A ghost story that inspires a burger? Sign me up!
The History: Built in 1908, the structure that is now home to the Old Canal Inn has almost always been a local watering hole. In 1934, before it was the Old Canal Inn, it was owned by the Skorupski family and named JoJo’s Tavern. In 1948, the name was changed from JoJo’s to the Old Canal Inn in honor of the Morris Canal that once ran through Nutley. The tavern was sold to Mark Conca and his brothers in 2011, and they have done a fantastic job at maintaining the history of the building while also creating new and innovative dishes for their patrons.
The Haunting: The Old Canal Inn is infamous for being the home to the Death Seat. According to the urban legend, circa 1964, two men were fighting over a seat at the end of the bar near the front of the building (the brightest spot in the place). Within 30 days of each other, both men died from a heart attack after sitting in the chair. There is another heart attack directly connected with the death seat which occurred around 1986. No one knows if the chair is cursed or if the spirits of those who passed haunt it, but activity abounds at the Old Canal Inn. Mark, the current owner, says “150% something is happening here.” He has had multiple experiences from hearing pots and pans moving in the kitchen when the building is empty to full bodied apparitions of the former owner and bartender appearing to staff. Activity in the basement reveals the telltale signs of a possible vortex of energy where lightbulbs will burst for no reason. Despite the activity, Mark does not believe that the spirits lurking in the Inn mean them any harm. He believes they just don’t want to let go… and who would want to leave a bar like the Old Canal Inn, even after death?
While the Old Canal Inn may not be the typical spooky haunt, Mark and the staff have done a great job at keeping the history and charm of the local watering hole alive. This is the first location I’ve had the pleasure of visiting that has such a fascinating story that directly affects the haunting. The Death Seat is still where it’s always been at the end of the bar with its tattered red cushion and a sign that reads Free Seating at the Death Seat Tonight Only. Mark and even some of the regular patrons have had multiple experiences from seeing and hearing things, to even being touched, and they’ll excitedly tell you their stories if you’re open-minded and interested. The Old Canal Inn is certainly not trying to hide its dark and gruesome history, but you might not want to try to sit in the Death Seat… better not test your luck.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I was nervous to try the infamous Death Seat Burger Platter. Inspired by the urban legend and Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Mark Conca came up with the Death Seat Burger, and it only adds to the elusive charm of this place. This monster of a burger is topped with mashed potatoes, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese, beer battered, and then deep fried to golden perfection. Surprisingly, even though the burger is deep fried, it’s very light to eat and doesn’t fill you up completely. The batter made it crispy, and it is unlike anything I have ever tried (the closest thing I can compare it to is the Jucy Lucy of Minnesota). Just make sure you eat it quick: it starts to get a bit greasy if you let it sit for too long. Prices are not bad with the Death Seat Burger only costing about $13. But beware! The Death Seat Burger Platter is only available on Mondays, but it is worth the wait (or in my case, the drive). This was one of the best burgers I’ve had in my life, and whether I get a heart attack from sitting in the chair or eating the burger, I’ll die happy.
Type of Experience: Restaurant and bar
Dining Style: Casual
Price Range: $5-15
Address: 2 E Passaic Ave, Nutley, NJ 07110
Phone Number: (973) 284-1272
Hours of Operation:
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