After my recent blog post on the Ghost of Red Hook Lane, I started looking for more Brooklyn ghosts, and hit pay-dirt in this thrilling round up I found in the Brooklyn Public Library’s website. Most of these articles come from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is in itself fascinating when you think about it — in the 19th century, newspapers of note thought nothing of publishing ghost stories in their pages. Could you imagine the New York Times doing that now?
In any case, I’m glad they did, because the Eagle’s archives are chock-full of incredible Brooklyn ghost stories, including our Ghost of Red Hook Lane! (Click any of the images below to see the full article.)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 14, 1887
This is a good one — a classic, bell-ringing ghost haunts a school principal and his wife in their Stuyvesant Heights home. The article describes the ghost and goes on to say, “His remaining tricks were of the ancestral castle type: hollow groans, creepy sidesteps on the staircase and unexpected trips from room to room by articles of furniture.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 23, 1901
This next one is fantastic: a ghost wandering around Flatbush looking for his lost hand! Apparently it was the wife of a German immigrant who once inhabited this wood-frame cottage at East Broadway and Nostrand Avenue; the man, Krug, killed her and buried her in the basement, where the skeleton of her hand was found, its finger still encircled by a wedding ring.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 20, 1896.
But one of the most famous ghost stories in Brooklyn is that of Melrose Hall.
According to the Eagle, Melrose Hall, built in 1749, was “the quaintest and queerest old place one could imagine,” with “steep roofs slanted in all directions and gables projected here and there in the oddest sort of way.” It was located where Bedford Avenue is now, between Winthrop Street and Clarkson Avenue, in Flatbush.
The house was even creepier inside, with “dark corridors, oddly shaped rooms, winding stairways, black holes, mysterious trap doors, and other unprecendented features.”
It also contained a secret chamber.
In the early 1800s, a British colonel and loyalist named William Axtell bought the place and moved in there with his fiancee. His fiancee was educated, graceful and beautiful, but she was not the one Axtell loved — alas, he was in love with her sister, Alva. He simply couldn’t bear to be without her, and so he did what any man would do: built a secret chamber in his house and hid her away in there. Only one other person knew Alva was there: the slave woman who took care of her and brought her food. Alva would wait all day until the Colonel could slip away, and then he’d visit her upstairs in the chamber.
One day, when the Colonel was away on an extended business trip, the slave woman died. There was no one to bring Alva food or drink, and so she starved to death in her locked chamber.
The house was later purchased by Anna Carla Mowatt, an actress, who learned of the story of Alva, and wrote about it in her 18654 memoir, The Autobiography of an Actress. She affirmed that “a young girl had been purposely starved to death in that chamber and that her ghost wandered at night around the house.”
Nowadays, blocks of apartment houses inhabit the former site of Melrose Hall. I wonder if any residents in that area have ever heard or seen anything strange…