Prerogative Fall 2020 - Page 11

It’s no wonder Smith has lots to tell about Mercer County. And some of her best tales involve ghosts. “The first thing that happened in my restaurant?” she muses. “A customer came to me and asked if I had a dining room upstairs. She had heard lots of laughter and people coming up and down the steps.” This was news to Smith. Her restaurant, a former house, had upper floors, but these were closed to guests. Still, the customer was adamant. “They were having a real good time!” she declared. Smith filed this away and didn’t give the matter any consideration. But late one night, after closing the restaurant, she sat in her car. It had been a long, demanding day, and Smith let her thoughts wander. As she composed herself, her gaze settled on the side of the house. What Smith saw remains fixed in her memory. “There was a light from the window, and I literally saw the curtain rising up, then down,” she says. Then, lights turned on upstairs. Had someone snuck inside? Smith and her staff returned to the restaurant early the next morning, expecting to find stolen items. Nothing was missing. “We thought, ‘That’s really weird,’” Smith recounts. Things became even more mysterious. During their search, they found a flower arrangement on steps leading to the basement. The feminine touch inspired Smith to call the ghost “Mary.” Things settled down for the most part. Almost every night, though, the foyer door would creak open around 9 or 9:15 p.m. “I increasingly had the perception that the ghost— or ghosts— were checking to see if we were still there,” Smith said, noting that this happened after closing hours. Once, a family arrived just before 9 p.m. The young daughter fretted about missing her favorite show about ghosts. Smith was only too happy to share stories about the restaurant’s haunted residents. Another child, a boy, remained unconvinced. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” he insisted. Just then, the foyer door creaked open. “How did you do that?!” exclaimed an older lady, turning to Smith. The young boy instantly changed his tune. “I didn’t say I didn’t believe in them!” At other times, the ghosts were more active. Once, while entering the attic, a waitress heard a harsh, low voice telling her to leave. She quit that very day. At another time, Smith’s adult daughter felt something grip her arm with surprising force. One of the customers had an alarming experience, too. Smith remembers when an older man approached her one afternoon. “You know, this place is haunted,” he informed her, looking strained. The gentleman had been in the bathroom. When he tried to leave, the door wouldn’t Prerogative Magazine 9