We asked for restaurant hauntings and y’all DELIVERED! Featuring haunted Italian restaurants with paintings that need to be burned ASAP, UK pubs with something scary lurking in the basement, and a Massachusetts bar with a secret taken TO THE SPIRIT WORLD. We also got to chat with Chris Mullins about the long, slightly haunted history of McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Philadelphia!
If you’re ever in Philly, make sure to check out McGillin’s Old Ale House for a nice beer and some ghosts!
Catch a sneak peek of the NEW MERCH on our Patreon page.
You can also get tickets to our LIVE SHOW at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, at 12 PM on October 14th, 2018.
- Shaker & Spoon is a subscription cocktail box that brings world-class cocktails into your kitchen once a month. Get $20 off your first box at http://shakerandspoon.com/spirits
- Skillshare is an online learning community where you can learn—and teach—just about anything. Visit skillshare.com/spirits to get two months of Skillshare Premium for $0.99! This week Amanda recommends “The Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives” by Debbie Millman.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 98, Your Urban Legends Part 14: Restaurant Ghost Wars.
Julia: Restaurant Wars was always my favorite part of any season of Top Chef.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Julia: Like, honestly, it's just the most stressful part of any season.
Amanda: It's incredibly stressful and people have the best intentions, and they're like, "Everyone fails in Restaurant Wars. I'm not gonna do that," and then they fail at Restaurant Wars.
Julia: And then they blame other people and throw them under the bus. I'm still mad about that one season.
Amanda: I know. The front of house manager. Remember that one season, the front of house manager was like, "Save the entire team," and they were like, "Thank you."
Julia: Yes. You did great.
Amanda: Great. And you know who else does great, Julia.
Julia: Would that be our new patrons?
Amanda: Our new patrons! Scott, Julie, Alex, Dominic, Emily, Eina, Claire and Forest.
Julia: You all save your entire teams when it comes down to Restaurant Wars, and you also put out a dope dish.
Amanda: And I definitely would choose one of our supporting producer level patrons to expo for me in my restaurant, because they're just that good. Philip, Julie, Kristina, Eeyore, Josie, Amara, Neil, Jessica, Maria, Ryan, Phil Fresh, and Debra, as well as our Legend Level Patrons. These folks get actual, physical stuff from us in the mail every month. Jess, Elisa, Zoe, Cassie, Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack Marie, and Lee Anne.
Julia: You all own creepy, spooky bars, or you did in a past life.
Amanda: And Julia, I'm not going to ask you what you were drinking this week because I chose the beer. It's Freaktober beer from Coney Island Brewery, one of my favorites.
Julia: Oh, so good!
Amanda: I visited them for the first time over the summer and I wear the hat that I got there pretty much every day.
Julia: I love them.
Amanda: I love Coney Island, I love Freaktober. They're even coming out with a coffee Freaktober, and oh my god, I can't wait.
Julia: I love Coney Island beer, and the fact that it's finally October makes me so happy, I'll drink all the October beers.
Amanda: I'm so stoked, and in my opinion, nothing goes better with a great beer than a creepy book, which is why this week, I want to recommend Tana French. She is one of my favorite mystery writers, crime writers. She has a Dublin detective squad, Dublin Murder Squad. I think it's called Series of Crimes Being Solved in Dublin, which, what's not to love?
Except that her newest book, which comes out this week, is titled The Witch Ohm. I saw the email from Goodreads come out in my inbox, and I sat up straight in bed and yelled. That's how excited I am for this book.
Julia: That sounds amazing. I know you've talked a bit about her books before, but the fact that she got a new one and it's witchy? Hell yeah!
Amanda: It's made exactly for me, so thank you, universe.
Julia: Do you know what else is also made just for us, Amanda?
Julia: Well, it would be the Skill Share classes that we took this week. So, we are sponsored this week by Skill Share. You can go to skillshare.com/spirits to get two months of premium subscription for only $.99, and we'll tell you a bit more about that in the Refill.
Amanda: And because we're god damn adults, we can sip a cocktail as we learn at home, which is why we're so glad that Shaker & Spoon is back, where you can get $20 off your first box of subscription cocktail supplies, at shakerandspoon.com/spirits.
Julia: I heard this month's was real, real good.
Amanda: Oh my gosh, I know.
Julia: Do you know what else is real, real good, Amanda?
Amanda: I think it's too many segues.
Julia: So many segues, keep going!
Amanda: Okay, is it our upcoming Thanksgiving season, which we both really love?
Julia: I do really love Thanksgiving. I love cooking at Thanksgiving, but before Thanksgiving happens, Amanda, Halloween happens! And also, Brooklyn Horror! You can come see us live at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.
Amanda: It's going to be really, really great. We're going to talk all about New York area urban legends, and maybe even have some special friends stop by, so you can find a link to buy tickets in the description of this podcast, and we also made a Facebook event, so if you're going to come to the show, definitely join that Facebook event. I shared it to our Facebook group, and you can make sure you connect with all the other Creepy Cool fans that are going to be there.
It is going to be very fun. A lot of our friends are coming, and a lot of other New York area podcasters, so it should be pretty fun.
Julia: Yeah. I'm very excited. And, just three days after that is another big day in this Spirits Creepy Cool month of October, which is that our new merch is coming out. We have some incredible things coming out. I am so freaking stoked. I have to sit on my hands so I don't yell from the rooftops and do cartwheels about how excited this merch makes me.
And as a special thank you to all of the folks who support us on Patreon, everyone at the $4 level and above is going to get a coupon for 20% off that new merch and our old merch, so a code for 20% off our entire merch store on the 17 of October, next Wednesday, the day that this episode comes out. So, everyone pledging $4 and above on the 17th is going to get that 20% off, so it's the perfect time to do it. Right now. Right now.
Amanda: Right now, right now. Alright. Well, there is nothing more left to say, except that we hope you enjoy Spirits Episode 98, Your Urban Legends Part 14: Restaurant Ghost Wars. Spooky!
So, I went to a wedding this weekend. Y'all, the food was insane. So, this is my boss, who owns a cheese shop, and they decided to cater their wedding themselves, because one, cheaper, and two, they make real good food.
Eric: Was it just cheese?
Amanda: And they're just bad asses.
Julia: It was not just cheese. They are hardcore bad asses, but it was not just cheese. There was a full cheese table, which was wonderful because I sat right next to the cheese table, and I could just get up and get cheese whenever I want.
The nice part about this, though, is that the restaurant that I work at, The Cheese Shop, not haunted, unlike all of the stories that we're going to tell today.
Eric: Oh my gosh, is this our food extravaganza?
Julia: It's our food ghost extravaganza!
Amanda: We have spent so much time delving deep, deep into spaghetti.
Julia: So much spaghetti.
Amanda: We specialize in spaghetti at this point.
Eric: It's everywhere. It's no good.
Amanda: And we wondered to ourselves, is all Italian food haunted? Is all, perhaps, food haunted? We're not sure, so we polled our listeners, our conspirators, for stories about food and restaurant hauntings, and y'all came through.
Julia: They did, in droves. Droves!
Amanda: We also did some field reporting. Julia's and my first out in the field interview when we were in Philadelphia at Podcast Movement. We went to an actual haunted bar. Beh-beh-beeehhhh!
Julia: It was very cool.
Eric: And they interviewed a cheese steak.
Julia: Oh, yep. It wasn't as talkative as I was hoping for, to be honest. It was probably more talkative than one would expect, though.
Eric: Now, did the cheese steak have a bunch of cheesy puns?
Amanda: No, just our editor.
Eric: Oh my gosh, it's a pun about how cheesy puns are.
Julia: I hate everything about this.
Amanda: That's next level.
Eric: The most pun, pun.
Amanda: Let's let the experts speak here, and get into some listener emails. We're going to give you that very, very fun, on location interview in a haunted bar in the second half of this episode.
Julia: But first, Amanda, do you want to start us off?
Amanda: Oh, dang, sure. This email comes from Irving. It is titled, "Flying Whiskey, Stools a Rattlin' and Doors Standing Spooky Boys: A Very Haunted Restaurant".
Julia: Oh, that is so good. Already so good!
Amanda: I know. I know. Good subject lines are pretty key to getting your email read on air.
Julia: Also, Irving is a solid name all over. Into it.
Amanda: Oh, yeah. So, here we go. Join me on this journey, y'all. Irving writes, "Buckle up, buttercups. I have some restaurant haunts for you."
Julia: Also, if you start your email like that, that is a guaranteed way we're going to read the email online.
Eric: That's an unbelievable intro.
Amanda: "During my younger years, we talking about age 15, I worked as a busser in this local restaurant in Maple Park, Illinois, called Sorrentos, that served mostly Italian American style fare. It's like they're asking for a haunting, because as you guys have shown, Italian food, definitely haunted."
Julia: That is true.
Amanda: "I think this place opened under its current name around 1974, but had been in business 30+ years before that. Anyways, as a 15 year old, I was especially drawn to ghosts, spooks, hauntings, bones, and all other kinds of what the average human being would label, 'The Creepy Shit.'"
Julia: I think it's just a given that when you turn, I don't know, 13, 14, something like that, you automatically get interested in the occult. I think that's just a given.
Amanda: Oh yeah, you're like the world is way more complex and, frankly, scary than I thought, so instead of facing puberty and my future, I'm going to think about the occult.
Julia: Checks out.
Amanda: So, Irving continues, "I was also scared of everything. I'm talking my own shadow spooked me once or twice. Now, I know you may question, 'Irving, if you were so scared of everything, why would you still be interested in the spookiness?' That, my friends, is a can of grave worms to be opened on a different day."
Julia: Or in therapy. Whatever works.
Amanda: "Like I was saying, this place was old and most definitely haunted. One of the primary places for a haunt was in the side dining area called the Tack Room, and even when it was full of people eating and dining, I hated going in there. You could just feel the energy was off.
"One distinct and most direct supernatural occurrence that I can recall is one night, the dining room was clearing out and things were starting to slow down. It was only me and one other busser, let's call him Joe, working the main side of the restaurant, while another was on the small side. We had a huge wedding reception in the Tack Room that night, which finally cleared out."
Julia's shaking her head here.
Julia: I'm just like, "Haunted wedding, haunted wedding. No!"
Amanda: Amazing. "Joe designated that he would keep up with the main dining room while I go in and clean up and reset the Tack Room post-wedding. I go in and start doing my thing, clearing off tables and dishes, blowing out candles, other general busser things, etc. Overall, going well, but I just couldn't shake that overall feeling of not wanting to be in there.
"So, I'm just minding my own business, but also working incredibly fast because I wanted to get the heck out of there. However, as I'm setting out plates on one of the tables in the back corner, the light sconces on the walls flicker."
Amanda: "I looked up quick, checked the small corner behind me, and held my breath for what felt like a solid 45 seconds. The energy in the room had also dropped and become incredibly heavy feeling, and I began to have this creeping sensation of someone watching me."
Amanda: "Now, I had a job to do, and couldn't just drop everything and run to my boss, shouting, "Ghost!" Right?
Julia: I mean, you could.
Eric: Yeah. I mean, typically you want really, really solid evidence of a ghost. You want Scooby Doo level evidence.
Julia: And by Scooby Doo level of evidence, we mean a physical man that you can pull a mask off.
Eric: Yup. That's the threshold.
Amanda: Or an abandoned sheet on the ground.
"So, I just sped up my work, laying out plates, silverware and napkins, whatever, as quickly as my 15 year old hands could, while keeping a watchful eye on all dark corners and both doorways in the room. I was just about finished when something hits me, not physically hits me, but the feeling that someone had been watching you for a while, and you just now figured out their presence and location. I also made a grave mistake and had turned my back to the primary set of doors leading into the room."
Julia: Don't ever do that!
Amanda: "I lost my breath, panicked, and spun around to face the direction where I was getting the feeling from, and there, in the doorway, was a dark figure with white eyes. It was only there for a second, and was gone as I blinked. I no longer required oxygen, seeing as the concept of breathing was shredded and lost in my mind files, so I placed the last glass down and booked it out of the room.
"And side note, there was also lore that you need to put a fresh tablecloth on the one back table in the room, as well as two place settings across from each other, since, according to one of the owners, these are for the ghosts that haunts the Civil War era-looking painting of a man that hangs above that table in that corner."
Julia: Hey, I wouldn't own that bar/restaurant if that was the case.
Eric: You could just get rid of the painting.
Julia: It's true. You could just get rid of the painting.
Amanda: Instead of having a ritualized way to placate your ghosts, such that you tell it to even the children bussers in the restaurant, maybe get rid of the painting.
Eric: Yeah. Could we now, we're currently doing a food themed home towns. Can we now request for a later episode, Spooky Art?
Julia: Yes, send us Spooky Art! Spooky Art!
Amanda: Spooky art! Spooky art!
Eric: Send us that. Start your submission with Art in the subject, so we know to categorize it there, but we would love to do a Home Towns all about spooky art as well.
Amanda: That would be awesome. My favorite segment from the Creepy Kids episode was that kid painting that kept showing up in the fire.
Julia: The crying child.
Amanda: So, I definitely want more of that.
Eric: No. No. I don't like that.
Amanda: Yeah. Irving also mentions that some of their coworkers had experiences as well. One time a whiskey bottle flew off the shelf in front of them, and that, in general, people do not go into the basement cellar or the downstairs dining room because that was out of Irving's area, but that they hated having to walk by the stairs, which is a very good idea.
Julia: Yeah, so there's this really interesting phenomenon in paranormal investigators, especially ones who are very skeptical paranormal investigators. For example, the folks who did the Conjuring and the Amityville Horror and all that kind of stuff, the people that those movies are based on. They did a lot of really interesting work, and a lot of times, when you enter a room and something feels off, and it's constantly happening with that room, it's because something with the electrical currents are interacting in a way that gives you bad vibes. It's your body physically reacting to electrical currents in the air.
Amanda: That is really interesting.
Eric: Julia just made all that up. It's ghosts.
Julia: I mean, it's also ghosts, but there are times where non-haunted places can feel haunted because weird electrical current stuff.
Amanda: But, if anything, I think that kind of lends credibility to the idea that your body can sense things that you might not be able to touch or smell or point to.
Amanda: Because if you can pick up on this physical alteration in the environment, why not other kinds of vibes?
Julia: Yeah, and that's why ghost investigators use EMF readers, because electro-magnetic frequency's a thing that supposedly has to do with ghosts and how they interact with their environments from the spiritual plane.
Amanda: Someone pay us to have a ghost hunting show, and we'll dive more into this.
Julia: Please, someone pay us to have a ghost hunting show. If the guys at Buzzfeed can make cool videos and the ghosts just say "Spaghetti," then we should be able to do that, too.
Amanda: I know. We're here.
Julia: I'm still mad about that. Spaghetti's our thing. Come on.
Amanda: Infringement. TM, TM. Alright, y'all. Get someone else. Get me a restaurant story.
Eric: I've got a story from Jolly Old England Across the Pub.
Amanda: Oh my god, what?
Julia: Across the pub? Across the pub?
Eric: Across the pond. Across the pond.
Amanda: Oh, but it's across the pub now.
Eric: But it's in a pub across the pond.
Amanda: You know, that large wet pub that separates our two nations.
Eric: Okay, so last episode, I also tried to do an accent, and it went very poorly, and now, this one, I figured let's just lean into that.
Amanda: Oh, yeah. If anything, we've learned that the stupider Eric and I get during these episodes, the better they are.
Eric: And it turns out, this one went so poorly that I said the wrong words.
Amanda: Oh, it's okay.
Eric: So, not great. This email comes to us from Neve and is titled "Ghost in a Pub". "Hiya! I'm obsessed with your podcast because I love ghost stories, and I'm so happy that it's from two women." And a really cool dude.
Julia: You're cool, too, Eric. Don't worry. Part time dude.
Eric: It's cool. I don't take any offense at all. I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. I was just reading the email and it said two women, and then there's this white guy reading it. Anyway.
"Here's my story. I used to work for a company of pubs in England that takes old buildings and works the pub around the theme of them, to what the building used to be." So, this is kind of like a Spaghetti Warehouse situation.
Julia: I was going to say, "Very Spaghetti Warehouse-esque."
Eric: But instead of making cool, old warehouses into the exact same thing, and just adding a trolley, they do a bit more.
Julia: And serve some-
Eric: "The one in this story used to be a cinema, so had portraits from film stars and significant people in the city of Manchester. Anyways, the pub was on two floors and the basement. One the first floor, which is typically the second in America, there was one bar with a huge seating area, and an overlooking balcony to down below.
"Well, this bar was heaving with people on a Saturday night. I also worked there on Monday nights, closing at 12 and leaving at about 1 AM."
Julia: That is late for a Monday night.
Amanda: Yeah. They go hard across the pub.
Eric: Hey, yeah. God damn it.
Amanda: Also, a three story bar. I'm into it.
Eric: "This was a really old building, so many things happened in the bar, but the worst was when I was maybe 19, closing the bar on my own, and I just ran back up the stairs at about 12:30 AM after emptying the mop bucket outside. As soon as I reached the top, I made eye contact with this old man on the other side of the balcony. I shouted over (it was a super big building), 'Sorry mate, we're closed up here,' and he just glared.
"I've never seen anger like that on someone's face. I was a bit annoyed. It had been a long day, but my manager shouted from downstairs, wondering who I was talking to. When I looked back up, the old man was gone. I wasn't convinced it was a ghost until I went downstairs to help the other bars close up, and a coworker said that no one had gone upstairs since 11 PM."
Eric: Their second story is about the basement. Now, the basement is the top floor in the UK.
Julia: Eric, that was a good joke.
Amanda: That was a really good joke.
Eric: Thank you.
Amanda: You're so proud of yourself.
Eric: I was quite proud of that one.
Julia: And my brain was like, "Oh!"
Eric: "This one is super, super creepy, but honestly, I wasn't as freaked out." We'll be the judge of how freaked out you should be. If there's one thing we do on these episodes, it's we judge. Some people are not freaked out enough, and some people are too freaked out over something. And some people are just too chill about the whole situation.
Amanda: Too chill is probably the worst situation you could be in.
Eric: Except for with the one person who talked to a river. They had the perfect amount of chill because they were just getting good advice from a river.
Amanda: Or, like our friend, the Crawdad King, who was just like, "Yup, this is it. This is my life."
Eric: I mean, The Crawdad King is on another level. The Crawdad King is outside of the realm of any listener write ins.
Julia: We could only wish to be as cool as The Crawdad King.
Amanda: They're the King of Sea Creatures, and also of us.
Eric: "It was a busy Saturday night, and I ran down to change a barrel." Sorry, I just immediately had an image of Donkey Kong. Of just Mario at the bottom of the Donkey Kong, trying to grab a barrel.
Julia: Jumping over the barrels. Yep.
Eric: "The lights weren't the best, so it was dim, and I heard from the corner a kind of growling. I put it down to the loud music coming from above, changed the music, and then left. Later that night, the manager asked me to go grab an extra stock, because we were short. I went downstairs and heard the growling again. This time, there was no music upstairs, as we were closed for the night. I had told a couple of people, so I thought it was one of my coworkers taking the mick.
"But then I felt an extremely hot breath on my leg and froze. There was no growling anymore, but I could still feel the heat on my leg getting worse and worse. Eventually, it stopped. I finished my shift and went home. Still worked there for a year afterwards, but luckily, now I don't."
Julia: You just casually walked away? You're like, "Yeah, this breath on my leg. I'm just going to walk away now." I would be sprinting! Sprinting out of there!
Amanda: But see, it's so plausible because it could be any kind of vermin or creature, or it could be a spider bite that makes your leg feel hot when it's bitten. Ugh!
Julia: They don't have raccoons and shit in the UK, I don't think. Are there raccoons in the UK?
Amanda: I mean, there aren't going to be pests big enough to breathe on you that you can feel.
Julia: Yeah, see, that's my problem here.
Amanda: I'm not saying it's an explanation. I'm saying that I would be almost more scared because there are so many, even the non-ghostly possibilities are freaky.
Julia: Oh, yeah. I'm thinking about straight up animals. Not assuming this is a hell hound. I'm just being like, "There is a raccoon in the basement and it tried to bite you." Might have just been a cat. Ghost cat.
Amanda: I don't know.
Julia: Ghost cat.
Eric: It could be ghost dog. Ghost dog's back. He's back from Japan, and he's hanging out at the pub.
Julia: Just hanging out. Just here to help. I'm gonna go next. My email is entitled, "Haunted Restaurant Extravaganza!"
Julia: Which is sent in by Jess. Jess writes, "I was just listening to episode 86, when you requested food specific or restaurant specific scares, so I remembered the time that my band played at a haunted old timey hotel turned Irish pub, called Stone's Public House."
Eric: Everything about that sentence rocked.
Julia: It was real hard. It was good.
Eric: Just rocked so fucking hard.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: Jess says, "I'm from Massachusetts," and in parentheses, "I grew up very near the Dingle Hole, mind you." Because you guys remember the Dingle Hole, right?
Amanda: The Dingle Hole returns!
Eric: I vaguely remember it.
Julia: "And I've been in a classic rock cover band since I was 17. I'm now 24. One time, we played at an Irish pub that was so proud of their haunted heritage that they had a binder at the hostess station full of history, sightings, and pictures.
"Formerly known as the Railroad House, since it's right next to the railroad, the place was a hotel built by a man named John Stone in 1834. According to the pub's binder and website, there are multiple spirits that roam the premises, including a young girl who was struck by a train and brought into the inn, only to die in one of the upstairs rooms.
"In 1984, psychics and paranormal investigators were able to begin surveying the premises after multiple reports from employees about 'doors that would not remain bolted and lights that would turn themselves on.' To quote a newspaper article included on the pub's website, 'All the psychics perceived more than one spirit, mostly sullen male phantoms," which is hilarious.
Amanda: Those are the same people who tell us on Twitter that we have to say the word "like" less.
Julia: "Last week, psychic Lee Sonenfeld had the same peculiar sensation. A drunkard named Bert Phillips may have died at the inn during the 1890s, she said. Now, Phillips' spirit refuses to leave the inn because it enjoys the atmosphere there." Which is a good recommendation for that pub. Go for that spirit.
Amanda: An inn is a really good place to die, if you have to choose, I think, because if you're going to haunt it, there's not just creature comforts of a restaurant and a place to sleep. There's travelers coming through, there's great cover bands that Spirits listeners are in. There's entertainment. It's a good eternal resting place.
Julia: According to Foinier, bartenders are constantly telling of water taps that turn themselves on and patrons have reported being tapped on the shoulder, only to turn around and find no one behind them.
Also, in 1984, an article about Ralph Bebo, a professional hypnotist who visited the inn, and here's another quote, "After several sessions, Bebo said he has finally been able to unearth the ghastly tale that has kept between six to seven spirits roaming the inn for nearly 140 years. After speaking to several of the spirits, including a chambermaid named Sadie, Bebo said he was told that John Stone accidentally killed a New York boarder, Michael, after he accused the visitor of cheating in an upstairs card game that netted him $3000.
Julia: Yeah, that's a lot of money. "Bebo said six or seven of the persons who witnessed the murder and helped Stone bury the body in the basement were bound together in secrecy to the owner, even in the spirit world." Even in the spirit world? Fuck that noise.
Eric: I mean, this is some ninth level D&D spell casting that requires 20000 platinum and all kinds of shit.
Julia: There's a lot of necromancy happening here.
Amanda: Yeah, or something that your party does in your second session and then five years later, when y'all are married with kids, your DM is like, "And consequences."
Eric: That's going to be my favorite arc of Join the Party, the consequence party.
Amanda: The reckoning party.
Julia: Just come up with a good party name. That's a good one. End of the world party. So, Jess says, "Anyway, while we were there, I didn't experience anything spooky other than my mom's water glass sliding directly across her table and into her lap."
Julia: I know! "One of the ghosts even knocked my tambourine off a shelf to remind me not to leave it behind." That's a helpful ghost. Good job ghost!
Amanda: Helpful ghost, yeah!
Julia: "I know this is a lot of build up for not a ton of payoff, but I'm on the train on my way to burlesque rehearsal." Amazing, Jess, you're the coolest.
Amanda: What? Jess, my new favorite listener!
Eric: Look, I'm not saying we need to make a March Madness bracket for some of our listeners, but I mean, obviously, two of the number one seeds are Jess and Crawdad King.
Amanda: They're up there.
Julia: That seems pretty solid. But Jess says that they will report back next time they visit the pub.
Amanda: Please do.
Julia: And they say, "Stay spoopy my noodles!" Which is very cute.
Amanda: Thank you for putting so much thought into your subjects, and your sign offs, and your lovely compliments, listeners. I know we can't read every email on air, but they warm our heart, and it's genuinely one of the greatest joys in my life to read through these.
Eric: Yes, those were all very, very good, and I am excited to hear your guys' interview at this haunted pub I was unable to attend, but I'm super stoked for everybody to get to hear it, because I haven't heard it either, so I'm listening to it with the listeners.
Julia: Wait, how did it get edited then? How did it get edited then, if you haven't been there and haven't listened to it yet?
Amanda: A Halloween miracle! Spooky!
Julia: So, we are going to get a refill, and then you will hear our interview of McGillin's Old Ale House in Philadelphia.
Julia, there are a lot of things that are creepy about going out to eat, about walking down the street, about using the Internet, but one of the great things that is not very spooky, but very, very cool in this world, is learning.
Julia: I do love learning.
Amanda: And even though I'm no longer in school, I do keep the learning going with Skill Share. So, this is an online learning community with over 20000 classes in design, business, technology, and more. And, with their premium membership, you get unlimited access to high quality classes on things like entrepreneurship, on design, on cooking, on film making, anything you might want to learn.
This week, I took a course by Debbie Millman, who is the host of Design Matters, which is a podcast that's been going on for almost 15 years. Serious podcast OG situation, and she has a course called, "The Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives."
She's a badass. She teaches at a college here in New York City. I wish I could take her class, but I can't, so I can take her Skill Share. She teaches you how to craft a narrative, edit your writing, find inspiration in history, and experiment with physical materials. So, basically everything we love.
Julia: That's amazing, Amanda. That sounds like such a cool class. We work in an audio medium, but sometimes we like to do the visual stuff.
Amanda: Exactly, and she shows us a bunch of her favorite visual stories, books, art, objects, and more. So, much as I love podcasts, and as much as it can create beautiful images in my mind, it is also very cool to see someone who is at the top of her game, at the top of her craft, show you her favorite stuff in her amazing office, so I highly recommend Debbie Millman over on Skill Share. And, Julia, how can folks get access to that class?
Julia: Well, they can get two months of Skill Share for only $.99, and to sign up, they go to skillshare.com/spirits. Again, that is skillshare.com/spirit to get two months of unlimited access to over 20000 classes for only $.99. So, you can start learning today.
Amanda: Thank you Skill Share.
Julia: We are also sponsored this week by Shaker & Spoon. Amanda, Shaker & Spoon is back!
Amanda: We love Shaker & Spoon, and there is nothing creepy cooler than having them back for one of our October sponsors.
Julia: And if you are new to the podcast and don't know about Shaker & Spoon, they are a monthly cocktail subscription box that delivers craft cocktail experience to your home. Think like Blue Apron but for cocktails. It is wonderful. I made a cocktail from Shaker & Spoon last night for my birthday. It featured blood orange chili juice, and it was insanely good. I love a spicy drink, Amanda, as you know. I am ride or die when it comes to jalapeno margaritas and stuff like that, and this was perfect because the chili had a hint of cinammoniness to it, and it just worked so well for the Halloween spirit of me going for my birthday to a haunted house and a corn maze.
Amanda: Hell yeah, you did, Jules. Your brand is strong. But I am not super into spicy drinks, and I would never order a jalapeno margarita at a bar, because I don't know if I'm going to like it or not, but with Shaker & Spoon, I can use their adorable, tiny little bottles of syrups and bitters, because they send you exactly enough supplies to make a bunch of different kinds of cocktails for one type of spirit.
So, you can try it and see if you like it. They get world class bartenders to make three custom cocktail recipes and then send you enough supplies to make four drinks of each, so that means 12 custom cocktails that you make right in your house for you or for a party. There's so many ways that you can enjoy Shaker & Spoon.
Julia: It is a perfect party box to enjoy, so you can save it for a special occasion and then all your friends are there, and you make a bunch of cool cocktails, and everyone is super jealous.
Amanda: Seriously, I would come to anyone's Shaker & Spoon party. So, go to shakerandspoon.com/spirits for $20 off your first box.
Julia: Yeah, again, that is shakerandspoon.com/spirits for $20 off your first box. And, I think, now that we've refilled on our delicious, delicious October Freak beer, it's time to get back to the story.
Amanda: We're here at McGillin's Ale House. You guys actually reached out to us on Twitter. We were talking to our listeners about how we were excited to come to Philly and if anybody had Philly urban legends that we should check out. They let us know about you, and then you guys DM'd us, and we were like, "Oh my god. Wait, can we come interview you and come visit your haunted pub?"
Julia: Yeah. I was like, "Oh, this is awesome. Perfect."
Amanda: So, please, Chris, tell us who you are and a bit about where we're sitting.
Chris: Sure. Well, my name is Chris Mullens. I'm on of the owners of McGillin's Old Ale House. I own it with my parents. They've been here since the early 90s, and I've been here for just a little over 10 years. As you saw from the DM, we're the oldest bar, but we also like to dabble in technology and social media, and try to stay as relevant as possible.
Julia: We appreciate that.
Chris: Well, we want to find out who's coming to Philly and why, and how can we get them to visit.
Amanda: That must have been a staggering change in the last 10 years in particular, how to market and be a restaurant in existence in this day and age.
Chris: Well, you know what, it's funny. Most restaurants don't live long enough to get to the next new tech wave.
Amanda: Especially nowadays, when it just turns over so quick.
Chris: I was laughing with one of our bartenders last night. She said, "What is this?" She found an old stack of papers in a drawer. I said, "Oh, that's what we used to use before we had computers here." So, it's funny. Just 20 years ago, things were manual, and then now we're using internet and digital and Instagram.
Julia: Or the old credit card machines that you don't-
Chris: Well, we have them. That's the irony.
Julia: Yeah, just in case your stuff goes out.
Chris: It's like when young people such as yourself look at rotary phones. It's the same thing. The old swipers, people say, "What is that? How do I use this?"
Amanda: They're pretty ingenious though. It's like a fax machine but right then, and manual, to be able to press it.
Chris: And it's fool proof. So, knock on wood, it's never happened where we've had total failure, but it's there just in case.
Julia: I've worked in restaurants where there has been total failure, so I'm just like, "Ugh!" In my heart, it hurts.
Amanda: So, can you give us the 60 second origin story of McGillin's?
Chris: Sure. It takes a lot longer than 60 seconds, but I'll try.
Amanda: We'll take it. We have time.
Julia: Amanda's drinking the real ale from-
Amanda: The House of Ale. It's delicious. I love it.
Chris: Yeah. That's great.
Julia: I got watermelon Kolsch because I am nothing but a cliché.
Chris: Exactly. Well, no, that's good. And the ale is made by Stout's Brewery, which is a local brewery, and your beer is from River Horse.
Julia: River Horse! I love River Horse.
Chris: Yeah, which is close to New York. But anyway, McGillin's was founded in 1860 by William McGillin. He was an Irish immigrant and got into the business that most Irishmen do best, and that's the bar business. He set up a little pub here on Drury Street, which, it's your first time in Philly. Even when you're from Philly, most people have never heard of Drury Street. It's just a tiny one block alley in the center of Philadelphia.
Julia: It is very cute. For our listeners who are not here, it is very cute.
Chris: It's really tucked into this little bit of bustling Carter here. He set it up as his home and a little pub. As his business succeeded and grew, his family grew as well, and he began to expand. He bought the properties on either side of the building, built up and raised 13 children here.
Julia: That sounds like your family.
Amanda: Yeah, my dad's one of 11.
Chris: So, yeah, imagine in a little tiny row home back here.
Amanda: I can't. I visit my grandmother's house back in Galway Island, and it was a three room cottage, stone like you would see.
Chris: I was just in Galway a month and a half ago, so I can totally picture.
Amanda: She's just outside Galway.
Chris: I can totally picture the conditions.
Amanda: Yeah, her and eight or nine brothers and sisters in a stone cottage that is now condemned. But even in the height of luxury, this is not enough room for nine bodies to lay down.
Julia: No, not at all.
Amanda: It's crazy.
Chris: No, it's totally true. Somehow, they did it, and we're probably better off for it, you know?
Chris: Big family.
Amanda: It's a very, very cute little place. We're really glad to be here.
Chris: And it sustained itself over all these years, which is great. But he ran it until 1901, and when we talk about technology, he died cleaning up after workmen just installed the first central heating system in the city, so even back then we were always trying to stay a step ahead and institute new technologies into the business.
Julia: That's so cool.
Amanda: So, how do your parents come into the bar owning business?
Chris: Well, the McGillin family operated it until 1958, and my grandfather worked in the DA's office around the corner and was moonlighting here a bit. He got the inside scoop that it was for sale and he and his brother jumped at the chance. The rest is history.
Julia: That's so cool.
Amanda: Yeah, that kind of thing sounds like such a pipe dream when you're not in it, but then, to see people that actually make it happen, that's really amazing. We talk about owning a cheese shop/speakeasy/book store one day.
Chris: Oh, that's fun.
Amanda: Maybe it'll actually happen.
Julia: Yeah, that'd be nice.
Chris: It's diversified. Cheese, wine, books. You got a lot of it covered there. That's good.
Julia: In New York, that's kind of like everything is something plus a bunch of other things.
Amanda: Yeah, night time turns into a little wine bar.
Julia: That's the dream.
Amanda: So, what are some of the stories and legends around McGillin's?
Chris: You know, there's all kinds of, nothing you could write a novel about, but we have our ghost stories. There's some fun little things. Probably the one thing that I skipped over a bit is that, when William McGillin died in 1901, his wife, Catherine, took over, and she was a force to be reckoned with. She was very famous here in Philadelphia.
Being a woman in the early 1900s, owning a pretty famous bar for decades, almost 40 years, and getting it through prohibition. You weren't allowed to vote, but she somehow owned a bar. She really was an awesome person that was highly respected in the city. So, that is always worth mentioning.
Amanda: If I were her, I can just imagine looking at a rowdy patron and being like, "I raised 13 children. Get out of here."
Chris: Well, you're absolutely right, and that's the thing. The sign is downstairs where any kind of loud talking, singing-
Julia: I pointed that out to Amanda when we were downstairs.
Amanda: No political discussion, right?
Chris: Yes, that's correct. That's right, political and religious was totally banned, and they always said that her flag list read like the social registry here in Philadelphia, so it was kind of a badge of honor to get put on it, but she was quick to add your name if you've misbehaved, so she's a cool woman.
Julia: She seems like my kind of gal.
Chris: Yeah, she's pretty awesome, and she also took what William McGillin built, which was these three little row homes, which were pretty ramshackled, and not anything fancy, and rebuilt this building to look pretty much as it does today. So, she also left her legacy structurally as well, too, so the design of it was hers, too.
Julia: That's awesome, just from an architectural standpoint.
Amanda: So, it feels historical. Gorgeous ceilings and wooden beams, and a wonderful, long bar with ornate woodwork. It feels like such a destination. You just step in here and it's a bit out of time.
Chris: And that's part of it, too. We work hard to keep things feeling as authentic as possible. But behind the scenes, keeping things as modern as possible, too.
Amanda: Exactly, it's a healthy balance, I think.
Chris: And you have to. If we let things just go, which is easy, naturally, when you have something that's been going on forever and it's pretty successful. Let's rest on our laurels. But we're always working to improve.
Julia: I really appreciate that.
Amanda: Kind of like Disney, where the more effortless and magical-
Chris: We're just like Disney.
Amanda: And bubbly it seems on the outside, that means the harder people are working on the back ends to make stuff happen.
Chris: That's true. But anyway, there are lots of little stories, and being that you're New York, I was impressed. About a year ago, I discovered a story that made the New York Times front page, and that was when the building that's just down the street, the Keystone building, was being built. The son and the owner, Thomas, and the head bartender, Joe, went in, broke into the building when it was under construction, and were fooling around in the newly installed vault, and Thomas locked Joseph in the vault. It was a story, you talk about legends, that's an awesome, crazy story that I never would have heard about. It was kind of lost in history.
Julia: Did he make it out?
Chris: He did. But they had to put an air vent into the vault and had to feed him water through this little tube. He was stuck in there at least overnight.
Julia: Like a hamster cage.
Amanda: That is wild.
Chris: Yeah, and that was right down the street and the building's being renovated now, so it's kind of an interesting, timely story, as well.
Amanda: You hope no one else gets stuck in there.
Chris: Exactly, watch out for that. It'll happen.
Amanda: Or at least will have cell reception if they're inside.
Julia: One would hope. Inside a safe, you never know.
Chris: Right. You might run out of air, but that's okay. Just don't run out of signal. Don't lose your signal.
Julia: To call for help, not to play Pokemon Go.
Chris: Okay. Alright. But anyway, we do have our fair share of ghosts here, as well.
Amanda: I want to hear everything you know about every single one of them. Please.
Chris: Oh, really?
Amanda: Yes, this is our total thing.
Chris: So, the one common story that has happened time and time again for 50, 60 years is the Lady in White. It's, we believe, is Ma McGillin, Catherine McGillin. She was first seen in the 50s or 60s by one of my grandfather's best friends, and the manager of the bar. She insisted that she saw this woman in a flowing white dress walking through the room.
I don't know if I ever was a real believer, per se, but then we did have a paranormal group come through, and they did all the video and the sound overnight. They captured this image of the lady in white.
Julia: Think one of your people tweeted at us the other day, and it's a really impressive photo, actually.
Chris: It is, and it's wild because, again, whether you're a believer or a non-believer, no one had ever heard that story before. So, it wasn't until we saw this picture and we were talking about it, and my mom was like, who is so not a believer, "Gosh, I think there was that story that there was this lady in white," and it was just an odd resurgence of that story.
Amanda: Yeah, like the pieces coming together.
Julia: Memory fails so often, so when something triggers it, it's so interesting.
Chris: I know! And then, when you see that, and I can show you the way it was captured. I don't know how they did it. It had to have been real.
Amanda: Something, yeah.
Julia: We can include that photo in the notes of this podcast for people to look at.
Chris: And then we've had lots of other stories and other groups that have come through, and they have definitely had all the technological
Amanda: Detectors and stuff.
Julia: Detectors. All that Ghost Busters stuff.
Chris: And then our staff, too, have of course encountered different stories, and that was mainly down in the basement. But I think, personally, the basement ghosts are William McGillin.
Amanda: Hanging out down there.
Chris: Well, he died here cleaning up after the workmen, and they constantly are seeing a man. It's never a woman in the basement.
Amanda: And maybe, I don't know, they've been together for a long time, so maybe they want a little bit of space in the afterlife.
Julia: They could be partners, yeah. They got to watch over their business. I understand that.
Amanda: Any other stories come to mind?
Chris: There's nothing outwardly special about McGillin's that will blow people's minds. I think what it is, is that we've survived the test of time. We've been here for V Day and we've been here through prohibition, and we've been here through every president since Abraham Lincoln. So, it's that continuity of history and that we're here.
And it's two families that have run it, and no generation has ever made it bigger than what it is. We're a bar here in center city and we are family-owned, and we've always been family-operated. It's just a place where you bring your kids, you come in and you hang out.
Julia: It's tradition.
Chris: It's tradition. It's funny. People come back and they'll be like, say, in their 60s, and they'll say, "Oh, my gosh, the place is getting so young. When I was here back in the 60s, it was never like this." And I'm like, "You were the same age!"
Amanda: You were the same age, though, in the 60s!
Chris: Exactly! So, we always are a place where we cater to young people. Right in this area here, we have Jefferson, which is a medical school, and Drexel, and Penn. Philadelphia's a rich college life here. And then, you graduate and you hang out here, Happy Hour. And then you meet, hopefully, your mate here.
Amanda: Your future spouse.
Julia: Yeah, bring your kids.
Chris: And then you bring your kids.
Julia: Kid's graduation.
Chris: And then it all starts right over again. That's, I think, why McGillin's is so popular with so many people in Philadelphia. It is very generational, and those kinds of traditions.
But then we also have the green beer on St. Patrick's Day, and New Years Day here in Philadelphia is a very big day. The Mummers Parade, so it's kind of like our version of Mardi Gras.
Julia: That's so cool.
Chris: Yeah, so we'll have lines down the street. It's a huge celebration.
Amanda: Well that, I think, is a story worth telling.
Chris: Yeah, I think so. And, again, I don't know how it interests. When we're here day in and day out, you sometimes wonder. It's a hard business to be in, but I think having those multi-generations coming through is the thing that always tells us we're doing a good job.
Julia: And a good place with a good history will always survive, I think.
Chris: I think so. And we keep the prices low. You being in New York, you probably don't blink at $8 beers.
Julia: That's about right.
Amanda: That's about right, yeah.
Chris: Here in Philly, people get excited about anything over $6, and for us, our prices pretty much top out at five, so keeping the prices low.
Amanda: Yeah. Welcoming everybody in, it seems.
Chris: Yeah. We try. We try to be as hospitable and welcoming as we can be. And like I said, there's behind the scenes, we're busting the kitchen, making food from scratch and we have a big staff working behind the scenes to keep this place running. We can see over my shoulder here, the HVAC is getting worked on, on a hot day like today.
Amanda: Well it's nice and cool on a humid summer day.
Julia: Yeah, we really appreciate that. We walked in and were like, "Oh, thank god."
Amanda: Thank goodness. Is it the ghost or is it the air conditioning? Who knows? It doesn't matter.
Julia: It doesn't matter, we'll take it.
Chris: On your way down, I also want to point out that we also have a lot of nice artifacts, too, about Philadelphia, and that's another thing, I think, that brings people in.
Amanda: Yeah, what a rich history in terms of cities. There are few with more history than Philadelphia.
Julia: Yes, honestly.
Chris: I think, yeah. People ask us, "Did Ben Franklin drink here?" I said, "We weren't founded until 1860, so he was kind of long gone."
Julia: So probably not. Wasn't everything before World War II founding father times? Is that not how that works?
Chris: Okay, I'll go with that.
Julia: All ghosts are Civil War ghosts. You know.
Chris: That's funny.
Amanda: We have this running joke on the show where it's like, we always hear about ghosts in Victorian nightgowns and ghosts in Civil War uniforms, but where was the 1980s ghost in parachute pants?
Julia: Where it's like jeans ghosts?
Amanda: Are there no new ghosts?
Chris: You're absolutely right.
Amanda: What's happening here?
Chris: We'll have to start cultivating them.
Amanda: Yeah, you'll have to let us know if you have any 90s and 80s ghosts.
Julia: Old iPod on the bar.
Chris: Michael Jackson's been hanging out in a corner with Whitney.
Julia: It's a sweet tune over in the corner.
Amanda: Yeah, I think people romanticize the stories that they were told when they were kids, so we're sort of a generation removed from what we think of as the far past, so that's kind of my hypothesis.
Julia: Yeah, that's it.
Chris: Yeah, that's interesting. That's funny.
Amanda: Cool. Well, thank you so much for welcoming us into your pub, into your story and history, and for giving us some delicious ale.
Julia: I appreciate it.
Amanda: Folks visiting Philadelphia, make sure that's stop #1, McGillin's.