I’m a bit of an anomaly; I started drinking coffee at nine, didn’t like cake till my late teens, and routinely wear authentic Disney Princess dresses (except on Halloween of course), so it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to the unusual.
My latest offbeat obsession is restaurants. That is to say, haunted restaurants. And, to my delight, there is no shortage of them right here in Connecticut!
Actually, my fascination with “haunted haunts” started a bit further south than The Nutmeg State. (I’m aware the official state nickname is The Constitution State but I like ‘The Nutmeg State’ better). In The Most Magical Place on Earth, interestingly enough. Or, rather, the adult version of it.
Yes folks, once upon a time Disney World had an adult version (how else would parents survive a week of tinny music and high pitched voices without killing someone?) and it was, appropriately enough, called Pleasure Island and it’s where I turned 21.
Once on the island (after going through two ID checkpoints) there were dozens of ways to get into troub, I mean, entertain yourself but I made a bee line for a place called The Adventurer’s Club, compelled by the backlit shadows against the neon strip.
I was not disappointed; The Adventurer’s Club was weird central! Victorian meets vaudeville, with self playing pianos, bar stools that rose and fell like the tide, a creepy library, and ghosts in the mirror! This could not only be a Florida thing. There had to be other eateries with….unconventional amenities. And so I found myself at Captain Daniel’s Inne in Mystic.
Approaching at sunset it’s easy to imagine this place as an Inne of yesteryear, a midsize country farmhouse with soft glowing windows offering rest for the weary traveler, but that is where the time traveling experience ends. Inside, The Daniel Packard Inne is a shining example of how far the restaurant industry has come; a menu that should simply read ‘The best New England has to offer’, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and just enough kitsch to make you to wonder what else they’ve got up their sleeve.
I don’t know about their sleeves but in their kitchen the owner is constantly observing, making sure everything is perfect for his customers. And when I say owner I’m not talking about a member of the Kiley family (who purchased the Inne in 1979 and are still running the place), I’m talking about Captain Daniel Packer himself. You see, the thing is, when you work to create something you become attached to it, it changes who you are and replaces the old you with a much better version. When you pour your soul into something, it’s not easily surrendered. I imagine this is why Captain Packer never really left his beloved Inne, though I’m not sure it explains why mugs and glasses move (seemingly) on their own. Perhaps the Captain disagrees with the staff as to their proper place? After all, if you want something done right, you simply have to do it yourself, dead or not.
And then there’s Aida, Captain Packer’s precocious niece. Aida is known for hanging out in stairwells and bathrooms which I assume comes from her love of Harry Potter. All of us Potter fans see themselves as a specific character and, apparently Aida is Moaning Myrtle (ironic much?). Personally I think I’m most like…wait! Did Harry Potter exist in the 1870s? No? Well there goes that theory…
Aida Bryan Clift tragically died at seven years old in her bedroom on the second floor of what is now the Daniel Packer Inne of Scarlet Fever leading some people to believe her spirit is forever tethered to the property. No one knows why this happens; some people theorize that spirits tend to linger in places where they once felt comfortable and safe, others believe the spirits stick around because they have an agenda…
And miss Aida definitely has an agenda! Everyone at the inne has stories to tell about the fun loving kid who fills the inne with disembodied laughter, runs through rooms for no apparent reason, waves at people from her bedroom window, causing them to inquire about the cute little girl (which is a great way to attract business if you ask me), and initiates games of hide and seek with children visiting the restaurant (If you’re a ghost playing hide and seek, isn’t that, sort of, cheating?). As for the stairwell and bathrooms? I suppose during a game of hide and seek, the bathroom is as good a place as any to hide, in fact it’s kind of brilliant when you consider it might take the other kid a few minutes to think of checking there cause who hides in a bathroom? A seven year old whose had 147 years to practice! And, obviously, the stairwell is the ideal place for the jump scare. You don’t even need a haunted inne with a seven year old ghost to realize this, a dark stairwell and an annoying sibling (or a cat) will do just fine. Imagine how much fun it would be to wait in a dark stairwell for an unsuspecting person. And if that person happens to have an armful of…anything? Hilarious!
If you’re looking for a place where you instantly feel like you belong, where you can’t tell a tourist from a local (because their all tipsy and wearing DPI patriotic skull t-shirts (it’s a skull wearing a Yankee Doodle top hat, what would you call it?), where you are invited to grab a chair and a drink not only by the current staff…but by the (original) owner as well! If your lucky you might even be invited to a game of hide and seek, which, for the record, you’re never too old for…