Ghosts like to hang out in all kinds of places, from insane asylums to elementary schools. But one of their favorite haunts – no pun intended – is the local bar. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of taverns, pubs and watering holes around the country that claim to have restless spirits as regular customers. Here’s a guide to the ten most haunted bars in America.
Bobby Mackey’s Music World
Bobby Mackey is a country singer who hit the charts with 1987’s “Pepsi Man,” but is most famous for owning a haunted honkytonk. Located just south of the Ohio border in the small town of Wilder, Kentucky, Bobby Mackey’s Music World is one of the most famous ghost bars in the country. Built in the 1850s as a slaughterhouse, the only remaining fixture is a well in the basement where blood and offal from countless animals was drained. When it was abandoned, there were numerous rumors of Satanic sacrifices happening there. It’s rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Pearl Bryan, a local woman whose body was found a few miles from the club.
Captain Tony’s Saloon
Florida is home to some of the weirdest things America has to offer, so it’s no surprise that it has ghosts as well. Key West watering hole Captain Tony’s Saloon was built as an ice house in 1852, but doubled as the city morgue to keep bodies from rotting. In 1912 it was converted into a speakeasy and has been a house of ill repute ever since. During the 1930s it was a favorite hangout for Ernest Hemingway to drink himself sloppy in, but reports of malevolent spirits have persisted for generations. When they dug up the foundation, they discovered no less than a dozen skeletons buried there. Some of the ghosts include a woman clad in gray who allegedly wanders the bar looking for a new husband and a mysterious force that locks people in the women’s bathroom.
This Chicago mainstay has tons of disturbing stories behind it. Original owner Simon Lumberg was a Swedish immigrant who opened the bar in the Andersonville neighborhood in the '20s, but his son Roy wasn’t the most straight-laced guy – he had an affair with a married woman and drove her to her death before he died himself. Mysteriously, his image disappeared from a mural in the bar depicting the Lumberg family. The bar is now under new ownership, but Roy’s angry spirit still sticks around and regulars report all sorts of shenanigans that go unexplained.
The Old Tavern
Ghosts often congregate at places where emotions ran high, and one great example is Unionville’s Old Tavern. During the days before the Civil War, this was a stop along the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves, with a network of subterranean tunnels allowing them to escape through the cemetery across the street. Those tunnels still exist today, allowing wandering spirits from the graveyard to re-enter the bar area and make trouble. Multiple patrons have reported seeing the ghost of a wandering slave walking the grounds, and the sounds of rattling chains are often heard from underground.
Shaker’s Cigar Bar
Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s most famous haunted bar has a hell of a nasty pedigree behind it. Shaker’s was a whorehouse before it was converted into a cigar bar, and back in the days of vice a hooker was found hacked into little pieces in her bedroom. But the ghost who is most often felt in Shaker’s is that of a little girl. Her name is Elizabeth, and she can really make a lot of trouble. She likes to knock on the bathroom door and run away, as well as take photos off the walls. She’s not the only one, though. Intense areas of mysterious cold, unexplained breezes and other weird phenomenon happen all the time here.
The White Horse Tavern
One of the most storied public houses in New York City is the White Horse Tavern, the longshoreman’s bar turned boho hangout where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in 1953. Since he died (from “wet brain,” as alcohol comas were referred to back in the day), patrons have reported spotting his apparition multiple times at the bar. Used glassware also materializes from nowhere as if Thomas has been trying to whet his ghostly whistle, and his corner table is often found in the morning pushed out of the way as if the drunken spirit had knocked it over trying to head home for well-deserved rest.
40 Club Inn
Most of the bars on this list are haunted by ghosts from way back when, but Aitkin, Minnesota’s 40 Club Inn has a more recent – and more disturbing – haunt. When an employee who lived in an apartment above the place was found dead in 1999, all Hell started to break loose in the place. The owner reported that his jukebox would turn on randomly and play the same Uncle Kracker song that played at the employee’s funeral. Lights also turn on and off for no reason and patrons feel bizarre cold spots that chill them to the bone.
The Old Absinthe House
Obviously New Orleans has plenty of mysterious haunted history, with all kinds of ghosts wandering the streets. One of the most notorious ghostly watering holes on Bourbon Street is the Old Absinthe House, located in a building built in 1806. In those two hundred years of life, it’s attracted a lot of spiritual hangers-on. Most notable is famous pirate Jean Lafitte, who likes to hang around on the building’s second floor. Unseen forces also move chairs around the floor in pairs like they’re dancing and slide glasses and bottles across the copper bar.
This Prohibition-era speakeasy was owned by German immigrants and opened as a grocery store that allegedly served booze at night in the basement. When alcohol was once again legalized, it transformed into a speakeasy that also attracted loose women. One of those women was named Emily, and her ghost has been sighted multiple times over the years standing by the upstairs window looking forlornly across the street. Very early in the morning her spirit can be felt in numerous ways, from glassware smashing on the floor to unexplained phone calls from the empty upstairs office. The story is that Emily and her young daughter were caught in a fight between two men and both were killed in the bar, their spirits consigned to haunt it forever.
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White Eagle Saloon
Located in Portland, Oregon, this brewpub was originally an opium den and whorehouse, and all kinds of dark things went on there. The basement features connections to a maze of underground tunnels that wend through Portland’s industrial district. Numerous unsettled spirits frequent the building, and regulars tell tales of broomsticks flying through the air and the men’s room doors banging open to deny you privacy on the toilet. There are eleven guestrooms upstairs, and if you’ve got the wherewithal to stay the night you might experience a visit from Rose, a courtesan who was killed in the building during the 1920s.