Employees of the restaurant have long reported hearing noise from the upstairs dining room after closing, and owner Armando Luis tells strange tales of an adding machine that mysteriously turns on during meetings and starts adding with no apparent rhyme or reason.
We met up with trained investigator Laura Lindeman of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society at the restaurant to see what a ghost investigation could reveal.
Founded in 1998, the mission of the NJGHS (www.njghs.net) is "to search out definitive proof of life beyond the grave via photography, video, and audio recordings. To conduct investigations with professionalism and scientific integrity, and to train those interested individuals in the protocols of paranormal investigating." Lindeman has had an interest in the paranormal since she was a child. At the age of 9, she went on a tour of Ringwood Manor, a historical property in Ringwood, N.J. She became separated from the group and went into the room that used to belong to one of the former owners. As Lindeman stood in front of the bedroom, she felt an ice cold cloud on her legs, creeping up her body. She was perplexed by the sensation. Her bewilderment turned to fear when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Terrified, she left the empty room.
It wasn't until years later that Lindeman became aware of the NJGHS after a link from the sci-fi channel brought her to the International Ghost Hunters Association's website.
She approached the New Jersey chapter in 1998.
"They were amazed I had physical contact," she said.
Before the investigation, Lindeman explained that there is a difference between a ghost hunter and a paranormal investigator (she is a ghost hunter herself).
"Paranormal investigators tend to be more scientific, looking into sensory anomalies, cold spots, energy fluxes, electromagnetic fields, and EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon)," she said.
For our investigation, Lindeman brought a camera, a tape recorder, and an electromagnetic field (EMF) reader, a tool usually used by electricians to find outlets.
Ghost hunters utilize cameras to find unexplained visual phenomena such as wisps of smoke, floating orbs of light, or even human figures. There is a protocol of technicalities to ensure that tricks of light or specks of dust aren't mistaken for apparitions.
The tape recorder is to look for unexplained voices that may not be heard by investigators, and the EMF reader checks for unexplained electromagnetic fluctuations.
Lindeman said that there are no experts in the field, and that most investigators avoid people who have a sixth sense when conducting an investigation.
"We're skeptics, skeptics first," said Lindeman.
The Brass Rail Legend has it that the Brass Rail is inhabited by the spirit of a woman who met her death on her wedding day toward the turn of the century.
"There was a wedding at the Brass Rail which goes back to 1904 or so," explained Luis. "The bride tripped on the stairs and broke her neck. The legend is that the ghosts still live in the Brass Rail."
Luis added, "Throughout the years, my servers always tell me they hear somebody walking upstairs when there's nobody there. Our adding machine would turn on and off during meetings, and nobody could figure out what was going on. It would start adding stuff with no rhyme and reason."
Luis said he is not a believer himself, but admits that the adding machine was mysterious.
The investigation Lindeman went upstairs to the dining room at 7 p.m. on an early October evening, not an ideal time.
"Ghost hunting is best done after 10 p.m.," Lindeman explained. "Because that's when everything is calmed down."
She put the tape recorder and EMF reader on a table and proceeded to take photographs around the brightly lit room. There were no EMF fluctuations. She let the tape recorder run for a little while to give it a chance to work. Generally, she explained, an investigation should take all night.
She has had experiences with EVPs in the past. Once, while sitting on a picnic table outside of Spothouse, a 100-year-old building reputed to be the most haunted place in New Jersey, someone spotted a shadow moving inside the house. A crowd of people moved immediately towards the house, and later, the tape recorder played a voice saying "Oh no!"
As it turned out, that night at the Brass Rail, no EVPs were recorded. But a week later, one of the pictures showed a wisp of smoke floating in the vicinity of the stairs - an indication of an ethereal presence.
The nature of what are called ghosts is not definitively known to anyone. Some experts think ghosts are sometimes cognizant of their surroundings. Others are just "place memories," scenes that play over and over again, such as soldiers marching on the same piece of land in Gettysburg, a popular ghost hunting destination.
Whatever the wisp of smoke was, it is certain that we were not in a smoky room. It was a far cry from having a fridge full of Gozer worshippers, but it was indeed a bit unusual.