I’ve spent a fair few hours with spirits in the East Village, but tonight I ventured to the other side of the island to get to know a different kind.
Armed with my camera and Jeff for protection, I went to Washington Square Park to learn about the ghouls terrorizing the West Village on a ghost walking tour. (Because I clearly haven’t had enough scares this week…)
We did pick the eve of Halloween to check it out, however, meaning that the group was annoyingly large – about 30 of us with a single tour guide, the lovely Jessie. So as we left Washington Square behind us (and the hundreds of unidentified bodies buried beneath it – true fact), I knew it was unlikely that I’d be able to hear every tit bit shared.
Over the two-hour tour we visited gardens, homes, bars and abandoned buildings where owners and patrons have reported seeing ghosts or suffering curses. Although the top anecdotes actually ended up being of the non-spooky variety, I’ll let you in to a couple of my favorite eerie stories.
At 12 Gay Street – the shortest street in the city and the street sign most often targeted by thieves – lives the Phantom of Gay Street. The basement floor of the building used to be a speakeasy and the home of Mayor Jimmy Walker’s mistress. Many believe the party never really stopped as ghostly drinkers in fancy dresses and coat tails have reportedly been seen at the windows… oooohh….
We swooped around the corner to the city’s longest abandoned warehouse (since 1986 – and it’s in the West Village so think of how much that would be worth!) where the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe has been seen on the staircase. We were then ushered to a gorgeous restaurant, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, where a ghost reportedly steals earrings and forces staff down staircases…
Our final stop was ‘The House of Death’ – given the grisly moniker as it holds the record in the city for the highest number of people who have died in a single property: 22. At one point, the house on 10th Street seemed so cursed that one person was dying there every four to five years – the last being a six-year-old girl, Lisa Steinberg, who was beaten to death by her adopted father, an attorney, in 1987. It’s even reportedly been haunted by the ghost of Mark Twain, who lived at the home in 1900.
Among the other non-ghostly tit bits… we passed the house where the exterior for the Friends’ apartment was shot!
And you know that narrow house I visited a few months back? Well I learned it was built in an alleyway to block out noise from a cheeky speakeasy behind.
All in all, this tour was good – but the group was just so large it made it hard to hear all of the details and it took us a while to get from home to home. Some of the stories were pretty vague, but I also picked up some interesting tit bits that I’ll no doubt be passing on. For now though, I think I’ll stick to those East Village spirits.
For more information on the tour, the website is here.