I’m passionate about good restaurants. I don’t always like to spend time cooking after work or on the weekends, so I will often go out to eat. I like places that have fresh food, make their own beer, and that have a pleasant ambiance in general. Restaurants situated in old colonial homes or taverns are my favorite, because I love the creaky floorboards, beamed ceilings, and fireplaces that are trademarks of those places. I am almost the opposite of a vegetarian in terms of what I like to eat, so I tend to prefer taverns and pubs, though I also have a weakness for good Italian restaurants. It may not surprise you that another secondary criteria for choice of restaurant is whether or not it has a reputation for being haunted. I say “secondary” because these places can be few and far between, and if I had to choose between good food and a haunted reputation, I’d choose the former over the latter.
I have to say that I’ve never gotten any sense of the paranormal in any of the reputedly “haunted” restaurants in Western New Jersey. I’ve only had experiences that might have been paranormal in three places (my grandmother’s old house, my former house in Raven Rock, and a museum in Ottawa, Canada). Still, such events don’t happen on cue, and one never knows. I find such experiences more interesting than frightening.
If you live along the Delaware River, or even in Western Morris County, you might visit one of these reputedly haunted places. I’ve been to most of them:
The Publick House (Chester, NJ): This was featured in the October 2009 issue of Weird NJ, and used to be the last stop on the Chester ghost tour when it was still extant. The Publick House, as the name implies, used to be a house of prostitution as well as a tavern, and the legend is that the owner’s mother disapproved of the scandalous nature of her son’s business, and they fought about it for her entire life. When she died, her son buried her in what is now the parking lot of the Publick House. When the restaurant used to function as a B&B, guests staying in the mother’s old room were supposed subjected to furniture moving by itself, things being thrown, beds levitating, and pictures spinning on the wall. There is only the restaurant now, and I’ve always had good meals there, though I’ve heard mixed reviews from others. They have a gelato bar in the back room, and the gelato is phenomenal.
The Inn of the Hawke (Lambertville, NJ): I learned recently that this was haunted, and I was surprised. I haven’t been there in a long time, but the food and service was always very good. Supposedly there is a ghost that throws pots and pans, and pulls pictures off the walls.
The Logan Inn (New Hope, PA): I’ve not been to the Logan, as there are so many restaurants in New Hope—but it is supposedly haunted by a Revolutionary War solider and 2 phantom children. There is also supposed to be the scent of lavender perfume from a woman who drowned in the nearby river.
The National Hotel (Frenchtown, NJ): I’ve not been here either, though I’d like to check it out now that it’s reopened. This was the watering hole for Annie Oakley and the members of Bill Cody’s Wild West Show when they were touring the area. I’ve not heard specifics about paranormal activity, but it has a haunted reputation.
The Sergeantsville Inn (Sergeantsville, NJ): Not far from the last covered bridge in New Jersey on Route 604, there are supposedly ghostly footsteps and other happenings in parts of the restaurant. I can also vouch for the excellent food here.
Charlie Brown’s (Hackettstown, NJ): Charlie Brown’s is a franchise that you’ll find all over the state, that is known for its steaks (which are actually really good, and they also make really delicious garlic potatoes). This particular Charlie Brown’s is in an historical building that was a brothel at one time. A child was also supposed to have died tragically in the building, and can be heard crying. Most of the activity is on the upper floors, according to local paranormal investigators.
Water’s Edge Café (Jefferson, NJ): I haven’t been here in years—not since I was dating the man who is now my ex-husband, as he lived near the restaurant. I can’t even remember what the food is like. But the dark figure of a heavy-set man is supposedly seen on the staircase of the restaurant.
Knotty Pine Pub (Wharton, NJ): I’ve never been here, but there are reports of sounds (moving objects, footsteps) in the empty attic of the restaurant. This is on my list of places to visit, unless my Wharton friends recommend otherwise.
If you know of others in the area, feel free to let me know in the comments. I should add that two well-known haunted restaurants, “Jimmy’s Haunt” in Morristown and “The Union Hotel” in Flemington, are no longer in business. Jimmy’s is gone entirely—they pushed the building down and put up a TD Bank in its place. That was the site of the famous Sayer family murders. The Union Hotel is across the street from the Flemington Courthouse, where the Lindbergh trial took place. There are supposed hauntings in the upper floors of the hotel. Sadly, they went out of business a year or two ago. Their main dining room didn’t have much ambience, but their food was spectacular. Hopefully someone will buy it and reopen it.