The historic Whitehorse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island is on a lot of lists. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. It's on a list of the world's oldest restaurants, coming in at number 10. The Boston Globe recently placed it on a list of of the best places to eat in Newport. You get the idea. It's a historic and prestigious restaurant.
Those are some good lists to be on, but here's you should really care about: the 10 most haunted bars in America. There are a lot of haunted bars in this country, and the Whitehorse Tavern came in at number five.
The Whitehorse was originally built in 1653 as a home for Francis Brinley, one of the early Newport colonists. Brinley sold the building in 1673 to William Mayes, Sr., who opened a tavern in it. His son, also named William Mayes, took over operation of the tavern in 1702. I don't think he paid too much attention to the business, though, since he also worked as a privateer for the English.
A privateer was basically a licensed pirate. Mayes had permission from the English government to attack and steal from French ships, since they were one of England's political rivals at the time. Later, Mayes just became a full-on criminal pirate and raided ships sailing in the Indian Ocean, no matter who they belonged to.
After a decade of sailing the high seas, Mayes returned to Newport and resumed his duties at the tavern. His sister, Mary Mayes Nichols, took over after his death, and the business remained in the Nichols family for nearly two centuries. It acquired the name Whitehorse Tavern in 1736. The building was briefly a boarding house in the early 1900s before once again becoming a tavern.
Hotels, restaurants, and bars often have ghost stories attached to them. It makes sense (if you believe in ghosts). Lots of people move through buildings like that, and they leave their spiritual mark on the place. The Whitehorse has been in use for almost four-hundred years, and many people have stayed there in its incarnations as a tavern and a rooming house. A lot of lives have been lived there, and some have probably ended there too.
One ghost haunting the Whitehorse is said to be the spirit of an elderly overnight guest who died many years ago. He now wanders through the tavern in Colonial-era clothing, and is often seen by staff and guests near the fireplace in the dining room. He's also been seen in one of the bathrooms. HauntedHouses.com, which has a nice writeup about the Whitehorse, notes that this ghost sometimes pesters female guests, which is creepy, and not in a supernatural way.
Other ghosts haunting the premises include a young girl who cries, and a presence that watches over the tavern and its staff. The latter is said to be mostly benevolent, and might possibly be the spirit of a former owner. This is something often reported at other long-running restaurants - business owners like to keep working after their deaths. For example, see my 2019 post about Local 186 in Provincetown.
The Whitehorse is only open for dinner this summer, so Tony and I weren't able to go inside during our recent Newport day trip. Maybe next time we'll get to try the food - and try to see a ghost in the bathroom.
This is totally unrelated to the Whitehorse Tavern, but I wanted to share some exciting news. I have a new book coming out in September. Here's the cover:
|The cover makes me chuckle every time!|
As you can probably guess, Witches and Warlocks of Massachusetts is about... well, witches and warlocks from the Bay State. For many years I looked for one book with all the local witch stories. I never found one, so I wrote it myself. It contains dozens of legends, historical accounts, and paranormal encounters, dating from the 1600s to the 21st century. So much witchcraft!
Although the book doesn't come out until September, you can pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, and Books A Million. Why delay? You know you'll want a copy as soon as the nights start to get longer...