A late night in a Little Italy bar. The last of the thirsty patrons have gone home, the taps drained, and the waitresses have counted their tips and left before the sun rises over the city. A lone bartender locks the doors and finishes his evening tasks of wiping down the bar and tables, turning stools, and mopping the floors. From down the stairs in the liquor storage closet, he hears a sound, faint laughter from below. Perhaps there is someone left in the bar, he thinks. He walks toward the stairs and calls out, but the only response is the laughter growing steadily louder. At once he feels cold, the flesh on his neck creeping. The laughing presence passes through and past him, leaving him gasping for breath. He turns, his every intention to run out into the street, but he?s stopped by glasses leaping off the shelves at him. He screams, and as suddenly as it began, the attack stops, leaving only the sound of fading laughter.
There are no rules as to what causes a haunting. Deaths of passion only make up a small portion of the restless souls that seem to remain earthbound. Others include those who simply went before their time or were murdered in cold blood. Some, however, are caused by accidents made no less tragic by their strange circumstances. An historic building may have seen its share of strangeness in its lifespan, and no matter what service it currently provides, the walls don?t forget. Such is the case with the curiously named Dead Presidents Pub and Restaurant.
Little is known about the history of the 200-year-old building that now houses the Dead Presidents Pub and Restaurant. There is evidence to suggest it was once several separate buildings and households, joined together as the years went by. During its early years it was a common practice for rooms in houses to be converted into makeshift chapels by their residents, a fact that is evident by the ornate carving of Christ in what is now the basement storage room.
Over the years the building has been many things, including homes and at least one bar, without any mention of any kind of activity. There are no historical records of any sort of tragedy, either natural or man-made, occurring on the grounds of the building for much of its life. All that changed, however, in the late 1960s.
Though details are sketchy, it seems that Dead Presidents is not the first bar to set up shop in the building. Another bar once existed with a curiously regular patron who went by the name of “Lemonade” Mullery. A practical joker, Mullery enjoyed tossing things at waitresses and playing pranks on the other patrons. While such behavior might have gotten any other patron escorted to the alley, those that frequented the bar held Mullery in high regard.
Tragedy occurred one day, setting the scene of this strange haunting. Mullery, after spending a great deal of time in the bar drinking, went down the stairs to the bathroom. Lore has it that he slipped on a puddle of urine and fell, breaking his neck. It was not until 1997 that brothers Michael and Stephen Lucey opened Dead Presidents Pub and Restaurant in the old building ? with interesting times to follow.
Whether the story of “Lemonade” Mullery is true or not is open to debate, but there can be no denying that something still lurks in the bar. Those that work there gave the prankster the name, figuring it had to be him.
Waitresses and waiters often report the sound of screaming coming from down the stairs, leading to the area where Mullery supposedly died. More frightening, however, is the occasional muffled giggle that originates from the same area. There are reports that the giggle often erupts into peels of laughter as the victim’s fear increases.
His most interesting – and terrifying – trick is to throw things at the staff. Dishes, glasses, dominoes, ashtrays, and any other thing conceivable have been reportedly used against the living in this restaurant, giving the place a strange but interesting appeal.
The Dead Presidents Pub and Restaurant is open year-round, serving food and drink to any who darken its doorway. The staff puts on an annual golf tournament and has been involved in several community related activities, giving them a well-respected place in Wilmington. The staff is also very open about speaking of their resident specter. Still, the basement area does cause shivers down some employees’ spines. It could just be that the image of the praying Christ, left over from when the building was a home, blends in so well with the walls that one doesn’t immediately notice it. More than likely, it’s the stifled giggle that follows them down the stairs as they fetch another case of alcohol.
The prankster phantom usually is most noticeable after the restaurant is closed, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t active year-round. According to some of the wait-staff, Mullery is still playing pranks, throwing dishes and laughing at them behind their backs. It might be best to check their calendar and participate in one of their annual events so you can join in the festivities held afterward. Just don’t be surprised if the laughter you hear isn’t coming from the other patrons, but from the stairwell across the room.
Many thanks to Bill for providing information for this article!
See you in two weeks!