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STORY BY JOHN WEST - PHOTOGRAPHS BY NANCY WEST

There are some places that you have to see to believe.  Once you visit The Mount Washington Hotel in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, you realize that this magnificent structure is one of these places.  It is a circa 1900 massive white wood-framed multi wing structure capped with a brilliant red roof.  Even with the base of the looming Mount Washington in the background, the hotel still holds it own in both size and beauty. When visitors drive down the long drive toward the hotel, it is truly a sight to behold. And the adventure is just beginning; for this one of a kind structure is home to more than one hidden gem of history. The hotel is also home to three taverns, each with its own character and sometimes their own ghostly history and lore.

The Mount Washington Hotel has long been rumored to be the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write his classic horror novel and subsequent movie “The Shining.” Truthfully, the story sounds good, but this particular location does not need big names or myth to compel people to drive long distances to this remote spot. There are plenty of intrigue, inexplicable occurrences, curiosities and yes, just plain spookiness offered up at this hotel without resorting to comparisons to the movie. Although “The Overlook Hotel,” presumably located in Colorado, featured in the movie version of “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson madly and murderously roaming the hallways, does bare some resemblance to The Mount Washington Hotel. The real grand hotel with all its attendant grandeur and mystery is in New Hampshire, not in Colorado.



Front entrance of Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods NH as seen in American Public House Review
THE GRAND ENTRANCE TO MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT







Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT IN BRETTON WOODS, NEW HAMPSHIRE






View from the porch at Mt Washington Resort inBretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
A MAGNIFICENT VIEW FROM THE PORCH





Interior of Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
THE ELEGANT INTERIOR


Dining room at Mt Washinton Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
DINING ROOM




Fireplace at Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
FIREPLACE


Stairs at Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
STAIRS




We did not have the good fortune to run into any ghosts or paranormal happenings when we visited the Mt. Washington Hotel, but even the most ardent non-ghost believer would be tested in this massive old gem of a building.  The hotel has become somewhat of a hub for investigators of the paranormal, with  the Ghosthunters (TAPS)  cable TV show not only investigating reports of the paranormal here, but  the crew holds a number of paranormal seminars and  meetings here a couple of times a year. TAPS, as well as staff members that have worked at the hotel for many years, believe there is significant paranormal activity present in thisstately mountain resort. However, if I cannot have a good ghost experience, I am more than happy to have a great tavern experience, and the Mount Washington Hotel did not fail me.  Located deep within the basement, that resembles catacombs, and dare I say dungeon like rooms, the massive hotel offers up a very old bar that is simply, but fittingly, known as “The Cave.”  We learn that this is a pre-prohibition drinking establishment that lives up to its name - the entry way, stage, dance area, and most impressive of all  - the bar itself - actually the entire space, was built with centuries old local stone.  The feel of the bar is subterranean in its darkness and shadows creating a feeling of intrigue and mystery. Upon entering the bar area, the imagination begins to wander as you peer into the deep shadows fund in the rock nooks of the bar. I begin to wonder, who has had a drink in here in years gone by? Who has passed through the dark tunnel entryway before me? Who has met here for nefarious, romantic or reasons otherwise because what better place to meet when one wishes to avoid unwanted questions and those with loose lips? It is the kind of place where everyone is a stranger and each wants to keep it that way for their own reasons.




Old clipping about The Cave at Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
OLD NEWSPAPER CLIPPING






  Photo courtesy of Jesse Stryker - historic_hotels_lodges.com  
Entrance to The Cave at Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
 
Hallwat at Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
HALLWAYS AT THE CAVE AND THE HOTEL ARE A STUDY IN CONTRASTS




Bar in The Cave at Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N H as seen in American Public House Review
JOHN THE CONSUMMATE BARTENDER ATTENDS TO YOUR SERVICE






But then, as if he knew exactly when to enter the picture, John the bartender brings me back to the here and now with, “Sir, what can I serve you?” I am tempted to look over my shoulder to see who he must be addressing in such a formal fashion. But I realized it really is a bar and he is talking to me. Some of the veil of mystery starts to lift. Now, I have more questions than I do the need for a drink. I reach for his hand and introduce myself, as does he. I order a beer and upon his return I start with the friendly cross examination. John states he has undergone the questioning many a time in his years of tending bar at The Cave.  As I look him over as we talk, dressed in formal white shirt and black tie, I think to myself that John must have been sent to this bar by central casting, maybe by the same guys that gave us “Lloyd” in The Shining, as it is quite apparent that he belongs here. He is the perfect guy for this great place. It is as if he has been in The Cave since its opening day—a century ago.

John adds to the experience with his formal manners in that New England way, easy going but proper, even with Yankee fans who find themselves deep within Red Sox territory. There is a distinct impression that this is a serious bar for people that know a good bar when they are in one. Not a home for the glitter and glamour set. Consistent with this observation, John gives the impression that he is not one that suffers fools easily, particularly in his bar, which he seems to consider an honor to be working at. He loves his Red Sox, history, New Hampshire and the Hotel.

n short order, I am given the history lesson by John who anticipates the questions before they are posed. No, he has never seen a ghost. Yes, he has met many people that swear that they have. Yes, it was a prohibition speakeasy that was particularly popular with the Boston elite of the day. He reports members of the Kennedy clan frequented the hotel many times over the years. Indeed, legend has it that the patriarch of the family, Joe Sr., reportedly sold the illegal booze to the hotel and The Cave. Apparently a favored route of the bootleggers was to utilize the dark, unguarded and deeply wooded roads that crossed the Canadian border into northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

John points over to where the dance floor seating area is and he tells me that during prohibition it was set up as a racquetball or squash court with a pull down false ceiling. Back in the day, the hotel had an elaborate warning system if “the Feds” were going to raid the place. If the alarm sounded the patrons and staff would put all the booze in the ceiling and act like they were there to watch a lively round of racquetball!

It is not difficult to sit at the bar and image a midnight raid on a cold January night with all of the fireplaces blazing away as the revelry rolled on. I am sure that the possibility of a raiding party arriving added to the excitement and allure of imbibing illicit drink at The Cave. In any event the bar patrons would always have the upper hand in eluding the authorities—the place was built to thwart the efforts of law enforcement.

I reluctantly leave the bar at midnight and I head down the darkened basement hallway. Shortly, I come upon both the staircase and the door to the very old elevator. I look above the elevator and the arrow points to the third floor.  Oddly, before I can push the button to bring the elevator to the basement and with the car apparently on the third floor, the elevator door opens and reveals the empty wooden elevator. It is inviting me to enter its comfortable confines and to take a quick trip, but I think of some of the stories I have heard during my visit, and upon momentary reflection and with the arrow still indicating that the elevator is on the third floor, I reconsider my means of ascension—and I opt to take the stairs.



Back Bar in The Cave at Mt Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
BACKBAR AND TAPS


The Cave interior at Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH as seen in American Public House Review
THE CAVE'S INTERIOR



THE CAVE AT MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT

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