Sunday, October 30, 2011

Most Haunted in New York City

Ghosts of murder victims, suicides and spinsters roam Gotham. No wonder it's the city that never sleeps.

As if it wasn’t enough that we New Yorkers have to cram three to a studio apartment in order to afford to live here. Now we have to share our space with ghosts. The city is overrun.

You probably do want to advertise your hauntings, however. A 1991 New York Supreme Court decision ruled that failure to disclose ghosts is grounds for the nullification of a housing contract.

So, with Halloween arriving tomorrow, check out spooky NYC.

*THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM, 29 E. Fourth St., between the Bowery/Lafayette St.

The Merchant’s House Museum, a preserved 19th-century townhouse, has had its share of ghost sightings going all the way back to the 1930s — most involving the former owner, Gertrude Tredwell, who died in the house in 1933.

“We had a concert given by staff members in 2005,” says Eva Ulz, the house’s education and communications manager. “During the show, the players felt strange pokings and changes of temperature. After, one of the audience members came up and asked who was that little old woman sitting behind the band was?”

The old woman in question had been sitting in one of the house’s period chairs that are not allowed to be used and — even spookier — the witness’ description matched Gertrude to a tee.
“I was giving a tour a few years ago, and I was in the kitchen, and I had the door closed and I was leaning against it,” Ulz says. “I began to feel pressure from the door. Sometimes I get a draft, so I pushed it closed again. It happened again. I pushed it closed. A few minutes later, I was knocked over when the door opened with such force.”

*CAMPBELL APARTMENT, 15 Vanderbilt Ave., at 43rd Street

It was a fairly busy night recently at the Campbell Apartment, the stylish bar located in a wing of Grand Central. A woman climbed the stairs and headed into the single bathroom upstairs and locked the door behind her.

A line quickly formed outside the loo. Restless bargoers waited for her to emerge. And waited. And waited.

Finally, management was summoned. They were unable to open the door, so they called a locksmith. The locksmith arrived and quickly disabled the lock, which had been latched from the inside. The door was opened, and inside the small bathroom was . . . nothing.

It was empty. No sign of the woman whom multiple witnesses had seen go inside.
New York City: Where even the undead have trouble finding adequate public restrooms.
Campbell Apartment owner Mark Grossich and some of his staff suspect the woman might have indeed been a ghost. Her bathroom trick was only the latest in a series of events that have been plaguing the lounge with more frequency during the past year. An older couple in 1920s clothing has been spotted having drinks on the balcony. Wait staff have felt shoves, only to turn around and find no one there. A manager closing alone heard someone distantly calling his name.

*THE HOTEL GRIFFOU, 21 W. NINTH St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues

In June, Stacey Jones, founder of Central New York Ghost Hunters, investigated the Griffou — a former brothel and the scene of a 1905 murder-suicide. One of her techniques is to place a tape recorder in a room to capture so-called electronic voice phenomenon, the sounds of spirits. Down in the Griffou’s wine cellar, Jones began calling out a series of questions. “I asked, ‘Can you tell me about the key?’ Sometimes you just ask random questions and that gets results,” Jones says. While nothing was heard at the time, when Jones later listened back to her tape, an angry voice can be heard snarling, “What do you want to know about that key?”

*SNUG HARBOR CULTURAL CENTER & BOTANICAL GARDEN, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island

The complex for retired sailors was built in the early 1800s. Legend has it that a woman lived in one of the houses and kept her disabled son chained in the basement. He escaped and killed her with a pair of scissors. He was caught and hanged on the grounds.

The woman’s ghost has supposedly been spotted over the years, and residents have reported other strange happenings, such as church bells ringing unexpectedly, doors slamming suddenly and hearing phantom footsteps.

Berry and the “Ghost Hunters” team recently investigated — one of two jobs in New York City for the series — and witnessed a number of spooky occurrences. They heard a woman’s voice speaking to them, possibly in Spanish, and captured something resembling a figure on a thermal-imaging camera.

*THE ANSONIA, 2109 Broadway, at 73rd Street

Not every haunting is tied to a violent event. Some spaces just have ghosts like the rest of us have roaches. “To me the common denominator is that there’s always some kind of unfinished business,” says Frank Harris of New York Ghost Tours, which offers haunted West Village walks. “Someone hasn’t lived a full and content life.”

The Upper West Side’s Ansonia, built in 1904, has been the site of many hauntings. A resident reports that her dog walker once awoke in the middle of the night to find a hazy female figure standing over her. She also says one of the elevators is haunted.

Apparitions have often been spotted in the basement, as well. A current doorman says he once saw a shadowy figure down there, and a blogger named Maurice Valentine claims to have seen a ghostly man in period garb appear before him in the stockroom of the North Face store in the building.

“Our downstairs is haunted,” says Mickey Nelson, manager of the American Apparel store in the Ansonia. “People see dark shadows, and we always hear noises. It’s like a humming, but not a humming from pipes. It’s a weird, creepy hum.”

“The lights dim sometimes,” says employee Daisy St. John. “It’s like they have a mind of their own.”

*MANHATTAN BISTRO, 129 Spring St., at Greene Street

One of the city’s most famous spirits is the so-called Ghost of Spring Street, who allegedly inhabits the Manhattan Bistro.

In 1800, a young woman named Juliana Elmore Sands disappeared, later turning up dead at the bottom of a well. (The stone structure still stands in the restaurant’s basement.) It wasn’t long before the well became associated with mysterious goings-on. Witnesses claim to have seen fireballs or heard screams emanating from it. A popular 19th-century pastime was to gather round the well with friends to watch for ghosts.

Current owner Maria DaGrossa-Hanna says neighbors claim to have heard groans and rattling chains in the alley behind the restaurant. Her sister recently snapped a shot of the restaurant’s facade (see cover) that seemed to show a woman’s face looking out into the street. In 2000, DaGrossa-Hanna says wine bottles began flying off a shelf and crashing to the floor. “The way they did it, they didn’t just fall off the shelf, they flew,” she says.

*THE HOUSE OF DEATH, 14 W. TENth St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues

Mark Twain once lived in the building, but it didn’t enter into Halloween lore until 1974 when a little-known actress named Jan Bryant Bartell published “Spindrift: Spray From a Psychic Sea,” which claimed No. 14 was haunted. Bartell wrote that a resident once discovered an old man in her apartment who said, “My name is Clemens, and I have a problem here I gotta settle,” before disappearing.

Shortly after arriving in 1957, Bartell’s dog died, followed quickly to the grave by — she claims — numerous other residents, either by suicide or other odd folly. In 1987, the building was the scene of more bad juju when Joel Steinberg killed his 6-year-old adopted daughter inside.





 *FRIARS CLUB, 57 E. 55th St.

The venerable comedy clubhouse was the site of another “Ghost Hunters” investigation.
“They say that the ghost of [vaudeville performer] Al Kelly is there,” Berry says. “I think that he might be. It seemed like something was playing with us.”

In 1966, Kelly died of a heart attack in the famous club’s dining room, and over the years, members have reported doors opening and closing and hearing strange sounds.

The “Ghost Hunters” team heard unexplained knocks on the door and Berry used an electromagnetic-field meter to conduct a “conversation” with a ghost he thinks might be Kelly.

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