Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Haunted Manhattan: The Dakota Building

Located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York City, The Dakota Building is a well-fixed image of the Manhattan landscape. It is ingrained in our minds as the place where John Lennon exhaled his last breath. However, the building has a very long, haunting past that goes back to the very beginnings of the city. 

It was commissioned in 1881 by Edward Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Its architecture has a bit of German Gothic, a lot of French Renaissance, and of course, a whiff of English Victorian. As the story goes, back in 1884 when the building opened its doors as an apartment co-op, the Upper West Side of Manhattan was as sparsely populated as the Dakota Territories, hence the name. In 1976, it was declared a National Historical Landmark.

The first reports of strangely apparitions came from a troop of painters in the 1960s and since then two main figures have been consistently seen in the premises. The first, and gentler spirit, is that of a girl dressed in turn of the century garb. She's usually smiling or playing with a rubber ball, then she disappears into thin air or walks into closed closets to never be seen again.

The second, and more violent apparition, is that of Mr. Clark himself. One of the porters reported being attacked by this ghost on the building's basement. He was thrown a shovel and several heavy objects. When the terrified man called a tenant for help, a piece of metal flew into the air toward the men.

There have been reports of a ghostly chandelier alight in one of the third floor apartments, and a worker was trapped inside a closet while doing reparations to Judy Holliday's appartment. When he found his way off the ladder he had been using, he tried to turn on the light. No luck there, so he went for the closet door... and felt a cold hand grabbing his arm. I'll go out on a limb here and say he never set foot inside the building again.

Then of course, is the story of John Lennon. I must confess that after all my wanderings about, of all the supposedly real ghost pictures I've seen, the one picture that makes me break in goosebumps doesn't even have a supernatural element to it. It is this picture, where Lennon is giving an autograph to Mark David Chapman mere hours before the crazy bastard shot Lennon at the entrance of the building. Seriously creepy...

John Lennon's ghost has been reported, too, despite the fact that a group of spiritualists tried guiding his soul to rest in peace at Yoko's request.

Finally, there are the many twisted coincidences that surround the filming of Rosemary's Baby. The film, directed by Roman Polanski, used the exteriors of the Dakota as well as limited interior locations. After its release in 1968, Krzysztof Komeda, who had worked on the movie soundtrack, died of a brain clot. The same way a supporting character died within the movie. Also, at the exact same time, William Castle, the movie producer, was admitted to the same hospital for renal problems. While being treated he yelled "Rosemary, for God's sake drop that knife!" Afterwards he would swear the movie was curse.

But for all the possible spooky coincidences, here's a truly mind-boggling one: Roman Polanski (married to Sharon Tate) shot Rosemary's Baby (A story about a pregnant woman besieged by a satanic cult) in the Dakota building. A few months after the movie's release, Charles Manson and his cult followers broke into Sharon Tate's house and murdered five people two weeks before her due date. They followed this heinous act with the murder of two more people, the following night. They called this rampage "Helter Skelter" after a The Beatles song. John Lennon was a member of The Beatles that would come to live at the Dakota several years later, where he would be murdered by Mark David Chapman.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG, Summer Wrap Up, and General Catch Up

That'd be me, cooling and writing. The hunk'd be my muse, ugly as a bitch but plenty helpful.
Well, hello everyone! Yeah, I know, I know. I've been away for quite some time but summer got me wrapped up in all kinds of exciting, writerly things. How was your summer? Busy? Horribly hot and humid? However you spent these months, I sure hope you enjoyed yourself.

As for me. Where to begin...

The girls were off to their grandparents for the whole time, which gave me full control over my days. I'm telling you, 24 hours hadn't felt that productive (and long) in nine years! I was committed to write two short stories for two different anthologies, was asked to contribute to a noir mag, had my Haunted Manhattan blog thing, attended my first-ever writer's retreat, and finally traveled to Mexico to bring the girls back home. Just got here over the long weekend... So whoo, was I busy!


  • I'm very happy to say Burial Day Books has officially accepted my gothic story A DIARY OF MADNESS for publication in their anthology GOTHIC BLUE BOOK 3, scheduled to be released for Halloween. Yipee!!

  • I also completed (and submitted) a story for an invite-only anthology. Since I haven't received an answer, we can't celebrate just yet nor will I reveal the name of the anthology. But please, do keep your fingers crossed. 

  • I'm still madly working in another story that the editor is waiting for the end of the month. It has given me a hard time because it is in a genre I don't usually write, but I said this would be a summer to go out of my comfort zone. So there.

  • About the Haunted Manhattan series... I did drag the hubby all over Manhattan, taking pictures of the places that were voted for you among the most haunted I could find. No experience was had, sadly, but it was a lot of fun. And I have great pics to show. Wait for them starting next week.

All in all this was an amazing time full of experiences that helped me grow as a writer, and this is where the IWSG comes in.

Today I don't have an insecurity to share but a smile and my experiences. Three months ago I was debating with myself, thinking maybe I should stop playing writer and do something real. So much time lapsed between my last publication and a new one that I though it'd been a fluke. Today I can't be happier or more fullfiled. I know tough times will come once more, but I have to feed off the good ones to make it to the other side.

During the writer's retreat, one of the things we talked about was positive advice. What was the best we'd ever gotten. The answer is: READ, WRITE, and SUBMIT. There is no secret to become a published writer, only infinite patience and pigheadedness.

READ to be better. Read classic books even if they're out of your genre. Read everything that falls in your hand and you will lear what works and what doesn't.

WRITE no matter how awful it may seem today. There is always tomorrow, you'll get better and your writing will do too. But you can't be better if you don't try it. The thing with a job well done is that it looks so easy... great literature seems so effortless! But it isn't and if you stop trying, you'll stop growing.

SUBMIT to small presses as well as big ones, you never know who you'll meet or where the next break will come from. A few months ago I submitted to an anthology. My story was rejected but two months later I got an invitation to participate in an anthology from one of the editors.

Success takes the combination of perseverance, luck, and maybe talent (there are plenty of untalented people shoving money out the window). Our job is to position ourselves so when luck comes knocking, we are within reach of that door.

I wish you a phenomenal end of the season. Happy second anniversary to the Insecure Writer's Support Group and may this year be the one your dream comes true. Don't forget to stop by the Amazing Ninja Alex Cavanaugh's blog to get more news!

See ya next week!