then, as if he knew exactly when to enter the picture, John the
bartender brings me back to the here and now with, “Sir, what can I
serve you?” I am tempted to look over my shoulder to see who he must be
addressing in such a formal fashion. But I realized it really is a bar
and he is talking to me. Some of the veil of mystery starts to lift.
Now, I have more questions than I do the need for a drink. I reach for
his hand and introduce myself, as does he. I order a beer and upon his
return I start with the friendly cross examination. John states he has
undergone the questioning many a time in his years of tending bar at
The Cave. As I look him
over as we talk, dressed in formal white
and black tie, I think to myself that John must have been sent to this
bar by central casting, maybe by the same guys that gave us “Lloyd” in
The Shining, as it is quite apparent that he belongs here. He is the
perfect guy for this great place. It is as if he has been in The Cave
since its opening day—a century ago.
John adds to the experience with his formal manners in that New England
way, easy going but proper, even with Yankee fans who find themselves
deep within Red Sox territory. There is a distinct impression that this
is a serious bar for people that know a good bar when they are in one.
Not a home for the glitter and glamour set. Consistent with this
observation, John gives the impression that he is not one that suffers
fools easily, particularly in his bar, which he seems to consider an
honor to be working at. He loves his Red Sox, history, New Hampshire
and the Hotel.
n short order, I am given the history lesson by John who anticipates
the questions before they are posed. No, he has never seen a ghost.
Yes, he has met many people that swear that they have. Yes, it was a
prohibition speakeasy that was particularly popular with the Boston
elite of the day. He reports members of the Kennedy clan frequented the
hotel many times over the years. Indeed, legend has it that the
patriarch of the family, Joe Sr., reportedly sold the illegal booze to
the hotel and The
Cave. Apparently a favored route of the bootleggers
was to utilize the dark, unguarded and deeply wooded roads that crossed
the Canadian border into northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
John points over to where the dance floor seating area is and he tells
me that during prohibition it was set up as a racquetball or squash
court with a pull down false ceiling. Back in the day, the hotel had an
elaborate warning system if “the Feds” were going to raid the place. If
the alarm sounded the patrons and staff would put all the booze in the
ceiling and act like they were there to watch a lively round of
It is not difficult to sit at the bar and image a midnight raid on a
cold January night with all of the fireplaces blazing away as the
revelry rolled on. I am sure that the possibility of a raiding party
arriving added to the excitement and allure of imbibing illicit drink
at The Cave. In any event the bar
patrons would always have the upper
hand in eluding the authorities—the place was built to thwart the
efforts of law enforcement.
I reluctantly leave the bar at midnight and I head down the darkened
basement hallway. Shortly, I come upon both the staircase and the door
to the very old elevator. I look above the elevator and the arrow
points to the third floor. Oddly, before I can push the button to
bring the elevator to the basement and with the car apparently on the
third floor, the elevator door opens and reveals the empty wooden
elevator. It is inviting me to enter its comfortable confines and to
take a quick trip, but I think of some of the stories I have heard
during my visit, and upon momentary reflection and with the arrow still
indicating that the elevator is on the third floor, I reconsider my
means of ascension—and I opt to take the stairs.