The Most Haunted Bars In America (& Where You’ll Find The Ghosts)
If you’re looking for a good time, you might naturally head on down to your local bar. And if you’re looking for a night out with some ghostly companions? Turns out you’re in luck, as the United States has a plethora of drinking establishments that aren’t only historic, but could just have a phantom or two lurking on the premises.
But what is it about ghosts and drinks that go together so well? Many of the bars featured here have been around for quite some time, playing host to scores of people who passed through the doors and sat down for a drink or two. Maybe all of these ghost stories have something to do with the generations of history imbued in the very walls. Perhaps some partygoers had such a good time that they decided to stick around, or such a terrible one that they’ve found it hard to let go.
Sure, you may be able to write off some of these stories as the result of an overactive imagination and overindulgence in the bottle. But, ask any number of people who have experienced something odd at these places, and they’ll tell you that something far more strange is going on than a hangover in the making. These are some of the most haunted bars in America.
Shaker’s Cigar Bar has a scary history
If you enjoy relaxing with a cigar and a glass of whiskey, it may be hard to imagine getting scared in your local cigar bar. But a cigar might be accompanied by real scares at Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee. According to Spectrum News 1, the building was constructed in 1894 and as home to a barrel manufacturing facility. But Prohibition and a takeover by local gangsters — including, reportedly, mob kingpin Al Capone — seriously changed the nature of operations. Capone and his brothers are said to have used the basement often. Perhaps that’s why so many people are creeped out when they visit that level, and near the deep, dark cistern in particular. The two graves uncovered by investigators, but left in place, don’t lighten the mood, either.
Other levels of this bar are said to be plenty haunted as well. During Prohibition, the top two floors hosted a brothel, where one woman was reportedly killed and her remains burned. The discovery of charred bones in a wall during restoration work certainly didn’t undermine the story.
The bar also has a penthouse apartment that’s been rented out to adventure-seekers. One reporter from the Milwaukee Record had an unsettling and emotional, though ghost-free, night there. Another admitted skeptic from Shepherd Express confirmed the basement is pretty spooky and heard plenty of tales from the bar’s workers, who said they’ve had their hair yanked and experienced doors moving of their own accord.
The Old Absinthe House could still harbor a pirate
Founded in 1718, New Orleans has a long and dramatic history, not to mention many characters who might be sticking around long after their deaths. One of the most notorious is Jean Lafitte, the pirate who also once worked as a privateer for the U.S. in the early 19th century (via Britannica).
Being a pirate, Lafitte and his compatriots weren’t afraid of a jug of rum. So, it’s not shocking that he might haunt a bar like the Old Absinthe House on New Orleans’ notoriously boozy Bourbon Street. Per Atlas Obscura, the bar lives up to the "old" name, since it’s been around for over two centuries. Here, General Andrew Jackson is believed to have met with Lafitte and asked for his help in defeating the British in the War of 1812. After first securing pardons for himself and his crew, Lafitte agreed.
Maybe that triumph has kept Lafitte around. In "Haunted New Orleans," Bonnye E. Stuart alleges his ghost has been spotted on the premises, where he’s been known to disappear right in front of guests and linger around the room where his wheeling and dealing with Jackson took place. He may also be behind the many reports of objects moving on their own in the historic bar. Lafitte must keep a pretty full schedule even in the afterlife, as he’s said to be one of the ghostly shades haunting another New Orleans bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (via Forbes).
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon remains active
If you’re looking for authentic and creepy cowboy history, then head on down to Tombstone, Arizona. Amongst the tourist shops and live reenactments of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sits Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Despite the cartoonish name, Kate was a real person who crossed paths with the likes of Doc Holliday. She was allegedly a doctor’s daughter who ran off to Fort Griffin, Texas, and met up there with Holliday, whom she followed to Tombstone. They eventually broke up and Kate settled into a more mundane life before dying in 1940 (via Legends of America).
Though she’s not directly associated with the saloon that bears her name, there’s plenty of Tombstone history in the building. It opened as The Grand Hotel in 1880, then burned to the ground less than two years later. The rebuilt structure kept elements of the first, including a tunnel to nearby mines and the hotel’s original bar (via Big Nose Kate’s Saloon).
An old handyman nicknamed "The Swamper" is the place’s most famous spirit. The unnamed man was given lodging in the Grand Hotel’s basement, where he created a tunnel to break into a nearby mine and steal silver. Now, according to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, he can be seen stalking the premises and occasionally making an appearance in photographs. Staff have also reported moving mannequins, disembodied voices, objects moving on their own, and the eerie apparition of a woman in dark clothing (via "Haunted Tombstone").
The ghosts of the Ear Inn haunt New York City
Sure, you may laugh at the name, but one visit to New York City’s Ear Inn may make you feel a bit more serious. If the stories told about this place are to be believed, this bar could be home to a few lingering spirits. As per the inn’s website, the Soho establishment actually began life as a private residence. It was home to James Brown, an associate of George Washington’s who made a comfortable living after the American Revolution as a purveyor of tobacco. After Brown’s death, his residence became a brewery, then a restaurant, then a speakeasy during the wild days of Prohibition. Eventually, it opened back up as a legitimate bar, gaining its current name in the 1970s.
Given that it’s been around for quite a while, you can hardly be surprised to learn that the Ear Inn has given rise to a few good ghost stories. One spirit that has been nicknamed "Mickey" is said to be the shade of a man who drank so hard he found himself in the afterlife (via Atlas Obscura). Now, per Cheri Farnsworth in "The Big Book of New York Ghost Stories," Mickey seems to be behind regular paranormal mischief experienced at the bar, from pinching female patrons to moving beds in the upstairs quarters. According to The New Yorker, visitors in the short-term rental above the establishment have complained of similar issues, including unexplained noises in the night.
La Carafe might be the most haunted bar in Houston
In a state as diverse and geographically vast as Texas, there are plenty of bars. Yet, one has to take the title of the most haunted. According to quite a few bar-goers, that honor should go to a pub in the heart of bustling Houston: La Carafe. Like many other current bars across the country, this one began its life as something completely different. According to the Houston Chronicle, the building first housed a bakery, beginning way back in 1860. It went through a few different lives, including a stint as a hair salon, before transforming into the current bar in the 1960s.
Local news affiliate ABC13 reports that this wine bar is widely believed to be seriously haunted. On the second floor, at least two ghosts bother people. They reportedly include a woman who tries to push other women down the stairs, while at least one visitor claims to have spotted a female spirit who walks from the second floor, only to stop at the landing. Sandra Lord and Debe Branning, writing in "Ghosts of Houston’s Market Square Park," relate the tale of manager Carl Truscott, who died in 1990. Yet he may have joined the group of second-floor spirits at La Carafe, as staff members say they’ve spotted his face looking out from the windows up there. Given Carl’s warm feelings toward the place, he’s likely to be a far friendlier spirit.
The Pioneer Saloon holds on to Nevada history
If you happen to find yourself in the admittedly desolate landscape of southern Nevada, consider stopping in at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings. Though the sun may be shining bright and hot outside, some say there are chilling frights to be had inside along with your beer.
According to Nevada Magazine, this historic building anchored downtown Goodsprings in 1913. Over the years, it’s been home to some dramatic events, including a violent death after a 1915 card game gone wrong that also left bullet holes in the walls. Perhaps most famously, movie star Clark Gable spent a few days at the bar in 1942, though for a terrible reason: His wife, actor Carole Lombard, had died along with several others after her plane crashed into nearby Mount Potosi. For a short time, her fate was unknown as a search party made their way to the crash site. Gable was presumably in agony while waiting for news of his wife.
Atlas Obscura reports that some have spotted the ghost of Lombard in the saloon, perhaps in an attempt to see Gable one last time. If that’s so, she may not be alone. "Haunted Southern Nevada Ghost Towns" author Heather Leigh writes that patrons sometimes hear unseen bar flies or unexplained bangs, while others catch a glimpse of a prospector or a working woman named Ruby.
Spirits reportedly won’t leave Earnestine & Hazel’s
Though it may not be the oldest building in America, the history of Memphis bar Earnestine & Hazel’s remains considerable. According to Earnestine & Hazel’s, it’s a beloved dive bar, the home of the Soul Burger, a historic landmark, and, just maybe, one of the most haunted bars in the entire country. The building got its start in the 1930s as a pharmacy, whose owner later leased the space to a salon run by cousins Earnestine and Hazel. The building then turned into a successful restaurant, made all the more popular because Earnestine’s promoter husband recommended the spot to artists visiting his club. It briefly went under for a few years, only to be reopened in 1992 in its current form.
But, as much as you may love a good mixed drink and some Memphis culture, you’re also likely here for the haunted history. Just ask the staff. Bartender Karen Brownlee told VICE that she has heard the bar’s piano playing without anyone sitting in front of it. The piano is upstairs, where she’s also heard ghostly footsteps and disembodied voices. The first floor isn’t to be left out, however, as the jukebox there has been known to play all on its own. While others have been frightened by the spirits, Brownlee said that she felt protected after working at Earnestine & Hazel’s for well over a decade. Indeed, she claimed that the protective spirit was none other than Earnestine herself.
Colonial history lingers in the White Horse Tavern
Though Rhode Island may be the nation’s smallest state, don’t let that deter you from going on a good ghost hunt in Little Rhody. Indeed, you can settle in at the White Horse Tavern with a good drink and let the ghostliness wash over you from the comfort of the bar. If the stories are true, this Newport bar has a deep history that just won’t let go.
According to the White House Tavern, the building was first built as a private home in 1652 and began serving guests as a tavern in 1673, making it the oldest restaurant in continual operation in the nation. It’s seen pirates, mercenaries, slightly shady businessmen, and rather more well-intentioned entrepreneurs in its long and sometimes quite colorful history. As for ghosts? Well, it’s reportedly pretty packed.
According to Legends of America, the tavern’s roster of spirits is said to include an unidentified man who died sometime in the early 18th century, judging by his clothes. He’s most often spotted near one of the fireplaces, or sometimes the men’s restroom. Though it may seem undignified, the bathrooms here may be something of a spiritual hot spot, given that the upstairs ladies’ room might be haunted by a young girl. Elsewhere, people have said they are physically touched, though no one is nearby — at least, not in physical form. And a woman’s spirit was reportedly captured on film as she floated through the dining area.
Many spirits may be haunting The Horse You Came In On Saloon
The Horse You Came In On Saloon is a Baltimore institution, founded in 1775 in the city’s Fells Point neighborhood. Also known as "The Horse," for brevity’s sake, it’s seen over two centuries of carousers, some of whom seem to be lingering far beyond their mortal lifetimes.
Per WBAL TV 11, local legend maintains this was the spot famed author Edgar Allan Poe was seen taking a last drink before his untimely death. There are scant reports of Poe’s shade flitting about the place, appropriately. When it comes to ghosts, The Horse also has someone who enjoys breaking glasses in the same spot along the bar, as well as the standard ghost mischief of messing with doors and desk drawers.
Whoever it is doesn’t like to be questioned, either. As Mike Carter and Julia Dray write in "Haunted Fells Point: Ghosts of Baltimore’s Waterfront," anyone who vocalizes their disbelief might find their drink knocked out of their hand or the stool yanked out from beneath their rear. Even guests who mind their manners might still hear ghostly footsteps courtesy of cobbler Matthew Bennet, who died in the apartment above. Others have spotted a man clad in dark clothing, who could be one of the Fell family visiting the site of their old mansion, on which The Horse now stands.
Stone’s Public House might have a bloody secret
Originally known as the Railroad House, the building that would become Stone’s Public House opened in 1834 as a hotel next to the railroad in Ashland, Massachusetts. Like so many historic buildings, it ran into some hard times but was the subject of restoration efforts beginning in the 1970s. That’s when ghosts reportedly began to make themselves known, according to Stone’s Public House. Local psychics claimed to be especially creeped out in the upper levels of the building. Staff also reported water taps that turned on without ever being touched.
But what could be causing the eerie feelings? One visitor said they saw the spirit of Mary Smith, a young girl who had been killed by a train back in 1863, though no one else in the room saw her, as per MetroWest Daily News. The most persistent rumor blames the activity on tavern namesake John Stone. The legend maintains that Stone killed a man somewhere on the premises after a card game went very wrong. The unfortunate winner was then said to be buried in the basement, though it’s worth noting that no evidence of such a heinous crime has ever come to light to genuinely tarnish Stone’s reputation. Still, many will argue that someone or something must be behind occurrences reported by visitors and staff, like the curious appearance of tiny handprints on a mirror mounted high on an upstairs wall.
This bar basement still scares Denver drinkers
According to The Denver Post, the downtown building that housed Blake Street Vault, a bank turned upscale cocktail lounge, was constructed in 1863. While preparing Blake Street Vault for opening, workers were seriously creeped out by the basement entrances to tunnels that once ran under the street to other establishments. Hearing the click of heels on the uninhabited floor above spooked the co-owner, too. Eventually, much of the activity was attributed to a saloon worker nicknamed "Lydia." Cold gusts of wind from nowhere? Glasses breaking on their own? Unexplained noises? Must be Lydia dropping in.
Per goColorado.com, one bartender even claims to have seen a ghostly woman in a black shawl. But the worst may be the namesake vault. It’s supposedly covered in scratches — perhaps made by human fingernails. We don’t know if anyone was locked inside the vault, but lingering doubts and ghostly activity keep rumors going.
Given the trials of businesses on this spot, you might start to wonder if there’s bad energy here, after all. Blake Street Vault closed in 2017 after New Year’s Eve (via The Denver Post). The establishment that followed, Brass Tacks, shuttered in 2021. It’s since been replaced by Honor Farm, which leans heavily into the haunted rep of the location (via The Denver Post). Of course, you could also blame the trouble on the one-two punch of low overheads and the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the physical location remains and so, too, might its unearthly inhabitants.