Paranormal pubs: The Harmony Inn & North Country Brewing
Bob McCafferty is the owner of not one but two paranormal pubs in Butler County. Ghosts are regulars at North Country Brewing Co. and The Harmony Inn isn’t so peaceful when things go bump in the night.
Bob McCafferty is the owner of not one but two paranormal pubs in Butler County.
“Maybe I’m haunted,” he said with a laugh.
The Harmony Inn: A step back in time
It’s a perfect October day and we’re perched on stools at The Harmony Inn, sipping beers in an otherwise empty bar. Staffing shortages have forced McCafferty, who runs the businesses with his wife Jodi, to remain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the foreseeable future.
The pandemic is a nightmare scenario for folks in the dining industry, but the McCaffertys are making due thanks to brand loyalty… and the customers who’ve patronized this space for centuries.
The entire town of Harmony, Pennsylvania, located about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, is a National Historic District. It was founded in 1804 by the Harmony Society of German Lutheran Separatists. A stroll through town is like a step back in time.
Austin Pearce, a wealthy industrialist, built The Harmony Inn as a residence in 1856. When he fell on hard times, he sold the home to the Ziegler family, who renovated the Italianate-style building and turned it into a hotel and saloon, one of the first structures in the area with indoor plumbing. It’s been a watering hole ever since.
The haunting history of the craft beer bar
Bob McCafferty began haunting the bar as a customer in 1986. Then-owners Gary Barnes and Carl Beers turned The Harmony Inn into the first craft beer bar in Butler County. Folks came from all around to enjoy brews from 23 taps.
Some patrons get a poltergeist with their pint.
Over the years, visitors and staff members have reported seeing a little girl in a white dress roaming the halls and an old woman peering out of an upstairs window.
When the morning shift reports for duty, they often find that the furniture’s been rearranged.
At first, McCafferty thought Barnes and Beers fabricated the ghost stories to conjure up business, but, after he started tending bar there, he began to have his own paranormal experiences. He has felt an icy finger run down his spine, watched pint glasses levitate, had coins flung at his head and encountered a shimmering specter in the basement while changing a keg.
McCafferty, who purchased the inn in 2013, takes it all in stride. He’s used to being confronted by the past.
Before becoming a suds-maker and restaurateur, he worked as an archaeologist. He has carefully and respectfully excavated trench graves in Gettysburg and Native American burial mounds. Before the Harmonists arrived in the area, the site was a Delaware Indian village.
North Country Brewing: From coffins to craft beer
In 1998, the McCaffertys bought an old building complex – erected between 1805 and 1835 – on Main Street in Slippery Rock.
It served as an inn and housed a cabinet maker that, spurred by Civil War casualties, became a coffin maker. Uber and Sons Undertakers and Furniture Dealers flourished into the 20th century.
The last funeral held on the property happened in 1974, after which the space became an antique shop.
Bob and Jodi McCafferty rebuilt the structure using local hardwoods and recycled materials. North Country Brewing Co. taproom is now a whimsical place filled with artifacts… and ghosts.
The couple lived on the second floor during the renovations and, on several occasions, were pushed down the stairs by a malevolent force. Every now and then, they catch a whiff of cherry-scented pipe tobacco and hear the sound of dragging footsteps (one of the building’s original owners was a smoker who walked with a limp).
The beers they’ve made since 2005 – including a potent barleywine called The Embalmer – seem to have appeased the spirits at both locations.
Different groups, including Allegheny Paranormal Investigations, conduct ghost hunts at the two facilities and security cameras regularly pick up unexplained phenomena. One night, an apparition took a seat upon every bar stool like a boozy Goldilocks.
Years ago, the McCaffertys added eyeballs and a mustache to the facade of The Harmony Inn, so the building itself seems to be keeping watch over the tiny borough.
For the Halloween season, there’s a creepy animatronic doll – purchased from a Spirit Halloween store – that’s making the rounds at The Harmony Inn bar. When it senses movement, it rolls forward.
McCafferty stares at the doll, a dark-eyed demon-child clad in Victorian-era attire.
“I think she’s getting closer to us,” he says, eyeing the plastic girl.
He raises his glass in a toast to the ghost.