Spirits will be high when the historic Old Mill Inn in Mattituck closes the season with its annual blowout Halloween party on November 1. “I’ve never experienced [ghosts],” says manager Bia Lowe of rumors that the Old Mill Inn is haunted. “Other than to say that there is a really happy feeling in the Old Mill whenever there’s music, which is probably due to part of its history as a dance hall.”
What is now a quaint restaurant and bar on the Mattituck Inlet gets its name from its history as a former gristmill, built around 1820. In 1903, the mill was converted into a tavern and dance hall, reflecting the prevailing trend at the time to provide entertainment for vacationers who took the railroad out to Long Island. “Mattituck was a place that had lots of guest houses and boarding houses. People would come out for the weekend and go to places like the Old Mill for dancing,” says Lowe. (Incidentally, the Old Mill will celebrate its birthday this weekend with vintage cocktails from the turn of the last century.) Later, the Old Mill was used as a hub for rumrunners during Prohibition—the trap door is located in the restaurant’s now-kitchen, which was an ice room at the time—before its current incarnation, named the first certified “green” restaurant on Long Island in 2009.
“To me, the Old Mill is such a window of history for the East End,” Lowe says. “Dating back to the Bonacker days, to the development of the railroad and how these towns came to be.
“What’s appealing about it is its authenticity,” Lowe continues. “It harkens back to a different time, and that’s what we want customers to experience,” she says. “[There’s a] serenity and timeliness that invites people to step back and relax.”
Lowe purchased the Old Mill Inn nine years ago as a part of a group of nine partners. She first spotted the building while in the inlet on a friend’s boat and immediately fell in love. “We’ve basically given it a lot of love and elbow grease,” says Lowe. “We have not made any changes other than simply cosmetic.”
Specifically, the interior beams that support the Inn, which have served as a place for patrons to carve, write or burn their initials and names, have remained unchanged, and many of the etchings are from the turn of the 20th century. “A lot of names [on the beams] are a part of the history of the area, “ says Lowe. “It’s a lot of street names that you see on the North and South Forks, a lot of old families.”
Now the Inn serves diverse American dishes, with an emphasis on seafood. At night the bar scene comes alive. And so, some say, do the ghosts. Though Lowe hasn’t personally heard from ghosts, she has heard plenty of stories about them, concluding “they’re all benevolent or mischievous.” Among the haunts patrons have mentioned are a “caretaker guy ghost who goes around at night,” as well as a “flirtatious female ghost who wears red that likes to tickle the ears of males at the bars.” There’s suspicion that former owner Mrs. Richard Holmes, who took over the Old Mill in 1958, still maintains a spiritual presence. “She and her husband owned the Mill for 30 years, and she was much beloved. Many local people cut their chops at the Old Mill [under her ownership],” says Lowe, who suspects her familiarity is one of the reasons why people attribute ghostly happenings to Holmes.
The Old Mill Inn will close for the season in the wee hours of November 2, after the ghouls and goblins attending the Halloween costume party have floated home. As it’s a dance party with Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, the ghosts may come out to play.
“I do think there’s something about the effect of music on the building’s change in energy,” says Lowe. “It’s a very happy [energy], and I attribute that to the spirits.”
The Old Mill Inn is located at 5775 W Mill Road, Mattituck. The November 1 Halloween party kicks off at 8 p.m. For more info, call 631-298-8080 or visit theoldmillinn.net.