Imagine you’re a spirit, disembodied from your mortal coil and not yet sure where you’re supposed to be, heaven or otherwise. Where would you choose to dwell?
For my money, I’d bet that a buzzy restaurant, lively bar or vanilla-scented bakery could be attractive places for a lonely or curious ghost to hang. And so it seems to be inside some Long Island food and drink establishments. Behind the gothic pomp and kitsch of Halloween are a litany of unexplained sights and sounds — doors and drawers opening on their own, names are uttered in an empty room, translucent figures walking through walls, unseen fingers ruffling hair. The epicenter for such mysterious goings-on, I’ve discovered over years of collecting such stories, can be bars, cafes, bakeries and restaurants.
“I ignored it,” said Gerard Fioravanti of the first time he heard his name called inside his Huntington bakery, Fiorello Dolce. When unexplained episodes persisted — tools and cake boards being moved intelligently by invisible hands, white figures snaking around corners seen (or voices heard) by every member of staff — Fioravanti eventually accepted that he probably had spirits lurking around the pastry. “Things have been flying around for six years,” added Fioravanti, who is writing a book about the experience.
It could be that the very things that businesses do to attract mortal customers, whether filling cases with croissants or pouring pints of IPA, attract a different kind of regular, those who can’t pay in currency but appreciate the vibes. Author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky is a historian who constantly encountered tales of ghosts while researching local history, so much so that a few of her nine books have now been devoted to Long Island’s ghost stories. “Any place can be haunted, or as I prefer to say, have ghosts or spirits,” said Brosky, who conducts much of her on-the-ground research alongside paranormal investigator Joe Giaquinto, and also deep dives into historical records to verify names and events. “Although [ghosts] are commonly found in many historical homes and structures, spirits are always among us and will find ways to communicate with us, even in an upscale bakery, restaurant of other eatery.”
As a writer, I’ve had my own entanglement with ghosts: First, while working and living in a 14th century pub in rural England, and later while periodically jotting down stories of haunted inns and restaurants while working as a food writer in New England. Exploring the same territory on Long Island has brought me to some arresting places and their purported ghosts, such as the spirit of a pretty Revolutionary-War-era teenager who haunts a Stony Brook restaurant to the man in a derby hat who walks through doors in a Smithtown bar and a let’s-flick-the-lights-all-night young woman (possibly) at a Massapequa Park frozen-yogurt shop.
For each of the places listed here, there are an equal number I could not include — either because the business did not want to be named, or the building is not currently open to the public (such as the 20-era Normandie Inn in Bohemia or the former DEKS American Bistro in Rocky Point). For now, here are the stories behind five of the food industry’s current haunts.
57 Wall St., Huntington.
This petite Huntington bakery can feel like an oasis, with jazz playing, cases filled with croissants (or frenagels) and heady baking aromas swirling around. When baker Gerard Fioravanti first opened Fiorello Dolce in 2006, he didn’t believe in ghosts — but his house spirits had other plans, yelling his name out of the blue one day as he walked out of the walk-in. A few months later, he was baking blueberry muffins when he saw “a white figure,” go around a corner. “I froze. [and thought,] what the hell was that?”
Ever since, unexplained sounds, sights and moving objects and been experienced by everyone who works here, from drawers opening on their own to carts rolling across the floor or buckets falling or spatulas moving across the counter on their own, as well as audible sighs and whistles. Some of this Fioravanti captures on his nest surveillance system, including geometric light forms zipping around the bakery in the middle of the night. Early one morning not too long ago, an iPad turned on by itself, and the keyboard seems to have invisible fingers skipping forward through a few songs until it reached New Order’s “Blue Monday,” which is then turned way up. “Almost every day,” something happens, Fioravanti said, and over the years he has brought in mediums and paranormal investigators, some of whom have interpreted various male spirits, including one who was murdered on the spot in the early 1980s, likely in a creepy alley that runs out the back of the bakery and that Fioravanti refuses to go into. The strip of shops where Fiorello Dolce sits, on Wall Street north of downtown, is in an area that was once swampy and had its share of roadhouses, in the early 20th century. "In the case of Fiorello Dolce bakery in Huntington, the kitchen appears to be like a vortex for spirits,” said Brosky. “Spirits from the past, along with employees own family members and friends like to pop in and make their presence known.”
Swirls & Twirls
5270 Sunrise Hwy., Massapequa.
Wedged between a Panera Bread and a Dress Barn, Swirls & Twirls appears to be your average frozen yogurt shop, with a bank of self-serve machines and cheerful pastel décor. Late at night, though, the mood shifts, said assistant manager Nickolas Cimino, who every few days scours the machines from the 10 p.m. close until about 2 a.m. On his TikTok account, Cimino began uploading footage of lights flickering wildly, pendant lamps swinging and objects falling or being flung of their own volition. He said that almost every member of staff has similar stories. “Stuff falls all the time, and it’s been happening so long that we’re all used to it,” said Cimino. Light bulbs blow out constantly, and some of the staff have heard “a really beautiful singing voice, like Billie Eilish,” but one not attached to anyone tangible. What is concrete at Swirls & Twirls serves is the excellent cold-brew gelato, made in house at a sister location in Oceanside.
135 W. Gate Dr., Huntington
One night last year while having dinner at the decidedly gothic Oheka Castle, built in 1919, I left the table to go to the bathroom. As I dried my hands, there was a hard and fast rap at the door. “One second,” I called. When I opened the door a few beats later, no one was there, and the hallway was empty in each direction. I felt slightly creeped out but figured that whoever knocked had simply left quickly. Then the same thing happened to my dining companion, from hard knock to empty doorway. Later, I found out that staff at the castle have for years reported seeing or hearing ghosts. According to Brosky’s “Historic Haunts of Long Island,” worker Scott Bellando heard someone playing piano so he followed the sound, and the music suddenly stopped. When he looked in, no one was there. Another employee, Maryellen Kobrin, said she once felt someone tug at her arm, which sent her purse crashing to the floor.
Katie’s of Smithtown
145 W. Main St., Smithtown.
This bar next to the Smithtown LIRR station is situated on a plot that has served multiple purposes since the late 1800s: As a hospital, a hotel (which burned down in 1909) and a store. Now, as an elegant Irish-esque bar, it’s both a vortex for live music and for spectral activity, so much of the latter that various paranormal investigators have descended here over the years. Katie’s was featured on an episode of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” A&E’s “The Paranormal State,” and elsewhere. Much of the activity seems to center in the basement, where’s there’s a second bar and a pool table but also a creepy stairwell that owner Brian Karppinen said he once fell backward down after slamming the door at the top — and hands caught his shoulders and held him upright. Some staffers have seen a male figure in a derby hat walk into the men’s restroom, or felt invisible childrens’ hands reach for theirs. While the main ghost has been dubbed Charlie, Karppinen said there seems to be an array of ever-shifting spirits, and video posted on YouTube shows things such as an orb zipping around the bar and a soda gun floating on its own.
1175 N. Country Rd., Smithtown.
This stately colonial house looms on a hill above a kink in Route 25a, as if watching over the road. And in a way, it does, or maybe someone does; a few visitors and passersby have reported seeing the resident ghost here, a blonde teenager named Annette Williamson, in the upstairs window of this 1710 house. Apparently Annette has dwelled here since being murdered in the house just after the Revolutionary War — possibly for being wrongly accused as a Loyalist — or so it was told to owner Bob Williamstyn before he and others found her grave in the woods behind the place. Willemstyn worked at the Country House for decades before buying Country House in 2005, and he, his employees and regulars seem almost unstirred by the constant stream of ghostly goings-on here, from orbs of light shifting around the bar to purses moving on their own and even, when I visited, unseen fingers stroking my friend’s hair. Whether or not you see or feel a spirit — my bet is that you will at least feel unsettled — Willemstyn decorates the atmospheric Country House to the nines for Halloween, so there is plenty of visual candy to explore, as well as a mean cheeseburger and plenty of Scotch for chatting all things supernatural.