In celebration of Halloween, I’m exploring 13 haunted restaurants throughout the South. This article has two companion pieces exploring haunted hotels, inns, and bed & breakfasts: “13 Southern Rooms with a Boo” and “13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo.”
Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Bar
316 North Court Street
Walking into Trowbridge’s, one can certainly get a sense of stepping back in time. With a checkerboard floor, mint green upholstery and food prepared using original recipes; the restaurant seems to be a holdover from the first half of the 20th century. But there is something else at Trowbridge’s that hearkens back to an earlier time: a spirit from the Civil War.
Trowbridge’s opened in 1918 primarily selling ice cream and eventually serving sandwiches and hot dogs at its lunch counter. The site where Trowbridge’s would eventually stand was originally occupied the home of the Stewart family. During the Civil War, Charles Daniel Stewart left his family’s home carrying the Confederate banner for the Florence Battalion. It was that same flag that Stewart was bearing when he was wounded during the First Battle of Manassas, one of the first serious engagements of the Civil War.
The young standard bearer lived for almost a month after being wounded in the battle. Restaurant staff members in the building that now occupies the site of his home have seen a young man within the restaurant. He’s most often seen briefly in passing but when the viewer turns he has vanished. Perhaps Stewart’s spirit just enjoys the shakes.
- Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.
- “Trowbridge’s, Florence, Alabama.” com. Accessed 30 October 2014.
Wok and Roll Chinese and Japanese Restaurant
604 H Street, NW
While Charles Daniel Stewart may have to develop a taste for milkshakes and hot dogs, the spirits of Mary Surratt and the conspirators involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln may have to develop a taste for General Tso’s Chicken and sushi. Wok and Roll Chinese and Japanese Restaurant is housed in the building that once housed Mrs. Surratt’s Boarding House where the conspirators met in the days leading up to Lincoln’s fateful night at Ford’s Theatre. Legends tell of spirits still flitting through the historic structure.
The building was constructed in 1843 as a single-family residence. Mary Surratt’s husband, John, purchased the property in 1853 and rented the building while he constructed a tavern at a crossroads in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland. He was later named postmaster of the community that formed around his family’s tavern. After the outbreak of war, John Surratt passed away leaving his wife and family in somewhat dire financial straits. John’s son, John Junior was named postmaster in his father’s place, but he was arrested about two years later for working as a mail courier for the Confederacy with whom he sympathized.
After the arrest of her son and being deprived of his income as a postmaster, Mary Surratt moved her family to their Washington home while she rented the family’s Maryland tavern. The family began taking on boarders and was drawn into the conspiracy to kidnap the president. To what extent Mary Surratt was involved is still rather unclear, but in the roundup that followed John Wilkes Booth’s shooting of Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, Mary was arrested and charged in the conspiracy. She was tried before a military tribunal and subsequently found guilty.
Even after she was found guilty, many requested that she be pardoned including her daughter, Anna. Mary Surratt was executed on the hot summer afternoon of July 7, 1865, along with three of the conspirators; the first woman executed by the Federal Government. After her execution, Mary Surratt’s Boarding House was attacked by a mob which began to strip the building for souvenirs before they were stopped by police.
Anna Surratt sold her mother’s boarding house not long after the execution and subsequent owners reported that they encountered “muffled sounds,” whispers and sobs. When John Alexander was putting together the 1998 edition of his book on Washington ghosts, he met with the owner of the Chinese grocery that existed in the building at that time. The Chinese grocer replied that he “had no complaints.”
- Alexander, John. Ghosts, Washington Revisited: The Ghostlore of the Nation’s Capitol. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998.
- Mary Surratt. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 4 November 2014.
- Pousson, Eli. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Mary E. Surratt Boarding House. May 2009
Ashley’s of Rockledge
1609 US 1
Some believe that Ethel Allen’s rough road to her grave included a stop at Jack’s Tavern, her favorite local hangout. Last year, I wrote about paranormal investigators conducting an EVP session at Ms. Allen’s grave in the Crooked Mile or Georgiana Cemetery on Merritt Island. After asking if she was present, investigators received a reply, “yes.”
On November 21, 1934, Ethel Allen’s mutilated body was found on the banks of the Indian River in Eau Gallie, some 16 miles away. The nineteen year old had been seen just a few days before when she stopped at a local packing house to say goodbye to a friend. Ethel was leaving to visit her mother, accompanied by a male acquaintance and she may have also stopped by her favorite local hangout, Jack’s Tavern, now Ashley’s of Rockledge. The Tudor-style restaurant has paranormal activity, some of which has been attributed to Ethel Allen.
A variety of sources state that Ethel may have been murdered within the walls of the restaurant in a storeroom (possibly near the famously haunted ladies restroom) or just outside the building. A local genealogy blog makes no mention of where Ethel may have met her end, but I get the feeling it probably was not in or around the busy tavern. The stories of the restaurant’s haunting are quite readily available though they seem to sometimes perpetuate different variations of the murder.
The activity runs the gamut from simple, cold breezes being felt to voices and screams to full apparitions being seen and captured on film. Some sources also note that the activity does not seem to be limited to just the possible shade of Ethel Allen. There are other possible spirits including a child and an adult male. It does seem that Ashley’s may be one of the most paranormally active restaurants in the state.
- Boonstra, Michael. “1934 Murder of Cocoa’s Ethel Allen.” Michael’s Genealogy and Brevard County History Blog. 9 April 2011.
- History. Ashley’s of Rockledge. Accessed 3 November 2014.
- Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: Vol. 1 South and Central Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.
- Neale, Rick. Brevard’s spookiest spots are dead center for teams of specter- spotters.” Florida Today. 27 October 2013.
- Thuma, Cynthia and Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2008.
- Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.
7 East Bay Street
With the immense host of spirits that inhabit the city of Savannah, chances are high that activity may be found most anywhere. Occupying part of a mid-19th century bank building, Tondee’s Tavern utilizes the name of a important colonial era tavern that existed in the city. The building’s history dates to 1853 when its lower floors were occupied by the Central Railway and Banking Company. The upper floors of the building were used as offices for a slave dealer, Joseph Bryan.
Stories of spirits within the building have evidently existed for some time, but the spirits made themselves very well-known recently. In late June of this year, a passerby on the street left a cigarette in a flower box in front of the building. The cigarette smoldered for a few hours before erupting into flames early in the morning. Meanwhile, two employees slept downstairs; a fairly common practice when employees close the previous night and must open the next day.
A closed-circuit security camera picked up the scene at the front of the restaurant. Over the course of two hours, as the flames can be seen building outside the window, a number of white orbs are seen almost frantically zipping through the air. Something woke the two young women asleep in the basement and they were able to begin extinguishing the flames before they could do more damage. The tavern’s owner, however, is still wondering if the orbs were spirits trying to save the building and his business.
- Bianco, Jesse. “Eat it and Like It: Spooky events going on at Tondee’s Tavern.” Do Savannah. 29 October 2014.
- Ghost City Tours. “The Ghosts of Tondee’s Tavern.” Accessed 31 October 2014.
125 Main Street
In a fairly creative use of a historic building, the old Meade County Jail is now a pizzeria. Built in 1906 by the Pauly Jail Company, this building was the third jail built for Meade County. The pizzeria’s website states that some of the inmates have apparently never left, including one who has been dubbed, “Bigsby.” These spirits have been both seen and heard.
A recent investigation by the Hopkins County Paranormal Society was able to capture, what one investigator calls, “the best evidence ever.” Video taken during the investigation shows a blanket being pulled out and down. Audio evidence was also captured that includes footsteps, a scream and possibly a female child.
- “History.” Jailhouse Pizza. Accessed 31 October 2014.
- Johnson, William G. Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory form for Meade County Jail. Summer 1983.
- Landon, Heather. “Best Creepy Historic Sites in the US.” The Daily Meal. 14 October 2014.
713 St. Louis Street
New Orleans, Louisiana
Antoine Alciatore, like so many Europeans at that time, dreamed of making it big in the United States and immigrated in 1838 to make good on those dreams. After a couple years of struggling in New York City, he set his sights on that most French of cities, New Orleans and this is where he opened Antoine’s. In 1868, the restaurant moved to its current location that now boasts 14 unique dining rooms. Alciatore left New Orleans in 1874 bound for Marseilles where he died; his beloved restaurant was left in the hands of his son and his family has continued to own and run the restaurant. Antoine continues to return to check up on this famed New Orleans institution and he continues to be seen in the Japanese and Mystery Dining Rooms. Other specters in 19th century clothing have been seen peering from the mirrors in the washrooms as well.
- Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
- Antoine’s Restaurant. Accessed 8 January 2011.
12901 Ali Ghan Road, NE
At Puccini, patrons may get a bit of the paranormal with their pasta. With your fettuccini, you may hear disembodied footsteps or perhaps there may be some voices heard as you enjoy your vino. Don’t mind them, they won’t hurt you.
The building now housing Puccini was near fighting on August 1, 1864 as Confederates were defeated in the Battle of Folck’s Mill. Many of the wounded were brought into the George Hinkle house (as it was known at that time) where they were treated. Of course there may also have been a few deaths in the house during that time. Some of those soldiers may have also written or carved their names on the walls in the attic.
Employees of the restaurant as well as guests have reported quite a bit of activity over the years. From footsteps to shadow figures to full apparitions, people in this building have had many experiences. The restaurant was investigated a few years ago by member of the team from City Lights Paranormal Society of Easton, Pennsylvania. The investigators were able to capture a good deal of audio evidence including a number of EVPs.
- Barkley, Kristin Harty. “Paranormal investigator believes Cumberland restaurant haunted.” Cumberland Times-News. 29 October 2010.
- City Lights Paranormal Society. Puccini Restaurant. Accessed 29 April 2014.
- “History.” Puccini. Accessed 3 November 2014.
210 22nd Avenue
Like Antoine’s in New Orleans, Meridian’s Weidmann’s restaurant was also started by an immigrant and has become a local institution after more than a century. Weidmann’s was opened by Felix Weidmann, a Swiss immigrant. While Antoine’s has remained in the same location, Weidmann’s location changed a number of times before it settled into a location in 1923.
The haunting of Weidmann’s seems to be mostly residual activity. Sounds echo through the restaurant with no obvious source. For his 2011 book, Haunted Meridian, Mississippi, Alan Brown spoke with one employee who recalls hearing sounds associated with livestock near the restaurant’s freezers where livestock may have been kept before Weidmann’s moved in. But animal sounds are just a small part of the repertoire associated with the spirits of Weidmann’s.
At table one, a legend is oft told of a young couple visiting the restaurant during the Great Depression. The couple had recently become engaged and had enough money to treat themselves to a meal in the restaurant. Henry Weidmann, the restaurant’s owner at the time, picked up the tab and encouraged the couple to return for their first anniversary. The legend continues that the young couple did not return to their table in the restaurant in life, but they have continued to return in death. They are supposed to be seen on occasion sitting quietly at the table holding hands under the table.
- Brown, Alan. Haunted Meridian, Mississippi. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
- Weidmann’s Restaurant. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 4 November 2014.
Four Square Restaurant
2701 Chapel Hill Road
Durham, North Carolina
Bartlett Mangum built his house in 1908 on the outskirts of Durham and the house is now the only part of his 80-acre farm that has remained standing. The house remained in the family until Mangum’s daughters were moved to a nursing home in 1956. The house passed through a variety of owners who rented out the house or used it for commercial purposes including a variety of restaurants. During the early 1960s, the house was even used as a racially-integrated church.
The Mangum daughters, Inez and Bessie, inherited the house in 1927 and tradition holds that they did not speak to each other for many years due to a feud. According to an article by Colin Warren-Hicks in the local progressive paper, Indy Week, restaurant staff believes that the spirit of Inez Mangum still flits about her old house. Cooks in the kitchen reported to Warren-Hicks that pots and pans would move on its own accord. Dinner and glassware left on a certain mantelpiece in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms would often be inexplicably knocked to the floor.
UPDATE 4/23/2018: Four Square has closed.
- Dickinson, Patricia S. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Bartlett Mangum House. 5 December 1988.
- Warren-Hicks, Colin. “The Devil went down to Four Square Restaurant.” Indy Week. 22 October 2014.
Connolly’s Irish Pub
24 East Court Square
Greenville, South Carolina
This unassuming Irish pub in downtown Greenville, South Carolina is a front for a secret. Just outside the pub and behind the street door that provides access to this old commercial building’s second floor is an unused floor that is supposed to have served as a brothel some years ago. A recent investigation of this building by local investigator and ghost tour operator Jason Profit produced video of small orbs of light flitting through the corridor.
- Troum, Jenna. “Ghost Hunter: Video shows paranormal activity above Greenville bar.” 31 October 2014.
3470 Lebanon Pike
It’s my sincerest hope that the victims of the horrible event that happened here in 1997 are at rest; they most certainly deserve to be. On March 23, 1997, Paul Dennis Reid forced his way into this McDonald’s at closing time. After shooting three of the employees, he stabbed a fourth employee seventeen times before leaving with the restaurant’s money. The three shooting victims died while the stabbing victim survived. Just a month before, Reid had robbed a nearby Captain D’s brutally shooting and killing two employees. Before he was captured by the police, he managed to kill a total of seven people, all fast food employees. Reid passed quietly in prison just last year.
According to the Nashville Haunted Handbook, published in 2011, this restaurant has been plagued by a general sense of unease as well as shadow figures. After viewing this location on Google Streetview, it appears that this McDonald’s location may have a new building—the chain has been tearing down older restaurants and replacing them with new buildings. Though, since the building has been replaced, it is unknown whether this activity has persisted.
- “2 Slain at Nashville McDonald’s.” Chicago Tribune. 24 March 1997.
- Morris, Jeff; Donna Marsh and Garett Merk. Nashville Haunted Handbook. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
- Wilson, Brian. “Tennessee mass murderer Paul Dennis Reid dead.” 1 November 2013.
2902 Brambleton Avenue, SW (US 221)
Just who or what is causing the odd activity at Roanoke’s landmark roadhouse, The Coffee Pot, is still a question. Primarily, the activity generally involves the movement of objects. One bartender was cleaning ashtrays and stacking them on the bar one evening after the restaurant had closed. They had already stacked a number of ashtrays when they witnessed the stack rise into the air and then drop back down on the bar. Startled, she returned to work only to have the stack of ashtrays rise and fall again. After that, she grabbed her things and left.
A manager noted that spices would often disappear from their accustomed spot only to reappear in a very different location sometimes days later. Bottles of wine and other cooking utensils have been known to fly across rooms, while paranormal investigators have been able to photograph orbs and have captured EVPs within the restaurant.
The Coffee Pot, with its distinctive large coffee pot, was constructed in 1936 along what had been a fairly rural road. Over time, US 221 has grown along with the restaurant’s business. As a roadhouse, the restaurant has become known for its musical entertainment including Willie Nelson who played an impromptu concert at the restaurant in 1970s.
- Hill, Helen. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for The Coffee Pot. December 1995.
- Hurst, Chris. “Looking for ghosts at The Coffee Pot in Roanoke.” 24 October 2010.
- Taylor, L. B. Jr. Haunted Roanoke. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Yellow Bank Restaurant
201 East German Street
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
In the historic town of Shepherdstown, the 1906 Jefferson Security Bank now houses the Yellow Bank Restaurant. The bank was converted to a restaurant some years ago and now houses the restaurant where table 25 was the scene of some activity in the 1990s when a patron reported to the restaurant’s manager that she couldn’t sit at the table because of the ghost. The bartender also reported that he had glasses fall from the glass rack and break.
UPDATE 4/23/2018: Yellow Bank Restaurant has closed.
- Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.” The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.