Friday, July 19, 2013

Haunted Manhattan: The House of Death

I thought opening the series with The House of Death was quite appropriate because of several factors. First, this is a private residence, therefore, there's no one to interview or anywhere to eat/drink to see what happens. Just a picture from the outside and a lot of stories to tell. Also because among the ghosts that purportedly inhabit the place is Mark Twain. Why would be that of any importance, you ask? Well, last night I attended Stephen King's event promoting Joyride at the Mark Twain house in Hartford. Expect a post about that experience coming soon, but in the meantime, I really felt like that was too sweet a coincidence to let it pass.

On the subject, now. The history of number 14 of West 10th Street in Greenwich Village, better known as the House of Death, is one of both mystique and horror that stretches for over 150 years. Built on the late 1850s, the mansion was home to a long list of the who-is-who of the day. Outstanding figures, such as the founder of the Metropolitan Underground Railroad and Broadway Underground Railroad, James Boorman Johnston; famous writer, Mark Twain; and the president of the North American Company, Charles W. Wetmore. 

In 1933, the house was sold to a company that quickly turned it to a ten apartment complex. By then, stories of ghostly apparitions were quietly shared among residents of the building. It was until 1957, when writer Jan Bryant Bartell moved in, that the haunting became famous. Her experiences in her apartment of the second floor would give place to the book SPINDRIFT: SPRAY FROM A MYSTIC SEA, published in 1974. In it, she recounts her many experiences in the house during the 15 years she lived there. Among the most memorable are her accounts of seeing a woman wearing a Victorian dress, and the apparition of a child. Perhaps more eerie is her story of a withered grape, constantly materializing in the center of a plate, even when no grapes were bought for weeks.

Not paranormal, but more horrifying is the story of Lisa Steinberg's death. In the morning hours of November 2, 1987, police came in the building answering a call about a child 'not breathing'. What they found in the apartment of 14 West 10th Street rocked the city to its core. Six year old Elizabeth, Lisa, Steinberg was found unconscious lying on the floor of the bathroom. An 18 month old baby boy was also found in the house, tied to his playpen with a rope to his waist. Severely beaten and neglected, Lisa slipped into a coma and later died. Lisa's adoptive mother, editor and writer of children books Hedda Nussbaum, told a story of unspeakable abuse at the hands of Joel Steinberg. Hedda, herself had several broken ribs, a shattered nose and cheekbones, and life-threatening lesions to her legs. After the first-ever televised trial, Joel Steinberg was found guilty of manslaughter. He spent 15 years in prison and was recently released. 

Many attribute the name of House of Death to this single incident. However the case, to this day, residents of the complex report hearing strange noises, seeing an elegant, ethereal lady traversing walls, and there are a few sightings of Mark Twain on the staircase. When a woman resident asked him who he was, he answered: "My name is Clemens, and I has a problem here I gotta settle."

Legend says 22 unnamed people died in the house, among them a murder/suicide in the 1900s, which isn't an incredibly high number when one considers the scores of people that have lived in it. There's also the fact that many of its residents were famous Victorians and Edwardians who customarily received medical care in-home, rather than attending hospitals.

This city landmark is not only beautiful, but steep in history. I recommend to everyone strolling through the city to pay it a visit.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pet Project: Haunted Manhattan

For this summer, and since I've been a bad blogger lately, I decided to try something new. I looked for something that involved my passion for ghost stories but took me out of the house, into new interesting investigations. I also thought that you deserved a little extra entertaining stories. So, giving that I live so close to the Big Apple, I decided to go search for the best known haunted locations in the city. I mean, how many can there be, right?

Can you say sucker?

Turnes out Manhattan has more than thirty buildings with a well spread reputation on the creepy side. Only Manhattan! Forget about Queens and Brooklyn.

Writing for a living here, remember? Not exactly the wealth generator one would think. And don't even get me started on my 'free time.'

So, where to go? I needed to cut the list to about four places max. Which took me to the realization that I'm completely incompetent when it comes to taking decisions. And come to think of it, I want you guys to enjoy this series, therefore, I'd love to know what YOU think. So here's the deal. I'll leave you here with a list of some of the places I found. All of them have interesting backstories and are of easy access to me. I'll go to those places that receive the most votes. (If no one votes, I'm visiting each one of you and leaving a voodoo doll under your beds. So, that.)

Just have in mind that I'm no paranormal researcher. I will not be carrying out EVP's, filming, or interviwing. I'll simply go into the place, have a bite/drink where possible, take pictures, and get the hell out of there. Okay, maybe I'll ask the bartender for his phone number if he's cute. But that's it. I'll also research what the ghost stories are, and what the actual history of the place is. Fine, I'll ask people working there if they have had any experiences. Happy, now?

Now, please vote here:

This is the first time I use pinopinion, so please, should you find any trouble voting, simply do it by commenting. I'll also try to add a voting site on my facebook page, which you all have already liked, right? If not, follow the link on the side bar to the right.

I'll keep the voting going for a week or two, depending on how many people vote, but my first post will be here next week. I'll tell you all about the famous House of Death near 5th ave. Catchy name, huh?

Take care, enjoy the weekend, and get a tan!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Inspiration and Summer Reflexion

Summer's here. There are kids to be entertained, pools to be jumped, beaches to be swam, drinks to be drunk, friends to be enjoyed, and work to be done. Will we have time to fit it all? I don't know, but what is life if you don't live it with a smile, right? So, while I will have to crunch a lot of writing time to meet all my deadlines, I know I have to make some time to have fun, bathe in the sun, and swim in the pool. I'm also trying to put together a summer project for the blog, going to NYC and visiting reputed haunted places to post pictures and experiences here.

So, my advice for all insecure writers out there would be to have fun. There is no way to fill the never-ending well of inspiration if we don't get out and live. Experience new things, laugh until you cry, watch a movie, find out you most definitively could've written it better, then go on and write it! Make new friends and tend to old ones. Spend time with the family. When the leaves make their little dance on the chilling air, you'll be fuller, happier, tanner, and maybe wiser. And you can only be a better writer because of it.

The Victor

~Charles Ghinga.