The bartender and a friend are shooting pool in the empty restaurant, waiting to lock up. It’s either late at night or very early in the morning, depending on one’s perspective and level of inebriation. The restaurant was built as a home in the 18th and 19thÂ century, and our two subjects are in the oldest part of the house, now the bar. The front door opens and closes and the bartender’s heart sinks. Closing time is 4 a.m., and he’s looking forward to being out the door at four on the dot. To make mattersÂ worse, he’s quite recently evicted a paron from the bar who didn’t want to leave. And it could be him coming back, which means anything can happen. The bartender is a burly fellow, but one can never underestimate a drunk.
He has a clear view into the hallway by the doorway, a great beast of a door complete with a truly impressive brass door pull on the outside. So when it slams closed, it does so with some authority. The bartender sees a dark shadow on the floor, thenÂ strangely, a pair of old fashioned boots at the bottom of a pair of old fashioned pants. He moves towards the door at one end of the bar, his friend to the other. They both step out into the hallway at the same time, expecting to be on each side of whoever itÂ was. Instead, they find themselves looking into each other’s confused face. The hall is empty.
It’s early January, the sun is down and I’m heading west on Route 25a on Long Island, skirting the north shore of the island. I’ve been out on the north fork, shooting locations for Lynda Lee Macken’s book, Haunted Long Island II. And I’m cold. PatchesÂ of snow are still frozen to the ground, and I’ve been in and out of the car all day. Some people walk into a building reputed to be haunted and sense spirits. Often instantaneously and almost without exception. I’m not one of those people.
Do I get a creepy feeling come over me when I’m in a space where others have seen ghosts? Sure, who wouldn’t. But let’s be honest. You can’t believably say that there is no chance that the feeling that just came over you wasn’t instilled by the power ofÂ suggestion. You might be right 99% of the time (I doubt it), but that still leaves a chance that you’re not. And if you can’t be certain, I call it a creepy feeling, not communion with the bloody dead. And if you have something to gain by being known asÂ someone who can feel, see or hear spirits, like myself for example, be it money or fame, then your story is even more suspect. Unfair perhaps, but true.
So I’m not one of those who just naturally senses things. But let’s face it, spending the day wandering from haunted spot to haunted spot is going to leave you in a bit of a macabre mood. And aside from being cold, I’m heading down Route 25a which isÂ winding, canopied with trees and dotted with Colonial era and early American houses and buildings. It’s scenic, and just cries out for Blue Oyster Cult on the stereo. Who incidently, lived not far from Route 25a, when they were at their creepy best. So I’mÂ in the mood.
There’s one stop left to make, DEK’s American Restaurant in Rocky Point, New York. Lynda Lee has given me a list of places to shoot, and Dek’s is on the list, but she’s not sure if it’s going to make the cut. So if I can make it, great, and if not, that’s fineÂ too. All I need is an outside shot, and so I whip into the nearly empty parking lot, bring out the tripod and in a few minutes I’ve got the shot. It’s early on a Friday evening and I’m looking forward to getting home, but I’m also hungry. And cold again.
I might mention another factor which led me to think of DEKs as a mandatory stop. DEKs has a beer list hovering around a hundred varieties, including on occasion, hand-pulled English ales. In addition they carry one of the largest varieties of single maltÂ Scotch on Long Island. And also, as I learned from a source I have who lives in Rocky Point, one of the best cheeseburgers anywhere.
The holy trinity, beer, single malts and cheeseburgers. It’s cold, I’m hungry and the place looked warm and inviting. I’m sold.
Walking into DEK’s is like walking into an English pub. The oldest part of the building is the bar, which dates from the 1700s, with most of the rest added in 1825 in a Greek rvival style, and I entered into a narrow hallway, momentarily without hostessÂ and easily found my way into the bar. The bar sports a low ceiling and heavy wooden beams, thought to have originally come from the wreckage of a ship. The Christmas lights were still up, or perhaps never come down, and even so, the pub feeling wasÂ hard to mistake. The bar was nearly empty, no more than a half dozen people and I took a stool and immediately felt better. Perhaps someplace deep in my psyche I felt the presence of evil or the long-dead, but if you can sit down at a bar like this and notÂ just feel sheer joy at all the treasures just waiting there in the coolers, then you really need deprogramming.
I regret to say that I can’t name the beer I chose first, nor any of the others which came later. The waitress was a friendly, middle-aged lady, I ordered the cheeseburger with bacon and cheddar and settled in. The beer came and by then I had settled on aÂ single malt, strictly to warm me up and I looked around the place.
DEK’s is an acronym made up of the three brother’s names who own the place. Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, who I frequently find myself lifting passages from, in her book Ghost of Long Island II spoke with Dean, the D in DEK’s about his experiencesÂ there. He spoke of seeing a dark, stooped shape on several occasions, prowling the bar. The curious part in my opinion, was that he could only make it out by watching it out of the corner of his eye. If he turned to face it, nothing was there. And I canÂ relate to that feeling.
I tried it myself and of course saw nothing. But Dean also mentioned to K. Brosky more than once that the building is pretty quiet now, with most of the stories dating from a few years back. And there are many stories.
Several have to do with poltergeist activity – table settings messed up in empty rooms, objects flying off the shelves, others disappearing, odd noises – enough to have kept several of the wait staff over the years on their toes. There was a rumor than aÂ brother and sister lived together for a while in the house, and the brother caught his sister in a feverish embrace with her lover, chased her into the attic and chopped her to bits with a hatchet. The basement was reputed to have been a bordello as well.Â Perhaps the poltergeist was once a patron of the ladies in the basement, as one waitress was even goosed by an invisible hand as she bent over to pull a bottle from the cooler.
I have to admit, I was disappointed by my first choice in beer, so I finished it quickly that I might try again. I chose better this round, as well as ordered one more single malt. If you’re going to drink, do it before the dinner so you have the maximum lengthÂ of time to sober up. It’s not a bad plan, providing you know when to tell the bartender to cease.
But I was comfortable by this point. Very seldom do I get comfortable in a bar, but DEK’s was just too cozy. And so I ordered another round with the cheeseburger. And good God the cheeseburger was fantastic. Probably one of the top 5 bacon cheddarÂ cheeseburgers that I’ve experienced. And I’ve experimented with quite a few. Every experiment has to have a control, and mine, for restaurants which specialize in standard American fare, is the bacon cheddar chesseburger. If the cheeseburger is average,Â it’s a safe bet the steak will be too. But as in this case, if the cheeseburger is exceptional, it’s a safe bet that the attention to detail which went into the low end of the menu will also be there in the higher end. Alas, I don’t have the budget to sample the highÂ end at all the places I visit.
A couple comes in and takes the two stools to my right. They’re considering ordering from the cajun section of the menu, but the lady would really like a cheeseburger. Keep in mind that this is Long Island, and to many people here, when you order redÂ meat people look at you like you just requested a human turd. By this point I’m in my cups and feeling chatty and talk her into eating the dreaded cow flesh. They wonder what I’m doing out here and I tell them of the Haunted Long Island gig, and that thisÂ was the last place on the list. Skeptical and a bit loud, she asked the bartender who smiles and claims to know nothing about the ghost stories in the place. But the fellow on the other side of me has pretty much the whole story, and pretty soon a few othersÂ around the bar are chiming in. As I said, DEK’s makes a person comfortable.
I stumble out into the hallway and back to the restroom, and spot the room where silverware has a strange habit of moving about on its own. The room is nearly dark, as is this section of the hall and yes, there it was. The creepy sensation that you’re notÂ alone. But with several rounds of drink in me at this point, anything I might have felt has to be taken with a grain of salt. Then again, I see no reason why a spirit would be less likely to make itself known to a drunk than to a sober person.
So we all chatted for a while longer, became close friends, conspirators and eventually I sobered up enough to attempt driving. I said good night to my new best friends and ventured back out into the cold, Long Island evening for the long drive home.
Gothic Travel Guide: DEK’s American Restaurant has a great story, casually told. The hauntings don’t revolve around anything or anyone specific, and so it feels more real to me. Even though the place is supposed to be much quieter now, paraonormallyÂ speaking, I still had the feeling all evening that the other shoe was about to drop. There’s a certain romance to eating and drinking in a building roughly two centuries old, like wearing one’s favorite drinking suit. The food is great, people are friendly andÂ you might catch a glimpse of a hunched over figure prowling the bar out of the corner of your eye.
Real ghost stories and the places that inspired them