Originally published in Oct. 2010. Updated in Oct. 2013.
By Mary Bigham and Leslie Hudson
The ghost bar at The Side Bar
Justin Dougherty, one of the owners of The Side Bar in West Chester, definitely believes in ghosts. “We have three bars—The Brick Bar, The Vincent’s Bar and the Ghost Bar,” he said.
Why is that?
During construction, he was coming down the stairs with his wife and they heard a noise that sounded like pool balls clacking together. They blamed it on the ice machine, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually being used during construction.
The next day, Dougherty went to the Chester County Historical Society to do a little bit of research. He discovered that the building had been a pool hall in the early 1900s. So maybe he wasn’t crazy?
That’s not the only strange thing that has occurred at the restaurant. The ladies room lights seem to have a mind of their own. “I’ll turn them off, and when I go back upstairs they are on,” Dougherty said. “We hear footsteps coming down the upstairs hallway and down the stairs.”
After doing more research, he discovered that the restaurant was the location of the first telegraph in West Chester. All the messages to town were routed through the upstairs from 1899 to 1905, which may explain why so much activity still passes through there. Check out the picture hanging downstairs that shows the original structure and the telegraph.
“A month after construction, we have not heard much of anything,” Dougherty said. “We joke that the spirit likes the original flooring and all the original wood beams that we exposed, and is happy with what we’ve done. I don’t know if it’s one spirit or a few, but as long as they’re happy, we are happy.”
The Side Bar and Restaurant is at 10 E Gay St, West Chester.
Susan Johnstone, the owner of The Lincoln Room, a historic tea room in West Chester, told us that in 1788, a man by the name of John Tully was convicted for being a horse thief. His sentence was 60 days of jail time, 38 lashings “well laid on” (as the judge ordered), and his ears were to be cut off and pinned to the pillory where he endured the lashes, as a reminder to others of the severity of the crime.
After his punishment, he groaned so loudly in his delirious pain that he became a nuisance and was moved across the street to a cottage (now the location of The Lincoln Room). He was placed on a cot where he continued to moan, which then turned into laughter. As the night wore on, he began laughing. When someone from the jail came to check on him before the sun came up, he was dead.
“You hear things,” Johnstone said. “You can still hear laughter and chuckles, and there are people that will not set foot in there at night.”
Someone who has the office upstairs even had a spirit investigator come into the building and they advised her that when you feel the presence of a spirit, you should always ask the ghost to follow the light. They still feel the presence of the ghost and hear odd noises, but aren’t alarmed because “they never haunt our customers,” Johnstone joked. “Plus, ghosts don’t come out in the light of day, so there is nothing to be afraid of.”
The Lincoln room is the starting location for the West Chester Ghost Tours and is available for private parties.
The Lincoln Room is at 28 W. Market St., at Wilmont Mews.
Iron Hill’s brews and spirits
“I never believed in any of that stuff,” said Iron Hill bartender Shaun Lapp. “My girlfriend and her friend are obsessed with ghosts and the paranormal, and I always thought it was baloney.”
That is, until one late night at the West Chester Iron Hill and Brewery.
“Rumor has it that this spot was a hospital during the Revolutionary War, which I don’t know for a fact,” Lapp said. “One very late night, I was alone at the restaurant, doing my inventory around 4 a.m. All of the computers upstairs crashed and I was forced to use the downstairs office to finish entering my inventory.”
That’s when he started hearing unexplained noises. It wasn’t air compressors or air ducts or ice machines or anything he recognized. “I heard chains clanking, sounds of voices and I felt like I wasn’t the only one in the basement, but I knew that I was. I definitely sensed something else other than me.”
At that point he did his inventory and data entry in record time. “I ran up the stairs and turned off the lights and got the heck out of here,” he said. “That was the last time I ever came in to do inventory by myself. I’ve never been so freaked out in my life.”
One of the other managers, Nate Carter, had a similar experience. “Shaun had told me about his experience and I thought he was full of it,” Carter said. That was until Carter was working late one night and was alone in the restaurant.
“It was 2 a.m., everyone was gone besides me, and I heard what sounded like footsteps and a chain being dragged on the floor. I got close to where I thought it was coming from and it stopped. I went to turn off the lights and then I heard the same exact noise, but in a completely different part of the restaurant. I clocked out, heard it again, locked the door and ran out. Unless I see something I am a skeptic, but yes, now I believe in spirits. Ghosts I’m still not sure about.”
Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant is at 3 W. Gay St., West Chester.
Becca’s ghostly visitor
Becca’s Restaurant in Phoenixville occupies a 200-year-old building that used to be a private residence. A 13-year-old girl used to live upstairs and had a tragic accident, falling down the stairs.
One server feels a push from this sassy teen whenever she walks by the girl’s bedroom or the stairwell. Robert Bahm, the owner, was preparing to redecorate her room and found that the pictures he placed on the tables were moved to the floor (nothing else on the table was touched). Other incidents include footsteps, a cigar smell in the air when no one was in the building, and glasses moved from one table to the other. The previous owner even tried to perform an exorcism, but this girl is here to stay.
Becca’s Restaurant is at 19 S. Whitehorse Rd., Phoenixville.
Jenny, the eternal customer
“Jenny” is a spunky spook that can be seen sporting a high-neck blouse and gray skirt at the Simpson Tea House in Chester Springs. She enjoys long walks on her stoop, turning around furniture and leaving pennies (a big tipper) around the restaurant for the servers. She also has a cat that many waitresses have felt weaving between their legs.
Simpson Tea House is at 110 Pottstown Pike, Chester Springs.
Meandering spirits at Mas
It’s fitting that the walls at Mas are decorated with skeletons, since a few spirits are lurking around the building. A former owner said many of the staff members have seen a lady in a white dress and a man in a top hat around the bar area. One manager has witnessed lights being turned on and off, heard footsteps and clapping, and had a heavy computer fly off a shelf onto her leg, causing papers to fly everywhere and a chair to break when no one else was around. This ghoul doesn’t like female managers, both past and present.
Mas Mexicali Cantina is at 102 E. Market St., West Chester.
The Blue Pear Bistro and Dilworthtown Inn have been around since 1754, and the bloody Battle of the Brandywine ended in the field across the street. The Blue Pear used to be a general store, and it was turned into a makeshift hospital during the war. The British used the Dilworthtown Inn as their headquarters, where American soldiers were held as prisoners on the upper floor and in the root cellar.
The root cellar has been turned into an extensive wine cellar, and waiters have heard voices down there. Employees have seen doors open and close, and found chairs facing each other as if someone was engaged in conversation. One server mistook a wounded soldier spirit for a customer after hours.
The Blue Pear Bistro is at 275 Brinton’s Bridge Rd., West Chester.