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Ghosts

According to medium Lisa McGarrity, Port Jefferson is a hotbed for paranormal activity. Image by TBR News Media

Along East Main Street in Port Jefferson, tucked between a plumbing company and a parking lot, sits a tiny, two-story shop where Lisa McGarrity communicates with the deceased.

A new age store stocked with spell and magic books, a variety of incense and herbs, and a private space for tarot card readings, Envision Crystal has provided a spiritual avenue for residents from Port Jeff Village and beyond since 1987 as both a place for healing and closure, as well as exploration of macabre curiosities. McGarrity, a psychic medium who first discovered her necromantical gift as a child when she witnessed spirits roaming around her house, is the shop’s third owner and said there’s a reason why there’s no shortage of customers coming to her for advice on how to handle and interact with members of the afterlife.

Lisa McGarrity is the owner of Envision Crystal magic shop, and works as a medium in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Port Jefferson is so filled with spirits,” said McGarrity, who recalled several encounters with former, deceased village residents over the years. “I feel that wonderful energy of sea captains, people who grew up and worked here, musicians, merchants. There are a lot of psychics in the village because the energy here is conducive. I think spirits want to be here because it’s home. They want to visit and hang out.”

In fact, the medium said, as the occupant of a historic home in town, she “has had friendly conversations” and sometimes shares her morning coffee with the gentleman who built her house long ago. While she used to be able to see these spectral visitors crystal clear as a child, McGarrity said now it’s more of an impression, a feeling, a sense. She described the sightings as  being “a little sharper and clearer than a mind-wandering daydream.”

Coming from a family of psychics and intuition-driven people, McGarrity, who studied psychology at Stony Brook University, said she’s never found this field all that unusual, but, growing up, thought it best to keep her interests in it hidden from people.

“When I was young, I learned to separate it and talk about regular world things with people and leave that other world alone,” she explained. “Things have changed now and we live in a world that’s much more open now. I was born with this curiosity and a desire to explore. I mean, I think what I do is super normal and something anyone can do if they want to pay attention to it. Some folks can sing. I’ve cultivated, developed and expanded what was a natural gift.”

St. James resident Andrea Giordano, a longtime customer of McGarrity’s shop, who developed a strong bond with the medium during a reading session, spoke highly of her friend’s gift.

“What she does is get people connected,” Giordano said. “It’s not about money here. It’s about spirit, love, compassion and open mindedness. It’s universal humanity at its best. If you have faith in anything beyond this world, she helps reinforce that faith. If you don’t have faith when you walk in here, you leave here with faith.”

‘I think spirits want to be [in Port Jeff] because it’s home. They want to visit and hang out.’

— Lisa McGarrity

McGarrity said, especially around this time of year, people often come into the shop on a mission to encounter ghosts in and around the area. For the budding paranormal investigators, the medium offers tips and advice — she stresses the importance of exploring in groups and with an experienced guide, equipping one’s self with protective stones and sage, which work to cleanse negative energy and drive away darker entities, and, most importantly, displaying respectful decorum.

“The same rules with any human interaction applies when interacting with spirits,” she said. “Start out nice, introduce yourself. That works well. Don’t go to a haunted location and shout out derogatory and inflammatory things.”

Only a few minutes away, on Barnum Avenue, is the site of McGarrity’s occasional spiritual seminars: an 1890s-built, gothic-style home full of “incredible, wonderful energy,” according to its owner, L.L. Cartin. During one particular seminar, a few Halloweens ago, McGarrity said she led a group of spiritually-minded participants with electronic voice phenomenon equipment through the house. The EVP, which picks up sounds caused by ghosts, went off when they stepped into the basement.

“I remember in that particular moment, I was a little scared to sleep here,” laughed Cartin, who identified herself as a spiritual person who met McGarrity as a customer. “She’s a very gentle soul, she’s not pushy, and she definitely has a gift. She’s one to be admired and her delivery is very gentle so you can receive her information the right way. I love Lisa and I think she’s an asset to the community.”

Bar owner, patrons recall paranormal occurrences at Katie’s on Main Street

The stairway leading to the basement of Katie’s bar in Smithtown. Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood bar, chances are you’re at Katie’s on West Main Street in Smithtown — where ghostly happenings are just as normal as ordering a drink.

The two-floor pub and live music venue, which sits on the grounds of the old Trainor Hotel that burned down in 1909, has long been a hotbed for spooky sightings and experiences according to its staff and patrons. The bar’s high level of spectral activity has even been featured on episodes of popular paranormal shows like Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” A&E’s “Paranormal State” and the Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story.”

Dominique Maciejka, a former bartender at the establishment, said she had her fair share of brushes with the bar’s spirited regulars.

“I was by myself closing up, the music was off, nobody else was around, and a beer bottle cap went flying from one side of the bar to the other, like, sideways across the room,” Maciejka said, recalling one such freaky occurrence at the end of a night shift in fall 2011.

“I was the only person around so there was no explanation, nothing that could’ve triggered that … other than something supernatural,” she said. “On the way home, I called my mom and asked her to stay on the phone with me.”

She was also working when a soda gun behind the bar seemingly flung out of its holster on its own and dropped to the floor, an incident captured on the bar’s security cameras.

Gary Bates, from Smithtown, said he once saw what he described as “a big, gray, seven-foot tall” figure walk from one end of the bar counter to the other.

Another time, Bates said he was walking in the empty bar and felt the sensation of stepping into a large spider web even though there was no physical one in sight, and was then suddenly poked in the arm.

“There’s definitely something weird going on there,” Bates said of the Smithtown nightspot.

Owner Brian Karppinen believes the bar might be haunted. Photo by Kevin Redding.

Over the years, folks who frequent Katie’s have reported a wide range of eerie activity: distorted faces taking shape in the bar’s mirrors, hearing voices in empty rooms, feeling like they were being watched by unseen presences, seeing transparent children in the background of selfies and group pictures and having whatever may be haunting the place follow them home.

None of these reported occurrences  come as a surprise to Katie’s owner.

“The whole place is active,” said Brian Karppinen, 53, who has owned the bar since 2000. He pointed out that while the bar’s lively upstairs tends to be occupied by mischievous and relatively harmless ghosts, the basement billiards area is where he thinks more sinister ones roam. “Down there is a darker feeling, a heaviness — not as fun. You feel, spiritually, like something is not nice down there.”

Karppinen recalled a night in which a tough biker went downstairs to confront one of the malevolent spirits, stood in what was considered the basement’s most active spot by the pool table and was violently punched in the stomach by an invisible force.

“If he faked it, it would be amazing, but that seemed real,” Karppinen said, making clear he takes a lot of people’s reports with a grain of salt. “He hobbled out of here and I’ve never seen him again.”

While there are a number of theories from various paranormal and psychic groups that have explored the bar hoping to identify the ghosts, Karppinen said little concrete evidence has emerged from such explorations.

Some say the ghosts are past Smithtown residents who may have died in the Trainor Hotel fire, while others are convinced the more evil spirits could be Jinns, a Middle Eastern poltergeist that has purportedly existed before any religion.

However, one of the more mischievous ghosts that has become a sort of celebrity at Katie’s is widely thought to be Charlie Klein, a Prohibition-era bootlegger and part owner of the Smithtown Hotel in the 1920s, which is now Croxley’s Ale House.

According to members of the Smithtown Historical Society, Klein shot himself in his house in 1933 after serving a prison sentence. Klein’s house, Karppinen said, is directly across the street from the bar.

Brad Harris, the historical society’s president, said even though he’s never personally experienced any of the bar’s hauntings, he doesn’t think they’re made up.

“I don’t think it’s a figment of anybody’s imagination as there does seem to be strange occurrences happening there,” Harris said. “We have always had problems trying to explain why Charlie Klein’s ghost would be disturbing the bar, as he didn’t kill himself there, but it’s a strange world.”

Even stranger, Karppinen said, was when members of the Pennsylvania State University “Paranormal State” group were investigating the basement and one of them pointed to the end of the bar and said, “that’s where your ghost died — right there.”

“I said, ‘no he didn’t, he died across the street, he killed himself,’” Karppinen recalled. “And he said, ‘no … I used to be a DJ here in the early ’80s and there was an old timer who used to drink and would fall asleep at the bar. We would wake him up, get him a cab, and we would send him home every night. One night, he didn’t wake up and he died at the bar.’”

The corner of Katie’s many patrons believe is the habitat of the bar’s more sinister spirits. Photo by Kevin Redding

Karppinen said weird and unexplainable occurrences have surrounded him all his life and “it really seemed like I was called here.”

It was when the Lake Grove resident was driving to his girlfriend’s house one day, he said, that something told him to go visit his friend, Rich, who owned a struggling bar called Wolfgang’s Pub.

Sure enough, his instincts were right and Rich was in rough shape, depressed that his business was losing money and claiming the place was “cursed.” He asked Karppinen to be his partner and help out. Rich retired from the bar business soon after and Karppinen renamed the place after his grandmother, Katie Dunagan.

Naturally, for Karppinen, it didn’t take long before things got phantasmic.

Once, while jostling with a rotted door at the top of a steep stairwell in the bar, Karppinen lost his balance and felt himself teetering backward when, he said, “I felt two things grab my shoulder blades and upright me. I was like, ‘wow, whoever that is, thank you.’ I got the vibe it might have been my dad or a passed away family member. It was not a spooky vibe at all.”

“I think it’s some kind of a package deal that maybe this place was active and they wanted me here,” Karppinen said, laughing. “[I think] the darker thing attracted me and likes that I never really thrive. There’s times when I’m behind in bills and I’m like ‘I’m selling the place’ and then something comes through and suddenly we have money for bills again. It almost seems like they love the torture, but don’t want me to leave.”

Unless you own a corporate bar, Karppinen said, the bar business is a dying industry, but the ghosts have helped bring traffic to Katie’s.

“People love to talk about it, people know us all over, it has definitely helped,” Karppinen said. “That and our live music. Sometimes people are jerks and they’ll come in drunk from another place, like, ‘I wanna see the ghost!’ and, spiritually, I have no idea what’s going on here … so I try not to let that happen. I don’t want to torture these [dead] people more.”

Asked what he would say to any skeptics out there, Karppinen said, “I would tell them I’m not here to debate you. I don’t believe a lot of the [stuff] people say happened here, but some of it is very hard to explain.”

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