Thursday, March 12, 2020

HGB Ep. 331 - Greenwich Village

Moment in Oddity - Dracula Parrot
Suggested by: Jannae McCabe

Parrots are adorable birds and so smart. Most of the time, when we picture one in our head, we envision them with bright plumage. If you add a Cockatoo into the mix, you see white. But would you ever imagine a parrot with black feathers? Enter the Pesquet's Parrot! This variety is nicknamed the Dracula Parrot and it truly fits that name. Their beaks are pitch-black, the feathers of their chest are black and gray and their wings and lower body have bright red feathers. When they are in flight, their wings look like they are painted with a broad red stripe. Males have a very small red patch behind their ears. The Dracula Parrot's tail feathers are short, but broad. These beautiful birds are only found in the mountains of New Guinea. This parrot is large and one-of-a-kind and perfectly suited for Dracula's shoulder and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Battle of Iwo Jima Ends

In the month of March, on the 26th, in 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima came to an end. This year marks the 75th anniversary of this battle that was immortalized in a picture that we all know so well featuring Marines raising an American flag on the island. The Battle of Iwo Jima was a major battle during World War II that began on February 19, 1945 and lasted for five weeks. Some of the bloodiest fighting of the war occured at this time. Although an American victory was almost guaranteed, the beginning stages did not go well as the terrain proved to be more difficult than what had been thought and that the Marines suffered an 83.3% casualty rate with the first wave of landings. The United States Marine Corps and Navy eventually captured the island from the Imperial Japanese Army. The island proved to not be strategically important since it could not be used as a base of operations, but psychologically it benefited the Allies. The aforementioned picture of "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. The black and white photograph depicts six Marines from E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is on the island of Manhattan in New York City. After European settlement, this area would become a place for carriage houses, black servant quarters and row homes. The area would industrialize and become home to slums. Eventually, the avant-garde would come and soon beatniks, hippies, artists and homosexuals called The Village home. Upscale stores moved in and New York University bought up historic buildings and gutted them. Residents have not embraced these changes, nor does it seem, have the ghosts. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Greenwich Village.

The island was named for the Manhatta Lenape tribe and was first mapped by the Dutch East India Company's British navigator Henry Hudson. By 1624, a fur-trading settlement was set-up and Fort Amsterdam was built on the southern tip of Manhattan. The island was purchased by the Dutch from the Manhatta in 1626 for around $24. The Native Americans had used what was a very hilly island for hunting and fishing rather than living space. Obviously, Manhattan is not hilly anymore and that is because most of it was dynamited to get it flatter. By 1673, the future Greenwich Village had become a hamlet of carriage houses and homes known as Groenwijck, which means Green District. The community officially became Greenwich Village in 1712. Greenwich Village was originally separated from New York City by water. The borough was laid out on land located on the east and west sides of the Minetta Creek with a main landmark called Washington Square Park. The homes of doctors and lawyers and the other rich and influential of New York were built around the park. Eventually, high rises would be built, along with office buildings. The Gay Rights Movement would be born here as was Howdy Doody. But as is the case with all neighborhoods, things would change again as upscale stores moved in and housing became more expensive.

The Village has always held an aura for gay people and when we found out that NY Ghosts hosted a ghost tour through it, we were excited! We met our tour guide, Damien, under the arch in Washington Square Park. The temperature had dipped down into the twenties with a brisk wind that would send the wind chill down below the twenties. This was going to be a tough tour for these Floridians, but we learned so much about this area of New York City that it was worth the sacrifice. We were joined on the tour by a couple from Montreal, who were much more prepared for the weather. Damien introduced himself and let us know he would be sharing just as much history as ghost stories and that he would take us places not on the normal tour, which was perfect for us. He clearly loves the Village and knows his stuff and has lived in Alphabet City for many years. He was full of great tips and taught us to cross streets like a native New Yorker.

Before we get into the tour, one of the places we passed was the Stonewall Inn. Damien didn't share any stories other than to tell us the riots had taken place here, so clearly, he didn't know it was haunted. We were going to catch a drink there after the tour, but we were so frozen, we waited until the next day. This was special for us in many ways. One, this was the place where the Gay Rights Movement started. But this was also a part of the episode that had been nominated for an award and the reason we were even here. (We share our thoughts about drinking at the bar and the people we met.)

Washington Square Park

Let's start with Washington Square Park since this is where we started and ended the tour. This is a place full of history and many reasons for being haunted.  Washington Square started as a small marsh through which the Minetta Creek flowed. The Dutch freed their slaves and gave them plots of land near the creek as a kind of buffer against the Native Americans that they had run off. This became known as "The Land of the Blacks." Eventually, the park would become the heart of Greenwich Village and many rich families would build their homes around it. Over time it would become a central place for the avante garde to gather. The most prominent feature here is the Washington Arch named for our first president to whom it is dedicated and two of his statues are a part of this gorgeous piece. It's officially known as the Memorial Arch  and is located at the north end of the park. The original arch was designed by New York architect Stanford White and erected in 1889. That was not anything like this one having been made from wood and decorated with items made from papier-mache. The one that is here now was also designed by White and made from Tuckahoe marble with construction beginning in 1890 and completed in 1895. One might wonder why it took five years to build this monument.

Washington Square Park is a graveyard. Thousands of people were buried here and never moved. So one can imagine that when ground was broken for the monument, workers found a lot more than just dirt. When it was complete, the arch stood seventy-seven feet tall and had a Beaux Arts styling.David H. King, Jr. who built the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, supervised construction of the arch. Many artists contributed their works to the memorial with the two statues of Washington being added in 1916 and 1918. The arch itself is the scene of one of the ghost stories told here. As World War I started, there were a group of artists who decided that they should declare Greenwich Village its own sovereign nation. They decided to do this from the top of the arch. They brought up balloons and lanterns and lit a fire as they read their declaration and celebrated. Even though they were probably drunk, nobody managed to fall off. But many people walking through the park at night have witnessed the scene on top of the arch as it plays over again in a residual manner.

This park is full of spirits. As we mentioned, this was a graveyard and thousands of people were buried here in mass graves and unmarked graves as epidemics would course through the area. The Manhatta were also driven from this area and people see their spirits here too, possibly trying to return to a place that was there hunting ground. Edgar Allan Poe's spirit had been seen walking through the park. And in the northwest corner is the Hangman's Elm. This is one of the oldest trees in New York and legend claims that it was used to hang and lynch many people in the past. The main branch that was used, broke off in the 1990s, but that doesn't stop people from claiming to see shadowy figures hanging from the tree. Spectres are seen gathering around the base of the tree and it is thought they are spirits of executed prisoners from a nearby jail. There is a ghost dog here too. Many think that this is Fala, President Franklin Roosevelt's beloved Scottish terrier who died in 1952. Fala was buried next to FDR in Hyde Park, but had spent a lot of time near Washington Square Park when Eleanor Roosevelt lived in Greenwich Village. Perhaps the pup loved its time at the park so much that it has returned on occasion in the afterlife. 

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

The Brown Building that is now owned by New York University had once been home to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The factory was located on the top three floors of what was called the Asch Building at the time and this was owned by Isaac Harris and Max Blanck. This was a dangerous sweatshop. Damien shares about sweatshops here in The Village and then starts to tell us of the tragedy that took place here. (Damien Shirtwaist)

We'll take over the story as the wind drowns out Damien. So yeah, these women were locked into the building like prisoners, having to prove that they didn't have material in their bags in order to be let out. As fire breaks out, the guy with the key leaves without unlocking the door. Five hundred women are left inside. The day was March 25th in 1911, so almost 109 years ago. And while the cause of the fire is blamed on an employee, the two men who owned this factory had a history of suspicious fires in their factories. It seems they liked to collect the insurance money and so they were unwilling to install safety measures like sprinklers. The factory was built in a very precarious way too with only one elevator working and a long narrow corridor that employees had to navigate to get to the elevator. The elevator was only able to make four trips, carrying 12 women at a time, before it broke down. The fire escape was very narrow and the fire hose was rotted.

Some women jumped down the elevator shaft to their deaths. Others made it to the bottom of the stairs, only to find a locked door. The employees and owners above the fire managed to get to the roof and make their way over to other buildings. Other trapped women started making the awful decision to jump from the windows. For those of us that witnessed the tragic events of 9/11, we all can envision this scene quite well. The firefighters were helpless to do much as their ladders only reached the seventh floor and the fire started on the eighth floor. Multiple girls would jump into a net together, shredding the net and making it useless. The tragedy was over in 18 minutes and 145 people were dead. The owners were never indicted and they only paid families of victims $75 of the $400 that the insurance company paid out for each victim. If any good came from this, it was that fire safety standards had to be met and labor laws were enacted. This was the largest disastrous fire in New York City until 9/11. And this kind of tragedy leaves behind immense spiritual residue. People claim to see the images of women falling from the building and that these shadows dissipate as they approach the ground. Students in the building have felt as though they are having panic attacks and a sudden need to evacuate the building.

New York University Library

The library for New York University is called the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library. It's been open since 1973. There were many protests to it being opened, especially since it is tall. And that height had caused an unexpected issue in more recent years. Damien explains. (Damien Library) So eight students committed suicide here, according to Damien. Wikipedia has three as well as some news sources. The suicide panels are a unique design and it certainly was chilling to learn their real purpose.

Brittany Residence Hall 

Over and over you will hear us referencing how New York University destroyed much of the history in The Village. Our new friend at the bar hates NYU for just this reason. They have totally changed the landscape of The Village. This is not the artist or gay mecca that it had once been. And this is one of the, if not THE, most expensive schools in the country. Even topping the Ivy League schools. So they have the money to restore rather than destroy. One place they changed was The Brittany Hotel, which is now their Brittany Residence Hall. This is located at 55 East 10th Street, at the northwest corner of Broadway, across from the Gothic styled Grace Church built in 1846 by James Renwick. The dormitory rises to 15-stories and was built in 1929 as a residence hotel. It had multi-pane casement windows and a Gothic styling. These windows were replaced with single pane windows by the university. The former penthouse is now a 24-hour study hall. In its heyday, this served as a speakeasy. There are still false walls behind the bookcases. Famous people who have lived here include Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, Debbie Harry and Jerry Garcia. There was also a four-year-old girl who had lived here and her spirit may still be here.

This little four-year-old girl was named Molly and she apparently fell down the elevator shaft when the hotel was being built. Residents have seen her spirit in the hallways. She's not the only one heard and seen. Disembodied heavy footsteps are heard and there is music that is heard that no one can figure out where it is coming from. A former resident claimed that he and his fiancé were kept awake all night by a presence they couldn't see. Another former resident named Karen claimed to have what almost sounds like a sleep paralysis experience, although it continued to the point that most of us would call it a possible haunting. Karen had come in late one night and her roommate was already fast asleep. Karen got into bed, but she tossed and turned and was fully awakened when she felt a force pressing down on her and she couldn't breathe. She sat up thinking she was having a dream and then she realized that something was still holding her legs. She could see a dim shadowy figure at the end of the bed and its hands were around her ankles. Karen started screaming and her roommate snapped on the light. The figure was no longer there. And Karen moved to a different dorm.

Edgar Allan Poe's House

As we make our way to a place where Edgar Allan Poe once lived, Damien tells us about the artists moving in here. (Damien Intro) And then we arrive at a special treat for us. We had forgotten that Poe had lived in The Village before moving into his cottage in the Bronx. It wasn't for a long time - 1844 to early 1846 - but apparently he haunts the place. This is not the original building. New York University bought it and planned to demolish it, but preservationists made the university sign a deal in which they dismantled the house, but used the bricks to recreate the facade within the structure and they also had to place a plaque outside explaining its historical significance. (Damien Poe) Now, according to Tom Ogden's "Haunted Greenwich Village" book, Poe doesn't haunt the building, but the spirit of a mentally ill woman does. Her family had kept her confined in the attic. So is it this female spirit haunting the place or is Damien right in thinking that an autistic woman was locked away here? And we also want to point out the same point we made in our Poe episode. Many people get their information on Poe from Rufus Griswold's biography of Poe and Griswold hated Poe because Poe had given him lots of bad literary critiques. He is the one that had people convinced that Poe was a womanizing drunk who did drugs. So we don't agree with what Damien had said here about Poe.

Firehouse No. 2/Anderson Cooper's House

Right across the street from Poe's place, at 84 West Third Street, is Anderson Cooper's Place: an old firehouse and former brothel. The news personality bought the old station in 2009. Before that, this had been a full functioning firehouse. And even before that happened in 1960, it had been home for a volunteer fire department. But even before that, The Village's most popular brothel had been built here. Seeing any firehouse in New York is pretty poignant for Americans. The next day, we would be visiting the 9/11 memorial and many NYFD members lost their lives on that day. Dutch colonists had set-up a fire department of sorts all the way back in 1648 as a type of fire watch headed by eight wardens. They would work during the days, and at night the "Prowlers" would take over. These were groups of men that walked the streets from 9pm to dawn, carrying buckets of water like a traveling "Bucket Brigade." Things became more official in 1736, when two fire trucks were added to the force. This group was small and all volunteer. In 1865, the fire department would move from volunteer to paid, professional firemen.

Now, there was something different about the firemen at this particular firehouse. This was not an official NYFD house and was referred to as a Fire Patrol. This was owned by an insurance company and the main duty of the firemen employed here was to save the stuff inside burning buildings to mitigate losses. This was run by the Mutual Assistance Corporation. The Fire Patrol would rush into a business and pull out everything that could be removed. Whatever could not be removed, would be covered with a tarp to protect against ash and water. The Fire Patrol would then pump out the water that the firemen were using to put out the fire to lessen the water damage. After the fire was out, the patrol would clean up and secure the building, so thieves and vandals couldn't get inside. The Fire Patrol could be identified by their red helmets. And up until 2000, they were answering the call at 10,000 fires a year. They saved millions of dollars in equipment and priceless works of art and such. Despite this being the main duty of the patrol, they responded on 9/11 and one of their own was lost. The last of the ten patrol firehouses that had originally been founded was closed in 2006.

That is when this firehouse, Patrol No. 2, was closed: 2006. The building was originally constructed in 1906 and was designed by architect Franklin Baylis in the Beaux-Arts style. There is a large garage door with the head of the god Mercury above it, which symbolizes swiftness. A pair of terra cotta trumpets are along the roofline on opposites sides of the date "1906." Anderson Cooper has done a beautiful job of fully restoring the exterior and interior and turned it into his private residence. We're not sure what the inside looks like now, but during its fire days, the interior was made from brick set in a herringbone design and the walls were decorated with glass tiles that made up murals depicting the history of the Fire Patrol. To get to the upper floors, firemen would go up a narrow spiral staircase made of metal and they would come down via a brass pole. Four fire plaques honoring the fallen men of this house were up on the walls and were going to be thrown away when the building was up for demolition. One of the firemen's fathers grabbed the plaques. Anderson told the father that he would return the plaques to the outside of the building when the renovations were done.

Now, we don't know if Anderson was aware that the firehouse was haunted before he bought it, but he probably knows now. Damien tells us about it and some of the ghost stories. (Damien Firehouse) Many of the firefighters claimed to have either heard, felt or seen a spirit in the firehouse. Is the spirit of this Schwartz still hanging out here and specifically on the fourth floor? Is that why Anderson never has a light on up there?

Twin Sisters Houses
There were a couple of L-Shaped streets here in The Village that were really neat because they were unique. One of them is named Commerce Street and the Cherry Lane Theater could be found here as well as the Twin Sisters Houses. This is a fun story. It would seem a sea captain had twin daughters and he had identical homes built for them with a garden between them. A unique feature stands out right away. Both houses have no windows on the sides that face each other. Apparently, these sisters hated each other and demanded that the houses be designed this way so they wouldn't have to look at each other. Their father named the garden between the house "The Garden of Hope" as he desired that they come to love each other. That never happened and it is said that the sisters haunt their homes with their full-bodied apparitions being seen outside of the houses with their backs to each other.


Chumley's is found at 86 Beford Street. Damien told us that this was the most haunted place in The Village. It was named after Leland and Henrietta Chumley who founded it in 1928. He was a member of the International Workers of the World and although the place didn't advertise that it served booze, it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Many famous writers loved to come here. One of the famous people to have to sleep it off in a corner booth was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway also had drinks here. The building is very old and had been around long before the bar made this its home. This brick building was built sometime in the 1820s and served as a blacksmith shop, stable, dairy and garage on the ground floor and as a working class apartment above. Damien tells us about its history and haunts. (Damien Chumleys)

So as you heard there from Damien, someone was murdered inside and Henrietta Chumley had a heart attack at her favorite table. Henrietta and Leland are said to haunt their old bar. One young man claimed to come into the bar alone and he slid into a booth that faced the fireplace. He saw an attractive woman sitting there looking at him. She raised her glass in a toast to him and then looked above him to the wall where several pictures of famous writers were hanging. He wasn't sure if she was toasting him or them. He finished his drink, slipped on his jacket and headed for the door. He decided to turn and give the woman a farewell wave and when he looked back, she was nowhere to be seen. Could this have been Henrietta? There are other ghosts here too. Employees claim that glasses smash on their own. After 9/11, it is said that the spirits of several firefighters that died have been seen gathered around the jukebox enjoying each others company in the afterlife.

Thomas Paine's House

"These are the times that try men's souls." That is a line from Thomas Paine's work "The Crisis." Paine was known as the Father of the Revolution and his writing stirred a nation to freedom. He's one of my favorite Founding Fathers and I've owned a copy of his work "Common Sense" for as long as I can remember. This was published on January 19, 1776 and sold over 100,000 copies within three months and basically challenged the reader to take up arms and fight for liberty. Toward the end of his life, Paine called Greenwich Village his home. He died here when he was seventy-two and he was an outcast at the time because of many of his anti-religion and anti-Christian writings. As a matter of fact, no church would bury him, so he was buried under a walnut tree on his farm in New Rochelle. Paine's former home is known today as Marie's Crisis and can be found at 59 Grove Street. This is not the original house. A new building was put up and it ran as a brothel during the 1850s. In the 1890s, it housed a basement bar for gay men. During Prohibition, it became a bar known as Marie's and it is still that today having been renamed Marie's Crisis. This is a piano bar where Broadway actors like to come after shows and give impromptu performances. There was a queue of people waiting outside to get in when we passed by.

One of the spirits that is said to be here is that of Thomas Paine himself who seems to either like his former home or be at unrest for a reason. Perhaps that reason is the fact that a man had him disinterred so that he could be given an honorable burial over in Britain, which is where he was originally from, and that man died before the bones were buried and now they have become lost. A disembodied voice that seems to be debating has been heard often in the bar. One piano player claimed that he saw a bright red orb when he was playing and this orb started to come at him, scaring him so bad that he would not return to the bar. He said that it was not only red, but it gave off a lot of heat.

House of Death

The townhouse at 14 West 10th Street in New York City is a beautiful Greek Revival Home built in the late 1850s. The brownstone has played host to many of New York's elite and was even home to Mark Twain for a year in 1901. It sits on a beautiful picturesque block and many people would probably just walk by the townhouse without the slightest shudder. But shudder they should because this townhouse has a dark past that has led to it being nicknamed "The House of Death." Death came in many forms here from suicide to murder to natural death. For this reason, it is believed that the brownstone is haunted by many spirits, one of whom is Mark Twain. Is the reputation deserved and is it possible that somehow this building itself has become a portal bringing nefarious creatures into our world?

James Boorman Johnston was a son of the prominent Scottish-born New York merchant John Johnston. He had been a founding member of the Metropolitan Underground Railroad and the Broadway Underground Railroad. His wife was one of the first residents at “Number 14.” At that time, it was a single family home. In 1900, Mark Twain took up residence and stayed for a year. Later, another couple had moved in and while details are hard to find, it would seem that a murder suicide resulted from the relationship. As the years went by, a need for housing grew in the city. Brownstones started converting to multi-family apartments. 14 West 10th Street converted into ten apartments in 1937.

Jan Bryant Bartell was an actress, author and poet. She and her husband moved into the House of Death into a top floor apartment in the 1970s. This had been the former servants' quarters. They had only lived there a short time when strange things began to happen. Their dogs seemed to see something they could not and they reacted very negatively towards whatever it was. Then Jan noticed it too. She described it as a “monstrous moving shadow.” Things got so bad that Jan decided to call in some help and she contacted a ghost hunter. Not any ghost hunter. She called Hans Holzer, who was a world renowned expert in the paranormal. He came to the house and confirmed her suspicions that something supernatural was going on at the apartments. They both believed that several people had died in the brownstone from mysterious causes. But nothing he did helped and Jan believed he made matters worse for her and her husband. She decided to document their experiences in a book that she published in 1974 called "Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea." Jan had considered herself a skeptic, but now she believed in the paranormal and even thought she had become somewhat psychic herself. Jan and her husband moved out of Number 14 in 1973. Sadly, Jan died of a heart attack shortly thereafter. She never got the chance to enjoy the publication of her book. Some believe she has returned to Number 14. There are even those who claim that she herself died in the house, but there is no evidence to back that up.

Damien talks about the house and his thoughts on it (Damien House of Death)

Joel Steinberg was a criminal defense attorney in New York. He moved into the House of Death with his partner Hedda Nussbaum and their two illegally adopted children in the 1980s. One of the children was named Lisa. A single mother had hired Steinberg to find a family for Lisa. Instead of locating a family, Steinberg took Lisa home with himself and never bothered to file adoption papers. He more than likely was not a suitable parent and would not have passed the scrutiny because Lisa would end up dead. One of Steinberg's issues was that he liked crack cocaine. He hit six-year-old Lisa in the head one day. A call came into police that a child was not breathing at the House of Death at 7am on November 4, 1987. Lisa was rushed to the hospital where she was later taken off of life support. Her younger brother was a baby at the time and found tied to the playpen, covered in filth. He was removed from the home and Steinberg was arrested for murder. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter and sentenced to 8 to 25 years. He was released in 2004. It came to light that Steinberg had been beating Hedda as well, causing her serious permanent damage to her spine and face. He truly was a psychopath.

As you heard from Damien, one of the most prominent ghosts at the House of Death is Mark Twain. He had only lived there for a year and had not died there, but he must have liked the place since he has returned in the afterlife. People claim to have seen him wearing his standard white suit and hanging around the first floor and the staircase.

Paranormal investigators that have investigated the building, claim that there is a lady in white at the house, as well as the ghost of a young child and a ghost cat. In total, twenty-two separate entities have been counted. Several of the entities bring a darkness into the building. The feeling is oppressive and menacing. The shadows in the corners of rooms seem to have a life all their own. Did they drive Steinberg to murder or was that already in him?

Greenwich Village is a neighborhood full of wonderful history spanning decades of slums and factories to brothels and speakeasies to artist communes and civil rights battles. Today, The Village still holds much of its charm making it our favorite place we visited in New York City. We loved it so much that we had to visit during the daytime the day after our tour. Is The Village full of haunts? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
A great read and a wealth of information can be found in Tom Ogden's "Haunted Greenwich Village," published by GPP in 2012.

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