That Old Building You’re In Is Haunted. And It’s Ok.


If our goal is to talk honestly about the foodservice business then we will talk about all things.  And the truth is there are paranormal events happening in restaurants of all types and you may experience the unexplained in your place of business.  Don’t panic when this happens as they’re usually of the prankish, irritating variety rather than anything harmful.

I personally believe there are spirits existing inside all structures where people have gathered, especially buildings that have been around many years. The volume of people working, living or passing through them have left a piece of their own spirit along with the many emotions and feelings over time. They’ve laughed and cried there, they’ve sweated and shed blood there. What’s left behind sinks into the floors and seeps into the walls, mixing and mingling with current occupants.  The space is never without company, even if nobody’s there.

Our neighborhood goes back more than 170 years and along with it various houses and buildings from the 19th and early 20th century. Over the years they’ve been family residences,  retail stores, even a hotel and brothel. As time went on they became salons, boutiques, offices and of course, restaurants. We occupied a tiny 800 square foot shack next door to a two-story traditional building constructed in the 1800’s whose latest incarnation was an upscale steak house. They were both haunted.

We got stories from people who worked at the steak house about hearing voices and things being in different places from where they were left just moments earlier. The owner joked that before leaving every night he’d turn out the lights and say “Good night everybody. Take care of the place.” There was independent confirmation from a guest of ours who worked there years earlier when it was home to mostly offices.  He said he was alone doing paperwork one night and the building was absolutely empty. Being a two-story there are stairs. Several times he heard what sounded like multiple people going up and down the stairs, almost running. Knowing he was by himself he was rattled to the point of fleeing the joint like it was on fire. He laughed about it as he told us but it helped explain some weird things we noticed after settling into our neighboring shotgun house.

As summer arrived our first year and we began to get busier on the weekends, every Saturday afternoon, without fail, our soda fountain would stop working. And always at the same time, between two and three o’clock. This happened about four or five  weeks straight. It simply wouldn’t dispense product. It operated fine on slow weekday afternoons and the busy Friday night before but on Saturday with a line of people out the door it would lock up. All other plumbing ran fine. There was power going to  the unit and it was a brand new installation. It even baffled the service techs when they came out.

We had narrow but heavy front door with a deadbolt you’d twist to lock from inside. I was there one winter night along with Matt. It was bitterly cold and slow so we only needed two people working.  Matt had the counter and I stood in the kitchen on the other side of the pass. We hadn’t had a guest in about an hour and were listening to music and shooting the breeze.  Suddenly there was an abrupt knock at the front door and we saw a couple standing outside. Matt and I  waved them to come in while pointing at our still-lit open sign. Just because the place was empty didn’t mean we weren’t open. They knocked again, louder. We looked at each other and wondered what the hell was wrong with them and were we about to get robbed or something. We walked  slowly to the door, craning our necks ahead of our steps as we did so, readying to counterattack any ambush. As it turned out they were banging on the door was because it was locked.  The deadbolt was locked from the inside. We both stared at it for a few seconds before unlocking it and letting the couple slip inside from the cold. Stamping their feet to warm up they looked us up and down like “hey dudes it’s too damn cold to play games with the front door.”  Matt and I apologized for the snafu and returned to our posts. Now wait a minute. Neither of us had moved from where we stood since the last customer left, he was behind the counter and I was behind a wall behind him. We were looking out into an empty dining room for the last hour. How could the  front door have locked itself from the inside? That wasn’t the strangest episode though.

Like most owners in the beginning, I was the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night, plus I was the only one who had a key. We had a pair of those heavy-duty neoprene gloves like the one in the picture. They’re good for cleaning the fryer or washing dishes, etc. Those grommets are handy for hanging them up and we kept ours in the mop closet.  After closing one night I hung them up as usual and left, returning about 6 hours later. As I went through my routine and opened the door to the mop closet I noticed one of the gloves I’d hung up just a few hours earlier was completely filled with water. Strange. The hook they were on was five feet from the floor. There were no pipes overhead to drip water into them. I was the only one with a key and no one had been there since I left the night before. Spooked, I poured what appeared to be plain  ol’ water out of the glove and went on with the day  trying not to think too much about what was going on.  Score a point to the ghosts and gremlins for having fun at my expense that morning.  I made a joke of it telling myself  I should be lucky I was only pouring water from a glove and not piss from a boot!  This is a true story.

Later, we moved into a bigger space built in the sixties as a restaurant and it too has had its moments. Our cashiers have mentioned hearing a group of ladies talking in a booth that’s just beyond their view. After coming around the counter to investigate there’s no one sitting there. Doors have locked themselves and these pranksters fool with our lights. Again, it’s never anything sinister just stuff to either irritate you or keep them from being bored I imagine. The least they could do is wash the dishes though huh?  Please share any of your stories.




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