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Moss Beach Distillery
Moss Beach Distillery
Patio of the Distillery
Smuggler's Cove below Moss Beach Distillery
Historic Landmark sign in front of the Moss Beach Distillery
The Moss Beach Distillery in Moss Beach California is well known on the San Mateo coast, not only for it's great food and views but for it's ghosts. Over the years a colorful history and strange occurrences have imparted a mystical element to the restaurant. Opened in 1927 as "Frank's Place" it operated as coastside's most successful speakeasy. It was home to movie stars, San Francisco politicians, and gangsters alike. At one point it is rumored to even have been a brothel. It was a place where shady deals were made, adultery contemplated, and nefarious activities planned. However, these days it is the thought of dining in a haunted restaurant that gathers our attention.
History behind the Haunting
The most famous ghost of the distillery is the Blue Lady. According to legend, over 70 years ago, Mary Ellen, then a beautiful young woman who always loved blue dresses met a handsome piano player named John Contina in a local bar. She was already married and had a young son named Jack but the two soon began a torrid romance.
The lovers met for romantic moonlit walks on the beach and trysts at the Marine View Hotel which was located next to the Distillery overlooking the cliffs. We don't know for sure how long the romance lasted but the romance ended tragically on a stormy November night when Mary Ellen died in a horrific automobile accident on the old Bayshore Highway.
The Lady in Blue wasn't the only death surrounding the piano playing casanova. At the time he was having an affair with Mary Ellen, unbeknownst to her he was also having an affair with another local woman by the name of Anna Philbrick. The second woman however, discovered his deceit and flung herself off the cliffs near the Distillery, drowning in the kelp beds below.
Contina's own life ended in tragedy when his body was found decapitated and washed ashore near the distillery. Perhaps a jealous husband found out about Contina's lecherous ways and took revenge. We will likely never know.
Over the years the ghosts of the Moss Beach Distillery have made themselves known in many ways. Many have experienced objects moved or moving on their own, lights turned off or on unexpectedly and whispered voices in their ear or taps on the shoulders when in unoccupied rooms.
One of the most famous incidents involving the Lady in Blue involved two San Mateo County Sheriff officers who in 1978 were involved in the first sťance to raise the spirits haunting the distillery. The sťance was uneventful and the men felt a little foolish having partaken in such a, what they considered, silly activity. After leaving the Distillery the two drove up Highway 92 and somehow veered off the road into a ditch. Neither officer was injured but both were sent to the hospital for observation. Later, a Highway Patrolman who had responded to the incident called to check in on the officers. They assured him that they were both ok but were quite surprised when the patrolman asked what had happened to the lady dressed in blue who was at the accident!
The ghosts are not without their playful side. During the mid 80's the Distillery stored wine in a room with a single door and no windows. The door opened into the storage room. Late one night one of the employees went to get some wine from the room. Pushing on the door he found that it would not budge no matter how hard he tried. Calling for assistance from some of the larger men employed at the restaurant they managed to open the door, enough for a man to enter. What they discovered seemed impossible. All the wine had been neatly stacked up against the door. An impossible feat for anyone to perform and escape.
This playful side was amply evident to former owners, Pat and Dave Andrews. When they owned the Distillery they often found themselves locked out of their basement rooms from the inside. The Blue Lady was also fond of turning on the shower and moving furniture in the middle of the night. Often she could be heard walking around the dining room in the hours before dawn before they finally carpeted the floor.
Children have often been visited by the Blue Lady. There have been reports of children being warned away from the edges of cliffs by a lady dressed in blue. It's said that she calls to them in a whisper, telling them to be careful and stay away. Other children have reported seeing her in darkened rooms. Still others have seen her in the men's room on to disappear when adults come to investigate.
A particularly strange incident happened a number of years ago when the point of sale computer system apparently contracted a "virus" that caused all the dates to show as 1927. 1927 was the year the business first opened as "Frank's Place". The company who installed the system quickly sent a technician to reset the date but could not find any cause for the mysterious date change.
Perhaps these events are signs that the spirits are reaching out to the mortal realm or perhaps it is just the over active imagination of people who have heard one too many ghost stories. Whichever is true one thing remains, there are many people who swear the Moss Beach Distillery is haunted and unlike many other haunted places this one serves a very nice Seafood Platter for around $18.
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