Haunted Places: Charlie Brown's Steakhouse, Hackettstown, NJ
In 2006, my mother and I attended the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society annual ghost conference in Hackettstown, NJ. In addition to visiting the Washington Theater (abandoned for thirty years but recently restored to it's former glory) we were also granted access to a historic building that had been turned into a Charlie Brown's Steakhouse. The restaurant, which is over 250 years old, once served as a hotel and, prior to that, a brothel. The entire property is a hotbed of paranormal activity, due in part to the array of people and personalities that passed through it's door over the years. A man is said to have committed suicide on the land by hanging himself from a tree that used to stand out in the front yard. Only two of the three floors are open to the public (the first floor is the restaurant, the second floor is a banquet area) and we were expressly forbidden by the NJGHS group leader to enter the third floor. Did we go up anyway? You bet we did! A few of us made friends with the hostess, who in turn got permission from the manager, and we headed up. Locals make the absolute best tour guides. As we headed up the stairs, she told us the story of a woman who used to frequent the building when it was a brothel. She regularly rented out the red room at the end of the hall, the only one that had an adjoining bathroom. Legend has it that she used to bring her toddler son with her and lock him in the bathroom while she entertained her johns. He would wail endlessly, frightened, begging his mother to let him out. One day, the woman had just finished bathing when her client arrived early. She had no time to drain the water, and her son ended up drowning in the bathtub. The story gets sketchy at this point, but either the woman was so bereft that she drowned herself, too, or she abandoned his body in the brothel and left immediately, never to return. The ghost of the little boy is said to inhabit the building, still crying out for his mother, and still searching for her after all these years. So you can imagine our shock and surprise when we reviewed our audio recording and discovered we had picked up the voice of a child saying, "Mommy". (Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to it!)
The entire third floor, with it's twisty architecture and haphazard layout, is incredibly spooky. The closets and doorways are tiny, the wallpaper is peeling, and there are several doors that open to a wall and stairwells that lead nowhere. But the red room is a virtual death sentence. Intense stomach pains grip anyone who passes through there, myself and my mother included. In the hallway there have been reports of a man wearing a tall hat being seen near the exit sign, and the figure of a small child has been spotted running from room to room. Nearly all the employees we talked to have experienced the sounds of distinct, heavy footsteps coming from the third floor when they knew for a fact no one was up there. Voices both joyous and sorrowful have been heard emanating from the end of the hall. With such a long and sordid history, it's no wonder that the steakhouse is one of New Jersey's most haunted places.