Along the historic Lincoln Highway in Bedford, PA, there is an iconic fieldstone tavern that has been providing hospitality, spirits, food, and lodging since the 1760’s – the Jean Bonnet Tavern (also known as Old Fork’s Inn and Bonnet’s Tavern).
Check it out here: https://www.jeanbonnettavern.com/
Prior to opening as a tavern, the property was used by the French as an outpost and then headquarters during the Revolutionary War. In addition, legend has it that several people were hanged on the property during the 1700’s, including a convicted highway robber. In 1794, the Inn was used as a gathering place during the Great Whiskey Rebellion, one of the first uprisings for our young nation.
The resistance was against the new tax placed on whiskey (can you imagine what these early American’s would say today about the taxes on…well really, take your pick…) and was known to use violence against tax collectors and lawmakers. I can easily envision the plans and plots concocted at the Tavern while the rebellion imbibed in whiskey and other spirits to keep their ire up.
Currently, the Jean Bonnet Tavern is a Bed and Breakfast, a bar and restaurant known for its extensive history, its registration as a National Historic Landmark, and – of course – for its “spirits” (yes both kinds). With this long history leaving its mark through the years, I can see the potential for intelligent as well as residual hauntings.
(An intelligent haunting is a Spirit that is actively engaging and responds intelligently – Spirit of grandma is still in her life-long home and likes to shut your television off; a residual haunting is basically a play black of certain points in time that can be witnessed by living people – a woman used to climb the steps every day, multiple times, and now the people living in the home hear those footsteps every day, at roughly the same time).
Employees and guests alike have reported paranormal and haunting experiences within the Tavern. Claims have included the sound of talking, movement and banging in the bar area as guests sleep – when the bar was closed-up tight for the night. Employees, guests and even the owners have reported the movement of their belongings and doors, seeing and hearing things throughout the night, as well as seeing men dressed in strange attire drinking at tables in the bar. Below is a picture posted on their website (look at the table on the right side):
See photo here: https://www.jeanbonnettavern.com/ghosts/
Ghostly image or glitch on the camera? Well, that is the million-dollar question isn’t it? I personally can’t attest to this photo, but I admit it is compelling considering what I experienced while dining (and yes – drinking) at the Tavern.
Infamous “Room 3”, available to rent for the night, has lovers of haunted places travelling from all over to sleep there. Numerous guests have claimed to witness the manifestation of a male spirit in the room (some speculate is the hanged highway robber), as well as witnessing the rocking chair in the room move on its own. Some claim to see/photograph orbs, feel cold spots, wake up feeling as if someone is watching them, and being touched while staying in this room.
Unfortunately, during our visit to the Jean Bonnet Tavern, we did not stay the night since we were only passing through on our return trip to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Check out my blog to understand why I had to return after my first visit to the Asylum.
Trans Allegheny blog – Part 1: http://hauntedhistoryjaunts.com/trans-alleghany-lunatic-asylum-part-1/
Since we were on our way back to Trans Allegheny, and I literally was chased out during my first visit, I figured that stopping at a haunted historic place where I could get a few drinks was just what I needed. As we pulled into the parking lot to the Tavern, coming off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (which is a horror story in itself to be honest), I started to rethink this little side visit. I could instantly feel the history of the place. The energy was so strong, likely because it has been preserved and opened for such a long period of time. I began seeing and feeling scenes of times gone-by as I like to call them. I could see and smell the horses used for travel overlapping with the gasoline and cars I could see/smell now. It became a little disorienting and distracting at first. I also saw soldiers, lots of them, mulling around, smoking, drinking, laughing. A residual scene of a mob of people, dressed shabbily and old fashioned – yelling, cheering, hollering – invaded my senses. Someone was being lynched (at least that is how I interpreted it then). I had to look away and shut these scenes down immediately. That drink looked really good right about now.
We entered the Tavern and went to the right, into the bar area. There is so much of what could only be the original tavern evident here that I fell in love. I am such a sucker for old, historic buildings, especially ones with huge fireplaces. And there was a fire place!!
I continued to witness residual scenes inside the Tavern – I saw men sitting around tables – drinking whiskey – getting rowdy. There was one man, sitting at a table, looking forlorn and “pissed off”. I asked my husband what the deal was with the man dressed like that and pointed. Once I saw the way he looked at me and he whispered, “what are you talking about”, I realized this man was a Spirit albeit a very present one. I can usually (yes usually, I AM getting better at it I swear) tell the difference. But sometimes, only sometimes, I still get it wrong (just ask my poor husband). I have little doubt this male spirit can and does interact with the living; although based on the look and energy he was exuding, I wouldn’t want to test him.
I ordered a whiskey (jack and coke) and an iced tea. I have no idea why this combination but sometimes I just have to go with what is driving me. Now, looking over the history of the place, I understand the “whiskey” part. We ordered and ate some pretty good cheeseburgers, chatted with the bartender (yes, she was real, thank you very much…at least I think she was…), and soaked in the history.
While eating our lunch, I noticed a female Spirit enter the bar area. She was wearing an old-fashioned dress, looked to be a pale/baby blue, with a high lace collar. She had her hair pulled up tight and high. She appeared in the entrance way and was scanning around the bar, looking interested and engaged. As her head turned and her eyes came to me, she stopped and smiled. I often explain that people who are sensitive seem to be brighter to Spirits. Think of a very foggy day, where you can’t see very far in any direction. Imagine you woke up one day, confused and out of sorts, full of emotion. The world around you is foggy and barely visible most of the time. You try to wander around, but you can’t get very far. Then you see lights in the distance, lights that have varying degrees of brightness. It would be natural to wander towards that light, shining through the fog, offering you hope of getting home. This is how I envision a Spirit that is earth-bound, and the light are people that are sensitive.
So yes, she knew right away that I could see her. Her world wasn’t as foggy as some, I could tell easily that this Tavern was home to her and quite clear. As she grinned at me, she beckoned me with her hand and pointed upstairs. She obviously wanted me to follow her. When I wouldn’t, she held up three fingers to me and waved me over to her again, pointing upstairs. Now, I would love to say that I followed her and witnessed something truly amazing, but I did not. After all, we were only there for lunch (and come on, the place was full of people already trying to figure out what I was staring out…or maybe that was just my husband, but it sure felt like the whole place at the time).
What did I do? I finished my drink of course. And most of my burger. I thanked the bartender, asked her if she had experiences (which she confirmed some of the claims mentioned above), told the female spirit goodbye and we left the restaurant.
The Tavern has this quaint little souvenir shop outside, looks like a converted old barn, that I just must mention here. They sell little trinkets with the Jean Bonnet Tavern name on it. And they also carry things like locally made soaps, candles, and candies.
If you decide to check out the Tavern sometime, or if you have been, please let me know how you make out and if you have any experiences. Especially if you stay in the infamous Room 3.
(The Tavern has been featured on a YouTube series called Hometown Haunts and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K2F_eUIZG0 )
(The Tavern has also been featured in The Pennsylvania Ghost Guide, Volume II, written by Patti Wilson.)