When you go to your favorite bar or tavern, there’s something in the atmosphere that makes it feel like home. Maybe it’s the smell of the fireplace gently crackling beside your favorite seat. Maybe it’s the friendly faces of the staff that have known you for years. But maybe, just maybe, the atmosphere is a little more haunted than you noticed before. That is, until the patron sitting at the bar turns to you, lifts up his drink in salute, and suddenly disappears before your eyes. Maybe the ghosts of the Jean Bonnet Tavern help make it feel a little more like home, just a haunted home.
With a history that goes back as far as 1762, the Jean Bonnet Tavern has seen thousands of patrons during its long life, serving them with the hospitality the tavern was known for back in the 1700s and continuing the tradition today. Legend has it that the tavern was a gathering place of like-minded individuals during the very beginning of the Revolutionary War. Taverns were the place everyone got their news back then, so the news of impending conflicts traveled fast. Dozens of patrons gathered outside the tavern to protest the exorbitant excise tax of whiskey imposed by the British government. When General George Washington rode through the town of Bedford, he and many of his men stayed at the tavern, and brought more volunteers with them when they left.
The Tavern has seen conflict and happiness, camaraderie and outrage. The strong feelings of the tavern are still evident today, with a very proud history and an appreciation for where the tavern started and the role it played in the Bedford community for 260 years. But the sturdy tavern has another thing to be proud of: the resident ghosts that haunt the building and seem to show an affection for the staff and patrons, as if looking after them from the afterlife.
One of the most notable haunting experiences comes from good-hearted employees of the tavern trying to help a patron get home safely. It’s said this particular patron was a regular, and when he got entirely too drunk to safely drive home, the two employees locked up the tavern and helped walk the patron to his home. It was upon their return, however, that the legend says they experienced something otherworldly. Upon returning, the lights of the tavern were on, despite the fact that they turned them off before their good samaritan trek. Looking in the window, the employees saw the shadow of a man, sitting at the bar and sipping a drink. Confused, the employees entered and searched the entire building, finding absolutely no one else in the locked tavern. Understandably, the employees called it a night and went home.
While employees frequently deal with items moving from their intended location, dishes and glasses falling to the floor with no visible hand pushing them, and other eerie experiences in the tavern, the guests and patrons experience their own ghostly encounters while at the tavern. One legend tells of a group of paranormal investigators staying the night with the wish to experience some of the activity they’d heard of. They certainly got their wish. Two of the individuals said they felt someone touch them as if to get their attention, and no one would be there when they turned their head. Another, who was not a drinker and thus was perfectly sober for his encounter, saw apparitions of what he said were “Frontier Types,” dressed in 1800s wagon train clothing and seemingly staring at the man playing the piano on the other side of the bar. The apparitions left quickly, and no one else reported having seen them.
The stories about the Jean Bonnet Tavern are numerous and varied. From doors opening and closing themselves, to former owners experiencing chilling visions in their peripheral vision, it’s no wonder that the Tavern itself is very proud of the resident ghosts in their historic establishment. If you visit, you will certainly get world-class hospitality, even if that world is from beyond the grave. Who knows, you might even see George Washington himself!
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.