New York City
An unbelievable mix of stories, characters, events
Impossible to resist the temptation (well, let’s talk about New York and here temptations are everywhere) to exploring it, especially after reading an article online about its haunting houses, places who many say to be really creepy but in the same time truly fascinating.
So after telling my first Ghost Tour between Mid Town and Lower Manhattan, i’m back in town in early November to spend a foggy afternoon and a sunny morning in search of old taverns, made famous by film cult, vintage places that seems come out from a horror story, historical Broadway theaters and even famous public parks, whose stories left me speechless.
Follow me, map in hand to mark what most interests you, there’s something for all tastes.
Washington Square Park
Have you ever thought that one of the most famous public parks of New York, crowded, during the day, of students of the NYU, of street artists, tourists, couples, activists and families, actually hides a dark past?
This little jewel of Greenwich Village corresponds to the place where in 1700 stretched wide swamp, then reclaimed for tobacco growing by the Native Americans.
The city of New York bought the land in 1797 to make a public cemetery for all the poor who could not afford a burial. Then were added the 20000 corpses of yellow fever in the beginning of ‘800 and those of the death sentences that from 1830 onwards were performed on a scaffold built right in the corner of the square.
Only in the mid of ‘800s, the area was transformed in a park (did you know that it was here that in 1835 Samuel Morse did for the first time a public demonstration of his telegraph?) hiding forever, below it, the bodies and the stories of its past.
The rumors and the stories of visitors say that in Washington Square Park during the summer days in some areas at the sides of the square you can feel sudden gusts of cold air and that at night you can see men and women in old dresses that try to walk out of the park and then disappear suddenly.
Still others claim to have heard, at dusk, melodies of Indian flutes coming from the center of the square.
The Belasco Theater
The Belasco Theater, located not far from Times Square to the 111 west 44th, is one of the oldest theaters in New York.
It was opened to the public in October 1907 by David Belasco, a men really eclectic and curious.
Playwright, director and theater manager, it seems that wrote, during his life, more than 100 works and his fame was so great that even be quoted by Francis Scott Fitzgerald in its The Great Gatsby.
Belasco died in 1931 in the apartment just above the theater.
After his death the theater fell into the hands of unscrupulous businessmen who transformed it in a porn cinema. Apparently paranormal activity began in this period (it seems that the ghost of Belasco don’t liked this kind of shows in his theater), and still continues, although today the theater is back to its first destination.
Many actors say that a character very similar to David Belasco appears in the backstage during rehearsals and performances.
It seems that the ghost of Belasco usually leaves pats on the back in case of success, throwing otherwise on the actors the furniture and the chairs in the dressing room.
It said that during the performances, a woman (maybe his wife) dressed in typical 30s, appears suddenly in the empty seats scaring the unsuspecting spectators.
The Ear Inn (The James Brown House)
When was built, this building at 326 of Spring Street in Soho, was located just 5 meters from tha Hudson River.
It was 1817 when James Brown, an African-American assistant of George Washington became landowner of a tobacco farmer, he decided to build this Federal-style home and to open on the ground floor a tobacco shop.
Around 1890 the house was bought by Thomas Clocke that, given the proximity to the river port, made it a pub for sailors with a brewery and a brothel.
It seems that one of the sailors, Mickey, a frequent visitor to the tavern, went out in the street drunk and was run over and killed by a car.
During the Prohibitionism, the building became one of the speackeasy most famous Soho.
Around 1977 the James Brown House turned in a pub by three students of Columbia University. To circumvent the prohibition of Landmarks Preservation Commission that considered the dwelling as historic structure, the B of Bar became E, thus was born The Ear Inn.
Apparently the ghost of Mickey, the sailor who died in the ‘800s, likes to appear in the bar for a drink, harassing the female staff. Some say that in the evening you see dangling in front of the entrance as if waiting for something, and then disappear into the fog.
Believe it or not at the ghost story, I highly recommend stopping there to drink a beer, chatting with customers.
The unique and charming atmosphere is precisely that of the old New York!
The Bridge cafè
Located at 279 Water Street in Lower Manhattan, almost under the Brooklyn Bridge, in the the Seaport, one of the oldest areas of the city, this eighteenth century building hides a story so strange and unique as to be mentioned in a cult film like Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese.
Built in 1794, The Bridge Cafè is the oldest local for the sale of alcohol in the city and has become over the time, an Hungarian restaurant, a fish tavern, a pub, a shop packaging, a speckeasy and a brothel.
It seems that during the period in which the place was used as a pub and brothel worked here as bouncer a stout woman, known as Gallus Mag. She used to rip, with bites, the ears at the men who did not pay the bill or who bothered the prostitutes. Then the ears ended in transparent glass jars behind the counter of the bar, as a warning to the customers too exuberant.
The character of Gallus May was later taken up by Martin Scorsese in his film, as the Hell-Cat Maggie, it even seems that some scenes were filmed right here.
The Bridge Cafe is closed today following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, awaiting the funds to re-open its doors.
However is still possible to peek inside through doors and windows, it appears that many, at different times, have seen, facing an upstairs window, the shadow of a corpulent woman, Gallus May probably, have heard sudden and loud noises and smells.
There are those who say that, observing the inside, have seen fleeting shadows moving from one side of the room, with the intent to move something.
I tried to see something outside of the Bridge Cafè, but i failed to notice anything like that. I must admit however that the building in itself sends a sense of restlessness and goose bumps.
Maybe during your next trip to New York you could try if you see something and back to tell me what, or who, you have seen.
What do you think about?