The Most Romantic Ghosts in New York City

When you think about it, most ghost stories also have elements of romance in them, don’t they? Common ghost origin-stories tend to run one of three ways — a murder or misdeed has been committed, an unjust, sudden or premature death occurred, or the old standby: they died of a broken heart. Since New York City abounds with ghost stories, it makes sense that we’d have a lot of love stories here, too. And so in the spirit of Saint Valentine, who was very romantically beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14th, we present here a short list of some of the most romantic ghosts in New York City. Many people are familiar with Gertrude Tredwell, the famous spinster ghost of the Merchant’s House Museum. Born in 1840 to a wealthy merchant family on East 4th Street, Gertrude grew up and fell in love with a very dreamy doctor named Luis Walton. Walton, though, was a Catholic and Gertrude’s strict Episcopalian daddy forbade the marriage. She never loved again. Gertrude pined away on East 4th Street until she died 1933. She still wistfully haunts her old home, which is now a museum. We’ll talk about Gertrude and Luis in more detail on our special Valentine’s Day edition of The Ultimate Greenwich Village Ghost Tour. Harry Houdini and his wife Bess also fall into the category of romantic ghosts. Before Harry died, the two of them agreed on a secret phrase that one of them would transmit to the other after death through a medium, thus proving that spirit contact between loved ones was indeed possible. Sweet, no? We...

Edgar Allan Poe in New York City

In honor of Edgar Poe’s 207th birthday, join us a virtual tour of Edgar Allan Poe in New York City. This tour takes us even farther than our “Edgar Allan Poe in Greenwich Village” walking tour allows us, letting us range up and down the length of Manhattan and the Bronx, discovering significant locations for Poe’s life and work in New York City. To begin with a bird’s eye overview, you can’t do better than Mary E. Phillips’ Poe Plan of New York, from the E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore. Almost every significant Poe-related location in Manhattan is pointed out here, and you can spend hours rambling and gazing at this virtual 19th century city through Poe’s eyes. But let’s hone in on a few precise locations. This is Edgar Allan Poe’s house on Carmine Street, where he lived briefly for a period in 1837-8. Poe’s first foray into New York City is covered in detail elsewhere on this site, but in a nutshell, he lived here for about a year, bringing his mother-in-law and new bride along with him. Their trip started off well enough, and Poe had high hopes for getting some magazine work in this publishing epicenter. Image courtesy of the NYPL Digital Collections. On the back of the image, an inscription reads: “Poe’s neighbors in Carmine Street; old relics opposite his old home. The house he lived in has long been replaced by a pretentious apartment house.” Here’s the City Hotel, where Poe attended a Bookseller’s Dinner on March 30th, 1837, where he gave a toast: “To the monthlies of Gotham, their distinguished editors, and...

Ghosts, Christmas and New York City

This is the first in a series of holiday themed posts celebrating our annual Christmas tours. We’ll be presenting three holiday themed ghost tours, Ghosts of Christmas Past, this December. To buy tickets to these events, click here! We in New York City are lucky enough to have had some jolly old Dutch forefathers, who brought the holiday with them. When the British took over the colony in the 1660s, their children envied the Dutch boys and girls who got presents every December 6th and begged their parents to follow suit. Then in 1823 Clement Clark Moore wrote the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (otherwise known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) at his Chelsea estate. Finally, in the 1860s, German immigrant and cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized the image of Santa as a jolly fat man in the pages of magazines like Puck and Harper’s Illustrated Weekly.   What about Christmas trees? You can also thank NYC’s German immigrants for that. Did you know that in 1848 so many Germans settled in the east side of the city that it was called Kliene Deutscheland? It’s true! And they brought many of their traditions, including the Christmas tree, wtih them. However, it was an illustration of Queen Victoria and family enjoying their Christmas tree reprinted in Godey’s Ladies Book in the 1850s that really started the tree trend here in America. Residents of Kliene Deutscheland would have recognized Prince Albert, though: he was from the German House of Hanover. So New Yorkers benefit from many traditions, be they Dutch or English or German. One New Yorker who was especially...

Poe and Lovecraft: The Weird in New York City

Boroughs of the Dead’s tour The Weird West Village: From Poe to Lovecraft focuses on the ghostly, uncanny, and weird side of the city on this tour that highlights the works of two great masters of the macabre. Tickets available here. Quick: what comes to mind when I say the word “weird”? The uncanny? The eerie, odd, and inexplicable? “Weird” is all of these things — the ghostly and strange and subtly disturbing. Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft were masters of the literary weird, icons in the world of unsettling literature. By a (weird?) coincidence, they both lived in New York City during crucial stages in their careers, and signs of both of them can still be found in the city. There are two extant structures at nearly opposite ends of the city that you can visit if you’re a fan of either of these writers: 169 Clinton Street in Brooklyn is the well-known former residence of H.P. Lovecraft (and recently sold for three million dollars) and Poe’s Bronx home still stands, although in a much busier thoroughfare than the Valentine cottage of the 1840s (and in a slightly different location from the original). But if you want to explore the worlds of both of these writers in one afternoon, the best place to do so is actually in the West Village. Although Lovecraft resided in Brooklyn, he ranged far and wide in his explorations of the city, spending long nights walking in the Village until dawn, and even venturing as far afield as Staten Island on his rambles. Greenwich Village’s “cryptical” winding streets found their way into...

Lost Amusement Parks of New York City

Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island is a must-read for any fan of obsolete amusements, NYC history, and bygone attractions. The book, available now from History Press, is a breezy read, peppered with anecdotes and delightfully nostalgic details. I chatted with authors Wes and Barbara Gottlock after a recent talk at the New York Public Library, about amusement park arcana, their love of lost and forgotten places, and their work as docents at Bannerman’s Castle. What sparked your interest in writing about amusement parks? I believe it started about four years ago when we were doing a lecture in the mid-Hudson valley about our third book Lost Towns of the Hudson Valley. After the talk, someone inquired if we knew anything about the “lost” Woodcliff Pleasure Park in Poughkeepsie. We weren’t familiar with it so we did a little research. Our interest was piqued and it evolved into Lost Amusement Parks of the Hudson Valley. Our fascination with amusement parks then carried us into Lost Amusement Parks of New York City. You unearthed so many amazing stories in the course of writing Lost Amusement Parks; what was the strangest, most interesting, or bizarre tale you came across? Is there one that resonated with you personally? Thanks for the compliment! Here are just a few: The Old Mill was a classic “dark” boat road through tunnels. At Clason Point in the Bronx, it erupted in flames but folks cheered wildly because it finally put to an end the incessant, annoying and repetitive music cranked out by the electric piano. Another one was the abandoned burial grounds...
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