get to know the ghosts which haunt Rockafellas, in Salem
The restaurant, Rockafellas is not a historical landmark, as it has only been operating since the year of 2003. But, the building that houses Rockafellas is worthy of the historic label, another label that has branded the building is haunted.
Yep, big surprise, right? A historic building that is haunted, what a super shocking statement to make. But, this part of the building's history was news to the owners of Rockafellas (Terence Marchino, Kevin Marchino, and David McKillop).
They obviously knew they were inheriting things commonly associated with old buildings, things that needed their attention, a little TLC. However, they had no idea that among the issues they were going to have to deal with—were ghosts.
Despite the building's reputation for being haunted, Rockafellas still draws in the locals and tourists alike. The guests of the establishment who become aware of the entities that roam the restaurant, usually do not mind if one of the ghostly inhabitants joins them for a moment or two.
So, what else of the building that houses Rockafellas? Well, this structure is usually referred to as the Daniel Low Building, but it was originally owned by Salem’s First Church. Thus, its purpose upon construction was to become a place of worship.
This was the fourth meetinghouse of Salem’s First Church, and was designed by Boston’s Solomon Willard and Peter Banner. Its new incarnation was built right on top of the three it preceded.
Once the building was completed in the year of 1826, the church used the second floor for their services, and rented out the first floor to local businesses to help with the cost of owning and operating such a large building.
Nearly 50 years later, around 1874, the building was remodeled, in the style of a Victorian Gothic. It eventually became home to the jewelry store, Daniel Low & Company who acquired the building after Salem’s First Church merged with the Unitarian North Church.
Daniel Low & company hit it big 1891 with a silver souvenir, they dubbed the “witch spoon of Salem,” which they advertised in nationally circulated magazines. With their success, the following year, the company decided to launch the country’s first mail-order catalog.
Daniel Low was a hardworking man, who rarely left the building, and February of the year 1911 was no different. Like usual Mr. Low was working at his store, but this night was destined to be different, as he suddenly began to have issues with his heart.
After Daniel Low’s passing, it was now up to his son, Seth, to continue his legacy. Which, Seth would go on to do, and quite faithfully at that, Unfortunately, his time leading Daniel Low & Company was cut short when he passed away in 1939.
Seth left control of the company to his loving wife, Florence, who ran the company for a little over a decade. In 1950, she decided that it was time to sell the business, and made a deal with William Follett.
Daniel Low & Company was guided under the leadership of Follett, until his death in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, his children were not interested in running the business, and so the building was sold to a developer, who turned the building into a banquet hall. Less than a decade later, it was sold again.
This time around the building was bought by the trio of Terence Marchino, Kevin Marchino, and David McKillop, the founders of the restaurant, Rockafellas. The new owners of the building also turned the upstairs space once used for church services into a function hall for weddings and other events.
Daniel Low got his start many years ago as a silversmith apprentice, but as his talent progressed and his notoriety grew, he went from owning a small storefront shop to owning a whole building.
It was not a goal he accomplished overnight, it was years built on his dedication to his craft and desire to succeed. Though his drive at the end proved to be a double-edged sword, as he literally worked himself to death.
The people behind Rockafellas, understood the importance and love that Low had for the building and his life’s work. And, with that understanding, the Rockafellas guys were not interested in just creating a space for entertaining, they wanted to bring the building’s storied past back to life.
And, like Low, their goal would not be accomplished overnight. After two years of business proposals, dealing with the previous owners of the building, and other headaches, the Marchinos and Mckillop were finally able to acquire the entire building for their grand plan.
The trio assembled a team (not unlike the Avengers—well), they hired contractors, and interior designers, if this was a pizza they were ordering, it would be the works. At the end, the result of the complete renovation of the building paid off with great success.
On any given night, people walking by the Daniel Low Building (aka Rockafellas) just may say orbs floating around the second story window. Some have even, on occasion, spotted a full form apparition.
Two of these ghosts that haunt Rockafellas, are not as shy as the others. And, thus, they have little reservation about appearing in full form with great frequency.
The first of these two daring spirits, is a man who dresses in a black suit, not like Johnny Cash, but like a minister. The second, is a woman who wears an early 20th century style blue dress.
Under the historic and haunted Daniel Low Building, there are tunnels. These tunnels were once used by smugglers as a way to transport their illegal possessions. But, the tunnels were also used for a more noble reason at one time.
The series of old tunnels beneath the building were a crucial part in the operation of the Underground Railroad. Abolitionists would aid slaves who had escaped the hell of plantation life through these passageways of freedom.
The tunnels beneath the Daniel Low are also rumored to be the source of some of the hauntings at the building. Including the ghost of the woman in the blue dress, otherwise known as the Blue Lady.
If you are ever downstairs in the vault of the Daniel Low Building, you may just hear the distressing screams of a woman. So, deathly, you would swear that someone has been buried beneath your feet—alive.
So, what’s the story behind this ominous occurrence? Well, the most common tale of the Blue Lady’s origin, is not much different than any other story worth telling, a story of love gone wrong.
According to this legend, the Blue Lady was beneath the building, in the tunnels waiting for her love, a sailor. When the sailor finally arrived, she informed him that she was with child, and demanded the sailor marry her.
While the woman loved the sailor, he did not feel the same way. In fact, the sailor had a dark side, and did not want to be with the woman any longer or be responsible for a child. Thus, in his mad reasoning, he decided his only option was to kill her.
The woman screamed, as the man lunged at her (a scream that can still be heard to this day in the building’s vault). The sailor silenced her by firmly grasping her throat, not releasing his hold until she was dead. Afterward, the sailor buried her lifeless body in the tunnel.
Another account of the Blue Lady’s backstory, is a bit more firm in details. In this version, the Blue Lady was an employee at the Daniel Low & Company. As this story goes she was working late one night, when she mysteriously died, and was found the following morning in the buildings vault.
When the Blue Lady actually first began appearing is almost as mysterious as to who she once was when alive. But, the first sighting of her ghost on record, occurred not long after Rockafellas opened for business in the year of 2003.
After closing for the night, one of the bartenders ended up working late, cleaning up the mess from another successful night. It was then, the bartender began to experience paranormal activity. The source of the disturbance was unknown at first, causing the bartender to stew in fear.
But, then it happened, the Blue Lady revealed herself to the bartender, and not as a ghostly shadow. No, she appeared as a full formed apparition. The bartender quickly snapped a photo of her, so that there would finally be proof of her existence.
Most of the employees already believed the building was haunted due to all of the strange and unexplainable occurrences. Especially the late night screams, emanating from below. But, no one had ever seen the Blue Lady till that night.
The owners and employees of Rockafellas were stunned when they saw the picture of the Blue Lady. The picture was immediately put on the restaurant's website, and used as the screensaver for all of the restaurant’s computers.
From then on out the Blue Lady became the unofficial symbol of Rockafellas. The restaurant even printed t-shirts that read “Congratulations—You’ve Just Seen the Lady in the Blue Dress.” Perhaps, they were taking a page out of the Daniel Low playbook.
The success of Daniel Low’s witch spoon of Salem, would be hard to replicate. And, I’m not sure a t-shirt ever actually had a chance to compete, but the inspiration and attempt can certainly be appreciated.
The fun of the Blue Lady legend, soon took a dark turn, when some customers started to claim to see the Blue Lady near the downstairs hallway screaming in distress.
Since then, the restaurant has tried to find the humor once again, offering specialty drinks named after the screaming lady in the blue dress.
The other ghost that is seen at Rockafellas on a regular basis is the Black-Suited Minister. The legend of the Minister is a grim tale, which seems to be the case with most of the ghost stories in the Witch City of Salem.
The Minister was said to have been severely depressed, and committed suicide on the grounds of where the building stands today.
Since Rockafellas has opened, staff and customers alike have had encounters with the ghost of the Minister. The ghost is usually described as wearing a black suit, and appearing to be quite somber.
One customer who stopped by the restaurant, happened to be a medium. She was successful in reaching out to the Black-Suited Minister, but later when speaking to owner, Kevin Marchino about her experience. She told him that she was unable to communicate with the ghost, as she could not understand what the spirit was attempting to tell her.
This was not the typical experience customers and staff members have with the Minister, as he usually doesn’t tolerate the living. Most who encounter him, describe him as rude and grumpy.
One of these typical encounters occurred a few years back when a customer, who had seen the Minister, decided to try to capture his image. But, once ready to take the Minister’s picture, the customer’s camera instantly jammed.
Another example of the Minister’s lack of tolerance, occurred one night downstairs, when he was seen by a member of the staff. The staff member had heard about the ghost, but this was her first encounter with any spirit, so she was understandably stunned upon gazing at the full form apparition of the Black-Suited Minister.
The staff member later claimed that the Minister told her to “get,” as he did not wish to speak with anyone. So, if you see the Minister, you might just want to move along, unless you don’t mind being scolded or your camera breaking.
Rockafellas is located at 231 Essex Street, and is credited as one of the relics of Salem’s past that has helped to revive the city’s historic downtown district.
While the restaurant is known for its ghosts and specialty drinks, it is also celebrated for its culinary achievements, live entertainment, and as a gathering point for many social engagements.
If you’re traveling to Salem, be sure to make a reservation at Rockafellas.