Answers About Haunted New York, Part 2 – The New York Times – The New York Times

Following is a second and final set of answers on haunted New York from Kate Davey, the co-founder of the Web site findingDulcinea. Ms. Davey, who runs the “Beyond the Headlines” section of the site and is an expert on the tales and legends of New York’s paranormal history, took questions from City Room readers this week. A first set of answers was posted on Monday.
I was wondering if the cancer hospital in CPW & 106th is haunted? I thought there were squatters there when a fire broke out. Any one lingering on or around the Brooklyn Bridge? or any sand hogs in the tunnels? Do you know about the firemen & horses at the pre-renovated fire house on 47th at 8th (now has a theatre in it)? I used to work there and spent many ‘noisy’ nights at the base of the hose tower hearing horses. Anyone in Tompkins Sq? or at what was the Russian baths on 10th between 1st & A?
The jury is still out on whether the former New York Cancer Hospital is actually haunted, although its past would strongly suggest the possibility. Built in 1884, around the time President Ulysses S. Grant was diagnosed with cancer, the building got off on the wrong foot two of its benefactors died before they could be treated. With the country’s largest repository of radium (used to “treat” patients) and a crematorium to the west of the main building, many patients may not have found the comfort they sought in the hospital. In the 1950s, the building became the Towers Nursing Home and quickly gained a reputation for poor treatment of patients, amid allegations of tax and Medicare fraud. It shut down in 1974 and lay vacant for nearly three decades as a sad, dilapidated, fire-damaged landmark. The building also seemed to be cursed for developers. In its current incarnation, the castle-like structure now houses luxury apartments.
The Brooklyn Bridge, although not specifically haunted, has suffered plenty of misfortune and tragedy as well. The famed suspension bridge got off to an inauspicious start when its renowned engineer, John Augustus Roebling, had his foot crushed by pilings on a ferry slip while surveying the site. His son, Washington Roebling, assumed responsibility for the project, but after three years Washington was debilitated by decompression sickness from his work underwater. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, took over as chief engineer. You’ll find a full biography of the couple at Civil War Studies, a Web site supported by associates of the Smithsonian Institution.
Years later, the bridge was the site of another death: the notorious suicide of Robert E. Odlum in 1986. His fatal leaped marked the bridge as a favorite jumping-off point for many a distraught New Yorker. Suicide attempts are so frequent there that a former New York police officer in the Emergency Services Unit now leads the “Brooklyn Bridge Rescue Tour,” which replicates the experience of talking down jumpers.
You may find a ghost beneath the bridge at the Bridge Café, New York City’s oldest bar. The Bridge Café is allegedly frequented by the ghosts of some pirates and its one-time bouncer.
It isn’t surprising that the sounds of horses seemed to haunt you in the 47th Street Theater, as it was a firehouse in the 1800s. In 1865 it was home to Engine 2 and in 1884 it became home to Engine 54 (which, since 1974, has been housed at 782 Eighth Avenue). The theater that stands there now is home to the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. As for stories of hauntings, yours is the first I’ve heard, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a few of the fallen firefighters had decided to stay on duty at the old place. Take a look at some of these old photos of the engines, and maybe you’ll be able to put some faces to those suspicious sounds.
Tompkins Square Park has seen plenty of suspicious characters come and go in its long history, but since the park’s face lift in 1992 it’s been known more as a good place to walk dogs and less as the sordid home of drug addicts, homeless people, and social outcasts that was its reputation a couple of decades ago.
Home of many a demonstration and protest during its century-plus years, Tompkins’s most notorious moment has to be the 1988 riots. But although Mayor Edward I. Koch once famously called the park a “cesspool,” it’s never been known as a home to ghosts. The closest thing you’ll find to an old soul is the park’s monument to 19th-century congressman Samuel Cox, but Cox himself seems to prefer staying put in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery over visiting the park that once honored him. Read about the park’s history at the City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Web site.
As for the Russian Baths, well, although one patron says visiting the place is “like walking into the 1900s,” everyone there is a living, breathing person. If you’re bummed about the lack of paranormal activity (or recent renovation efforts), you can always console yourself with a Swedish massage or homemade dumplings from the on-site restaurant.
How about in Brooklyn? i grew up in an industrial area and always felt a presence, any suggestions of where to find haunted places?
Lauren Davis
Try Green-Wood Cemetery, where the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, the mobster Joey Gallo and the “Wizard of Oz” actor Frank Morgan are among the nearly 600,000 buried. Dozens of Civil War casualties also lie in Green-Wood, and a project is underway to locate all of their gravestones. The cemetery’s historian, author Jeffrey I. Richman, curated a special exhibition on the Civil War, on view at the Brooklyn Public Library through January.
Green-Wood is also home to Mabel Douglass, the first dean of the New Jersey College for Women, who was last seen in a canoe on Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1933. Decades later, her supposedly perfectly intact body was discovered by divers and laid to rest in the storied cemetery. Douglass’s grave was included in last year’s Halloween tours; you’ve missed this year’s, but other tours are offered frequently. Although the cemetery does not allow photography, eerie images and film footage have surfaced on the Web if you’d like a preview.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Flatbush touts a haunted legend — complete with skeletons — at the old site of Melrose Hall on Bedford Avenue, between Clarkson and Winthrop Streets. The story was chronicled in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in June 1884.
Finally, an uncertain incident occurred in Brooklyn, where the ghost of a drowned ferry hand was said to have wrought havoc. Police were called to the scene to comfort distressed residents after mattresses from the home’s several bedrooms mysteriously appeared strewn on the floor one evening in 1878. (Or maybe it wasn’t so mysterious.)
The Ansonia Building on the UWS is definitely haunted. A friend of mine lived there for two years and her whole family had experienced several hauntings. I stayed there only once…the three of us ended up sleeping in one bed because of an unexplained crash by one of the bedroom windows. The hallways are so wide, they remind me of The Shining.
The Hotel Ansonia was built in 1904 by William Earl Dodge Stokes, heir to the Phelps-Dodge copper fortune. Its history is as rich as any building in New York City. With such a storied past, reports and rumors of hauntings are inevitable, and many associated with the building must feel they were cursed.
The hotel was mammoth for its time: 550,000 square feet, 1,400 rooms, and 340 suites, in addition to the world’s largest indoor pool. The City Review e-zine explains the history of the building and features photographs from multiple vantage points.
Student blogger Maurice Valentine claims to have seen a ghost while working in the North Face store in the building’s basement. Folding clothes in the storage room on Christmas Eve, he writes, “a figure appeared in front of me. It was less than 10 feet away. It was dressed as a male—and wearing clothes that dated back to the late 19th or early twentieth century. He was a Caucasian—with a long brimmed hat and handlebar moustache. His clothes were all black. He had a long coat—almost like a raincoat. He had dark boots on. This figure was solid—like it had mass to it. Like you and me. The immediate feeling I got from seeing this thing was that it had to go somewhere. As I stood there in total disbelief it walked away from me with a purpose and disappeared—less than 20 feet away!”
Valentine probably wouldn’t be shocked to learn of reports that Dr. Clifford Bias, the founder of the Universal Spiritualist Association, would hold séances in a chapel off the lobby. The founder and spiritual adviser to the Institute for Spiritual Development, the Rev. James De Biasio, considers Bias to be a mentor in psychic exploration.
The many misfortunes associated with the Ansonia include: in 1990, a ceiling collapsed in a pasty shop on the Hotel’s ground floor, sending two tons of debris onto customers, killing a dancer and injuring 16 more; the famed bank robber Willie Sutton was finally arrested in Child’s restaurant in the lobby; the owners of thte notorious adult club Plato’s Retreat, which started in the building’s basement before moving to 34th Street, were indicted for tax fraud; and Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was staying at the hotel in 1921 when he was fatally beaned in a baseball game at the Polo Grounds.
Major League Baseball has a long association with the Hotel Ansonia. According to New York Magazine, the plot to throw the 1919 World Series was sealed here in the apartment of the Chicago White Sox first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil. The White Sox, not the building, were subsequently cursed for 87 years, until the team’s World Series win in 2005. Babe Ruth himself lived at the Ansonia after the Boston Red Sox traded him to the Yankees in 1919. The Curse of the Bambino hung over the Red Sox for 86 years. With its recent dissipation, the halls of Ruth’s former residence should be watched for a possible reappearance.
It’s not surprising that a reader likened the Hotel Ansonia to the location for “The Shining.” Although the movie was not filmed in the Hotel, the wide hallways and large apartments of the famous building have been used in several movies, including “The Sunshine Boys” and a terrifying movie in its own right, “Single White Female.”
If you are interested in moving into the Ansonia, by the way, it’ll take more than bravery: apartments start at about $6,000 a month. (You may wish not to respond to ads seeking a SWF). Ghosts are not the only unwelcome tenant of the building; residents of the 14th floor recently filed a lawsuit claiming that “a Biblical-type explosion of roaches” has infested their apartment.
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How about the 7th regiment armory on park avenue? I worked there as a waiter in High School and heard plenty of funny noises when closing up shop in the restaurant on the 4th floor.
Dear Ms. Davey,
Sometimes I think people who search for ghosts are
like those that slow down for gruesome accidents,
lusting after the macabre and others’ misfortune
in death. Coming across spirits during my work
in historic restoration has given me cause for pause, to say the least.
In an earlier comment, I noted some places are best
left unmeddled. Have you come across any “haunted”
places in New York that you would recommend to avoid?
How about Edgar Allen Poe’s place … I recall that every six months or so an add would pop up advertising for a house sitter …
I heard once, from someone who had “seen” him, that the late Boris Karloff, who lived there throughout the 1950’s haunted the Dakota. Supposedly in the apartment which he once owned (or rented).
I wish the City Room would have a discussion on psychic phenonmena in general.
I’m sure there are many reader’s who have true and very interesting experiences to tell.
I know that I do.
Are any NYC subway stops considered haunted? That would be an interesting underground phenomenon.
Let’s face it! The whole city is haunted in one way or another.
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