Haunted Bunghole Liquor Store

Posted by blogger in Salem Ghosts

Spirits Upon Spirits At Bunghole Liquor Store

Massachusetts’s infamous city of Salem is well-known for its horrid past. It was filled with religiously motivated executions during the witch hunts, satanic practices, neighbor-against-neighbor, violence, and bloodshed. Salem is marinating in dark history. Stories of Procter’s Ledge and the Salem Witch House stand out among other, lesser-known hauntings in the city. Salem is a popular stop for those who are interested in the paranormal and the occult. Alongside the history of rowdy Sailors in Salem comes a truly strange story of an oddly-named haunted establishment with a history dating back to the Prohibition era. Cue The Bunghole Liquor Store!

 

Prohibition in the U.S.

 

photo shows a group of protesting men in suits with signs that read 'we want beer'
This photo shows exactly how citizens felt about Prohibition. Wikiversity

 

Back in January of 1920, Prohibition took effect in the good old U.S. of A. During this time, the production, transportation, importation, and sale of any alcoholic beverages was completely banned. The ban forced many establishments that conducted legal business to close their doors permanently. Others adapted to the new rules and made the best out of a pretty bad situation. As many know, once something is ‘not allowed’, more people want to do it. The fact that alcohol was now off-limits made citizens want it more and more. Alcohol was now in high demand, and everyone from bar owners to college-age kids were looking for ways to supply and acquire it. Needless to say, workarounds were found easily, and booze started flowing into major cities behind closed doors. Hundreds of illicit bars known as speakeasies emerged and flourished during this dry period in American history. The new waves of illegal pubs and bars allowed people to go back to drinking and socializing. The locations, names, and owners of these bars were kept under wraps, and people needed passwords to access them. As long as the cops didn’t find out, the fun went on!

Many speakeasies were known for their lavish and expensive interiors and fancy jazz-type music. But not all were ballrooms or dance halls; some were 400 square foot apartments and even basements of legitimate businesses above. Enter The Bunghole Liquor Store, which was once one of these secret bars!

 

photo shows a group of liquor bottles
Pixy

 

Prohibition Comes to Salem

 

Before it was Bunghole, it was a funeral parlor. The parlor was located on Derby Street and housed most of Salem’s recently deceased. The daily operations did not stop the owner from turning the basement into a popular drinking location. His business was the perfect cover-up for his illicit activities… who would want a bar in a funeral home? The basement would witness gatherings of all types of people, people who ignored the fact that the basement was still being used as the funeral home’s embalming area. Even more bothersome is the fact that party-goers enjoyed the embalming equipment, even gathering by the lifeless corpses and drinking to their heart’s content. The gatherings paint a rather disturbing image. Cadavers, syringes, the scent of formaldehyde, and liquor floating throughout the air… something about it just seems immoral.

The basement turned into such a popular hotspot that once Prohibition was lifted in 1933, the funeral parlor owner decided to turn the entire business into a liquor store after one of his buddies made the suggestion.

 

photo shows the store front of The Bunghole Liquor Store
The storefront of The Bunghole Liquor Store. Wikimedia

 

Why ‘Bunghole?’

 

The name itself was proposed by one of the funeral home owner’s family members. Apparently, this man was an ordained priest! The name was meant to convey the way that liquor was smuggled into the basement during Prohibition… It sounds a little strange, but keep reading; we promise there’s a reasonable meaning.

By definition, a bunghole is a hole made in a large barrel to release its contents. Naturally, the bar’s name alluded to the hole that allowed liquor to flow in such a constrictive and prohibitive time. Even the funeral parlor’s location was pretty much perfect for transporting goods from ships that were docked in the nearby Derby Wharf since the parlor was right across the street. Even with its close proximity, the secret tunnels under Salem were utilized regularly. In the early 1800s, a series of underground tunnels were built in Salem, which you can read about here in our Sailors in Salem article. The underground tunnels were taken advantage of by the owner and used to transport booze-filled barrels into the funeral home’s basement. After Prohibition, the funeral parlor’s owner rid himself of all bodies, obtained a legal liquor license, and buried all of his embalming equipment within the basement walls. He was trying to rid himself of the funeral director lifestyle any way that he could. He did this so quickly that he was the second person to obtain a liquor license in Salem after Prohibition. Finally, The Bunghole Liquor Store could operate without the cover of night and out in the open. What a relief, right?

 

Non-alcoholic Spirits at The Bunghole Liquor Store

 

Although the basement itself is said to be the most paranormally active hotspot at the store, mysterious incidents are reported from all over the building. It’s no surprise since the building used to be filled to the brim with corpses and mourning families. Prohibition also created the perfect environment for many illegal activities to occur, including murder. The Bunghole’s employees report strange happenings on a regular basis, especially if they are working by themselves at night.

Author Susan Saville wrote a book titled ‘Hidden History of Salem’ and claims that the majority of ghosts that haunt Salem are, in fact, cats. She mentions that a group of ghostly cats wanders the streets of Salem, entering properties through open doors and windows. According to the locals of Salem, ghastly feline sightings are a regular occurrence. This could explain the story told by one of The Bunghole’s employees, saying that he felt a cat rub up against his leg while he worked. After he and his coworker investigated the entire area, no cat was found, and they were both left reasonably spooked.

Why cats? According to folklore, witches are known for always having cats around, as their ‘familiars,’ particularly black cats. Familiars were believed to be low-ranking demons that were gifted to a practicing witch by Satan himself. Sometimes the familiars were inherited and passed down throughout families.

 

Petwellbeing.com

 

Cats aren’t the only entities witnessed at the Bunghole, however. Employees have also reported seeing apparitions of women entering the store and disappearing shortly after. One employee described a time he accidentally bumped into a female patron. At second glance, he realized that there was no woman there; she had vanished into thin air. He felt a physical body; where could she have gone in just a second? Managers of the Bunghole report that the basement cameras have captured glowing orbs dancing about the basement. Are these spirits of the illegal bar-goers of years gone by? Visitors to the Bunghole report feeling cold chills in the heat of summer, strange lights flitting around, and women report the feeling of being watched while they’re inside.

So, if you’re looking to grab a drink while hanging around Prohibition-era spirits, perhaps a visit to The Bunghole should be at the top of your list. Have you ever been to The Bunghole? Did you have any strange experiences during your visit?

 

Sources Cited:

https://bungholeliquors.com

https://tosalem.com/bunghole-liquors/

http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/2019/10/bunhgole-liquors-salems-haunted-liquor.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bunghole

Featured Image Courtesy of Picryl