Haunted: Woodstown Tavern and Hotel – Woodstown, NJ
Here in New Jersey, the December days can be unpredictable – sometimes sunny and decent and other times cold, gray and miserable. Either way, the days are short and the nights long. That’s why we love to get out, take a drive and visit historic, haunted locations.
Weekends like this past Saturday are my favorite. Although I have lived in New Jersey basically my entire life (I had a few stints through the years in PA and FL), I am still surprised all the time by the unique historical treasures that are hidden away in my home state. This December day was brisk – I don’t think the high got past 30 degrees – but it was sunny and refreshing after all of the rainy, gray, cloudy days that seem to be hanging on this year. We had a case to wrap up with a client and it brought us to some very rural areas in the southern part of the state.
Check out my amazing group full of great volunteers who spend countless hours helping clients:http://www.pcinj.org
Salem County, which I have read is known as the “Gateway to New Jersey”, sits in the southern part of the State and is bordered by the Delaware River. It is the least populous county in NJ and if you are familiar with our little state, you know how unique that is considering NJ is the most densely populated state in the country. I personally haven’t spent much time in Salem County until this little jaunt.
I was very surprised by the extensive rural areas with acres and acres of open farmland and very little traffic. Although my husband Lou had a destination in mind for some lunch and a drink or two, I was completely clueless to where we were and frankly was a little concerned I may starve or die of thirst before we came across a place to eat. And what if we ran out of gas or had to use the restroom? I tend to get a little dramatic when hungry, lost (at least in my mind we are lost because I have a complete and utter lack of direction and absolutely no ability to decipher a map) and it is cold outside.
After what seemed like an eternity (honestly, it was only about a half hour from where we were, but like I said – dramatic…), we came across a little town that had that quant “All-American” small town feel to it – Woodstown, New Jersey. It took only a block or two to enter the town center and highlighted there is a magnificent, large brick and red sand-stone building, featuring a large open-arched tower rising at-least 60 feet in the air. Built in 1892, the First National Bank of Woodstown is an impressive building that made me want to pull over immediately and see what this town had to offer. The entrance to the building is angled and the first floor has large arched windows, which are aligned beneath rectangular windows on the second floor. The contrast is impressive.
Woodstown, NJ was established in 1882 and is completely surrounded by another town – Pilesgrove. This small town of roughly 3,500 people is coined a “donut town” because of this. Driving through, it was impressive to see the many well-maintained historic homes, most built in the 1800’s, that are still lived in and loved. The main street featured adorable little shops that likely draw in people from surrounding areas. But one historic building stood out (and not just because I was hungry) – the Woodstown Tavern and Hotel.
The Woodstown Tavern and Hotel has been a landmark since before the town was officially established (1836) and was built as a three-floor hotel with a tavern on the first floor. It has changed hands many times over its long history but is currently being updated and renovated by the current owners. The upper floors still contain rooms that are rented out to guests, although it is considered more of a boarding house now than a hotel, and the first floor is still a bar and restaurant.
The Tavern had a “dive-bar” feel to it as we entered, and I mean this in an endearing way. It was dark, comfortable, inviting and crowded with happy people laughing and joking. There was music playing, tables to eat at, and coolers in the back for take-out. We were greeted immediately by the friendly bartender and told to have a seat wherever we liked. The atmosphere put me right at ease.
We were helped right away, and I was surprised by the food menu – surprised and impressed – as it went beyond the usual simple fried-food staples. We had the wings, which were cooked to absolute perfection, and I thoroughly enjoyed an amazing hot roast beef sandwich. Yum!
At first, I was not picking up on much #haunting activity in the Tavern – I often try to enjoy the food, drinks and living company before drawing attention to myself. But soon enough something rather ironic happened that changed all that.
I was in the bathroom washing my hands when another woman began to push the door open. When she saw me standing there, she actually jumped and yelped – as if my mere presence was scary. Now, I freely admit I was not at my best and was wearing only a little makeup, but this seemed a bit much to me. So, I laughed and apologized for my appearance and scaring the crap out of her. Once she regained her composure, she shared that she is always on edge when she comes down the hallway to the bathroom, that it makes her feel very uncomfortable. She is a regular here at the Tavern and said she always enters the hallway and the bathroom slowly and checks the other stalls before doing her business. She feels watched and on occasion her stall door has been pushed open.
Ok, now I was intrigued with the place and it seemed to change the entire atmosphere for me (ok, maybe the drink I enjoyed had something to do with it also).
After returning to our table, I noticed a man wearing a long black jacket, like a duster, walk in from the back entrance. He was wearing a hat, had a beard, dark hair and keen eyes. He paused and looked around the bar, obviously looking for something or someone. It actually took me a second to realize this man was a Spirit – that’s how “present” his energy actually was. Right away I had that eerie sense of “knowing” I will often get about Spirits – he frequented this place very often, engaged in gambling and card playing here, enjoyed the company of many woman he met at this bar, rented a room up on the third floor, lived a “hard” life and had a quick temper. Thankfully, he wasn’t looking around the room to spot me – he was searching for a woman.
Who right on cue appeared behind the bar for him – and yes, she was also a Spirit. She was dressed a little risqué and was rather well endowed. I could see her shifting around the bar quickly and knew that she liked to moved things around. I felt like she was rather fond of attention and if engaged, by the living or the dead, she would respond.
As I was starting to tell my husband about these pretty cool Spirits, I suddenly got an image of the basement and felt like I really wanted to go down there.
The current owner came over and introduced himself as Bill. I think he was intrigued to have a couple of obviously out-of-town guests and was interested in who we were. After introducing ourselves and talking about being on our way home from a #paranormal case, he asked us if we wanted to see the basement.
I love when these synchronicities occur, and we get to enjoy tours of #historical places with tons of #history to share as a result.
Of course we agreed!
This is when we found out (although I wasn’t surprised) that patrons and employees alike experience #paranormal activity regularly. In fact, several years back Bill invited a local group in to investigate the property. As far as he knew, this was the one and only time an investigation had taken place.
The layout of the building is unique. We had to climb quite a few steps to get into the entrance of the Tavern and the basement has two “storefront” type windows, one on each side. They face toward the street, although they are below street-level, and allow light to penetrate the basement. This gives it a much less creepy and closed in feel.
In the basement I witnessed several residual scenes. The first was a bit strange to me – I was seeing the basement full of people drinking but they were all men and woman of color. The owner confirmed that historically the bars were segregated – a shameful fact that was well-documented – with one upstairs and one in the basement.
I was drawn towards the back of the basement and I asked the owner if there was a hidden entrance or a tunnel – I was literally seeing a small tunnel through a wall and hearing “hidden”. I also was picking up on the word “prohibition” and seeing scenes of large kegs being dropped through a trap door.
The owner looked at me a little surprised and showed me the area where there was a “trap-door” and ramp that liquor and kegs were dropped through. This area has long since been closed off. He then brought us into the back and showed me an area of the back wall that had been closed up but still contained a small tunnel through the wall. On the other side, there is a back entrance to the building. He didn’t know why or when it had been closed up, but he said it is on his list to open the wall up and take a look on the other side. It just may be moved up on his list now after I shared my impressions with him. He seemed intrigued.
The basement is a maze of rooms and was much larger than I had anticipated. I felt very comfortable down there and aside from the few residual scenes and the “pulling” towards certain areas, I hadn’t encountered any more Spirits. That comfortable feeling lasted until we came to a set of stairs.
A set of stairs that had been closed off – a stairway to nowhere. In my experience, nothing good ever comes from closing off a set of stairs in this way. I’m not sure if it is just the perception or the feel of closed off steps, but I have never met a set I was comfortable around.
Right away the energy shifted and felt heavy. My heart started beating fast, my palms sweating, and I got a strong smell of perfume – it smelled floral like roses maybe. Standing on the steps was a female Spirit. She was tall and pretty, with prominent eyes and a long, narrow face. She didn’t seem upset or concerned with our presence, but she did seem a little annoyed over the steps. She was pointing up the steps and shaking her head – as you would if you were saying “really, why would you do something like this?”. I knew this Spirit could and has interacted with the living and her surroundings. She is easily able to manipulate objects – even more so than the woman upstairs in the bar area. And I felt like she would do this to bring attention to herself.
At this point, the owner told us that the investigators caught some intriguing evidence on this set of stairs. They had set up a video camera that was actually pushed over several times, even though it was left in the basement recording while they were all upstairs.
We continued our tour upstairs – the boarding room floors. We couldn’t enter any of the rooms because they were rented out but the owner shared with us several experiences that various tenants had told him about. As I walked past one room, on the second floor, I felt a male energy inside – one that was pacing back and forth and exuded lots of anxiety and sadness. He just paces – back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…. Apparently, it is documented that a man committed suicide inside this room.
Finally, we came to the top floor and I was drawn over to a door that was locked. I felt an “old-woman” energy and felt like she was actually “upstairs”. A stocky woman, who felt like an old feisty German grandmother, did not want anyone in her space and put off a very strong energy of “stay away”. Bill confirmed that this was the attic and he kept it locked. He did not like the energy up there and in fact had only been in the attic twice – when he absolutely had to. He did not carry the key to the attic – the only key he did not carry. One employee, who lives on the premises and has been cleaning the rooms and the Tavern for decades, refuses to go into the attic. The group that had been in to investigate previously was not granted access to the attic.
#Bucklist addition? What do you think?
The tour was a very friendly and generous gesture from Bill. So of course, we needed to stay for another drink after. As a final friendly gesture, Bill gave us a piece of the most amazing cake that was freshly baked and on the dessert menu for the day. And it was delicious!
As we were finishing our drinks and enjoying this cake, another employee of the Tavern approached us and introduced herself as Amy. Amy had actually owned the Tavern at one point and has been working there for decades. She told us of numerous experiences throughout the years and that the most uncomfortable spot was the walk-in where the take-out was kept. There had been numerous examples of seeing people, witnessing shadow movement and being touched. Amy confirmed that there was often movement of items throughout the bar area and recounted two personal experiences to us:
The Tavern used to have an old-fashioned juke-box where you would actually have to flip the pages to find the songs you wanted to play. One day when she was closing for the night, she looked over and saw those pages in that juke-box flipping for no reason, as if someone was searching for a song. This happened on several other occasions to her as well.
There used to be a large bell hung on the side of the bar – the way she described it, I pictured an old-fashioned dinner bell. On one occasion, she and all the patrons in the bar witnessed this bell actually flip up and around on its own.
We travel around a lot and check out many historic places. Some of my favorites are the unknown treasures that haven’t been investigated extensively or had numerous articles written about them and any #paranormal claims. But this is the first place I have visited where we had so many people come forward, unsolicited, to offer up their experiences.
Top that with the good food and the very friendly, inviting owner and I loved the Woodstown Tavern.
One more thing: Amy also told us about a man who died in the bar area in 1934. He frequented the place and was considered a regular. Since this is such a small town, this type of story was noteworthy. She described an old picture of him – he was known to wear a long dark duster jacket and is often seen standing near the bar.
If you decide to check out the historic Woodstown Tavern and Hotel sometime, be sure to say hello to Bill and Amy. Give the wings a try, you won’t be disappointed. And keep an eye out for the man in the duster and maybe if you’re lucky, the woman spirit will move something for you.