Portsmouth’s Historic Boneyfiddle area is known for its ghostly legends. Today’s streets still look up at the old buildings that have so many stories to tell.
Since walls can’t speak, local history enthusiast John Kelley has worked to gather these tales to share with the locals. With the opening of new eatery Patties & Pints, Kelley found a hunger for a haunting, explaining that more than one downtown restaurant may be home to phantoms of the past.
“ Here’s a shout out to an old friend of mine, Susan Rase O’Neil, owner of one of Portsmouth’s coolest eateries, the Market St Cafe,” Kelley began. “They not only have great food, but you can get a good variety of gifts too, including books by local authors. And they’ve got one other thing…ghosts.”
Kelley explained that the hauntings of the Market Street Cafe building date back to the 1800s.
“You could get more than a sandwich and soup,” Kelley explained about the building’s past. “You could get a good time for the night, a roll in the hay, a boudoir boogie. Like many buildings in “Little Chicago” (as Boneyfiddle was known) the Market Street Cafe was a house of ill repute.”
According to Kelley, a visit to the building’s second floor is a blast from the past, looking like it has not been touched since those old days.
“The rooms still have numbers,” Kelley added. “One room, number seven, or the ‘Yellow Room,’ seems to be the favorite of a happy, playful presence that is most often felt in the kitchen. She is thought to be one of the ‘Ladies of the Evening,’ and Room 7 is her personal spot.”
The ladies of the days when the downtown was home to bars and brothels are not alone, however. Kelley explained that there are some visitors that have hung around still looking for a good time.
“Another spirit, that of a handsome, arrogant, young dandy, provides a darker ambiance to the dining experience,” Kelley explained. “He was a frequent visitor, and his desires and demands grew until he was practically trying to run the place, earning the resentment of both staff and management. Then, one night, he crossed the line. After an evening of his usual antics he grew ill – violently ill. Fearing that he’d been poisoned, he tried to call for help. None came. He collapsed in a washroom and was left to die.”
Visitors now report a bad feeling in a small closet on the second floor, where they suspect his body many have been stored.
“Today, his presence is often signaled by a sense of weariness, while the Lady of Room 7 brings a feeling of unusual closeness between workers,” Kelley concluded.
Of course, Kelley did not mention Patties & Pints on the corner of Court and Second streets without reason. Diners at this new downtown hot spot may also experience some deadly disturbances.
“PATTIES AND PINTS Corner of Court and 2nd, Boneyfiddle’s newest restaurant began life as the Elk’s Building in 1891,” Kelley explained. “Designed by A.B. Agler, it was one of Little Chicago’s crown jewels, with a magnificent lodge room on the 4th floor.”
The haunted historian continued by explaining that the building has had a variety of uses over the years, including being used as a massage parlor, various shops and as an arts center.
“Today, in addition to burgers and booze, you can find some of the more interesting paranormal activity in town,” Kelley stated. “The most frequently reported activity is footsteps – heavy, stomping ones, coming up the back stairs and going through the halls.”
Kelley added that there is an old elevator in the building that has been told to run itself. Still, these disturbances may get the attention of employees but are far from all the building has to offer.
“[T]he most interesting haunting at Patties and Pints, and probably in all of Portsmouth, is a time slip/flashback phenomenon that has also been reported at the Gardens of Versailles in France and the basement of Pennsylvania Hall, Gettysburg College,” Kelley stated.
One legendary story of the restaurant’s building even gives a glimpse into Victorian Era Portsmouth.
“After the stomping footsteps, the next most reported phenomenon is sound of phonograph music that drifts from the upper floors,” Kelley said. “It’s so common most tend to ignore it, except of course, if you have an interest in the paranormal.”
According to Kelley, the story goes that a woman working in the building had heard the music many times. Finally, she decided to investigate.
“After hearing the music many many times, she decided to find its source and was greeted with quite a surprise on the 4th floor,” Kelley told. “The grand ballroom was filled with people in Victorian style clothing. Cigar smoke filled the air. Sounds came from behind every door. They were partying like it was 1899! Trying to take all this in, she began to walk around the room and then down the hall where a young man made eye contact. He smiled and vanished along with the whole party.”
Kelley is always eager to hear and share local ghost stories.
“As far as I know, this has been the only occurrence of this type at Patties and Pints, but if you know of any others, let me know. In fact, if you’ve any ghostly experiences in Boneyfiddle, drop by my FaceBook page “Haunted Boneyfiddle” and tell me all about it,” he urged.
In the meantime, if go out and get some dinner downtown, keep an eye out for a phantom figure from the past.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.