Ghostly Sightings

Halloween apparitions will most likely be stirred by Hurricane Sandy this year.  She seems to be a very angry spirit.  So yesterday, it was time to go meet a few ghosts.

With its loveliness, one wouldn’t think that Washington Square would be a vortex of Halloween energy.  But it was built on the graves of 15,000 yellow fever victims, and some say you can see the saffron yellow, linen-wrapped bodies, if you know where to look.

The Hanging Tree, last used in 1819
Click on this image to see its creepiness

But you don’t have to look hard to see the last Hanging Tree in New York, where Lafayette in his triumphal return to the U.S. was proudly taken to witness such justice.

So Justin Ferate told us on our tour of Haunted Greenwich Village.

As is typical of any tour with Justin, we went off on interesting tangents.  Do you know why walk-ups rarely go higher than 6 stories?  Because water pressure won’t go push water higher than that.  Savvy builders constructed new apartment houses to 15 stories using water pump technology.  Did you know that the best kind of water tower to have on the roof of your building is made of wood?  Justin wants to lead a tour of New York’s water towers.  I’ll be there!

And although not at all ghostly, those professional chess players in the park can get their supplies on nearby Thompson Street.

3rd and Thompson








So many places in the Washington Square vicinity are haunted, you’ll have to check out the slide show below.  Here are some tidy tidbits.  You know the phrase “getting sent up the river”?  That comes from moving the prison in Greenwich Village up the Hudson River to Sing-Sing (a popular tourist stop on a daytrip out of Manhattan in the early 1800s, per my New York Historical Society connections).

We saw NYU’s Brown Building, where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire horrified all.  The 146 unfortunate women, locked in the workroom, who died on March 25, 1911, had work because of R.H. Macy who invented the pricetag.  A set price on a shirtwaist and black skirt allowed the Working Girl to afford the ‘uniform’ of her day.

In the myriad ways to detect a house of the wealthy is the type of column.  In this case a full, that is a complete, rounded column, was more expensive than a partial column or pilaster.  Makes sense.

Gertrude Drick supposedly haunts the small doorway she introduced to artist John Sloan and other ‘hoodies, when they climbed the 110 stairs inside the arch to go to the top and party.

Aaron Burr bought the carriage house at 17 Barrow Street, stabling his and George Washington’s horses there.  Now the famous restaurant One If By Land, Two If By Sea, Burr and his daughter Theodosia haunt the place.  She likes earrings, so be careful what you wear when you go there.

Anyone want to join me?


Washington Square is way too haunted to relay all the tales here, but check out this slide show:


Picture 1 of 24

Then I rode the C train up to 163rd Street to visit the Morris-Jumel Mansion.  Eliza Jumel’s spirit, which regularly haunts the place along with other ghosts, was apparently so restless that she morphed into 7 manifestations, each haunting a separate room or place on the grounds.

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To read more about Eliza, you can zoom to read the text on page 2 or click open the pdf.

Eliza was abandoned as a young girl by her parents and so turned to prostitution, before becoming an actress.  She married for money, perhaps killed that husband, and then her second husband Aaron Burr conveniently died on the day their divorce was finalized.

Eliza as an abandoned girl, in the kitchen

Eliza as a widow, with the pitchfork that killed Stephen Jumel










In her mad, doddering elderhood, she was a scary gal, and I have to admit that I jumped a bit when I exited the house to be screamed at by Eliza’s ghost from the balcony, “Get Out of My House!”  Okay, okay already.  So that’s when I went on the grounds to encounter the Eliza who may have neglected to care for her husband Stephen, after he was pierced by a pitchfork.  Hmmm.

Edith Wharton wrote in the introduction to her autobiography A Backward Glance, “To all the friends who every year on All Souls’ Night come and sit with me by the fire” (thank you, Justin for sharing this quote).  Since Sandy seems to be keeping us at home for the next few days, join me by my proverbial fireplace…well, everyone maybe except Eliza!

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  1. Pingback: Pitchforks | Rena Tobey

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