UFOs, Ghosts and Bootleg Booze: What A Weird Story! ...by Bill Knell
George Washington never slept there, but the story of Long Island's famous Noon Inn seems to cover all bases inside and outside of our known reality.
The Noon Inn was built around 1840 and sat near the corner of East Meadow and Prospect Avenues (as these streets are known today) in East Meadow, New York, for over a hundred years. Between 1964 and 1965 the two floor building was moved to Old Bethpage Village Restoration where it joined other historic Long Island buildings in a recreation of life during the 1800‘s. John H. Noon operated the inn from 1848 until 1859 and became it‘s best known proprietor. After buying a hotel in Plainedge, Noon moved on and several other owners operated the establishment until 1913.
The Noon Inn had been used as an inn, a small hotel, a private house, a Speakeasy and a tavern. By the 1960’s it was merely an unused building that sat on property being used by a small construction firm to store large machinery. The building remained there right up until the Town of Hempstead bought the land for a park and pool project. At that point, the Old Bethpage Village Restoration project moved the Inn to their location. Whether it was donated or purchased is unclear. Veteran’s Memorial Park, a outdoor sports complex with large pools and other activities, is located on that spot today.
When it comes to the Noon Inn, we have to ask ourselves which came first, the chicken or the egg? The property comes with a very sorted and unusual history. Although East Meadow was best known for being a good grazing area for farm animals, and later the home of many apple orchards just prior to the post-world war two building boom, its history is sketchy and unreliable.
Two rumors existed about the Noon Inn well into the 1960’s before it was moved. It was thought that George Washington once stayed there. This turned out to be a silly notion created by children who attended a school that once sat on the property where the East Meadow Public Library now exists. Most who attended that school agree that the legend was created to annoy teachers who were often unable to confirm or refute the story, being unsure about the actual age of the building. It wasn’t until much later that historians were able to verify that the Noon Inn wasn’t built until years after Washington’s death. However, it should be stated that some form of roadhouse may have existed there at a much earlier date.
K Newbridge was a road built over an old Indian Trail that existed at a crossroads of trade routes used by early settlers, Native Americans and traveling merchants. It’s likely that travelers going north to south or east to west may have used or crossed the trail. This made it an ideal location for an inn. Always an important crossroads point that is still very busy today, local farmers and apple growers sold their goods there on weekends for years right up through the first half of the twentieth century until the area was built up with houses and a few small businesses.
Another rumor about the Noon Inn concerned smugglers. It was suggested that the original area was a haven for smugglers avoiding British tariffs and later a place where bootleggers moved booze during Prohibition. They used the place as a Speakeasy and distribution center for illegal hooch. According to the rumors and local stories, the few murders that ever took place before and even after the area was built up occurred on or near that property. But that’s not all that happened there.
The Town of Hempstead went ahead with their plans to build an outdoor pool and recreation center where the Noon Inn and construction company storage yard had stood. The project was completed quickly and opened in less then two years. On a beautiful summer day in the mid-sixties during the first year of the pool’s operation, a huge glowing disc-shaped UFO appeared over the facility. Even though it hovered low over the pool for just a minute, thousands of people saw it.
The object was moved off to the south following Newbridge and was seen all the way to the South Shore until it moved out over the ocean and suddenly sped upwards at a tremendous speed. Flying Saucers had a tendency to follow old or ancient trails, roads and routes when their movements could be tracked by eyewitness accounts or other means. The next day the park was closed because the water had turned an odd color. The entire pool was drained, cleaned and reopened within a week.
Although my family lived just a few blocks from the pool, we were on vacation when the incident happened and didn‘t return until two days later. I was just around eight years old at the time and probably never would have even heard about it, except for what happened next. While my mom and dad were still off from work and putting all of our vacation stuff away, our doorbell rang. My dad answered the door with me in tow. We were greeted by two men dressed in dark suits who produced government identification. My father later said they were FBI.
The men indicated that they were visiting our neighborhood to reassure residents that what may have been seen over the area a few days ago was a secret project that had gotten loose from Brookhaven National Labs. If we had seen it, they asked us not to talk about it. My father burst out laughing! As a former Air Force Officer, he thought that that was the silliest explanation for a UFO story that he had ever heard. What did they mean got loose? It was like saying that the neighbor’s dog got loose from his yard and was found in yours. My father blew the agents off and slammed the door in their faces.
UFO’s were not alien to our neighborhood. A number had been seen in the area over the years and well before secret projects were developed or built anywhere on Long Island. Most of the Flying Saucer stories I heard came from law enforcement officers and volunteer firemen. These were credible witnesses and more. Many had once been associated with Mitchell Field, an old Army Air Corps base. They were either working for one of the several aircraft manufacturers on Long Island or had been pilots during World War II or the Korean War. It was hard to discount their stories.
Could it be that the area was one that attracted the supernatural? Despite being a place of rolling meadows with good soil, native Americans seemed to have avoided it except for the trade routes. Anyone that’s ever lived there will tell you that the place just feels weird! The general strangeness of the area was added to by stories that the Noon Inn was haunted. During the time when the inn was just an unused building people driving by reported seeing lights going on and off, while hearing loud voices and the kinds of sounds that would come from a tavern or speakeasy.
Since it sat on land owned by a guy named Hoeffner, the Inn was better known as Hoeffner’s House. It’s shutters were always closed and the building sat unused by 1960. The house was not one of those places far off the road and buried deep in the woods. On the contrary, it sat next store to the local Post Office and a large volume of traffic passed by the structure all day long. But like the haunted mansion at Disney World, it managed to still look wickedly weird right in the middle of everything.
Ghost stories about the place abounded, but according to another suburban legend, no one took them seriously until around 1962. It seems that several teenagers managed to break into the house during summer vacation one night in July. While exploring the old rooms, they moved up the stairs to the second floor. The three boys, aged 13-14, apparently encountered a vagrant who was using the old inn as a place to sleep at night after he had robbed houses during the day. No one knows exactly what happened next, but the three teens ended up stabbed to death.
Their bodies were found a week later by a worker who regularly checked the old building for animals that might wonder in through small holes and get trapped inside. The vagrant was arrested in another town several weeks later and confessed to the murders when the police found some items on him that had belonged to the teens. After that, the Inn became known as the death house among area young people.
By Halloween of the same year, the old building had become a dare point to test the bravery of male teens. Several young people had been arrested trying to break into the place. On Halloween night a group of older teens consisting of two boys and two girls managed to get inside despite additional locks and precautions to keep people out. They began to explore the building while consuming beer and laughing about the reputation of the place.
Once on the second floor, the teens made themselves at home sitting on some old furniture and drinking. After only a few minutes the place became very cold and a feeling of foreboding filled the group. Just as they were preparing to leave, one of the girls in the group spotted what looked like a floating light near one of the walls. When they all turned to look, the light took the shape of three faces. They were the faces of the murdered boys! Rather then waiting for anything else to happen, the group of four ran out of the building.
Although it wasn’t a part of their original plan, the teens all told their parents about it. The police were called and checked out the inn. All they found were some beer bottles. There were thoughts about charging the four with trespassing, but it seems the teens were so frightened by the experience that the fear was considered punishment enough. Their story spread and no further attempts were made to break in to the old building. The same night that this happened, the vagrant who had murdered the boys committed suicide in his jail cell by jamming his head up between some pipes near the ceiling until he suffocated. Coincidence or supernatural justice? Surburban legend or true story? Who knows?
Once the Inn was moved to Old Bethpage Village, no further reports of paranormal activities have been reported. Even the strange area where this all happened has been quiet for years. Or it may be that in a more sophisticated time people are just afraid to speak of such things? Either way, the Noon Inn has two legacies. The paranormal one is not discussed on the Bethpage Village Restoration tour!
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