“Once upon a time there was a tavern…” Tucked away in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is the White Horse Tavern. This longshoremen’s dive turned literary bohemian haven has long been the subject of much ghostly folklore. Rumor has it that in 1953 Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, while on a particularly enlivened bender, drank a record of 18 whiskey shots. Predictably, after he finished slamming shooters, Thomas stumbled outside and collapsed into a deep booze snooze trusting his fellow compatriots to deliver him safely back to his room at the Chelsea Hotel. The next morning he was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he was declared dead of “wet brain” or alcoholic encephalopathy, muscle impairment that usually accompanies alcohol abuse. Since that day patrons of the bar have claimed to have seen the full body apparition of Thomas sitting at his favorite corner table or hanging around outside the tavern. There have also been accounts of Thomas’s corner table shoved aside in the mornings when the staff arrives to open shop, as if a drunk, impatient person needed to get around it.
Listed as one of the most haunted places in New York City, The White Horse Tavern is inextricably linked to the last whiskey Thomas ever drank, a fact that the tavern doesn’t seem to mind but actively embraces. Upon walking into the bar, which hasn’t changed in appearance since it opened its doors in 1880, it is hard not to notice the extensive, wall-to-wall collection of porcelain horses staring down at you from their various perches aloft light fixtures, shelves, wall mounts, mirror frames, wall accents, window displays… you get the picture. In addition to the many portraits of Thomas that adorn the walls, a plaque commemorating his last visit to the White Horse Tavern hangs above the bar. Not too far away from that sign, the discerning visitor will spot the ostensibly subtle urn affixed to the wall which the staff will jokingly identify as Thomas’s. The tavern even goes so far as to serve his purported last meal in the back room each year on November 9th, the anniversary of his death.
If you find yourself at the corner of Hudson and West 11th streets, the White Horse Tavern is worth the visit, if just for the atmosphere and historic architecture. And while I cannot definitively say whether or not this bar is haunted, being that I lack any and all training in the field of paranormal investigation, I can say that the White Horse Tavern is a long-standing love letter to the legacy of Thomas to whom they owe their continued success and with such a welcoming audience, how could Thomas turn down the occasional pint?