago, one of my bartenders was doing his money at the end of the night, he was inside and there was no wind, no doors open or anything. He turned around to get a bottle of water and he turned around and saw the money blowing all over the bar.”
Go: 30 Monmouth St., Redbank; 732-747-6699, thedublinhouse.co.
The Gables, Long Beach Island
While the story of The Gables haunting is not quite pinned down, as owners have changed throughout the years, Sondra Beninati, the current owner of the restaurant, confirmed spooky happenings have gone on within its walls.
“There have been several psychics that have stayed here that said they felt a presence,” said Beninati. “I had heard there was [the spirit of] a young woman and an old man.”
Beninati, whose owned the restaurant for 17 years, said that after a devastating fire back in 2012, the activity mainly stopped.
“We did find things were kind of wonky sometimes in some of the rooms, and then we had a fire and all the stuff we used to have in terms of door slamming, or any other activity, just didn’t seem to happen anymore,” said Beninati.
It’s unknown if the spirits left in the chaos or remain quiet and calm, Beninati assured they have always been friendly.
“Whatever I did experience was benign, nothing hostile,” she said.
Go: 212 Centre St., Beach Haven; 609-492-3553, gableslbi.com.
Rebecca King is a food writer for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.