I sat in booth eight, waiting for something to happen.
It was gray and dreary outside, perpetually on the cusp of raining, while inside a life-sized cardboard cutout of James Dean grinned at me suggestively as "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass played on the jukebox. This is typical of Ohana's 1950s Diner, a place where the front door is really a portal into a different time.
I met Ohana's owner, Amanda Gonyea-Kelly, earlier that afternoon, and she explained that the place was home to more than a restaurant -- a couple of young men dressed in 1920's garb also resided within its walls. They're not tenants or customers, though. They're ghosts, apparitions that appear at seemingly random times and have a penchant for making sounds and tampering with objects and people.
Even though she said they aren't there anymore -- a trick a mysterious stranger told Amanda about worked in dispelling them -- I was still hoping some evidence of their presence lingered.
It sounds like ghosts in here
Amanda said it started when she and her husband, Mike, began renovating the place last year. As he was working in the attic, he heard voices and someone -- or something -- calling his name. Of course, no one was there. And like any good ghost story, that wasn't the end of it.
After Ohana's opened, Amanda's sister was cleaning the place after it closed one night when she saw the two young men in 1920's attire standing in the hallway that leads into the kitchen. She was terrified.
Amanda was having her own encounters, too. One day she felt someone quickly approaching her from behind -- she could feel their footsteps making the floor vibrate --but when she turned around no one was there. That was in the hallway where the bathroom doors are, which connects to the hallway that leads into the kitchen. On the way to the kitchen, there is a hatch in the ceiling that opens to the attic.
"A lot of the activity seems to be centered around the attic, in the bar and hallway area," Amanda said. "Maybe in the past, those two guys did live in the attic."
Amanda and Mike kept the experiences to themselves, but the ghosts didn't play along. After the diner opened, two servers had separate encounters. One day, Nicole was standing with her back to that hallway when she felt like someone was there. She turned and saw a well-dressed man hurriedly walking toward her.
"It looked like someone was running down the hallway really fast when I turned around," Nicole said. "He was tall and had dark hair. He looked kind of like a shadow, more of a shape than anything. I was always skeptical about that sort of thing until this place."
On a different occasion, April was standing in the hallway where Amanda saw the two apparitions, when she felt fingers run down her neck. It didn't seem malicious, but it's disturbing to feel something touch you, especially if no one is there.
"I hadn't heard about Nicole's happening, which I think was a couple of days prior," April said. "At first I thought a fly had landed on my neck, but it was different. It felt like fingers. It really freaked me out."
These weren't isolated incidents. Both women have seen and heard weird things while working at Ohana's. The jukebox and popcorn machines often turn themselves on and off, and Nicole's phone was once tossed from the top of the jukebox while she was working in the next room.
"The music stopped and I heard something hit the floor," Nicole said. "When I came into the room, my phone was in the middle of the floor, the screen was cracked, and the input jack was bent."
They walk among us
The occurrences are strange, and there only seems to be one plausible explanation: the place is haunted. Amanda, who grew up in a haunted house, said it's the kind of thing she's dealt with her entire life, so it wasn't a stretch for her to accept that her new business was home to ghost activity.
"I think there are ghosts everywhere, but they are more drawn to certain people who are open to seeing them than others," Amanda said. "I'm apparently one of those people, but I don't really like that."
But just because Amanda is reluctantly used to having spirits in her life, it doesn't mean other people are. She was particularly worried the strange happenings would frighten off customers and make it difficult to keep employees.
Then, one day, Amanda got into a conversation with an out-of-town couple who were having lunch at Ohana's. The topic of hauntings came up because they were sitting in both eight, where several unexplained things have occurred.
After the conversation, the woman approached Amanda and gave her some advice: open a bottle of water, light a white candle, tell the spirits they don't belong in a place of business, and command them to get into the bottle so they can be taken to a cemetery, where they belong. The woman explained that her daughter can see ghosts, and she was once approached by a stranger in a bar who taught her this method. Now this woman, who was a stranger to Amanda, was passing the information along.
The entire thing sounded odd to Amanda, but she figured it wouldn't hurt to try.
"There were things happening every single day here," Amanda said. "I figured we had to try."
With Nicole standing by, Amanda tried the ghost-removal method a couple of weeks later. Nothing seemed to happen, but she capped the bottle and emptied its contents in a cemetery anyway. That was almost two months ago. Since then, no one has seen or heard any paranormal activity in Ohana's.
Out of sight, out of mind
Humans know very little about the affairs of things like spirits and ghosts. There is no quantitative evidence that they even exist beyond the walls of our imagination. But walk into any social gathering and bring up the topic of hauntings, and you're bound to hear some stories. I know because I've been doing that for most of my life, and while I can't say I've ever seen anything I'd call a ghost, I do believe the people who have shared their stories with me absolutely believe they have.
Needless to say, I believed Amanda, April, and Nicole when they told me their stories. As we talked about Ohana's, the conversation veered toward other paranormal things and an idea started to form in my mind. We were talking about ghosts that don't seem to have malicious intent. Maybe the water bottle trick worked, and the diner's ghosts are now happily inhabiting a cemetery. Or maybe they're simply respectful of the living. Is it possible they're still there, inhabiting the place they've called home for so long, and now they're just laying low so they don't affect Amanda's business?
If I were to walk past Ohana's late one night, hours past closing, would I hear the jukebox playing an old, scratchy tune from the 1950s and see the semi-transparent echo of well-dressed men dancing in the dark?
So I sat in booth eight, waiting for something to happen.
This week we dig up some ghostly Adirondack tales: