Pettibone Tavern (Abigail's Grille & Wine Bar), Simsbury

March, 2010 by Ray Bendici
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abigails2The Damned Story: Built during the American Revolution in 1780, this Simsbury landmark has long been host to travelers and revelers and, apparently, has served all sorts of spirits!

Known as The Pettibone Tavern for almost two centuries, it recently became Abigail's Grille & Bar after the previous owners had to sell the property following a fire in 2008. (This wasn't the only fire to the tavern -- according to its history, it was also burned to the ground by Native Americans in 1800, and rebuilt afterward.)

Originally constructed for Jonathon Pettibone Jr., it was a key stop along the Boston-to-Albany Turnpike as well as a meeting spot for discussing strategy and plans for the Revolution -- George Washington, Ethan Allen and John Adams are just a few of the notables who have supposedly stayed at the tavern. Over the decades, it has alternated between being a local watering hole and a private residence.

As you might imagine, such a landmark structure has gained quite an interesting history. The most famous tale surrounds Mrs. Abigail Pettibone, who according to the stories, was the wife of a whaling captain who was gone for long stretches, during which time Abigail supposedly sought comfort in the arms of another man. One time, so the story goes, Capt. Pettibone unexpectedly came home early, caught his wife and her lover and immediately dispatched them with an axe. (Another Connecticut woodchipper murder?) They say if you look closely at what is supposed to be a portait of young Abigail with her mother that hangs in the tavern, you can see her likeness was once cut from the canvas. As such, it is speculated that Abigail's ghost still roams the tavern. Her spectral figure has been repeatedly seen by patrons and employees over the years; others claim that on occasion you will feel a chill as you pass the ladies' room on the second floor. Based on other experiences, some think that the spirit possibly haunting the restaurant may be that of a young child. According to various sources, the tavern is an alleged hotbed of paranormal activity: In addition to apparitions being seen, candles and fireplaces have relit themselves, wine bottles pop out of racks, furniture moves of its own volition and disembodied voices have been heard calling employee's names. Quite a few paranormal groups have investigated the tavern, including the renowned T.A.P.S. team (aka "The Ghost Hunters"), who found absolutely nothing during their visit, even going so far as to prove that the acclaimed portrait of Abigail is actually of someone else. The team also recorded high electromagnetic fields in parts of the tavern, which may explain the odd feelings and experiences so many have had there. Abigail, a lost Pettibone child or just imagination run wild? A question that has been debated over many a mug of ale, and will continue to be. abigails


Our Damned Experience: We stopped by Abigail's in October 2009 to snap a quick picture or two, but unfortunately, were not able to stay too long. We didn't even get to go in and have a drink, so it's safe to say we didn't see anything unusual. Next time, we're going for the full experience -- dinner, drinks and maybe a proper visit with Abigail.

If You Go: Abigail's Grille & Bar is open to the public seven days a week, serving lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Sunday. It's been in the same spot for the past 230 years, first happily serving patrons along the Boston to Albany Turnpike and now taking care of those visitors along Route 202 and Hartford Road in Simsbury. We don't know if you'll see any ghosts, but there are certainly plenty of spirits to be found here!

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Submitted by sydnie :) (not verified) on
Hi. I am going to Abigails tonight, and I will leave another comment if I see or feel anything unusual tonight. Have a great day! Sincerely, A concerned Patron of Simsbury

Submitted by Paul (not verified) on
don't order the BLT salad - it's a head of lettuce with a little dressing and if you find any B or T send up a flare. It has the worse menue for American Food and the bar is so small that the bartender kept hitting my chair and saying "excuse me," hey lady want to stop the excuses? don'rt keep hitting my chair. also the air condition duct is right beside the end chairs, my left side was colder than the beer and salad. do your self a favor - pass this place and say good-bye.

Submitted by Bonnie (not verified) on
We celebrated Christmas 2010 here. I had heard rumors of the place being haunted. I was pregnant and feeling quite sick so I went to the ladies room. Just seeing if I could have a paranormal experience, I started saying things I saw ghost hunters say on tv.. ;) well, nothing happened so I nonchalantly walked out. This is where it gets weird. I saw a lady standing at the bar with her back to me. All the main lights were off because the bar was closed, but there were monitors on along the bar that dimly lit the area. I froze. My initial thought was it was just a waitress until I realized she was in period clothing. A white colonial? bonnet with flat, longer sides, and a long dark dress. She did not move. Time stood still. When i realized what i was doing i walked to the stairs and went down a couple steps, and looked back...and she was still there. Still had not moved an inch. At this angle I could make out the profile of her face. Looking slightly down, blank, and statuesque. I went back to the table, checking along the way to see if any staff was in costume. They were not, and tried to just brush it off at the time... there is a reasonable explanation for this... But if it was just a waitress in costume, wouldn't she have turned to glance at me as I came out of the bathroom or walked down the stairs?? or blinked? It left a eerie feeling I cannot forget. I wouldn't call what I saw a full body apparition because I saw her so clearly...Has anyone else seen this woman? Please post!

I used to go there with family when younger. Always felt scared of the restrooms. Anything else about this woman you saw?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I just randomly started thinking about this tonight...remembering any detail I could about her clothes, particularly her hat. I realized I will never be able to erase her from my mind's eye. Just so, I believe I have made a breakthrough. Her clothing was that of a Quaker or an Amish woman. I am sure of it. I have not done any cross-reference research at this point. If any one believes me and is interested in validating this, let me know what you find. Reply here or This is a close match to the dress: And cap or bonnet: There was no black cape like it shows in some quaker pics. Or white shawl over the black dress like in amish pics. I'm disappointed in the cap pics. I feel certain I havent seen the exact style she was wearing. It's a new lead in the search for some answers to who this woman is I saw. And why I cannot forget her.

Submitted by SARAH (not verified) on
I totally believe all of this

Submitted by Bonnie (not verified) on
I posted the above reply as anonymous by accident. I am on my phone. And thank you for saying you believe me. I have talked with many people, mostly strangers, about paranormal. I have heard many crazy, amazing stories.But mostly, people are ignorant and say its foolish. I know what I saw. Simple. What they believe doesn't change that. I will confidently say anyone who has had a strong, undeniable experience feels the same. I am glad my experience has you inspired and sorry for the delayed response!

Submitted by SARAH (not verified) on
I believe everything you said - but what date what is on?

Submitted by Bonnie (not verified) on
December 25, 2010

Submitted by Juju C (not verified) on
I am very interested in the paranormal so I asked my grandma if she could take me to the restaurant because I have heard so many stories about the establishment. Ill try to leave another comment if I have the time

Submitted by Juju C (not verified) on
Omg I'm going to Abigail's tomorrow! Ill update my comment tomorrow after the hopefully spooky experience!!!

Submitted by Nicole (not verified) on
Hey , Im from Romania . And i see at Abigail's Home ... and isn't Pananormal .. sorry for my english

Submitted by Laurel (not verified) on
Back in 1966 before the upstairs was converted to a bar, my family stayed in the Inn. We were there for a week. We were unaware of the Inns history. My room was in the front of the building, my parents room was in the back area where the restrooms are now. My mother was very uncomfortable in the room , couldn't sleep and insisted they needed to be moved to another room. Later she admitted to seeing a form and alway felt chilled in that room. I remember the room as very cold and "dark" not spending any time in there, not liking it at all. My grandmother, mother and cousin have always been sensitive to the paranormal I'm not as sensitive .

Submitted by joe (not verified) on
ask the employees what happens if they dont say goodnight to abigail ;)

Submitted by Bonnie (not verified) on
Maybe it time I go over for some cocktails at the bar and chat a bit. To be honest, I was afraid of being ridiculed. But if it's like that....

Anyone know about Northgate Falls area in West Simsbury as well as Tarriffville Mountain?

Submitted by Bruce Wagner (not verified) on
Happy to see that the old tavern has been rebuilt and re-opened. I am a descendant of the Simsbury Pettibones ... Jonathon, Jr. was my first cousin, six times removed. Will be on the east coast in September and will try to get by Abigail's for a meal. Bruce Wagner, Lake Arrowhead, CA

Submitted by Lauren (not verified) on
Hi Bruce, I'm a student at Wesleyan University (about 40 minutes away from Abigail's in Middletown) and I'm doing a project on the tavern for a writing class. Would you be open to talking a little about your ancestry and what you know in regards to tavern lore? We could email. Thanks!!

Submitted by Elinor Kniffin (not verified) on
I recall this historic place in the 50's and 60's when it was owned and operated by the Daden family. We were friends with Gary and Helena Daden, who took over the operation of the tavern from Gary's mother and father. I remember that it was sold and Gary and Helena moved to Marlborough, Vt. where they owned an operated a cheese store but can't recall the exact date. I know when they moved, I missed a good bridge partner. Helena was president of the St. Mary's School Society and oversaw the first fashion show ever held in Simsbury in the cafeteria of Henry James. Those were the good old days.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I used to work there.... had to venture into the basement one night for something during the dinner service. Can't remember what I was down there for, but easily one of the creepiest moments of my life. Dirt floor, low ceilings, Cold to the bone, clammy, and a strong feeling I wasn't alone down there! The place still freaks me out to this day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Back in the 1970's, during the Chart House establishment, I knew people who worked in this restaurant. Many scary stories were discussed by these employees. Two particular stories that come to mind had always taken place on the second level in this building. One story of waiters and waitresses setting up a large function upstairs, completely set up for a dining event with flatware, napkins and glassware. Upon returning to this room the staff observed everything broken down with chairs thrown around the room in disarray. This happened several times where the business stopped utilizing the second level for banquets. The second story I remember was when the entire building was painted outside with the second level of paint peeling on several occasions with each new coating!