This time last year, we were constructing 10-foot candy chutes to avoid contact with trick-or-treaters. Now, pandemic mitigation measures are loosening, but I still can’t think of anything scarier than a Halloween pub crawl. Drawing on a pair of whiskers only to have a sweaty bro in an inflatable Pikachu costume slosh his pickleback shooter down my crop top? Watching anonymous finance professionals cram their tongues down one another’s throats while a “Monster Mash” EDM remix plays on repeat? Discussing The Exorcist with a grown man dressed in a “sexy ghost” costume that involves a visible jock strap? No, no, no. All bad.
This year, I’d like to suggest an alternative course of action: ditch the Halloween party scene for a significantly less germy, more historic alternative. This year, I recommend drinking with the dead.
In my famously creepy opinion, visiting a haunted dive bar is one of the best ways to get to know a city. Don’t believe in ghosts? Doesn’t matter; you can still benefit from the history, the tradition, and the little thrill that comes with blowing your nose in a centuries-old bathroom with a mysterious red stain on the ceiling.
Haunted bars are easy to find. Just sidle up to the dive of your choice and listen for anguished wails from within. If you’re lucky, the wails are coming from actual ghosts and not just from a drunken retired steel salesman who fell off of a rickety stool. Either way, once you’re inside, be sure to make conversation with the bartender. If the bartender is a ghost, the conversation should go like this:
You, the patron: So, how long have you been working here?
Bartender: It’s been... 80... yeeeeears.........
If you’re new to the haunted bar scene, I have a few suggestions. First, if you live in the Midwest, consider a sojourn to Shaker’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This former mafia hangout is considered one of the nation’s most haunted bars; plus, they’ve got pizza. If you’re located near Takeout headquarters in Chicago, I recommend cruising to The Red Lion Pub, a cozy pub with a number of genteel spirits. If you’re in the mood for a rowdier time, head over to L&L Tavern or Liar’s Club, both of which have murderous associations. Finally, if you’re on the east coast, check out Rockafellas in Salem, Massachusetts home to a famously sinister minister.
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No matter where you end up, any good dive has its share of ghouls, living or dead—and they’ve all got stories to tell. And don’t forget to tip, lest the bartender haunt you for all eternity.