Sure, South Beach is the Devil's playground, Little Haiti has vodou, and downtown is like a ghost town at night, but the spookiest place in Dade is Kendall. And Hellmouth just might be the Kendall Ale House (11625 N. Kendall Dr.; 305-595-7448), where within the first five minutes of arriving, you'll probably see a chubby girl conspicuously picking her wedgie and two gangstas beatboxing while sporting white polo shirts and long plaid golf shorts.
And just outside, you might hook up with Juliette, an innocent-looking, freckle-faced 27-year-old blonde who claims she can see dead people. "Or I used to be able to see them," she says as she flicks a cigarette butt into the strip-mall parking lot filled with shiny-rimmed and limo-tinted Honda Civics. "I remember seeing ghosts all the time in my back yard walking around, raking leaves, cutting the hedges, but after I stopped using Ecstasy, I didn't see them anymore."
Happy Halloween 305-style, folks!
Kendall Ale House
The interior of the Ale House can be summed up simply: massive amounts of glossy wood paneling (terrifying) adorned by neon beer signs; dead, mounted fish (disturbing); and waitresses wearing unbuttoned polo shirts with cleavage pushed up to their chins (boo!).
And although the grub here is pretty tasty, if you eat too many jalapeños after midnight, your stomach will most certainly turn Gremlin-like. Which is how I strike up a conversation with Danny, a 30-year-old wearing a black hoodie and rocking unshaven stubble that creeps down his neck. Sitting at the bar, he carefully places one pepper atop a cheese-and-chicken-smothered tortilla chip and takes a bite. "I once worked two weeks straight, doing landscaping," he says. "So the first day I had off, I woke up and decided that it would be fun to start my day off by drinking a whole bottle of Grey Goose and taking a couple Xanax."
Ah, yes, the breakfast of champions.
"I guess I blacked out after a while, because one second I was watching TV, and the next I found myself waking up in the shower with all this steaming water pouring all over me," he continues. "When I got out, my skin kind of stung, but I was so fucked up I just went back to watching TV. Ends up the water was so hot I gave myself mostly second- and a couple of third-degree burns on my calves and on my neck. I looked like a straight-up monster, like a zombie, the next day. Worst part is that I'm afraid of doctors, so I didn't end up seeing one until my leg looked like it was starting to get gangrene."
He eats another chip, and so does his clean-shaven and slightly buffer buddy Christian, who's wearing a navy blue hoodie.
"I've only been scared once in my life," he says, wiping his hands on his camouflage cargo shorts. "And that was from a pregnancy scare. I was 19, broke, living with my mom, and my girl said she was late. I was really stressed out, I couldn't eat, and I couldn't sleep, because I kept on having dreams about holding my future baby in my arms. I dreamt my baby boy was looking up at me, and I was looking down at him, wondering how I was going to deal with this. Then my baby boy started talking to me! Each dream was different — sometimes he'd ask for milk, sometimes he'd ask for money, and once he told me that he had knocked up a baby girl in the nursery, and now I'd have to take care of her too. So when my girl finally got her period, I felt like, like —"
Downing a bottle of vodka and popping some pills?
"Yeah," he laughs, "except I'd avoid the shower."
Danny punches Christian in the shoulder. He then snatches the last nacho and sarcastically says to Christian: "Yeah, well, at least I don't avoid condoms."
My stomach turning rather than my blood curdling, I turn to Dawn, a 28-year-old with straw-like strawberry-blond hair and the face of a Cabbage Patch doll. "My friends and I started a witch coven in middle school solely so we could bring back the ghost of Kurt Cobain," she explains. "On his birthday, we played the MTV Unplugged album on loop and dressed like Courtney Love, with smeared lipstick, baby-doll dresses, and plastic animal barrettes in our hair. We ate macaroni and cheese because we found out that was his favorite food, and my friend even sewed the name Kurt onto her palm with thread and a needle. We tried a few spells and nothing worked. So we ended up going to the mall and mooing at fat people instead."
At a booth near the entrance sit a petite 24-year-old brunette named Karen and her 29-year-old Cuban boyfriend with sunken eyes. His name is Tony, but he likes to be called Stoney.
"I once lived in a haunted house," he says, squinting, "but I don't know if I want to talk about it."
A shot of Jäger later, his lips loosen: "My family moved into this really nice and big house. But from the first day, we always felt like someone was watching us all the time. Then one windy day, while my grandmother was in the house alone, sewing with all the doors open, a huge gust of wind came through and a door in the hallway slammed. Right afterwards, she felt someone pulling at her feet. Then a week after that, my turd had grown hair."
Sounds like someone was getting a little too intimate with his bong.
"No way, man," he says. "How do you explain this? When I lived in that house, I used to share a room with my little brother. He was about 2 at the time, and I remember I'd wake up in the middle of the night to my brother standing in his crib, laughing, like he was playing a game with someone. When I asked him what he was doing, he'd say in his baby talk: 'Peek-a-boo with the man.' I'd look around and there was no one else in the room but us. But my brother would keep on laughing and pointing and clapping at nothing. We eventually found out that the people who lived there before us were santeros. We moved not too long after that."
And as the hairs on my arms stand up, Karen recalls a creepy little dog her old roommate used to have.
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"First off, he wasn't a cute dog; he was more like the kind that would burp in your face. He was a little and dirty-looking mutt, with one ear that always flopped over while the other stood up straight. And he was a pervert as well," she says in a sweet little voice. "He'd hump everything — the couch, a leg, a sock, the remote control, everything. And he was really attracted to my feet. I couldn't walk around the place barefoot, because if I did, it was only a matter of time before he snuck up on me, hovered over my foot, and gently caressed me with his penis hairs. It was like he was possessed or something.
"God, and that was years ago too," she says. "And I'm still traumatized by that apartment and that dog. I still can't walk around my house without at least my socks on."
"Out of curiosity, where was this apartment?" I ask.
"You mean, where in Miami? Down the street, in Kendall."