One night in June of 2013, my wife and I entered a bar in Hogansburg, NY…just a few miles beyond the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. We were part of a local “ghost investigation” group based in Malone. There had been reports of strange happenings at the bar. The staff refused to go to certain rooms alone…only with friends. The bar owners called on the Malone group to “investigate” and perhaps, “deghost” the premises.
This is what happened that night (to the best of my recollections).
We arrived at the Brass Rail Tavern around 11:00 pm. The bar is located on Route 37, just outside beyond the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. On a map, it appears to be outside the boundary of the St. Regis Indian Reservation. In reality, it isn’t. We knew that when we entered the smokey establishment. The NYS No-Smoking laws do not apply to tribal lands. My wife and I, both rabid non-smokers, ‘hid’ out in the community room/office until the last call was made and the final customers went to their cars. The two staffers who remained with our team locked the door around 2:00 am.
That’s when we went to work.
We set up two Infrared video cameras and had the feed linked to two monitors in the office. We were given certain duties. My job was to do a walk-through of the entire place with an EMF detector. I had an assistant who took notes on the readings. Ostensibly, we were to look for ‘hot spots’ where the EMF numbers spiked or seemed out of the norm. Of course, we had high readings around the TV sets, juke box and fuse boxes…anywhere that an unusual amount of electricity was being used.
I found nothing that caused any red lights to go off.
Except when I spoke with one of the bartenders.
She was in her 20’s. Blonde and attractive. When I was alone in the room where all the tubing ran from the kegs to the taps, she followed me in and partly closed the door.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked.
“Sure,” I replied. (How often does a pretty blonde bartender whose half your age, follow you into an empty room?)
“No one really interviewed me…I mean from your group. They never heard what I have a problem with.”
“So, tell me,” I said. “What did we miss?”
“It’s my ex-boyfriend. He follows me around a lot. He was in here tonight watching me from the doorway. He’s not hard to miss. He wears jeans and a dark blue hoodie.”
“Is he still your boyfriend, in his mind? If you don’t mind my asking, is he really in love with you?” I asked.
“My friends said he was crazy about me. But I broke it off with him quite a while ago. But he still comes around. He knows where I live. I had to move once. He even got my cell phone number and called me.”
“Sounds like a stalker,” I said. “Have you spoken to the police about this?”
“No,” she said as she looked over her shoulder. “That wouldn’t be the thing to do.”
“Why?” I asked. “Are you afraid of him?”
“Well, not in the way you would think I should be.”
“I’m not sure I understand. You see your former boy friend standing around and watching you. He gets your phone number. That is not a situation I would think you’d feel safe in,” I said.
“It’s different with him.”
“How?” I asked.
“He’s been dead for eight years.”
We all gathered in the office and watched the monitors. There was nothing. No shadows. No motion. No wisps of orbs. Nothing was showing up.
“Okay, I think it’s time we did our contact/intervention session,” said the group leader. “Let’s start in the place where most of the sightings have taken place…the kitchen.”
I was told to bring my digital audio recorder. Another one was produced. We set them up in different parts of the kitchen. I spoke the time, date and location into my recorder. We all stood quietly and waited. [The recordings were going to be replayed at a later date and at various speeds to try to pick up anything we might have missed during the actual recording.]
Someone in the group began to speak.
“If you are here and are wishing to communicate with us, show us a sign. We know you may be angry about something. Do you NOT want to be coming here? Are you in some kind of distress? We mean you no harm. Just show us a sign…a noise…anything to let us know you are among us. Do you have anything to communicate? We are listening.”
An hour passed. We had walked around again and rechecked our EMF readings. We made a circle around the two recorders that were placed in the middle of the dance floor. Again, someone asked questions of the unwanted visitor.
So, who were we trying to contact? It seems that a regular customer (he sat for years on the same bar stool) had been hit by a car as he left the place one night several years ago. It was this individual that most of the staff had seen. A little later, during a break in the office, the two staffers (employees) told us that the bar was built on the site of a much older tavern. This woman went on to explain that there was a Shaman on the reservation who was very adamant about not having the casino built on tribal land. It was rumored that he put a ‘curse’ on the land around the casino. That would include the bar we were all sitting in.
Then around 5:30 am, we heard a sound. Someone was coming in the front door! The investigating team went into high gear. But, the two staffers told us, it was only the cleaning ladies. They arrived to give the place a good wipe-down before opening later that morning. One of the cleaners was a mute. I took the other one aside (I have rarely seen a skinnier female in my life…her body/fat index must have been in the negative numbers) and asked her a few questions. Had she been interviewed by any of our team members prior to our arrival that night? No, she said. I thought that was odd. Why didn’t someone talk to these woman (the skinny one could communicate with the mute one. I asked if they had ever seen anything unusual in those pre-dawn hours when they came to work. Oh, yes, she said. Just last night we were sitting on this couch and that door opened and closed. She pointed to the kitchen door.
I thanked her.
Later, when I was making some notes for my report, I questioned why no one in our group had made full interviews with all those who had seen something. I was curious about the spirit of the regular customer who was killed by the car. Was he an habitual drinker? What about this alleged ‘curse’? Someone should have done more to prepare us for the night.
As it turned out, we packed up and went to the parking lot just as the sun was rising in the east.
What had we learned? Basically, nothing. We had seen nothing, caught nothing on video or audio recordings.
But something or someone was in the building and it made a great many of the employees uneasy and fearful.
I started the evening as a skeptic and I ended as a skeptic. I confess, I was hoping to see something…experience something…but I didn’t. Even though I may not have invested in this activity, I was surrounded by those who truly believed in what they saw and things they heard. I wasn’t looking for ghosts, I was more interested in the people who saw them or investigated them. Who was I to judge anyone’s belief on a topic as multi-faceted as this. More than one person saw something. They ‘knew’ it to be a spirit of someone dead. I cannot in good conscience tell them or think of them as self-delusional. The import fact is this: they believed it. And, we all know that whatever ‘truth’ is, depends on the viewpoint of the individual. I also think it came down to trust.
I didn’t trust our team because the preparation for the night was lacking. I didn’t trust my own senses to be sharp to pick up something. Maybe I heard a noise or a voice and it just didn’t ‘click’ with me.
Mariam made a final trip back inside to use the restroom. The others had already left. The parking lot had two cars…ours and one that belonged to the cleaning ladies. I walked across the gravel and stood by the road. The morning traffic had not yet started. I faced the bar and closed my eyes.
It was then that I sensed something…strange and unusual emotions came to me along with blurred images.
I saw a young man with a dark hoodie standing alone in the distance. His hands were in his pockets. He was staring at the tavern where the woman he loved tended bar. But he was helpless to communicate with her and tell her his inner most feelings. He was dead.
I saw a Tribal Elder saying “NO”, do not allow slots machines on sacred ground…the only ground we have left. If you build the casino, I will call a dark curse on this land. Spirits will come here and wander…returning from the Land of the Fathers.
I saw an elderly man who had spent the evening (many evenings) sitting at the bar of the Brass Rail, trying to calm his demons. I saw him standing in the road asking “What just happened to me?”
I saw a painfully thin young woman who got out of bed at 4:00 am to clean bars, bank lobbies and gas stations bathrooms. She looked at me and asked: “Why doesn’t someone ask me what I’ve seen? Am I invisible?”
I saw her friend, unable to speak or hear correctly. But her thoughts were coming to me clearly. “Why doesn’t someone make an effort to learn signing so they can ask me questions?”
When I opened my eyes, my wife was standing beside our car.
“Let’s go home,” she said.
“Yes, let’s,” I replied. I walked away from the images in my mind and fished for the keys in my pocket.
These people I had just seen and heard are the ones who held the answers to whatever or whoever it was that made working in the Brass Rail an unpleasant experience.