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Bizarre Brooklyn: Stories of the Tragic, Macabre and Ghostly, An Interview w/ author Allison Chase
Every day, millions of New Yorkers walk past the ghosts of Brooklyn’s history in broad daylight. Park-goers stroll by the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, yet few read the historic marker, revealing that it is actually a grave holding up to fifteen thousand bodies. The iconic Park Slope Armory is simply a beautiful landmark to most onlookers, but its secrets include numerous haunted halls and a hidden tunnel to Prospect Park buried underneath. Two planes crashed into each other over the skies of Brooklyn in 1960, killing more than one hundred and destroying an entire city block, yet an eleven-year-old known as the “Boy Who Fell from the Sky” miraculously walked away as the sole survivor. Author Allison Huntington Chase reveals the hidden, macabre and bizarre of Brooklyn’s past.
Allison Huntington Chase grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and has a degree in screenplay writing from the School of Visual Arts. She is the CEO of Madame Morbid Trolley Tours, which focuses on dark history and ghosts of Brooklyn. She also has her certificate on Sommelier Studies from the ICC. She enjoys history, cooking, animals, traveling and pop culture.
Allison, thank you so much for joining us on Crime Capsule and congratulations on the publication of your book.
[00:00:09.770] - Allison
Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.
[00:00:13.550] - Ben
This book came out just about about two weeks ago, and I want to start by asking just about the origins of bizarre Brooklyn. How did this particular compendium of cases of the strange, otherworldly macabre, tragic and ghostly come to be?
[00:00:33.890] - Allison
Well, with these history pressbooks in particular, I've been a huge fan for years. I've been collecting them and I always wanted to be a part of the series. It's the first thing I look for when I travel. I have about 30 of them in my apartment. So I was immediately drawn to it because I saw that there wasn't a Brooklyn book and I immediately wanted to be the one to write it because again, I'm such a fan of the series. So I collected a bunch of stories. I have a trolley tour and we only are able to feature stories where we pass by those locations. But since Brooklyn is such a large area, there were many stories that we aren't able to tell on the tour. So this allowed us to put it all in writing and include all of Brooklyn instead of just a specific part. So it was nice to be able to tell more stories, research more areas and really just find out where all the bodies are buried throughout the borough.
[00:01:45.650] - Ben
It's an enormous borough. I mean, just by sheer landmass it is huge. And there are a substantial number of cases in your book. I'm sure there are probably a few more bodies that are still buried that we haven't dug up yet. Absolutely. Well, how did you find all of these to begin with? Have you been sort of collecting them over time and sort of holding on to them with scraps of notes and so I got to check that later sort of thing? Or was there a more systematic approach? How did you find your cases?
[00:02:20.450] - Allison
So I've been researching for about six years of this Brooklyn stories. It started with the tour, but again, I've just been holding on to these tales and stories that I wasn't able to utilize before. I did most of my research from either articles I saw in books that I read. The cool thing about New York is that the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is the longest running publication here, you can look up any article dating back from the York Times also has a time capsule, so a lot of research was done reading old articles, podcasts. The Barry boys was a big help. I don't know if you've ever listened to them, but they're a New York based history podcast. So it was really just anywhere I could find research I found, even if it was clips from like the History Channel on to obscure Top Ten Haunted Place list, anything that I could get my hands on there was no article or piece of information that I did not include into this book. So this book really is the full story of Brooklyn hauntings. If there's something left out, it's because, like you said earlier, it was a body that hasn't been discovered yet.
[00:03:56.220] - Allison
But when it does get discovered, that's booked, too.
[00:03:59.070] - Ben
Or maybe it happened after you published your book. Right? I mean, maybe there is a haunting which is yet to occur, and that's the only one which is not included.
[00:04:08.140] - Allison
Well, what's funny about that is that the way a lot of on marked graves are found in Brooklyn is by maps being discovered. For instance, in our tour, we passed by a staples that has 400 bodies buried underneath. But a couple of years ago, we thought they were buried under the Whole Foods until a new map pointed out it was actually across the street under the office supply store. So we're always finding different clues as to where bodies are, but it's mostly maps that have been tossed aside, and we care more about the real estate than the bodies, basically.
[00:04:53.640] - Ben
No, those discoveries, they are absolutely a researchers dream come true. It just throws open a whole new world of questions, and not always answers, but better and better questions as you pursue the search. I did want to ask you, Allison, where did your interest in the paranormal specifically come from? Were you always kind of into the uncanny and the strange, or was there sort of one particular moment in your background that sparked your curiosity?
[00:05:29.550] - Allison
So I have been obsessed with ghosts since I was about five years old. There's two parts to this answer. I have the biggest phobia of ghosts, which I think is called plasmophobia. And it made me, instead of wanting to have nothing to do with ghosts, I just became obsessed with it, and I wanted to know even more. It's weird. I guess I was trying to face my phobia. So I've always been super intrigued by hauntings and fun, like witchcraft and stuff. I was a big hocus pocus fan.
[00:06:11.850] - Ben
There you go. Yeah.
[00:06:14.290] - Allison
So that got me into the spooky spirit. But the thing that really drove me to get into this was that my parents started a haunted house in the don't know if you know about this, but my dog.
[00:06:35.170] - Ben
Is that your dog or the ghost of your dog? Because from this end, it might be a little difficult to discern.
[00:06:40.340] - Allison
You know, it's my dog, but I made her promise that she'll haunt me when she dies. My parents started a haunted house in our front yard. So my brother is a type one diabetic. He got diagnosed very young age, maybe three, four. So my parents, knowing that he couldn't trick or treat and get candy, decided to bring Halloween to him. So they set up this little tent haunted house in our front yard. And it just became so popular that it grew bigger and bigger every year until eventually my dad decided to relocate it to the G Fox building in Hartford, which is kind of an abandoned warehouse at the time. Now I think it's a stadium or something, but it was like 10,000 haunted house, and I'm just guessing that number, but it was so incredibly detailed. The different rooms would play on people's phobias. There was like a clown room. There was a room where it was pitch black and the lights turned on and you were covered in plexiglass with rats running around. It was crazy. There was a snake room, there was a mortuary room. So it was a lot of fun. He did that for a couple of years, and it was a charity event, so to tie it around, they donated all the money they made to juvenile diabetes after.
[00:09:11.960] - Allison
So, yes, it became a really big hit. Ironically, in the wintertime, even though we're Jewish, he opened up something called Winter Wonderland, which was like the Christmas version of haunted happenings. It's so cool. I was Googling my dad randomly a couple of months ago, and he came up on this article and he placed eleven in the best haunted houses of all time.
[00:09:41.010] - Ben
Wow, dad, that's great.
[00:09:45.270] - Allison
Yeah, he's an amazing event planner, if you will. He's kind of like The Great Gatsby, where he likes to set up the party and just watch from a distance. And I think that's how I got into the same type of setup. I like to watch people enjoying it rather than just also being a part of it, if that makes sense.
[00:10:19.560] - Ben
It sounds to me like I might even dare say enjoy haunting a party without actually properly mingling with the guests.
[00:10:28.340] - Allison
Exactly what I was trying to go for. I'd rather be behind the scenes, switching lights on and off, scaring people, than mingling. So that's my little antisocial haunting. If I was a ghost, I would be a ghost that just kept to myself. Hung out in the corner, occasionally changed.
[00:10:51.000] - Ben
The channel to Bravo, quietly skipped her ectoplasmic drink. Yeah. No, I got you.
[00:10:56.410] - Allison
[00:10:57.950] - Ben
So, last week we spoke to Darren Edwards, who is a history press, author of a book about the paranormal of southern Utah. Darren describes himself as a faithful skeptic. He holds that questions and evidence do not automatically rule in these strange, unexplainable events, but neither do they automatically rule them out. He likes to test, engage, and determine and try to be systematic about it, but he's also interested as a folklorist and why and how we believe in the paranormal. So what I was curious about, Allison, is where do you fall on the spectrum between sort of disbelief, skepticism, and full on belief in the paranormal? Because it changes, in a sense, the way that you will write about Brooklyn and the stance that you take towards the cases that we're going to talk about shortly. I'm just curious what your position on that spectrum is.
[00:12:02.270] - Allison
That's a great question. So I always tell people, I don't know if I necessarily believe in ghosts, but I'm terrified of them. So I feel like that's an open ended skepticism where I don't want to spend a night in a haunted house, but I don't necessarily think I'd see ghost if I did. What you could see in my book is that all the articles that we quote from the 1000s, when there's a haunting, I feel like people used to just blame everything on ghosts. Like, if something went wrong, the ghost did it. And this would be in the New York Times. They blame anything that went wrong. It must be haunted.
[00:12:51.370] - Ben
Are you saying they were labeling scapegoats?
[00:12:56.390] - Allison
Oh, I like that. Yes.
[00:12:59.590] - Ben
I'm so sorry.
[00:13:01.010] - Allison
No, we had to have it. It was a good fun. Yeah. So I think ghosts in my opinion, ghosts are almost a comforting thing for people because a lot of times it's a ghost that they know, like a grandfather, they think is haunting them or a family member or even a pet that's passed. So I think it's a way to hold on to a person after they've gone and feel that comfort that they're being taken care of and watched over. Do I, at the end of the day, believe in ghosts? I'm not sure. I asked myself this question all the time. I don't even know if I'd want to see a ghost because then I'd question everything, existence, whatnot? But it would be fun. Maybe if I saw a ghost, like, right before I died, I'd be okay with it.
[00:14:03.000] - Ben
If you could pick the ghost, right? Preferably that ghost that stands in the corner of the party sipping her ectoplasmic drink rather than the one that comes at you with a bloody knife or what have you, right?
[00:14:13.850] - Allison
Totally. Also, I would absolutely haunt people. I take that back. I wouldn't just stay in the corner. I would scare the hell out of anyone I could, especially my enemies. But if I could pick a ghost to hang out with, if you could hand pick, like, anyone to who would I pick?
[00:14:38.530] - Ben
I don't know.
[00:14:40.690] - Allison
This is a hard question. Let me get back to you in about 4 hours.
[00:14:44.680] - Ben
Do on it. Sure enough, do on it. It will come to you in the middle of the night like a proper haunting. So let's talk about Brooklyn. You write in your book that part of Brooklyn's haunted nature comes specifically from it's having been inhabited for so very long. And we were talking hundreds up and hundreds up and hundreds of years of settlement there. Now, what I'm curious about is how well known among your average Brooklynites are many of these particular cases in general before we get to the Brooklyn Bridge, that's where we'll start. I'm just curious how widespread is the literacy of residents of the borough about this kind of deep history or the depth of the dark history, shall we say?
[00:15:40.450] - Allison
I think when you're in any urban setting it's really hard to imagine that place has anything other than in concrete jungle. So when people hear even that this was all farmland 400 years ago, it's really difficult to process when everything such as city, landscape but of course everything has to start with grass and then you build up. But I think people look at Brooklyn as starting with the factories in Williamsburg, not going previous to that. This was Native American land. First inhabitants. It was sold to the dutch, brooklyn. A lot of people think it means broken land. It was actually the name of a town. It exchanged hands, it obviously got built up. What's interesting the most, and I think what people find hilarious is that Brooklyn is the nation's first suburb because people worked in Manhattan and lived in Brooklyn commuted via ferry, it's officially considered the nation's first suburb. Also, we have the world's oldest subway in Brooklyn that people also don't realize there because it's been hidden underneath Atlantic Avenue.
[00:17:17.610] - Ben
Yeah, you're right about that one in your book. It reminded me a little bit of London with all of the closed sort of tube tunnels and that sort of thing which are now buried both under the ground, but they're also buried in memory. Now you open your book with a discussion of the big one and we have to start here. We have to absolutely cross the Brooklyn Bridge ourselves. Mentally, you're right that it serves as a monument, it serves as an icon, it serves as a symbol and it also serves as a graveyard. So why was the Brooklyn Bridge so dangerous over the years?
[00:18:03.970] - Allison
Well, it was the longest expansion bridge at the time so people didn't trust that it was sturdy enough to actually cross and use it's. Funny because there was a big stampede and tragedy which killed dozens of people a couple of days after it was opened. And PT. Barnum wanted to prove how sturdy it was. So he led 21 elephants across the bridge which led to circus on the other side. So it was a complete PR stunt, but that inspires the children's book 21 Elephants and Still Standing. Ironically, the bridge was built to hold more elephants than 21 if needed. There's actually in Brooklyn Bridge Park, there's a fake monument that people don't realize as a joke, and I think it's called, like, the Elephant Stampede Incident of the Brooklyn Bridge, something like that. But obviously it's not true. But when people need it, like, damn. Feeding elephants was an issue we had in Brooklyn or something.
[00:19:17.670] - Ben
I can kind of imagine if anybody would have created an incident like that, it absolutely would have been. Barnum, whose favorite anecdote that I've ever encountered was he once dreamed of towing an iceberg up the Hudson River so that he could watch it melt. He wanted to see a glacier firsthand, and so he tried to figure out how he could sort of lasso one from the North Atlantic Sea and then bring it back to New York as a spectacle. It never came to pass, unfortunately.
[00:19:51.430] - Allison
He was Titanic.
[00:19:53.290] - Ben
Yeah. I mean, it could have ended a lot of different ways. Yeah. So why was it so dangerous? Why was this bridge so deadly in its construction and in its use afterwards? What made it so precarious?
[00:20:11.630] - Allison
The main concern amongst workers was Caisson's disease, which is known as the bends. The Brooklyn Bridge construction was so dangerous that they paid a lot for people to work on it as an incentive, and they usually lasted about 24 to 48 hours because it was not even worth the high pay. You could get paralyzed. You'd have blinding headaches, body aches. It actually paralyzed the man who was building the bridge. So his wife had to take over construction. But the reason for this is because they were called like water hogs. You basically had to go down in a caisson and to the bottom of the water bed with explosives, and you are in an airtight container, so the pressure builds up. It was awful, but again, it was such primitive ways of building at the time that there was no real way around it. So you are going to suffer if you were part of the construction, regardless. People there was a worker who got decapitated during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and people claimed to see his headless ghost wandering back and forth. People also, it was a popular place to jump from. Having said that, a lot of people changed their mind on the way over because of the traffic to the Brooklyn Bridge.
[00:21:48.780] - Allison
So the traffic has saved lives too, they say. Yeah. It was not an easy thing to make, and a lot of people died from it.
[00:22:02.610] - Ben
These sightings that you mentioned, I was particularly taken by the headless workman. There's something very sort of proto romantic about that, in a sense. You mentioned, of course, Ichabod Crame in your book, and that felt absolutely appropriate. But what do we know about this particular workman or any of the spirits who seem to appear at strange times. Is there any identifying information about them or have their sort of names and stories being lost to the river currents of time?
[00:22:40.950] - Allison
Some are just nameless figures and some have a story to tell. For instance, there was a father of two children who was killed on Christmas, leaving two orphans behind, things like that. After a while, they become more statistics than people. I think it sounds awful, but throughout history, we don't really take in their names as much as just points of death or tragedy very quickly. But with this, the Hellus ghost in particular, he's seen wandering back and forth, but people claim to see these flashes of light and orbs going back and forth and loud. Screeching. So there are four different types of hauntings we talk about, and the main two are residual and intelligent hauntings. Usually residual hauntings are met by a sudden death or tragedy, which would obviously be someone being decapitated. But an intelligent haunting is a ghost that wants to communicate with you. So hearing that he'll make himself known makes me believe that he's under the intelligent haunting category.
[00:24:46.070] - Allison
There's a news article about him. But having said that, when we were speaking early about Caisson's disease, the number was way higher than it was reported. So obviously when you're building this bridge, you don't want bad publicity either. So they really downplayed to the public how dangerous it was and how many people actually died. So, like you said, as time goes on, we'll sometimes get more information. Things will be brought to light, but we'll never fully know the true extent of it. But we can make guesses based on the information we do know. Sure, at least 100 people suffered from Caisson's disease. I'm sure it was double that, but no, it's one of those things that will always remain a mystery.
[00:25:41.590] - Ben
You do write that there was a more recent sighting or more recent paranormal event, and this is veering just a little away from our normal sort of subject matter here on crime capsule. But you mentioned in the context of the strange happenings of unexplained perpetrators in the region, that in 1989 there was an abduction of sorts. And I was curious. First of all, what do we know about the documentation for that particular incident? And secondly, has there been anything in the 30 years since then that seemed to be the last incident associated with the Brooklyn Bridge in your book? And I was curious if there had just maybe been something that wasn't as well documented or we didn't know as much about, and so really didn't justify a conclusion, but still kind of left that door open for you as a researcher. So what can you tell us about 1989, and what can you tell us about what happened since 1989?
[00:26:51.970] - Allison
In 1989, a woman named Linda Napolitano claimed she was abducted by three gray aliens and taken to their ship. And I feel silly even telling the story, but apparently it's the most witnessed alien abduction of all time.
[00:27:09.130] - Ben
I mean, I ask, so you don't have to feel that silly.
[00:27:13.870] - Allison
It's so silly. But people really hold on to this story. There's even a book written about it. It's been in Vanity Fair articles. There's been artwork made about it. Anyways, Linda claims that she was abducted in her bedroom right next to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side, and it was witnessed by eleven people who separately, each told their account of it, including two security guards from the United Nations. Now, I need to put a little disclaimer right here. This isn't the first time that Linda's claim to be abducted by aliens.
[00:27:52.460] - Ben
Okay, got you.
[00:27:53.920] - Allison
They didn't all happen on the Brooklyn Bridge, but I guess they were targeting her. If you look further into the story, it gets crazy. So a year later, one of the security guards who witnessed this event ends up snapping her when she's, like, out jogging. The story is absurd. I don't even go into those details because it veers off from Brooklyn Bridge, but I don't know how credible Linda is. But again, there's these eleven witnesses who swear, and they all came. They weren't a group of eleven who told the story. They were individuals at different locations during this sighting. So it's a fun story to think about. Do I believe it happened. Why not?
[00:28:49.030] - Ben
How generous of you, Alison. How very generous of you. So anything in the last 30 years since that moment? Or is that kind of the last main unusual occurrence that we know of?
[00:29:00.670] - Allison
I don't think this story could take place today with all the camera phones. But what I was touching upon earlier was, unfortunately, since the very opening of Brooklyn Bridge, it's become a popular suicide spot, and that's still an issue that goes on today. But people credit the traffic going to the Brooklyn Bridge as a way of saving people's lives because it gives them an hour to really think about it and turned around. So traffic is not always bad. I did see my first dead body on the bridge, which is crazy. There was a car accident.
[00:29:47.250] - Ben
Oh, goodness. Okay.
[00:29:50.950] - Allison
But just being on the bridge alone is so powerful, knowing just the significance of it, and you can see the Statue of Liberty while you pass, and you can't forget you're in New York and how lucky you are to be there. People have literally died trying to get the view of the Statue of Liberty with their own eyes. So I don't take it for granted. I always make an effort to look out the window and just see Lady Liberty. But, yeah, it's a shame for people who go across the bridge and don't take in the historical significance. And again, people are passing every single day into them. It's just another bridge, but at least the tourists appreciate it. There's definitely the fair share. There's a walkway on it, so it's always crowded with people. And it's a nice walk. It's a great way of exercising. I think it takes maybe like, 20 minutes to go to one side and then you end up in Dumbo, which is really nice. It's where the Etsy offices are. So, yeah, it's a really trendy part of Brooklyn. Very expensive.
[00:31:08.480] - Ben
Well, next time our listeners are there, perhaps they will say a small prayer or bow their heads in reflection for those lives that were lost in its construction. And watch out for any workmen to make sure that they have their hard hats fully on and secured, because otherwise.
[00:31:33.830] - Allison
Yeah, exactly. There's another ghost that's been spotted that dates back to the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a beautiful young blonde girl dressed in all white, which, for the record, is how 80% of ghosts are described.
[00:31:49.730] - Ben
[00:31:50.220] - Allison
All right. Beautiful girl. So she's seen crying at the edge of the bridge. And when people go over to see if she's okay, they can see that she's transparent, and they can also hear screams and splashing water when she's sighted. So she's been around for a while, and I would categorize her under residual hauntings because she's clearly repeating the same.
[00:32:19.970] - Ben
Actions or events, but it's not necessarily seeking to engage the passers by or to communicate something. Hey, these distinctions are useful. The taxonomies have their purpose, and I think they are more than welcome in this neck of the wood. So let's get a little deeper into the borough itself. And I would like to take just a whirlwind tour of you mentioned your family association with haunted houses earlier, and there are a number of good haunted houses in your book which are worth stopping into and feeling a little thrill and a little chill down the spine. Let's start off with one which is perhaps a little bit more benign than some of the others that does not have any murderous intent behind it. You mentioned the Lefferts Laid Law house in Clinton Hill. Now, this is a fairly early haunting, isn't it? This is a sort of compared to the more recent ones. What happened? And what is happening at the Lefferts Laid Law House in Clinton Hill?
[00:33:37.070] - Allison
Well, there was a very spooky game of dingdong ditch with a ghost that's having their doorbell wrong. And by the way, doorbells just came out at the time, so you and I it's probably a faulty wiring.
[00:33:53.610] - Ben
I was going to ask.
[00:33:58.710] - Allison
Even the newspaper reporting that it must be a haunting. So, at this time in history, spiritualism was huge. It's mostly derived from the fact that people were dropping dead very quickly from the Civil War and families didn't have a time to mourn or say goodbye. So they turned to seances Ouija boards to try to communicate with their dead loved ones in New York State. They even created an entire town called Lilydale, New York, specifically to house the various mediums and psychics. It's still around today and the residents are frequently tested to make sure that they're qualified to live there, that their abilities are legit. Interesting.
[00:34:48.320] - Ben
I'd love to know what that entrance examination looks like, but we carry on.
[00:34:53.370] - Allison
What number am I thinking of? Yes. They blamed everything at this time on ghosts or hauntings demonic possessions. Again, instead of a faulty wired, newly designed doorbell, it must be the spirit world. But they also claim to hear bang on the doors knocking. And this continued throughout the week. They tried to find the culprits by sprinkling flower and ash to see if footsteps would appear. None did.
[00:35:32.110] - Ben
Fairly savvy of them, actually. I had to give the homeowner credit for that. It's like that's a pretty neat trick if we don't have access to camera equipment and sort of any fashion the way we do now. It's like, okay, if you're going to hunt for an intruder. Yeah, yeah. I mean, that made a lot of sense. A little flower trick. Well done, Edward Smith. Well done.
[00:35:53.560] - Allison
Right. They didn't have the what is it called? The ring bell.
[00:35:58.390] - Ben
Oh, yes, the video doorbell, of course, which everybody has nowadays. The bane of ghosts everywhere.
[00:36:05.830] - Allison
Exactly. So they brought in the head police chief and he went around the house trying to see if anyone was pulling any pranks. He couldn't find anything. And then apparently brick was thrown out of nowhere. I guess it was just a brick line, and it was thrown into the window and smashed it. So people, because the newspapers were reporting of these activities, people started showing up at the house asking if they perform seances, which he denied them. So they would do something called, like mini sciences on the sidewalk to try to communicate with them. The police tried to move them. A big German man bit his finger. The go to protest?
[00:37:00.550] - Ben
Yes. Have you ever tried to move a large German man? I mean I have. It did not end well.
[00:37:06.970] - Allison
See, when I tried to do it, it goes very smoothly. A large German man. But if I were to ever move one, I know to bite their fingers. Wait, no, that's the opposite. Anyway, they believed that it was haunted by a man who was a lawyer, who reportedly had killed himself in the house, and it was his ghost that was haunting it. So the owners decided to say a strong prayer to rid the house of the. Devil. And apparently it worked. The power of prayer. So that solved that issue.
[00:37:48.650] - Ben
That was the end of that. Let's take another stop on the tour. I have an incident in your book, which is we're going to increase the temperature slightly as we go up, as we trolley along on these stops. Mix all my metaphors, but you see what I'm getting at. We're going to visit the Lovecraft house, which had a slightly more active presence, which was slightly harder to identify. Tell us, first of all, how that name came to be attached with the building, because that does matter. And then tell us about its least bodily inhabitant.
[00:38:41.150] - Allison
Well, HP. Lovecraft, famed Sci-Fi and horror writer, lived in Brooklyn in the 1920s. Now, he was a gigantic racist, the biggest. And Warren Hill was called Little Syria because it was a large Syrian population and because it was close to the docks. Many immigrants lived and worked there. It was mostly a shantytown, which is the furthest thing that it is today. Now, it's a very upscale neighborhood, but for someone so racist, I don't know why he decided to move to that neighborhood. But he hated it so much that he wrote a story called The Horror at Red Hook. He even starved himself in the apartment because he didn't like it. Again, he can move at any time. He just didn't want to give up his lease.
[00:39:38.930] - Ben
They always say that the neighborhood changes around them. Remember, it's like they have always been there, the old racists. And it's like the neighborhood is always the thing that changes, not them. So anyway, we see that a lot in the south. But moving right along.
[00:39:57.050] - Allison
He hated it. He described the forgotten Atlantic Avenue tunnel, which you mentioned earlier was the oldest subway. He claimed it was roaming with Persian vampires. He was crazy, you know what I mean? And I guess that is good for writing. Sci-fi and horror. But he only lived in Brooklyn for a year, actually, and moved out. And then years ago, in modern times, a woman named Nelly Kurtzman took over the apartment. Now, she's the daughter of the founder of Mad magazine. I believe her friend lived in the building, not an HP. Lovecraft apartment, but above it. And she told Nelly that the family who had lived there just got up and vanished one night and was never, like, seen or heard from again. So the apartment is vacant and she wanted to move into it because it's a really good apartment in a really nice neighborhood and has a famous former tenant. So before she took over the lease, her and her friends decided to do a seance, which is a big no no, right?
[00:41:18.830] - Ben
Not in that particular apartment of all apartments. You probably are going to meet some of the elder gods who will then feast upon your dreams as food for their immortal souls.
[00:41:33.170] - Allison
It's funny because she claimed that he wasn't happy with her there because she was Jewish, tying into the racism he had. Ironically, though, HP. Lovecraft was friendly to Jewish people, which was due the fact that his best friend was Jewish. So they were the only ethnic acceptable. Exactly right. Yeah. So they did the seance and they asked him a question and he just wrote out brick. And it turns out one of his friends had stolen a brick from the apartment as a memento. He was a big HP. Lovecraft fan. So Nelly moves in with her roommate and suddenly strange things start to happen. The bedroom doors are opening, closings, strange smells are coming from the kitchen. She had this painting that was framed and hung up on the wall that crashed down, and she started having nightmares about the person who gave it to her. Her credit cards would go missing, and then when she got new ones, they'd show up again. So all that chaos ensued. And she still lives there, though, because, again, great apartment. Just got a ghost problems.
[00:42:58.080] - Ben
That's what I wanted to ask, which is that in your account there's this kind of tantalizing moment where the story doesn't end. You sort of cease your discussion of the Lovecraft haunted house right smack in the middle of Nelly's residency there, and I was wondering if there was a reason for that. There was no. Sort of and then Nellie moved out after she found that the ghost had been taking her credit cards and going down to And buying lots of great snacks. So you kind of leave us hanging there for a second, which is interesting.
[00:43:51.650] - Allison
Yeah, he didn't scare her out. Again, we will take a great apartment over a ghost hunting in New York, and you can read about that in the book, especially in the park. So I feel like we should charge ghost rent because they're also sharing our tiny apartments. But yeah, it didn't scare her away. I think it would be so cool to brag about a celebrity haunting your apartment. I mean, it's just bragging rights right there. But she seemed to be in good spirits about it. Again, she embraced the ghost. So yeah, she wasn't giving up her lease. I'm sure she's still there living it up.
[00:44:34.810] - Ben
I mean, surely the property owner would take that as double occupancy and cause to raise the rent, right?
[00:44:40.960] - Allison
Exactly. You think the thing about New York is, for instance, I live in a brand new apartment. It's a couple of years old, but I'm right off Livingston Street, which used to be farmland, and many people were buried around here. And again, we don't know what we're building over unless we happen to come across bones, which happens quite a lot, even if it's a new building. You're still on hollow ground, if you will. So it's spooky, but I just feel like there's such chaos in New York City, so many people on sidewalks that we could be passing a ghost and not even notice it. I feel like we take the history in Brooklyn for granted, as I was saying earlier, because we're so used to it seeing it as a metropolitan city, we don't realize that there's been more time it wasn't a city than it has been. Again, it was Dutch farmland before that. It was native land. So, yeah, it's kind of a shame that people don't think about who came before us, because they're the ones who paved the way. No pun intended for our current residence. Also, Brooklyn, you'll see that a lot of neighborhoods have hill in it, like borum hill, and that's because Brooklyn was very it wasn't smooth like it is today.
[00:46:20.120] - Allison
It was bumpy. There were a lot of uneven points in it. wallt Whitman described it as ample hills, which the ice cream company is named after, but it was eventually leveled out. So again, we see it as just flat city land, but it was grassy hills and a lot of swamps, a lot of ponds. It changed a lot.
[00:46:50.590] - Ben
Let's take a stop at the third haunted house on our tour. And that's a little bit of a misnomer, because this haunted house is actually a huge apartment complex, which is haunted. You mentioned one, two, three on the park. And before we get to the queen of them all, I just thought it would be nice to take a look around this one, because, like so many of the classic locations for paranormal lore, the old insane asylum or the old prison sort of thing, here you have the old renovated hospital, the Caledonian. So really interesting, because you're right that the cases here are extremely recent, actually. They are within the last ten years, aren't they?
[00:47:48.370] - Allison
Yes. So Caledonian hospital served Brooklyn for about 100 years. It's on the border of prospect park. So prospect park used to have zoo that featured polar bears and lions, and when people would get attacked by those animals, they'd go to caledonian hospital. Exactly. Same with, I believe, dodgers players would get surgery there. It was legit hospital. It was famous. It was one of the top. It eventually closed, and it was used for many years. I always call it SUV. What a special SVU. It was used as those crime show backdrops.
[00:48:42.800] - Ben
[00:48:43.170] - Allison
And then order, lawn order after it was closed as a set. Like anything that you can make into apartments in New York, it was turned into apartments, luxury apartment building. I've been inside it. It's really cute. They did a great job of masking that. It was once a hospital, but people, especially when real estate agents would take them, they would leave out the fact that it was a former hospital, because it is spooky hospitals are notoriously haunted. I mean, people die there all the time. There's morgues. So, yeah, these hauntings started to occur and the people to notice it at first were the doorman. And these hauntings occurred so frequently that they had the highest turnover rate of dormant because no one wanted to stay due to the hauntings. Now, some of the things they experienced was that the motion sensor lights would go on one floor at a time. No one was actually there when that would happen. The basement, which was the former moor, that is now laundry room, gym, they would feel like someone was watching them. If we're debunking some ghost hauntings. Go on. People claim that the dorman left so frequently due to the fact that the other buildings were just paying a little more.
[00:50:21.230] - Allison
But as for the residents themselves, they claimed, kind of like Nelly Kurtzman, that strange smells were coming from the kitchen cabinets were opening and closing. They felt watched strange noises. And so they tried to take advantage of the situation and get their rent reduced, do the hauntings, which didn't work, but good for them for trying.
[00:50:45.790] - Ben
Yeah, totally, give it a shot. I'll say this when I read this account in your book. Dormant are kind of interesting because I couldn't come up with any general reason as to why employees would lie. What does it benefit them to lie about this? Because then they're losing like a really good job in New York, right, which is hard enough to come by to begin with. So the sort of the motivation for kind of fabricating the tails seemed a little iffy to me. But really that sort of description of like motion sensor lights just appearing in sequence when there's nobody actually in the hall okay, I got a little chill. Just a little chill there, I'm willing to admit.
[00:51:33.710] - Allison
Yeah. And they gave a New York Post interviews. They weren't shy about it. There were these two girls who lived in the building that didn't want to give their names for the interviews because they were afraid the ghosts were going to be upset and follow them or something. People get really superstitious and right.
[00:51:54.750] - Ben
If I added the ghost or outed myself to the ghost. Louisiana, we do say, wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. So there you go. Last stop. Last stop. And we're going to wrap this week up here. I don't even really want to go here because it is so spine tingly, but we kind of have to go here. The champion of all of the haunted houses in your account, which is Melrose Hall. And man, I tell you what this one had as far as origin stories go. You can't top Melrose Hall for like, how it got its start as a site of some spooky dealings. So take us there and pardon me while I cover my eyes and go hide in a closet somewhere.
[00:52:55.350] - Allison
Well, Melrose Hall was a large house built into 1700s for a British I wouldn't say British patriot because that's kind of a loyalist. Melanie Tall was built by a British loyalist, and it was used at times as a prison for patriots who were captured. And it was also American soldiers, that's.
[00:53:29.720] - Ben
What you're saying during the war. American soldiers?
[00:53:31.880] - Allison
Yes, American soldiers. And they were held captive. There. Obviously many died in activity. There were also slave bones that were later found in that area, too. So it's obviously thought to have been a prison for slaves as well. Now, there is a story inside that features one of the house servants, which I think is their way, a glorified way, of saying slave, because back then, it was just a horrible standard practice. But anyways, there was a man who lived there, and he started to have an affair with one of the slaves who worked in the house. Now, some sources say she was a Native American princess who had saved him from death, and he brought her to the house to repair something. There's different origin stories for her, but they ended up having an affair and he hid her because he has a family and wife who also lives in the house. He hit her in a chamber in the house, and he took very good care of her in the sense of he fed her, clothed her in a higher sense than other house servants that were working for him. She was, for all intents and purposes is that how we say it?
[00:55:10.280] - Allison
Intents and purposes. They were in love, supposedly, and one day he got called away to go fight in the battle, and he was going to be gone for about a year. So he told another servant in the house of her existence that she was living in this hidden chamber and that she needed to be fed and taken care of while he was away. And so she did. Every day, she would go in, give her what she needed, and held her promise to the man of the house. Now, one day she fell ill, the woman who was taking care of her. And while she was in her deathbed, she kept trying to tell people around her that there was a woman hidden in the walls, basically, and she needed help. Obviously, they thought it was the fever talking and that she was just talking gibberish, and no one took her seriously, because if someone was telling you there's a woman hidden in the wall and.
[00:56:23.940] - Ben
You defeat her listed, you basically check your copy of Edgar Allan Poe's Collected Short Stories, and you make sure that that story has not been lifted out of one of those. Because as I was reading this, I was like, Pope, eat your heart out, man. This is like his level of fiction here, except it was true. Yeah.
[00:56:47.770] - Allison
Crazy. The woman passed away and his mistress was left in the room. She basically starved to death. She was beating on the door, screaming for help, but again, it was a hidden chamber, so no one heard her. Now, he comes back a couple of months later and asks for the servant who is taking care of her to let him into her room. And he finds out that she died and of course, in a panic stricken mode, runs right to the door, opens it, and her skeleton falls out right off to his lap. Of course, he's devastated and of course, no, he should have had a backup.
[00:57:43.300] - Ben
Plan, like tell somebody else that he trusted. Come on.
[00:57:50.570] - Allison
He didn't think ahead on this one. So her body was revealed and obviously everyone in the house found out the story. So a couple of nights later, they're having family dinner and all of the lights blow out, meaning candles. Her ghost floats in and starts blaming him for her death, which rightfully so, right?
[00:58:17.880] - Ben
[00:58:21.810] - Allison
And again, this is in front of his wife and children. So at this point, they are caught up with who this ghost woman is. Then they hear a scream, the lights go on and he's been stabbed with a sword and bleeds to death right there at the dinner table. The house is actually knocked down right now, but it became infamous with her ghost that before it got knocked down. They claimed that every time there was a party or event, she would kind of make a cameo. This would be an intelligent haunting, making her presence known. But, yeah, now that it's knocked down, you can't visit it. You can visit the site where it was and again, where there once was a house or now condos way.
[00:59:19.380] - Ben
Alison, I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to suggest, just very modestly, that there are a couple of lessons in that particular story. And all of the lessons are don't do any of that. Just don't ever do any bit of that at all. Like, everything that he did, don't do it. Just none of it. Right. That's all the lessons that we need to learn and we're done here.
[00:59:45.690] - Allison
Yeah, he wasn't the best guy to do the opposite of what he did, but, you know, hey, it's a story and it's a spooky one. I love a revenge story.
[00:59:58.950] - Ben
They're very satisfying. Yes. Are they? Exceptionally satisfying. I mean, of course, if we put on our debunker hats, there are elements of there which can be read as more fanciful or more romanticized than others. The princess aspect is particularly rich. But it is interesting because conveniently, as we have seen in a number of these other accounts, and as we discussed with Darren last week, part of the appeal, part of the lure and the mystique stems from the fact that the property no longer exists. And so now it is absolutely unverifiable in any way. We could not find the hidden chamber even if we wanted to. And so we are, we must believe that it is there because we have no other option according to the documentation. The thing that gets me about this and this is where we're going to leave it for this week. The thing that gets me about this one though is that the history of the house prior to this particular incident with the prison cells underneath the skeletons that were found, the chains, even after this murder, ghostly appearance, et cetera, took place. You're right that those prison cells were not discovered in the property until much later.
[01:01:31.410] - Ben
So that the house is actually like resting on this defiled ground for decades and decades and decades without anybody knowing about it. Now that is truly chilling, isn't it?
[01:01:44.450] - Allison
Absolutely. We probably wouldn't have even discovered it if it hadn't been knocked down. That's the thing. It's like you can have the ghost part of the story and choose to believe it or not, but the facts of there were chains and bones that were discovered is just a historic finding regardless of if you believe in the ghost or not. So it also just really emphasizing the grizzly past of Brooklyn, especially during the Revolutionary War, which people don't realize essentially started here during the Battle of Brooklyn. So yeah, sheds light on the fact that people, especially with slavery, don't really talk about it in Brooklyn. It was abolished here in 18, 26, 27, but a lot of unmarked graves did belong to slaves because the practice wasn't to put a proper headstone up. So I believe it was a twelve year old slave girl that was discovered recently in Brooklyn because they read the diary of her owner that said she was buried in the front yard. So that's how we also locate things through diary entries, not just maps. But that's why also we have so many unmarked grave because not everybody was treated equally.
[01:03:21.670] - Allison
So we're still discovering it and we'll continue to discover it. All these people that are 6ft under a Starbucks.
[01:03:32.770] - Ben
Well, we will pick up next week right there. In the meantime, if you don't mind, I will go hide in a closet under a blanket with like 18 padlocks on the door while I let these spectral presences pass by and hopefully once the coast is clear, we can meet right back here and continue. Thank you so much for joining us this week, Alison. It has been a pleasure and a terror.