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Country House Restaurant

It may look very pretty all wrapped in a red holiday bow, but for all the believers out there, the Country House is said to be haunted. File photo

By Ernestine Franco

It’s the time of the year when children and adults alike will be out en masse on the lookout for ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. During the month of October, which culminates on Halloween, the North Shore of Long Island has many places to satisfy die-hard thrill seekers. However, if you want to experience “real” haunted places on the North Shore, check out the list below:

Kings Park Psychiatric Center, located on West Fourth Street in Kings Park has been closed for many years and is not open to the public. For many years, Long Islanders have broken into this historic location to see the eerie, condemned facilities. At its height, the psychiatric center was home to over 9,000 patients. They were subjected to overcrowding and deplorable conditions as well as dramatic procedures, such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy. From inside and outside the many buildings, people have reported yells and screams of deceased patients, and some say they can see ghosts in the windows. Although you cannot go into the buildings, you can drive through the grounds for a quick peek. The grounds are monitored by the police.

Country House Restaurant is located at 1175 Country House Road in Stony Brook. This building has a prerevolutionary story behind it. It is believed to be haunted by Annette Williamson, the daughter of a former owner. She had allowed British soldiers to stay in the home and was believed to be a spy. She was hung from the second-story rafters and her spirit haunts the kitchen and stairways. Visitors say they can hear her cries and light bulbs flicker. The restaurant also has a “Ghost Bar” where you can view pictures of Annette Williamson. Genre artist William Sidney Mount was said to have attended séances there when it was known as the Thomas Hadaway House.

Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Shore Road, Lake Ronkonkoma: One of the most frequent tales you hear about Lake Ronkonkoma is one involving a Native American princess who died at the lake in the mid-1600s. The story goes that the Native American princess fell in love with an Englishman named Hugh Birdsall. He lived across the lake, but her father would not permit her to pursue a romance with the Englishman. Legends say that the heartbroken princess killed herself because she could not be with her true love.

Folklore then goes on to say that every year since, in a desperate search for a soulmate in death, the princess takes a young male’s life. Lake Ronkonkoma is rumored to have no bottom, just an endless abyss of darkness. The lake itself is the largest lake on Long Island and it would be impossible for a human being to reach the bottom without assistance since it is 100 feet (30 m) at its southeastern side. Something that feeds into this tale is how the water level of Lake Ronkonkoma seems to rise and fall with no relation to rainfall, something that adds to the mystery. Michael R. Ebert, author of “The Curse of Lake Ronkonkoma,” delved into these allegations and found that, “One study showed that over 7 years in the early 1900s, the rainfall on Long Island was below the usual average by about 52 inches, yet the lake rose 7 feet.”

Another eerie oddity about Lake Ronkonkoma is about the bodies of people who have drowned in the lake. Bodies have been found washed up in Connecticut and out in the Long Island Sound, fueling claims that Lake Ronkonkoma has many hidden caverns, passageways and tunnels leading to different locations. Other bodies have never been found.

Centereach High School, located at 14 43rd Street, has limited access for the public. Some believe that the bleachers of Centereach High School are haunted by James Halversen, a New York City firefighter who used to run at the track every day. At 8:00 p.m. on Jan. 5, 1997, Halversen and his dog were shot. Some people can feel his presence or even a man running on the fifth lane of the track. Some say they also have seen a glowing object in the northeast corner of the track.

Katie’s of Smithtown is located at 145 West Main Street. Katie’s is a popular bar in Smithtown and home to a ghost named Charlie, who is said to have been a bartender and bootlegger during the 1920s. After committing suicide, he is said to frequently visit the bar. Many patrons have felt or seen him. Some have seen people in 19th century dress in the bar, and the figure of a woman has been seen walking up and down the bar and down the basement stairs. Women have reported toilet seats jumping open and making banging sounds when no one else is in the bathroom, and footsteps have also been heard coming from the basement when it is unoccupied. Glasses have also been known to fly off the bar and tables.

And last, but not least, the Port Jefferson Ferries are believed by many that a ghost haunts the ferries as they travel the Sound. Many riders have seen the ghost of a former captain who wears a weathered uniform.

Good Haunting!

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Owner Bob Willemstyn in front of the grand fireplace at the Country House in Stony Brook, circa 1712. Photo by Alex Petroski

Culper Spy Day is approaching quickly and the buzz is starting to build. The Three Village area will be celebrating its storied connection to the Revolutionary War and the Culper Spy Ring on Saturday, June 20.

The Country House Restaurant on North Country Road in Stony Brook will be participating in the festivities, offering a spy-themed menu for the occasion. The restaurant’s owner and Stony Brook resident Bob Willemstyn said he is excited to be a part of the historic day.

“It’s really nice to see the cohesiveness of the community coming together,” Willemstyn said. He has owned the restaurant since 2005. Before that, Willemstyn worked at the restaurant for 27 years.

Built in 1710, the house has served many purposes over those 300-plus years. Willemstyn said that every character from the popular television show TURN on AMC, which depicts the actions and inner workings of the Culper Spy Ring in Setauket, physically set foot in the Country House Restaurant around the time of the Revolutionary War. Everyone except for George Washington, Willemstyn admits.

The menu for June 20 features dishes with Culper Spy Day-related names. Yankee Doodle Chicken Fingers & French Fries, Secret Spy Ring Cheese Ravioli and George Washington’s Flatbread Cheese Pizza will surely be favorites on the kid’s menu. Members of the Culper Spy Ring are paid homage on the adult menu with items like the Anna & Selah Strong Twin Maryland Crab Cakes, Mary Woodhull Chilled Poached Salmon Fillet over Greens and the Caleb Brewster Cavatelli Pasta & Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu.

There will be some extra-added fun with the kid’s menu, Willemstyn said. There is a secret code within the menu that if cracked will earn the sharp, young revolutionary a free dessert.

“We hope to draw some people into the village with this menu,” Willemstyn said. The Country House Restaurant is not quite within walking distance from some of the other Culper Spy Day festivities, but it is the only place that will boast a spy-themed menu and more than 300 years of history and tradition.

Willemstyn said he plans to decorate the restaurant with an American flag bunting to draw in other revolutionaries enjoying the special day. He also recommended that anyone interested in dining at the Country House Restaurant on Culper Spy Day should make a reservation in advance because space is limited. The commemorative menu will be available from noon until 4 p.m.

The Country House is located at 1175 North Country Rd., Stony Brook. For reservations, please call 631-751-3332. For more information, visit www.countryhouserestaurant.com.

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