The Damned Story: For more than two centuries, The Captain Daniel Packer Inne in Mystic has welcomed visitors from all over—some of whom have supposedly chosen to stay long after their time was up.
In addition to serving fine cuisine, the historic inn and tavern is allegedly host to various haunting-type phenomena, including ghostly sightings, unusual encounters, and odd experiences.
Long a popular destination—rumors are that George Washington may have visited during a trip through the region—this Water Street landmark overlooking the Mystic River is built on a spot very close to the site of the infamous Mystic Massacre of 1637, during which more than 400 of the Pequot tribe, primarily women and children, were brutally slaughtered in cold blood by English soldiers. Whether or not that horrific bit of local history is integral to the inn's spiritually active reputation is not clear, but it certainly adds a rich layer to its lore.
Before it was a haunted haven, it was a simple inn. Sea-faring man Daniel Packer purchased the property in 1754, and over the next two years, built the main part of the Dutch colonial, which also would serve as a home for his wife Hanna and their seven children.
In addition to the years spent building his maritime business, Packer served during the American Revolution, thus earning his "captainship" twice over. Those experiences also provided Packer with plenty of exciting stories with which he would regale dinner guests, helping to draw a steady stream of regular patrons.
After Captain Packer's demise in 1825, the inn was owned and run by multiple generations of Packers, right into the late 20th century. During the years, the property slowly deteriorated, eventually becoming quite rundown. Demolition was discussed, but in 1979 the inn was purchased by Richard and Lulu Kiley.
Although not related to the Packer family, the Kileys decided to restore the inn, eventually returning it to a state of former glory that would make the original owner proud ... which might explain why people continue to report seeing Captain Packer on the premises.
Over the decades, guests and staff members tell of seeing a ghostly sea captain in various rooms of the inn. Others also describe other spooky experiences, such as mugs and glasses moving on their own, doors randomly opening and closing, and the sound of boots walking across empty rooms. Some guests also suggest that they've felt the presence of ethereal entities.
Some of this alleged paranormal activity is attributed to Ada Byron Clift, a 7-year-old relative of the Packer family who lived at the inn during the 19th century. In 1874, Ada tragically died of scarlet fever in her bedroom on the second floor, and some believe her spirit has become bound to the property.
Stories abound of Ada's antics, from guests hearing her disembodied laughter to staff seeing her running through the rooms or her waving from her bedroom window. One report claims that a visitor's unwitting daughter was playing hide-and-seek with a mysterious young girl who called herself Ada (which, if you are a ghost, seems a bit like cheating).
Staff members of the inn suggest Ada is encountered on the staircase up to the second floor and in the restrooms. (Although why the restrooms, who the heck knows? Kids love toilets—and one who never experienced indoor plumbing would probably be fascinated, right?)
Details of other otherworldly experiences with Ada and Captain Packer can be found in Courtney McInvale Reardon's well-researched Haunted Mystic.
The owners and employees of the inn have gone on record saying that, although it can be a disconcerting at times, they welcome the presence of the previous residents. Thus, after more than 250 years in business, guests can continue to rely on the Captain Daniel Packer Inne for fine food ... and spirits.
Our Damned Experience: We broke bread with the Captain on a pleasant spring evening in 2017, enjoying excellent meals and a fun night out as we doubled down on the chance of a paranormal encounter with a Seaside Shadows ghost tour with our friend Courtney McInvale Reardon.
When we got to the inn for dinner, we were seated in the main dining room in the section closer to the main road, near the two fireplaces. We enjoyed a nice view of the river from our table, and soaked in the inne's rustic Colonial ambiance.
We wandered around a bit, even visiting the bathroom where Ada has been rumored to frequent. However, during the hour-plus of our visit, we didn't encounter anything unusual. We took a few pics, but no uninvited diners pulled up a chair at our table or at the ones around us.
On a side note, we had an excellent meal with great service!
After dinner (we saved room for desert at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream), we crossed the river to Mystic River Park, where we met up with Courtney for the ghost tour. After visiting a few other local sites, we came back around to the inn.
During the tour, Courtney shared stories about various encounters with the Captain and Ada, although, again, we didn't see them or capture their presence in any pictures.
The second-floor window to the far left is the one that Ada has reportedly been spotted waving from—the room in which she died.
After a few more stories, Courtney then encouraged us to touch the iron chain link that's still attached to one of the stone walls near the front door—it's what remains of the rope ferry across the river that Captain Packer operated. By lifting the link and letting it drop, you are creating a positive connection to the Captain's spirit.
Overall, we had a positive connection to the inn, even if Ada was too shy to come out to play. Maybe next time!
If You Go: The Captain Daniel Packer Inne is located at 32 Water Street in Mystic. It is open to the public every day for fine dining in the dining room and live entertainment in the pub.
If you are planning on having dinner, please be aware that the menu expertly skews toward gourmet, which means entrees run between $20-$35 each.
The inn fully embraces its haunted history, so feel free to ask about it when you visit.