October 27, 2010

Some restaurants feature usual fare with a side of paranormal activity

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Some Maine restaurants advertise their hauntings, knowing full well that some folks love a good scare with their meal.

Ghosts are good for business.

The Jameson Tavern in Freeport has a whole section on its website devoted to its "spooky history," including the story of a little girl who apparently doesn't know she's dead. (www.jamesontavern.com)

Last year, Empire Dine and Dance posted video online showing its resident ghost moving a curtain.

I put out the call to local restaurants for their ghost stories, and heard some spooky tales that are sure to put the howl into your Halloween. Most restaurant specters are harmless, but a few appear to be as temperamental as fussy chefs, tossing dishes on the floor and scaring the staff.

Maybe they're just hungry.

When Jay Villani started the renovations at Sonny's, his restaurant at 83 Exchange St. in Portland, he began hearing unexplained noises and having creepy feelings that made him look over his shoulder.

One day, as Villani was working in the bar area, every bowl and baking dish stored on a shelf in the back room simply came crashing down. "The shelf didn't fall over," he said. "Everything was across the floor. It kind of freaked me out, so I put everything away and I left."

About two weeks later, Villani was cooking on a busy night when a regular customer asked to see him. The customer had brought in her mother, who claimed to be able to see spirits.

"She looks right at me," Villani recalled, "and she goes, 'How long have you known the ghost has been here?' And I said, 'What are you talking about?' She said, 'I'm looking at him right now. He's in the mirror.'

"I always thought it was an older dude, and she described this thing that was right out of a Dickens novel. It's this turn-of-the century guy. He's kind of olive-skinned, with a big nose."

The woman told Villani the ghost is benevolent and not to worry about it. The ghost's activity died down a lot after that, and Villani stopped getting those creepy feelings. The restaurateur thinks the ghost just wanted him, as the new kid on the block, to acknowledge its presence.

Villani thought about doing some kind of ceremony to get rid of the ghost, but decided it's just fine with him if the dead man wants to walk around his restaurant.

"I'm infringing on someone else's space now, you know what I mean?" he said. "I'm just a renter. That guy's here for the long haul."

Doug Fuss at Bull Feeney's, 375 Fore St., Portland, reports that about seven years ago, two customers walked in the front entrance, stared over at the far stairs on the other side of the room, and said to the host: "What a great idea for such an old historic building to have ladies in period costume walking down the stairs!"

The problem? Fuss hadn't hired anyone in period dress.

The staff at the pub has also reported period-dressed ghosts in the Tea Rooms, which are accessible by the same staircase.

There are a couple of bathrooms at the pub that used to be a room with leather chairs and sofas called The Whiskey Room. When the room was being renovated, there was an old piano in there that people heard playing by itself.

And it wasn't a player piano. Bwahahaha.

Sam Dicenso has worked as a maintenance man for DiMillo's, 25 Long Wharf, Portland, for almost 30 years. He claims to have been haunted by a ghost below decks for his entire career on the ferry boat-turned-restaurant.

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